#7 ALBUM OF 2012 - KNIGHTS OF THE TURNTABLE
The Daily Vault
Undoubtedly Adler's most melodic endeavor yet, the seemingly endless guitar textures and multi-layering combined with the robust drumming make for an unconventional and immediately memorable sound. The wordplay is highly sophisticated; Adler is forever known for his intriguing storytelling, and though this certainly has the accomplished and precise instrumentation of his prior work, it hardly sounds like much of his earlier projects. While there's a definite minimalist feel to it, here the pair meshes indie rock sensibilities with hazy shoegaze and some lo-fi post punk tones that bring to mind Frank Black if he flirted with New Wave and psych rock.
The Wave Sleep Wave story becomes even more interesting when you take into account that after just one rehearsal the duo played a sold out show in NYC's lower east side, then recorded this record just 11 days later. A well established producer, multi-instrumentalist and record label owner, Adler has enough accolades to render him to near legend like status among underground rock, and he seems quite comfortable flying below the radar of mainstream appeal, as this self-titled debut evokes indie rock greatness from beginning to end.
Nine tracks that do just fine on their own but tell a story as a whole, though you'll hear bits and pieces of the greats in here (Wire definitely comes to mind), ultimately this is a unique vision of expansive melodies and sparse yet carefully calculated instrumentation that only Jerry Adler could create.
Teaming up guitarist/frontman Jerry Adler and drummer Yuval Lion for the first time since their days in New York's indie-rock group The Blam, Wave Sleep Wave manages to create deeply layered sonic masterpieces. Lead single "Hey... What?" should give you some idea of what to expect from this outfit: rich, echoing guitars twinned with funky, compelling beats. And above it all, Adler regales us with stories told in a drawling, punky tone.
Although Wave Sleep Wave's sound delves into loops and sequences, the band's eponymous debut album was written and recorded in an impulsive, almost organic way. A rehearsal session between Adler and Lion fleshed out the musical textures that the band would play with. After that, Adler wrote the 9-track album in what seems like a furious blaze of creativity.
One rehearsal later, Adler and Lion played a sold-out show in NYC's lower east side, performing in order what would become their debut record. When they headed into the recording studio to cut that record with engineer Danny Shatzky all of eleven days later, it was only the fourth time they had played through the whole piece in its entirety. That energy, that excitement, and the duo's intangible chemistry are unmistakably evident in each moment of Wave Sleep Wave.
If you like your hooks catchy and immediate, this isn't the band for you. There's a sweet subtlety in this band's music that rewards you with repeated listens. At first you'll be ensnared by the trippy quality of the guitars and Adler's reverb-drenched voice. Next time, you might find yourself paying attention to the lyrics and following the narrative within the song. Either way, it's refreshing to hear music that doesn't try to give all its satisfaction on the first listen, rather like a cheap orgasm.
The debut album is out now on Curb Cut Records. Definitely worth checking out.
New York Music Daily
It's best appreciated as an uninterrupted whole, considering that most of the tracks segue into each other. The opening cut, Rats starts out with edgy, percussive guitar accents against a wave of drone, then leaps into a swirling chorus, then back, with a characteristically juicy yet minimalist guitar solo midway through. Interestingly, while Adler is just as adept a wordsmith as a tunesmith, lyrics take a back seat to the guitars here. "We don't know what's wrong, we just know what's right," he intones, deadpan, on the second track, Laws, methodically crescendoing with echoes of Bauhaus and Pink Floyd as the guitar orchestra grows, and grows, and grows. Images of violence and discontent recur throughout the songs: it wouldn't be a surprise to find out that this is a parable.
The hit single here is Hey...What?, with its echoey guitar hook and dancefloor beat: "The pot is boiling with unbearable heat/The crowd turns violent and gets ready to blow/They're tired of dancing with the devil they know," Adler announces ominously as the song builds to a Railway Children-style chorus-box interlude with a seemingly endless wash of attractive, jazzy chords. Zip It artfully embellishes a catchy two-chord riff to a bell-like chorus and then echoey, choppy waves punctuated by buzzsaw lead lines, while Like Filings to Magnets is the most minimalist track here, juxtaposing a gentle, skeletal lead against a quietly oscillating drone. They evoke the artsy side of 17 Pygmies with the slowly swaying 1001 and then a sort of blend of Gang of Four and Cocteau Twins with Standard Fare, an apprehensive, allusive, nightmarish scenario. The album closes with Tongues, setting bloody imagery over a dark, offcenter backdrop that sounds like it might be playing at halfspeed, and then the anthemic How Low?, which builds tension before finally resolving with a mighty "clang" on the chorus. As far as trippy, tuneful unease goes, albums don't get much better than this.
