Little Wars (btv083)
Buy Online | cd/2xLP
1. Copper Islands
2. Little Wars
3. The Garden
6. Echo Roads
8. Lonely Bulls
10. Calliope (LP only)
11. Lonely Bulls (Southern Graze Mix) (LP only)
|Unwed Sailor have been innovators in instrumental rock since their debut release in 1998. From beginnings in various post-punk and hardcore bands, including Seattle’s Roadside Monument, Johnathon Ford’s Unwed Sailor exhibits that wild power with the restraint of a seasoned musician and performing veteran. Their signature sound is based around Ford’s leading bass melodies, melodic string keyboard arrangements, intricate groove oriented rhythms, and sparkling chime like guitars. As they prepare to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Unwed Sailor are as busy as ever. At the end of November 2007, the band finished recording and mixing of Little Wars, their 4th full-length. The new full length, Little Wars, has been a concept for several years, originally planned to be a special 10″ vinyl only release. Initial tracks were recorded in late 2002 and the band began playing a track or two as part of their live set. “Copper Islands” is a building block for the album and has become a fan favorite from their live shows. As the band grew comfortable playing the songs live, Ford decided to re-visit and expand the material into a full album. The final Little Wars sessions were recorded and mixed close to Ford’s Tulsa, OK childhood home in nearby Norman, OK by Chad Copelin (Page France, Umbrellas, Ryan Lindsey) in his new Blackwatch Studios.
Little Wars is the band’s most ambitious and complex release yet, building on melodic lessons and recording techniques learned over the last several albums. Not content to follow up with their energetic 2000 debut full-length, The Faithful Anchor, with a mere sequel, the band recorded 2003’s The Marionette and the Music Box, challenging its fan base with a Peter and the Wolf inspired, classically influenced fairy-tale. In 2006, Unwed Sailor released The White Ox full-length and Circles ep that further departed from their live performance sound, exploring Eno/Lanois ambient recording techniques, resulting in a brooding, gloomy ambient opus wrapped in southwestern imagery. Little Wars reflects both the depth and breadth that the band has developed through these diverging releases and its live show. The songs are energetic and highly melodic, but gently colored and focused by layered keyboards and percussion with a delicate ambience. Unwed Sailor has had a revolving cast of musicians in recent years, audiences treated to various colors and flavors of the band, emphasizing its many different aspects. The core line-up that recorded The Marionette and the Music Box with Johnathon Ford was re-assembled, including longtime guitarist Nic Tse who now lives in Hong Kong, drummer Matthew Putman, and guitarist Matthew Depper, and combined with the current live band which includes keyboardist Brooks Tipton, drummer Patrick Ryan, and guitarist Andrew Haldeman.
The album opens with the Who influenced “Copper Islands” which sets the pace for Little Wars, reminding fans of the live show and immediately pulling the band back towards its earlier energetic melodies. The title track and “The Garden” continue on the melodic trend, carried by the energy of drummer Matt Putman’s solid complex danceable rhythms, but also bending the record back towards lush ambience with various choir and synth keyboard parts that bring to mind The Cure or New Order. Unwed Sailor is not afraid to be aggressive as it moves on towards its heavy distortion influenced “Aurora”. While it is trendy to incorporate heavy/distortion influences into instrumental rock these days, Ford has tapped into this energy many times over his career, especially during blistering Roadside Monument performances. On at least one occasion, Ford was so caught up in the frenzied live performance, he ripped the four strings off his bass with his bare hands. But even on “Aurora”, the heaviness is balanced by Tipton and Depper’s lush keyboard arrangements, creating soaring sounds that are sure to inspire, further evidence of the Unwed Sailor dialectic. “Echo Roads” is a more traditional rock composition, carried by a Neil Young influenced melody. “Lonely Bulls” recalls the cuckoo-clock staccato of The Marionette and the Music Box, mixing in dense layers of keyboards and storybook/lullaby melodies. “Numeral” closes Little Wars drenched in heavy effects and ambience bringing to mind Brian Eno or Pink Floyd. Little Wars stands alone. It is truly a unique, progressive, and challenging addition to the growing number of instrumental albums hitting the shelves.
Unwed Sailor hit the road in a big way in 2007, touring extensively throughout the US on multiple tours and playing shows with bands including Murder By Death, Battles, This Will Destroy You, Twilight Sad, mewithoutyou, Appleseed Cast, Lotus, and Daughters. Unwed Sailor is currently booking tours for Spring 2008 in the US and early Summer in Europe to support Little Wars, continuing to challenge and impress audiences with their energetic live show.
Ford labors on somber, epic sound-paintings that recall Eno’s philosophies of discreet music, but can also roll into more jazz-infused rhythms, spearheading a more out there kind of post-rock.–Real Detroit Weekly
Pulsing cadences conjured up the rolling rhythm of white-capped sea waves, complete with rushing piano work and drumbeats like sunbeams piercing down into the blue depths. Even to a reviewer 30 feet away, their labors shoed Unwed Sailor’s members were burning themselves up, giving their all in a tightly focused and highly coordinated effort, sweating in the warm July night air as their surging harmonies shook the Opolis –Adam Scott, Norman Transcript