This here Upper Wilds project is full of star power if you enjoy the noisemaker afflictions of Parts & Labour and Pterodactyl, which, yes we do. You've got Dan Friel in one corner and Aaron Siegel in the other, making a record of thick muk and fine fun, a sorta bubblegum fury that we are told you simply must hear on speakers or else suffer the consequences.
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Upper Wilds (bits of Parts & Labour and Pterodactyl) attempt to make the worlds most compressed record and half way through 'UFO' the second track here my ears are screaming. Unlike a lot of records which have been compressed to sound loud on the radio this is an intentional production 'touch'. Musically they are closer to 'Vampire on Titus' era Guided By Voices than I could have ever dared hope. The twosome play distorted guitars over simple drum beats and add vocals which have a Pollard-ish melancholy to them. 'Roy Sullivan' is as poppy as they dare get but sets the template for what they do here.
There are lots of lo-fi scuzzy hooks and for fans of guitar scree, there's plenty of wibbly slightly off piste solos. They aren't as garagey as say Ty Segall - there's something much more Sebadoh about the whole thing and their gift for melody is unusual amongst their fellow rackateers. But they know how to rock - sort of. The drums are just kind of hit...like Pollard did on Titus. It works. I'd say I enjoyed it but next time I'm wearing ear defenders.
9/10 gbar Customer review, 13th December 2017
The album cover of new trio Upper Wild’s debut album ‘Guitar Module 2017’ is a black & white photo of Mount St. Helens erupting - hot smoke and steam being vented to the sky in a powerful discharge of energy. I don’t think any image other than this one can capture the fury of this record. It is full to the brim with anthems (and boy, do I mean anthems!) filled with heavily distorted textures and addictive melodies provided by the wall-of-sound guitars which play a huge factor throughout the album.
Imagine a blend of Nine Inch Nails and Hüsker Dü, and you’ll know what I’m taking about! From the first track, “Reentry Breakup Recorder,” the trio creates a blast of fuzzy sonic guitar feedback before diving into the anthemic “UFO”, which contains more guitar hooks, riffs, and textures than the ear can possibly comprehend, highlighted by the vocal harmonies of Dan Friel, who projects his voice with true feeling despite it being half buried amongst the flotsam and jetsam around him. His vocal performance is probably one of the most distinguishing aspects that make this album so enjoyable to listen to. The next track “Roy Sullivan” is no different musically, but lyrically it borrows from an electrifying concept; in this case, the title and the lyrics tells the story of a U.S. Park Ranger who was struck by lightning seven times! But throughout the record, the themes are surrounded by nature, or indeed the destruction of it - “Chainsaw” spreads a message on anti-deforestation, while “Vampire Crane” deals with the fear of an overbuilt future.
The album also has a pretty spacey vibe too, especially on tracks such as “Let’s Build a Moon” and “Black Holes”. Despite the very unnatural sounds of Upper Wilds, the theme of nature fits quite well into the record, and each song is unique enough in its own way that they deserve repeated listening. There isn’t a dull moment during ‘Guitar Module 2017’’s efficient but engaging 25-minute run time, and while that time length may be a bit short to some, it’s probably for the best anyway, as your ears will need a rest from the electronic pummelling they’ll receive when listening to this!
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