New Music Michael
"Rats", one of two tracks that clock in at exactly two minutes and thirty-two seconds, is a psychedelic drone overcast with Adler's punctuated vocals. Later in the track a beautiful guitar chord repeats overtop of the ambient noise. A picture-perfect start to the record.
"Laws" has the pall of a deeply intriguing mystery, a combination CSI meets Murder She Wrote with a sinister feel. The third track is the single we streamed in mid-February -- "Hey... What?" I love it just as much as I did then when I described it as a "revelrous cavalcade, an intertwined blender of Pixies meets new wave meets psychedelia."
"Zip It" has a plethora of interesting background sounds as Adler seemingly struts back and forth across an imaginary stage in your head, taking time off to hit various buttons on a keyboard to add even more feedback and sound effects. "1001" is an epic, far-reaching track, the first half of which is instrumental, then panning into a bleak panorama of pointed psychedelia that ends with an exclamation mark.
"Standard Fare" is anything but, an interesting track with plenty of white space. A sad, morose tune, on par with any of the more desperate U.K. bands you've heard before and loved. "Tongues" features exaggerated guitar notes over a subtle drum track and features lyrics like "they'll cut you with their tongues / faster than the speed of sound / kills like a bullet".
The album concludes with its longest track (5:44), "How Low?". I love it when a band does this -- instead of being sad that the album's coming to a conclusion, you get to enjoy more of the album because the song is the longest. This track is deservedly getting a lot of attention from across the blogosphere as well, perhaps the most 'new wave' of any track on the album, but still seeing its musical journey through to completion.
While much of the album's tone is sad if not outright depressing, Adler is an extraordinary songwriter, pouring every emotion in his body into his work; his casting of Lion as his only complement further accentuates his abilities as well as Lion's. The collaboration is a harmony of amazing feats and epic in proportion. Definitely one of my favorite albums of the entire year so far.
As a guitarist and technician, Adler is a lot more than merely competent, and brings a texture to his sound that marks him out as an actual original. On 'How Low', he gets more milage out of one repeated guitar chord than I've heard some get from an entire song. 'Laws' begins in a deceptively minimal manner, but Adler understands the dynamic of echo and delay in a way Graham Coxon could take lessons from, (definitely a few Blur albums in the Adler collection) and maintains the tension of what could've turned into a bit of a dull tune with practised skill. 'Rats'' is constructed around a single repeated chord perhaps run through a delay pedal and when the song proper begins, it's easy to envisage a slightly different world in which Adler takes the place of a temporarily incapacitiated Pete Buck halfway through an REM tour. 'Zip It' takes this approach one step further, referencing Black Francis in its structure and tone but very much to Adler's interpretation of his solo and Pixies output, and perhaps there's a reference to Smashing Pumpkins in the tightly scored guitar and percussion interplay.
After listening to so much music over the previous couple of years I found myself highly impressed by Wave Sleep Wave on several levels and in a way that isn't usual for me, slightly beyond the 'it's ok/it's actual genius' response I give to albums I like. Jerry Adler is one musican I've heard for whom the description 'maverick auteur' isn't quite sufficient, and he's just made the album I think he's always wanted to.
Adler formed his own project, the folk based and perhaps more favorably received Flugente after The Blam imploded, and while I can't provide very much info as to Flugente's success in those wider fields of the media, his Wave Sleep Wave project which also involves former Blam drummer Lion looks set to repeat the experience of The Blam, insofar as the determinedly Indie presentation -- the album is released on Adler's own CurbCut label -- will perhaps keep Wave Sleep Wave on the periphery of the Indie music world and it's perhaps fair to say that you are reading one of possibly very few reviews or even mentions of the album. As the kind of musician who can comfortably keep his activities very nearly off the radar entirely, Adler is perhaps aware that while he both wants and needs to make music, that retaining control of his own work is a must, for any number of reasons.
Enough preamble, although I found the background to Wave Sleep Wave and their eponymous debut an interesting one. Actually about their music, two things are instantly notable. The first is that Adler's practised explorations into electroharmonics, utilising a combination of effects to extend his guitar notes into cycles of droning repetition work with fully realised skill, the guitars and their apps combining seamlessly to produce alternately grinding, ethereal and disssonant sound patterns. The other, and 2nd track "Zip It" reveals this, is the influence of The Pixies, with both the guitars and vocal referencing that band's "Doolittle" heyday. There is however a less strident note to Adler's vocal and playing than the cacophony of Black Francis and his cohorts at their early 90s peak, and "Hey What" has both Adler and Lion displaying a lighter and more melodic approach than the shrieking discordancy The Pixies were capable of, the songs midsection breaking the air of developing claustrophobia with sudden brilliance. "Laws" is Wave Sleep Wave assimilating their influences into their own craftsmanship and while Adler's vocal carries a note of grim desperation, the instruments are given space to develop the song toward a tightly scored and continually developing conclusion, with Lion's percussion providing a rattling adjunct to Adler's six string histrionics.
