Ever have music cross your path that triggers the synapses in such a way as to make you wonder, “How have I never wondered what this would sound like before?”
Originally from Saskatchewan, of late from London Ontario, Wormwood knocked on my virtual door earlier this years, offering their wares for possible review. On first spin, I was immediately struck with the thought that this was what it would sound like if Kate Bush collaborated with Portishead on a 2013 release — and it was a Very Good Thing. On second spin, I knew this was an album that needed to be slowly unwound, indulged upon and savoured for proper appreciation.
Call it IDM, call it ambient house — what you can’t call Wormwood‘s debut is dull or unpolished. Opening with the pleasantly jarring “Mullingspot”, one immediately becomes aware of the impressive pipes of Christina Willatt, who also contributes on keys. Soaring sopranos the likes of which might make Sarah Brightman fear for her crown meld with atmospheric compositions and otherworld-evoking lyrics to create a world moreso than a mere album concept. It is often difficult to craft a worthy accompaniment to a powerful vocalist, but Andrew Wenaus works with Willatts and finds a way to balance between accenting and challenging her voice. “Jawbone” is a stellar example of this, with verses that feel like a throwdown with the vibrant melody lines that break to soft plateaus that caress her words lovingly.
Almost operatic storytelling permeates the project, lending a depth I often find lacking in this genre. It’s clever, be it original words or an unpredictable sampling. Take, for example, “Foggy Hip”, which draws upon a Yeats poem, “He Tells Of A Valley Full Of Lovers” and breathes life into the master wordsmith’s imagery. Had I not known of the origins, I would simply be enthralled; instead, I am also impressed. “Starworks”, conversely, utilizes sparse words of the band’s own and a lively composition to pull the listener into a world of stars and sunbursts in mesmerizing fashion. It reminds me of the best of Beth Gibbons, and is easily one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Wormwood is an ambient band for those who don’t necessarily love EDM/IDM/chillout or any of the brethren of the broader genres it nestles between. There’s a calculated dialogue here that triggers a more intellectual discourse for a cerebral listener, making the album a standout. Listeners who enjoy music that evokes other times or simply takes them out of their daily lives entirely should make a point of slipping the headphones on, turning the volume up and digesting Sunfloating.
Highlights: “Jawbone”; “Mullingspot”; Starworks”
Final Grade: A-
Sample Wormwood below!