Wander ~ March

We first reviewed Pinoy post-rockers Wander back in 2014 when we went on a Post-Rock Road Trip.  Back then, the drummer was only 18, but we were incredibly impressed, especially by the long title track “Mourning.”  We’re pleased to say that the band has aged well ~ so well, in fact, that we’d call them one of the leaders of the new post-rock generation.  Older fans may be startled to know that GY!BE is 25 this year, which means the four members of Wander could be their children.

Glass (highlight track: “Breaker”) was released in 2017, followed by a split with Young Lovers the next year on pretty vinyl.  The colored vinyl is back for March, which is pleasingly released on the first day of the month.  It’s also the first cover to break into color.  The flowers come across as a celebration, which may remind an even older generation of San Francisco’s Summer of Love (1967).  The Bay Area band is now in full bloom.

Adding even more beauty is the stunning lead video, which debuted at Kerrang! earlier this year.  The plot is simple, yet poignant: the “fever dream of a terminally ill girl,” accompanied by her faithful dog and spirit guide.  The images amplify the undercurrent of melancholy found in the best post-rock.  The quartet seems to be playing to encourage, to extend life, to hold on to everything it can, via field and stream, forest and sea.  The struggle between life and death is reflected in the peaks and valleys of the music, especially the frantic peak, as the drummer demonstrates his amazing speed and versatility in the seventh minute.  Instrumental choruses abound.  And then the comedown, combined with the closing images.  Catharsis leads to tears.

At 9:15, “March” is longer than anything on Glass, but it’s still only the third-longest track.  This alone tells us we’re in the post-rock arena.  Throughout the album, the quartet will continue to roll through memorable choruses and riffs, transforming long songs into suites and short(er) songs into potential singles.  When “Faraway” pauses at the four minute mark, it’s only to take a breath before the next surge.  By the end, everything is biggie-sized: the drums, the guitar, the bass.

March has an extremely high replay value, the quality high on every track, as it was on Glass.  The difference between albums is that the band is now confident enough to stretch its wings, no longer content to play rock, now attempting guitar-based symphonies, and succeeding.  Their confidence is apparent in the fact that the album is recorded live (without an audience).  With so timing challenges ~ speed for one, along with the need for the guitars to come in all at once ~ one would think multiple takes would be necessary.  But the members are so in synth that even their hardest maneuvers seem fluid.  This is most apparent on “Parade,” which includes a blink-and-you’ll miss it shift at 5:33 that is incredibly difficult to do.  The fact that the band hides this trick in the fold of their clothes highlights the humility that has brought them this far ~ they put on a great show, but they’re not showy.

Last year we were beginning to worry about the state of post-rock.  It’s funny how this seems to happen to post-rock all the time, more than it does for any other genre.  (No one says “ambient music is dead!” or “Electronic music has run its course!”)  Post-rock fans are accustomed to abandoning all hope, only to see it restored.  Perhaps the peaks and valleys of the genre lend themselves to such rollercoasters, but whatever the reason, we’re glad we’re back on the ride. (Richard Allen)

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