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Midday Veil
This Wilderness Joe Banks , September 15th, 2015 07:40

As you can't have failed to notice, we're currently living through an age of plenty when it comes to psych/kraut/cosmic rock. Problem is, the majority of it is just an exercise in ersatz, content-less reproduction. I dutifully listen to it, but too often, I'm left feeling underwhelmed and faintly pissed off. What's its purpose? Why is it here? What's it about?

This Wilderness is definitely about something. Not in a concept album or singer-songwriter here-are-my-woes way, but in its sonic and philosophical cohesion. Midday Veil's 2013 album The Current was a brilliant distillation of genre conventions that hinted at some kind of cyber-pagan agenda, an additional layer of engagement that had me returning to it regularly (that, and its superbly groovy title track ). This Wilderness sees the band take a significant leap forward, delivering an album with a much fuller sound, more structured songs, and a palpable sense of intent.

'Babel' immediately surges out of the gate on a wave of big utopian synth, recalling the electro-futurism of Tangerine Dream and Harmonia. Emily Pothast's voice is the epitome of soft power, smooth but with something hard at its core. Correspondingly, her words sound carefully chosen and considered as she muses on "this beautiful, terrifying culture that we all participate in whether we want to or not" (as she's quoted in the press release). There's an uplift to the chorus, but it pulls the neat trick of shifting into a minor key, creating a slightly sinister counterpoint to the more hopeful verses. And rather than opting for a motorik beat, the lazy cruise control of modern psych, 'Babel' is driven along by a clatter of polyrhythms that refuse to take the path of least resistance.

The stark, crystalline arpeggios of 'Cages' drop the temperature a little, but a laser show of synth lines soon warm things up again, Midday Veil digging into the same vein of early 80s Hawkwind that also recently inspired Jane Weaver. It's music that induces a part-meditative part-cognitive state, in no hurry to hit the freak-out button. The tribal percussion and deep space thrum of 'Empire Is No More' features the album's first bit of raga-ish psych guitar, all the better for its relatively sparing use, while Pothast could be channelling the gothic exoticism of Danielle Dax. Then 'The Water' drops us down into the cavernous shell of an extinct volcano to contemplate the lake that now sits at its centre, a hypnotic invocation intruded on by a grinding guitar figure rising up from the depths.

'Circle' is a glorious slow burner, its proggy keys and strong but mysterious vocal establishing a mood of gazing down on some awe-inspiring vista – perhaps the endless, geometric maze on the album's cover – before taking things up a gear, introducing cello and even more synth to create something truly monumental. It feels like we've achieved transcendence, so it's time to get down to the majestic Euro disco of 'I Am The War' and surrender to its strutting bassline, cascading strings and vocoder. Its joyous vibe lights up the cosmic dancefloor as Pothast calmly intones the chorus, the still centre around which everything revolves. Finally, 'Universes' returns to Earth, its tuned percussion, rumbling sub-bass and unsettling narrative feeling like a premonition of catastrophe.

At the very least, the evocative synth-psychedelia of This Wilderness should elevate Midday Veil to the upper reaches of the nouveau kosmische scene, but frankly they're better than that. Their vision and ambition has enabled them to make music that goes beyond genre, and create an album that's distinctive and original.