Wye Oak have seen some profound development since their formation in 2006, starting with a fuzzy independent release ‘If Children’ and gradually refining their sound, gathering a sizable amount of praise from critics and boffins alike.
Their dreamy elevations and walls of guitar noise cemented the duo’s success, which peaked commercially after single ‘Civilian’ was used on pretty much every American TV show throughout 2011.
With a flourishing method in their wake, Jenn Wasner supposedly hit a creative drought surrounding her guitar, and it was deemed necessary to stamp on their antiquated habits and change the rules for their fourth release ‘Shriek‘.
Opener ‘Before’ pitter-patters the somewhat melancholy into beautifully coated electronica, and sets the tone by abandoning any of the driving guitar and refusing point blank to build to any noteworthy climax, instead displaying a decorous reflection. There is a casual swagger about Wye Oak in this alteration, and it’s largely what allows it to be pulled off with relative ease, any timidity would have caused real detriment to an already softened approach.
Title track ‘Shriek’ showcases this poise with a rolling piano and an incredibly beguiling chorus that possesses a carrying rhythm. This along with new single ‘The Tower’ makes for an early high point on the record, the third track marches along with peaks and troughs in the synth and bass lines. It echoes like the peak of a laughing gas trip (drugs are bad) and demonstrates amazing complexity in form, made better when you understand that Andy Stack has devised a way to play the drums and the synth simultaneously.
The road turns with ‘Glory’, certainly one of the most pop-orientated tunes to be found here. It is unapologetically upbeat and funky, almost disco; the bubble is burst briefly to beam some surreal astro-noises and bleeps right down your face. Mid point in the album ‘Sick Talk’ involves more waves of synth that becomes frantic and almost aggressive over Wasner’s grandiose vocal displays.
Considering the blinding quality of ‘Shriek’s’ first half, ‘School of Eyes’ and ‘Despicable Animal’ fall a little short, there is some clever use of splitting the vocal in both and even a little build and rain-fall drop in the former, but neither really grab attention to any staggering degree.
‘Paradise’ is a small treat for the minority that may feel betrayed by Wye Oak’s’ departure from their root sound. It’s not exactly a major throwback, and would be entirely out of place on ‘The Knot’, but the consistent screech and clannish drumming make it sound fitting to an on-screen action sequence and set it apart from the rest of the album.
‘Know The Law’ is another beautiful demonstration of Wasner’s singing, which appears more flexible than ever here. The repetition of ‘I know’ to towards the end of the track is choir-like, and is interrupted with a jarring, chaotic conclusion. To wrap things up completely is ‘Logic Of Colour’ – a flurry of echoes and electronic buoyancy, it simultaneously conjures up comparisons with new kid on the block Grimes and older pioneers The Human League, and is a fitting end to the whole business.
‘Shriek’ is a fantastic metamorphosis for those willing to embrace something more electronic and considered. Die hard rock fans might be a little disappointed with the transition, but Wye Oak have once again proven themselves capable of producing music that is both intelligent and exciting.