Somewhere among the sonic synchronicity that binds together the forty-two minutes of Midday Veil’s animated and eloquent new album “This Wilderness,” attentive listeners will be struck by the realization that the human organism embodied by the listener is an integral part of an interconnected ecosystem.
It’s a realization about self, size and scope, and like the album itself, it’s massive. Midday Veil have long found themselves comfortable creating colossal concerns, as recorded on the band’s earliest, self-released explorations. The band’s preceding full-length album – 2013’s “The Current,” named one of the year’s best avant-rock releases by The Wire – could be viewed as the band emerging from their kosmische chrysalis, unfurling previously unheard banners of both color and control. “This Wilderness” is the sound of the band under the self-imposed hypnosis of that emergence, extending the voyage with even more discipline than ever before.
Yet it’s the mystery of “This Wilderness” that makes the album among the most creatively compelling of this or any year, and vocalist and founding member Emily Pothast gives voice to that mystery both literally and figuratively. On the opening invocation of “Babel,” Pothast addresses her place within “This Wilderness” and by extension, the place of the listener as well: “This wilderness amazes me / but covers me with shame / when I aspire to codify / the thing that has no name.” On “Babel” and throughout “This Wilderness,” the band stands firmly in the midst of that amazement, transmitting a wide-eyed discovery of the full potential of their sounds and surroundings, utterly resisting retreat into a preordained musical framework and embracing the endless multiplicity of perspective.
The beating musical heart of “This Wilderness” remains the out-sized synth wizardry of co-founder David Golightly, who seems to have ingested every possible mind-altering sound from Stockhausen to Cybotron to the “Love to Love You” of Donna Summer. They’re all on display here, made especially ornate by the driving percussion of Garrett Moore, the deep, submerging bass of Jayson Kochan, and the often-explosive, reptilian guitar lines of multi-instrumentalist Timm Mason. Rounding out the lineup is an all-star cast of guest spots including Bernie Worrell (Parliament, Funkadelic), Eyvind Kang and Skerik.
It’s unclear what will happen next, nor does it seem to particularly matter. Midday Veil will be staying in “This Wilderness” – in an increasingly interconnected, dynamic, even dangerous cosmos – for quite awhile, and it’s our good fortune to join them.
“Does it feel like magic? Does it feel like pain? Does it scratch the surface? The echo that remains.” – Ryan Muldoon, revoltoftheapes.com
MIDDAY VEIL IS:
Emily Pothast (vocals, vocoder, organ, percussion)
David Golightly (synths)
Timm Mason (guitar on Cages, Empire, Water; bass guitar on Babel, Circle, I am the War; modular synth)
Jayson Kochan (guitar on Babel, Circle; bass guitar on Cages, Empire, Water; drum machine)
Garrett Moore (drums, simmons kit)
Samuel Yoder (percussion on Empire)
Bernie Worrell (clavinet & hammond organ on Babel)
Skerik (saxophone on Babel, Empire)
Steve Moore (trombone on Babel, Empire)
Eyvind Kang (violin, viola on Circle, War)
Josiah Boothby (french horn on War)
Tor Dietrichson (congas, tabla on Babel, Empire, Water, Circle)
Randall Dunn at Avast! Recording Company, Seattle
Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service