Album Reviews

Wounded Knee – Shimmering New Vistas

(Benbecula) UK release date: 9 March 2009


With the noted exception of the odd percussive intervention and the lonesome panpipe of Rif On The Kif, Shimmering New Vistas possesses precisely no instruments. Instead, its seven tracks are comprised of various layers of male voice, which is looped and layered and prodded and pricked until something that sounds complete is formed.

As well as this nigh on total lack of discernable instrumentation, Shimmering New Vistas, for the most part, has no lyrics either, and structures that ingest the verse-chorus rule book before regurgitating it as the guttural vocal �noises’ that ritualistically chant their way through this album, with the complete and total lack of any hooks representing the inevitable chin-dribble that is left after such an explosive episode.

The man behind this leftfield musical foray is Wounded Knee, aka Drew Wright – an experimental musician from Edinburgh who has been releasing and performing since 2004.

Now let’s get one thing straight. Off-the-wall creativity and musical deviance is healthy and good. Not only does it help account for the rich variety of music at the disposal of the music enthusiast, it’s how music is moved forward, how it evolves. But another patent fact is that if you’re going to live a life of musical deviance, you damn well have to do it well. It takes bravery, skill, and belief in your own creativity.

Shimmering New Vistas can be broken down to two crude frameworks: Structure; and Sounds. And while he succeeds in one, he fails in the other.

Speaking from a structural perspective, the way Wounded Knee crafts his songs is brilliant. He takes a motif, and builds it, adding to it with layer upon layer of well thought-out parts that are always coherent to the initial motif. He will then disassemble it, and reconstruct accordingly. From this perspective, the manner in which he conducts his musical business is strangely reminiscent of Lo Fidelity Allstars circa How To Operate With A Blown Mind – a dance act commanding a unique sense of how to imbue songs with structures that shake the earth.

What significantly hampers Shimmering New Vistas is the sounds that Wounded Knee fills it with, which are too distant and unengaging. My Wooden Cupboard is a case in point. Beginning with a rhythm evocative of Battles‘ spellbinding Atlas, the vocal samples build promisingly until a wholly unwelcome sound enters the sonic fray. Fans of Alan Partridge will be familiar with the scene where he is trying to be sick �but nothing’s coming out� during a presentation for Dante Fires. The sound that accompanies Partridge’s oral shortcomings is the sound that renders My Wooden Cupboard an unpalatable listen.

Bools Rules is without doubt the album’s standout point, and it’s no coincidence that it is also the album’s most accessible point – it even has lyrics. A simple lyrical motif is built, and with each new layer comes a new melody creating sumptuous harmonies.

But such standout points too readily find their counterblast with such self-indulgent hubris as The Sublime Frequencies – a 20 minute excursion into a world of bestial sounds that have little respect for any rhythm other than that of its own deluded time signatures.

Wounded Knee’s musical manifesto is to be applauded – it just doesn’t sound very good. It does, however, possess room for improvement, and if Wounded Knee concentrates on balancing his leftfield ideas with accessibility, he will have possessed listeners chanting with him yet.


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