It's "1001" that really shows us what Wave Sleep Wave are capable of though, a thudding, near deranged blast of sensation and emotion that only Jerry Adler has ever experienced or can actually express and it's also the track that reveals the paradox at the heart of Wave Sleep Wave. Jerry Adler's talent is a quite real and far from pretentious one, and his capabilities as a musician and songwriter are exactly those that the Industry Machine might only too readily wish to reshape to its own designs. An actual auteur and canny enough to keep his own abilities in check, Adler's latest project isn't quite his magnum opus although I for one am left in no doubt that the next or perhaps third Wave Sleep Wave album will perhaps see him receiving the kind of fulsome recognition his music rightfully deserves. Until then, anyone chancing upon a copy of Wave Sleep Wave might wonder exactly where it sprang from and, like this reviewer, make a point of checking out the highly varied and idiosyncratic back catalogue of one NY musician whose work still might find itself sliding into the 'neglected greats' category.
Pure Grain Audio
The new effort is not only unique in sound and composition, but also in that over it's 9 songs it tells a story (sort of like an electronic album, the songs work on their own or seamlessly tie together forming one long track). Regardless of how you consume the music though, Wave Sleep Wave is fresh and fun and yet another bold new direction for Adler.
Wave Sleep Wave is a noisy, lackadaisical trip through the haze where guitars have twice as many effects pedals than strings, drums sound like broken hammers, and vocals waft in and out of consciousness. It's all very murky, hazy, and slightly weird here and my guess is that's just the way Wave Sleep Wave likes it. Songs don't necessarily stick with you as much as they dwell in the same space with you. In other words, this thing is so atmospheric, swirly, and flipped out that there's very little time for verse chorus verse song structures that are memorable. Wave Sleep Wave, instead, just kind of envelopes you with it's wall of sound and captures you as a result. It's all very good, just a bit more atmospheric than upbeat.
Wave Sleep Wave is the soundtrack to the feeling of getting up on Sunday morning after a long night. This is a slightly exhausted, gloomy, worn out kind of thing that despite what that might imply is actually quite good. Wave Sleep Wave has done a good job of conveying emotions and creating a sense of something throughout. The record's ambience, downtempo vibe, and slightly gloomy sound might not make it the feel good hit of the spring, but it does make it a great listen. Now, if I can just pull the covers over my head and drift back to sleep that would be awesome.
New Music Michael
One of the main reasons that this group maintains a minimalist feel is due to the fact that they are a guitar/drum duo. Adler uses his guitar riffs to fill the sound with hazy melodies that stretch across the entire song, at times almost coming to near silence before transitioning into another passage. In this way Wave Sleep Wave is able to create a lot of sound with sparse instrumentation, and listeners may be surprised to find just how textured each song is. The overall sound has the haziness of shoegaze and psychedelic rock mixed with some traditional indie rock ideas, but everything is kept fairly down-tempo to allow the melodies the chance to expand. Due to the looping nature of the instrumentals each of the nine songs flow into one another and towards the middle of the release it can be a little difficult to tell some of them apart, but taken as a whole the album is still enjoyable.
Jerry Adler is not only the guitarist of Wave Sleep Wave, but he also is the group's singer. Adler has a voice that suits the mellow nature of the instrumentals, although his pitch doesn't seem to change all that frequently. But despite the fact that the vocals have the tendency to drone along with the instrumentals, they never become repetitive and are often one of the most prominent elements thanks to the sparse production. Admittedly this type of singing is of the love it or hate it variety, so I would recommend checking a song or two out on the Curb Cut Records website first to see if it's your style or not. I personally found myself entranced by his delivery style though, and this kept me returning to the album on a regular basis.
This group has attempted to move away from some of styles that their members have been playing for years and gone for a subtler mix of sounds that feels unique. Although the droning nature of the instrumentals makes Wave Sleep Wave an acquired taste, if you're in the mood for a mellower release that does a lot with a little this album is worth investigating. There's plenty of room for this project to expand and my hope is that it will be given the opportunity to do so in the coming years.
New Muscial Releases
Pure Grain Audio (Single Review)
Wave Sleep Wave, the newest offering from Jerry Adler (formerly of The Blam and Flugente), will be releasing their debut album on March 27th and the lead track "Hey... What?" is a shoe-in for my strut song playlist. The song has the right amount of guitar-echoed mysticism, a stellar lead vocal and an unwavering backbeat. I can't help but let myself get excited for the album's drop - let's just hope it follows the lead, because summer's coming and I tend to do a lot of walking.
The Deli Magazine (Single Review)