Wisp – The Shimmering Hour (album review)

The story of Wisp is sort of convoluted, but only because of the prankster history of the label that his latest album arrives on. A couple years back, there was a lot of confusion on the internet about a track by Wisp, as many thought it was something by The Tuss (who many people still think is a pseudonym of Aphex Twin). As it turns out, though, Wisp is very much his own man (who goes by the name of Reid Dunn and lives in Niagara Falls, NY), and although he has released music on his own and even the currently-defunct Sublight label (run by Aaron Funk), The Shimmering Hour will largely act as his big introduction to the world.

And what an introduction it is. Of course, there is a noticeable (and easy, and lazy) comparison to both The Tuss and even Aphex Twin, but this fourteen song album stands plenty strong on its own in a field that’s become rather crowded over the years. Drawing inspiration from all kinds of obscure mythology, video games, and a variety of modern musicians, Dunn has managed to create an instrumental electronic music album that definitely acts as a signal of a major new talent.

I have to say that over the course of the past couple years, my brain has churned through scads of music that falls into a similar genre, but there are only a rare few artists that have managed to actually crack the upper crust (including Clark and Aaron Funk at times under different guises) for various reasons.

So, what makes The Shimmering Hour stand out? There are several reasons, but largely it comes down to the overarching themes of songwriting and craft. Running about seventy minutes, there are only a few small spots that aren’t egging the listener forward, and it’s a release that’s both incredibly melodic, but also amazingly crisp, with rhythmic flourishes and tonal bursts that will make year ears prick up on play after play.

“Keeper Of The Hills” is a perfect example, starting out slow with some hollow and sparse percussion and soft wafts of synths before more and more elements drift in and pull it all together more tightly. About a third of the way in, it cracks off into a more aggressive piece, with filtered vocal noises, acid bass lines, and cracking beats before string flourishes and an incredibly playful finale put a smile on your face. It’s a dense six minutes, but it never feels that way, as it moves from each section to the next with a deft hand.

“Keeper Of The Hills” – Wisp

“Cultus Klatawa” is even more giddy, with another slow-build beginning that leaps off into delirious breakbeat programming, string swirls, bouncy synths, and gurgling vocal snippets. By the time the latter third starts firing on all cylinders (with some slurpy backwards percussion hits), it reaches a dizzying high that ranks among the best cuts I’ve heard this year so far.

“Cultus Klatawa” – Wisp

I’m sure that some people will just lump it in with the whole Rephlex/IDM/Aphex clone gang, but if you’ve ever felt yourself tickled in the past by analogue-tinted electronic music with creative and seriously moving programming, you need to check this out.

(buy The Shimmering Hour at amazon.com)

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009 at 7:38 pm and is filed under food, music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Wisp – The Shimmering Hour (album review)”

  1. Bart Says:

    Thanks for this tip, I’m really liking the album. A bit in love with the second track ‘Picatrix’. Definitely going to order this.

  2. aaron Says:

    I think you’d (not you personally, but anyone in general) would have to be lacking a pulse to not get a serious smile on their face when the keyboard freakout hits about 1:50 into “The Fire Above.” So. Damn. Good.

  3. Bart Says:

    I really like it, but no smile as of yet sorry! :p
    I hadn’t listened to the second half of the album properly, but it came in the mail just this morning, so I’m enjoying the record as we speak. That track is a lot of fun though. 🙂

    This is definitely going to be one of my favourite cds of 2009.

  4. barrottos Says:

    how could anyone get one up on this release in 09?


  5. Adam Says:

    My first couple of listens left me a bit perplexed – maybe it was the large synths. ‘World Rim Walke’ came on one day in my car and i was sold. Amazing album. The boy has talent. I get so bored of really lazy people just mentioning AFX and Squarepusher instead of recognising artists for who they are. There’s an awful lot of people who can only copy but some people can stand alone and create their own thing and Wisp is one of those. I reckon anyway.

  6. something excellent » Blog Archive » Year-End Mix 2009 Says:

    […] (from Merriweather Post Pavilion) Wisp – “The Fire Above” (from The Shimmering Hour) Clark – “Future Daniel” (from Totems Flare) Intrusion – “Reflection […]

  7. something excellent » Blog Archive » Wisp – We Miss You (album review) Says:

    […] the smaller audience to follow the music of Reid Dunn over the course of the past few years, then The Shimmering Hour might have not caught you off guard. Dunn has been putting out albums under the name Wisp for some […]

  8. something excellent » Blog Archive » Year-End List 2009 Says:

    […] Wisp – The Shimmering Hour (Rephlex) A little album that came out of nowhere and knocked me for a loop, then just continued to […]