Devil in Me
Black and White Turn Colours
Mercy for the Ghost
Promising debut from Trondheim alt. rockers I Love Wynona.
I Love Wynona are the brainchild of author and artist Frode Sander Øien and drummer Vigdis Sjelmo. After four years in the making, their understated debut finally hit the shelves in May this year.
The sound of A Beautiful Noise is reminiscent of the drowsy soundscapes produced by alt rockers like Smog and Lambchop. Øien's low-key and sometimes muttered lead vocals bears traces of Bill Callahan and Kurt Wagner, and an infatuation with the aforementioned is audible in the album's six mellow tracks that shuffle along wrapped in piano, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel and flutes.
The release is gently peppered with ambient recordings courtesy of Motorpsycho's Hans Magnus 'Snah' Ryan. The fellow Trondheim band is a keyword to ILW in more ways than Snah: years ago Øien played in Flippa Hormoner together with Motorpsycho vocalist Bent Sæther. The latter produced the two albums released by Øien and Wynona-guitarist Truls Lorentzen's 90s rock outfit Sanderfinger, and ex-Psycho Håkon Gebhardt has helped produce A Beautiful Noise. And as far as Motorpsycho ballads go, there's also a musical resemblance – think Blissard's Manmower or Taifun off Trust Us. It might be the guitar effects, it might be the alternative Trondheim rock sound. But without wanting to draw the similarity too far, behind ILW's effortless effort lies some of the characteristic Motorpsycho shrewdness. A willingness to experiment, which, when it works, works very well.
Opening song Devil In Me is based around a simple guitar pattern accompanied in turn by piano, recorder (it's great to hear the instrument with the undeservedly bad reputation being done justice), bass, fuzz guitar and glockenspiel. It's seven minutes of monotonous, melancholic and pleasurable intensity. Universal has a similar structure. Guitars, acoustic and electric, play against each other and create waves of climaxes that are occasionally broken off by jazzy piano melodies and the soft vocals of bassist Ellen Ersfjord who briefly replaces Øien behind the lead mike.
With simple elements, such as the use of repetition and sparse melodies, the aforementioned tracks show ILW mastering the power of less, which is where their strength lies. As soon as they head down the more traditional Americana / alt. rock road of songwriting (Unbeautiful, Mercy For The Ghost), their simplicity loses some of its nerve and they move onto a path better tread by their previously mentioned influences.
The album opens with the sound of running water and ends with people walking in wet landscapes. Here the field recordings nicely tie up either end of the album, indicating moods and accentuating the authenticity in the music. On other occasions, however, as with the two-and-a-half minutes of rain at the end of Black And White Turn Colours, the recordings sound a bit aimless, as if added to the end in loss of a better place to put them. The same goes for the occasional noise elements. Alt rock spiced with wailing fuzz guitars, dissonant chords and industrial sounds has already been perfected by Wilco on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. ILW seem to aspire to similar results, but fail to convince in their attempts.
ILW's debut might be a mixed affair, but the good elements tend to outweigh the bits that require further polishing, making A Beautiful Noise a promising debut from a band we'll hopefully hear more from in the future.