Monday, June 15, 2009
Lemonwilde – Red Room
Flying back from a Ripple scouting mission in Montreal and Toronto, I brought up this unrecognized treasure on my ipod and was instantly transported far higher than the 35,000 foot cruising altitude of my A319 airplane. Anyone who’s read the Ripple for some time knows how much I love writing as I return from these scouting trips. There’s something about flying high above the clouds, disconnected with the earth below that lends itself to fully losing myself in the music, the very act of flying allowing the music to manifest as if it’s a physical being, carrying me high above the central plains, transporting me to another time and space.
And for all that, Lemonwilde was the perfect choice.
Ask the guys who their influences are and you’ll get names like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Muse, and while those sounds are there, in truth there’s much more. Bring in a little of the post-punk glam of bands like Japan, some of the artiness of early Roxy Music, a smattering of the darker tones of Bauhaus, and a hint of some forward-thinking psychedelia and what results is as much a journey through tone and mood, a transmission through worlds of pain and despair, as it is simply music.
Beginning with a stabbing keyboard texture, “Just This Ashtray,” starts us on our swirling, angst-filled ride. Sounding far more Roxy Music than Pink Floyd here, disaffected vocals layer over the tempered beat with a heavy dose of brooding melancholy straight to the chorus, which immediately launches the song into the despondency of Japan at its best. Anguish hides in the lyrics, dripping through the vocals. The piano break midway through suddenly makes clear what I’m listening to. This is modern day Tin Pan Alley music, the 21st century equivalent of love-lost barroom jazz. Music for the heartbroken and despondent. Music of raw emotion, rage, and hurt, draped in beautiful tones of piano and hushed synths, yet fractured with shocking guitars outbursts. Moping and pained, you can almost feel the heartbreak in the vocals as the final chorus sounds out, “say goodbye to this romance/because I no longer need you.” Powerful and moving stuff.
“Finding Jesus in Math,” is by far the standout track here, a keyboard infused, postpunk glam journey through neo-ambient textures, swirling, hypnotic guitars, and emotional distance. The song is familiar in so many ways, yet completely distinct. Completely engaging, strong of melody, and blessed with some dynamite bass runs, “Finding Jesus,” shows what high level of craft Lemonwilde are capable of creating. Each piano chord added to the verses adds a new level of tension, building to the glittering explosion of guitar at the end verse break. The snare sound is perfect here, pounding out with an intensity that mirrors the breaking heartbeat of the song. This is a song people should be talking about. Gathering around their in their heart-broken circles of despair, drenching themselves in the darkness of the forever lost.
“Danse,” brings the Japan level of distant emotion back full-force over a brooding piano melody. Here the despondency of the vocals haunt you down to your core, as they warble through the verse “and you are forever alone,” then bellow through the rising chorus in what sounds like an anguished moan of despair.
But don’t go thinking the album is all downer. Reflecting in the corners of despair, Lemonwilde manage to find the hidden beauty in painful isolation. Shards of light hint through the blackwash of lonliness. In fact the songs are so well-crafted and the performances so engaging, even when the songs fail to rise above a hushed whisper, they still bleed with emotive intensity. “Inspired Painter,” is a perfect example, beginning with a lilting piano melody, the song builds across the chorus on the back of some big chords and some frenetic, remarkable drumming. Vocals cry out, “the love you’ve been searching for is gone, gone gone,” the emotional intensity building with each passing second. Meanwhile, the drum continues to pound out a frenzied attack, mirroring what your own scattered thoughts and confusion would be when the love of your life walks out the door. Beautiful stuff.
Finally, “Nondeterministic Automation,” bleeds out on the back of an acoustic guitar, the most Floyd-esque song on the album, hinted with the flavor of Dark Side of the Moon. Until the chorus that is, when the song suddenly elevates to an emotional height miles and miles above the pain of earthy desolotation, rising trancendently to some heavenly release. Follow the spiraling synth to that dynamite vocal hook and layered backing vocals, this song positively elevates. Another truly remarkable track, this is the first one I plan to play on the Ripple Radio Show. A rousing, uplifting track to end the EP, shedding off the layers of depression, leading to the ultimate promise of hope. Absolutely mesmerizing.
The EP is available on Lemonwilde’s website, and one definitely worth hearing. Often.