Get your hands dirty
Wilderness of Manitoba needs more grit
Article: Dana Morenstein – Contributor
The first song that begins to play on the Wilderness of Manitoba’s latest studio album, Island of Echoes, evokes the sensation of sitting in on a Zen Buddhist retreat. Balloon Lamp is only about a minute long and it could be assumed that it’s meant to set the tone for the rest of the album. Suffice it to say, the “tone” of Island of Echoes is as mellow as Jerry Garcia burning incense while doing downward dog. Depending on your musical preference, this could either be really good, or really bad.
Morning Sun, the next track, may take you back to Fleetwood Mac’s glory days (think Rumours). The focal drum beat and eclectic mix of both male and female vocals is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s classic The Chain. However, it lacks the raw, gritty vocals of Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, and as a result, is more hippy trippy than rock and roll beauty.
Another track, The First Snowfall, is a little bit Simon and Garfunkel, but with the uniquely laid back, soft, whimsical sound that the Wilderness of Manitoba is known for. Astral Sea sounds like Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, but the electric guitar that comes in towards the middle gives the album a much needed push.
The album’s seventh track, White Woods, sounds a little bluegrassy, which provides the album the switch up it desperately needs by this point. If only the band’s lead vocalists could evoke the same country twang that the album’s obvious musical influence, the Grateful Dead, were able to do back in the seventies.
At times, the album is saved by its song-writing skills. However the lyrics, although poetic and unusual, don’t always fit together quite right. Island of Echoes shares the same downfall of many folk albums; too much emphasis on lyrical content, thereby sacrificing a melody that is sometimes best served simple.
What set bands like the Dead and Fleetwood Mac apart was their ability to push themselves and create a connection to their listener, while evoking the multidimensional sound that Island of Echoes is obviously striving for, but just falls short of. However, the album definitely has its gems. The stand out tune is Echoes, which comes together brilliantly to create a nostalgic, poignant quality that is evocative of a comfortably scratchy Zombies song on vinyl. Add to that the poetic beauty of the lyrics, and this track carries all the qualities of a classic.
Island of Echoes needs a little bit more hardness, rawness, and grit; then, it could be pushed beyond the limits of the “typical” folksy sound. It doesn’t have enough rock ambiences, despite the album’s obvious classic rock and roll influences. Perhaps this wild bunch needs to pour a tall glass of Southern Comfort and lay off the nag champa. They have so much potential—if only they could get their hands a little bit dirtier.