From the cultural hotbed of Nova Scotia come Wintersleep, yet another in the new wave of Canadian indie bands to wing their way onto the musical radar in the last few years. It must be something about the long nights up in Canada, because the country is still churning out its fair share of quality music.
Welcome To The Night Sky is Wintersleep’s third album and was released in the band’s home country at the tail end of 2007. It now finally gains a UK release via One Four Seven.
The album is a more considered recording than previous Wintersleep releases. Having scaled down their manic touring schedule and taken the time to explore new musical avenues in the side projects Holy Fuck and Contrived, the band has returned with a fresh new outlook.
Drunk On Aluminium opens with a burst of atmospheric sound effects before latching onto a steady groove over which Paul Murphy’s vocals float in a pleasant enough manner. About two minutes in the track launches into a terrific fuzz rocker before breaking down into an acoustic section to ride us out. Quite an opening to the album, and although the debt to early ’90s UK indie acts such as Ride and Swervedriver is obvious, there is a good old fashioned Canadian grit about Wintersleep that allows them to rise above their influences.
The curious Archaeologists follows up, the cracking melody more than compensating for a rather esoteric lyric about whales and winged boys. Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes slows things down and introduces the gospel overtones that come to full fruition on the next track, Weighty Ghost. Despite a passing resemblance to Blur‘s Tender, the song builds and builds into a thing of rare beauty and, with its lyrical observations about escape and identity, provides the album with its key theme.
The album goes a bit post-punk on Murderer and tips a wink to Low on Murderer (even down to the song title), but Murphy’s dramatic delivery and weighty lyrics provide enough meat on the bone to carry the songs.
Occasionally his attempts to impart literary clout to Wintersleep’s songs sound strained. Astronaut’s dialogue between a preacher and the titular astronaut is clunky, and the debt to the late novelist David Foster Wallace is made a little too obvious on Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes.
Oblivion is another nod to Wallace, but the surging rush of the music more than compensates for any lyrical faux pas. Laser Beams is another track that performs the old Pixies quiet/loud trick, but serves as a suitably thrilling ride into the epic Miasmal Smoke & The Yellow Bellied Freaks. This monstrous eight-minute track showcases the whole range of musical styles that have gone before, and features some particularly inspired drumming from Loel Campbell.
This version of the album plays on with a couple of additional tracks that unfortunately sound like they have been hastily tacked on. Both The Kids Are Ultra-Violent and Early In The Morning would have been better placed on a single and their only purpose here is to detract from what has gone before.
Already winners of the coveted Juno Best New Group Award in their native Canada, Wintersleep will surely attract some new fans in this UK with this flawed but exciting album.