Wand are baffling. Always zig-zagging from one end of the musical spectrum to the other, their identity as a band evades me. But this time, it seems they have left their razor heavy metal edge behind.
Succeeding their hallmark album Plum, the Los Angeles’ garage rock gang, Wand, plummet head first into the mystical void of psychedelia with the release of their spellbinding, sonic masterpiece Laughing Matter.
Now, one thing I have noted from listening to the album is that this LA five-piece don’t do half measures. They don't do part-time. If I went to the pub with them, they would order a stern of Guinness or who knows what? They are hardcore.
Laughing Matter is a cloak-and-dagger behemoth. Dynamic contrast is the fulcrum of the album.The aural journey begins with the ominous and progresses into a celestial haven. From acoustic ballads to discordant white noise, listeners are eased onto a voyage of a desolate realm. The sensation of floating is inexorable.
Album teaser, ‘Scarecrow’, opens the album. Tribal thumping of drums, discordant trembling guitar and profound pangs of piano strike, making for an intense and sinister introduction. Subdued vocals from singer Cory Hanson add to the haunting and ghostliness. A pied piper of goosebumps and raised hairs.
This is quickly juxtaposed by the second track ‘Xoxo’. A mammoth of sound. It starts slowly mirroring the antecedent track, with twinkling keys and melodic guitar phrases. However, whirring soundscapes and fuzz laden guitar kicks the track into overdrive for a massive finale. The pivotal, standout track of the album, ‘Wonder’ is similarly colossal. Piano saturated with reverb chimes beneath frantic guitar — a landmark of a chorus.
As the album draws to completion, the music become lethargic, sleepy. ‘Evening Star’, ‘Wonder II’ and ‘Jennifer’s Gone’ all boasting lullaby qualities, gentle and soft, with dancing guitar and ethereal air. Certainly not heavy metal.
The most important thing to remember about Laughing Matter is that it isn’t one to sing along to. It’s risen to an elitist level of intellectual listening. It’s an exploration of sound.
Laughing Matter is released on 19 April 2019 via Drag City.