28 September 2010

CD REVIEW: Wilton Said - The View (2007, private release)

(NB: this review was initially published 8 February 2007)

Wilton Said (the band) AND Wilton Said (the musician) hail from Toronto Ontario. Said’s quirky mix of art rock influences (Queen, Bowie, Kate Bush battle with Sarah Slean and A Perfect Circle for prominence) is on full display on The View, his newest release.

Said holds a degree in Musical Composition from York University, and his contributions on vocals/piano/keyboards are joined by those of Andrew Buntain (bass), Richard Rizzo (drums) and Chris Reid (guitars). Sonically the band has forged a sound that focuses heavily on rock, with buzzing guitars, a punchy rhythm section, and Said’s dramatic, inflected vocals flitting in and out of the mix. The tracks on The View are pretty immediately accessible, but with enough quirk and twisted arrangement to move the band out of the mainstream. Art rock is quite possibly the best categorisation for their music, as it seems in many ways the logical extension of the direction bands such as Roxy Music or the Spiders From Mars took in the 1970’s.

“Carnival?” opens the album with found sound; children laughing in a sonic collage with calliope music and loops of undiscernable whispers and a strange vocal line. This shifts into “Heavy Motion,” which starts with a thick, rolling bass line and processed vocals. Wilton Said’s vocals are extremely flexible here, bending notes in a way that sounds extremely close to falling off the melodic line, before snapping back. The song itself goes through a number of changes, with heavy strummed guitar at 2:00 moving into a syncopated and brief bridge before a warped synth solo takes center stage.

“A Family Affair” opens like a restrained track, with dream like slide guitar and precious, fragile vocals, before said vocals are run through what sounds like ring modulation, moving the dream into nightmare territory. The song is an exercise in contrast, with alternating heavy sections adding tension to what is otherwise a pretty straightforward song.

Prog fans will likely go gaga over “The Empty Sky,” a 3-part mini-epic which closes out the album. The opening movement, “The View,” is a keyboard lover’s dream come true, with layers of organ, synth and piano battling over a pounding rhythm and thick rhythm guitar before the track shifts gears, bringing the speed down a notch while keeping the sonic richness as high as possible. An organ fanfare leads to clean, chorused, picked guitar reminiscent of 1980’s Alex Lifeson. “Goodbye,” the second movement, features laser beam sustained guitar lines, starting clean before adding fuzz and overdrive in ever drenching layers, over an orchestral synth foundation and militaristic drumming. The final section of this suite, “Fallen,” starts by picking up the pace with quick drumming and a propulsive organ line, before downshifting to a somber semi-dirge, with emotionally saturated guitar line and rich, mellotron-like synth textures. Said’s lyrics are sullen and somewhat distressing; a number of potential interpretations likely exist, all of which reek with finality. His vocal delivery on the three tracks that comprise this epic is the most dramatic and emotional on the album.

The View is an album packed with a variety of musical twists and turns. All the more amazing is that this is done in just over 34 minutes. In a modern musical environment where quantity is held as having far more importance than quality, it is a joy to listen to an album that hits hard and fast, with no throwaway tracks. The View is just that sort of album, and positions Wilton Said (the band) AND Wilton Said (the musician) as voices to keep an eye (and ear) open to.

Track List:
Heavy Motion
Gender Bender
A Family Affair
The Empty Sky:
      i. The View
      ii. Goodbye
      iii. Fallen

Band Members:
Wilton Said: vocals/piano/keyboards
Andrew Buntain: bass
Richard Rizzo: drums
Chris Reid: guitars

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