When Wye Oak released Shriek back in 2014 it represented a real turning point. Up to then their music had been characterised by loud and direct guitars so to suddenly be presented with an album dominated by synths while also featuring a marked uplift in quality was a genuine sit-up-and-take-notice moment.
Fifth album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs doesn’t have the dramatic sense of change of its predecessor, but it is a fascinating album that may even ultimately prove to have more to offer. It’s one of those albums that grows with each listen. They could have settled for extending the sound of Shriek but have instead opted to integrate elements from both periods of their history.
It opens strongly; The Instrument has a buzzing edge to it and the title track confirms how Jenn Wasner’s voice is still a shaded yet emotionally revealing force. Lifer is arguably the strongest (and saddest) track on the album, all plaintive and detached. “I’ve shown you everything I am, you choose not to understand, do you think that life could be better?” sings Wasner poignantly before guitars last seen on 2011’s Civilian re-emerge.
It Was Not Natural opens with teetering synths but gets heavier as it unfolds, being arguably the best synthesis of their old and new elements on the album. Symmetry sees them at their busiest and most densely-packed meanwhile; Wasner may sing of how “symmetry is so appealing” but if anything it’s a pleasing asymmetrical album.
My Signal is one of the rare moments that don’t come off quite as successfully, although their decision to place a short track predominantly featuring strings in the middle of the album says much about their confidence. As the album progresses a Cocteau Twins feel begins to infiltrate in places, especially on Say Hello and Over And Over. They’re both clever and melodic and are the sound of the band stretching themselves but retaining accessibility. If the earlier stages were defined by a restless urgency, the softness of Join ushers in a sense of peace towards the end of album. Final track I Know It’s Real sees widescreen surges of emotion balanced against graceful composure.
They’re in the enviable position of having found their own niche, yet have multiple options open on where to move next musically. This run of albums proves that wherever Wye Oak do end up, we can be confident the results will be distinctive and enriching.