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Somewhere Under the Sea
by Eric Kendall
Wooden Waves awash with retro influences, future sensibilities
Good music will make you think about the band playing it, but great music makes you think about yourself and the world around you. Wooden Waves evoke a certain child-like wonder with their music, which mirrors their approach in creating it.
The band boasts a lineup that seemingly can do no wrong, including members of both Sleeping Kings of Iona and A Hotel Nourishing. While no member is necessarily tied to a certain instrument, various band responsibilities are loosely assigned as follows: Ray Fulton—guitar/vocals/bells/keys; Bill Fulton—bass/keys/bells; Sonny Baker—drums/percussion; Joey McIntosh—keys/percussion/bass/live mixing; Nikki McIntosh—keys/vocals; and Jeremy Hitchcock—visuals/live video manipulation.
Unafraid to switch duties regularly regardless of how well one might be on any given instrument, the musicians subscribe to the tried-and-true mantra that it is usually better to “unlearn before you learn…or maybe just never learn.”
With collective influences ranging from Yo La Tengo and Stereolab to Arthur Russell and Neu!, Wooden Waves seamlessly blend an art-rock aesthetic and the fun side of indie rock with the forward-thinking, catchy side of electronic music. Already a sum greater than its ingredients, Wooden Waves play an adventurous brand of semi-instrumental rock that combines Kraut-like, break-beat-driven drums, tight-bouncing bass, and 1960s kitsch synth melodies that are subjected to live mixing, where the incoming real-time sounds are modulated by manipulation of pitch, delay, and other effects. So it’s easy to understand why old-school dub production techniques are also cited as a major influence.
Wooden Waves manage to add a heavy electronic element to their music without making the sound too processed or relying too heavily on pre-programmed content. This guarantees every show will be different from the last, offering a perspective-based experience rather than mechanical regurgitation. Still, as new as Wooden Waves are, they have already found a way to be consistent while constantly evolving, focusing on movement and not nitpicking on arrangements and song structuree.
Wooden Waves draw as much influence from films as they do music. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the band is their use of live video manipulation as a permanent and ever-changing part of the band. Drawing largely on aquatic themes, Esther Williams, space, and snippets of old MGM films, these visuals bring back the true meaning of “going to a show.” Music without a theme does nothing more than pander to a lazy mind, a stoic place where weak first impressions rule and innovation takes a backseat to convenience. The band’s use of video gives the songs new contexts each time around, whether it be synchronized swimming videos from the 1950s, chopped-up Technicolor snippets from a Hollywood of long ago, or a bird’s-eye view of coastlines or spaced-out underwater vignettes.
Wooden Waves have tentative plans to hit the studio in the fall and release an album next spring. Catch them August 15 that Soundlab with Binghamton’s Summer People and Oneonta’s Monster Machismo and August 21 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
—eric kendallblog comments powered by Disqus
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