Wilderness Vessel States

[Jagjaguar; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: art rock, post punk, post rock
Others: This Heat, Public Image Ltd., Talk Talk, D.I.

With Vessel States, Baltimore-based Wilderness continue to prove themselves as one of the most unique-sounding contemporary rock bands, but, unfortunately, only in the capacity that they continue to sound like themselves. The album maintains the formula of angular guitar lines padded by rolling toms and long-held bass notes, all boiling beneath the challenging croon of singer James Johnson which made last year's Wilderness so singular and incendiary. When Wilderness's sound is at its fullest, their production infuses tremendous space into their music, as if each member of the band was recorded spread out inside an airplane hangar. In this respect, Wilderness remains one of few bands to channel Talk Talk, whose later albums are glorious meditations on the spirituality of musical space and whose pioneering sound remains sadly under-explored and untapped by contemporary rock bands.

The track "Gravity Bent Light," its preceding segue "Towered," as well as the tremolo-heavy outro of "Last" offer tantalizing hints of the album's unrealized potential and a number of sonic ideas into which the band could have further explored. "Towered," especially, begs to be given flesh and molded into something more substantial. As well, one wishes that Wilderness would have cleaned up the one drawback to their music: its tendency to run together and for individual songs to lose distinction after long play. If only the band would have branched out in terms of instrumentation, production, and songwriting. In terms of musical progress, however, Vessel States sounds and feels more like a precursor to last year's self-titled release. As progressive and interesting as Wilderness the band is, Vessel States is not a great leap forward for them, and those who appreciated Wilderness will probably be underwhelmed with the band's latest offering.

1. The Blood is on the Wall
2. Beautiful Alarms
3. Emergency
4. Last
5. Fever Pitch
6. Death Verses
7. Towered
8. Gravity Bent Light
9. Monumental

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