Review Summary: A band that has seen many line up changes and growing pains have evolved into a fully matured sound both beautiful and haunting. This album is a true experience every music fan should give a listen to.
Picture vocals calm and painfully sad, combined with spine-tingling, articulate screams bursting with raw emotion that sound like a deranged narrator from a rock opera in a very thematic nightmare that you hope to never wake up from. (Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory's psychedelic boat trip comes to mind.) Combine this with sharp, often one corded slashes of cello cutting into your sub-conciseness, dark and sophisticated. Angelic female backup vocals mystifying and erotic. A steady pulsating drum beat tapping into the coldness of the back of your mind. Melodic keyboards swaying and addictive. Held together with rhythmical, and supportive, guitar and bass.
A Whisper in the Noise is the project of composer West Thordson from Hanska, Minnesota, United States. Population 443 with a total area of 0.2 square miles. Despite the small town life, West has a wide variety of influences that stand out in his music. When I visualize how or what West Thordson has accomplished, I envision a guy living in a small town watching the world around him and searching for something more significant. With out the distraction of big city life I imagine one could think more clearly and have great opportunity's to unlock the imagination. Standing outside of the muck, West seems to pick out a taste of every emotion he can find in his heart and from the world around him and he strategically places them into his albums.
Each of AWITN four albums have a complete package of powerful and undeniably amazing songs. For you who are new to AWITN some of the best achievements in terms of songs are, "Anymore" from the debut album "Through the Ides of March" which exposes a softer and calmer side, "Into You" which is much heavier and is bellowed out with raw emotion off the album "2d". Then there is the mellow insanity circus like themed "The Tale Of Two Doves" rich with violin, eerie vocals, a french horn, and pounding drums which is off of, "As The Bluebird Sings". All great songs off of top notch albums. AWITN released their fourth album "Dry Land" in 2007 and although the previous albums are very strong, this one seems to have fully captured the talent and mature display of what AWITN is capable of, and arranged it into one great album.
The album I purchased came wrapped in antique paper 50-100 years old with a large water stain on the lower right hand corner. I thought it was pretty cool and with the name "Dry Land" being partially covered in the water stain it made me think that it was like a washed ashore,"message in a bottle" type thing on an island or something. A perfect example of the many subtleties and intricacies throughout this album.
Four of the eleven tracks on "Dry Land" stand out very tall to me, but, each of the albums songs are an essential part of the experience, so, while listening, I encourage you not to skip directly to the "stand outs" I am about to point out but to listen to the album as a whole, because they are all great songs and deliver a messege.
The opening track and my first stand out song is, "As We Were" which starts you off with atmospheric chimes and "clinks" from the piano then an acoustic guitar and a dark drum beat. The song starts slow but builds up progressively. The soft vocals eventually turn into an articulate yell as if it were a proclamation of something important that needs to be heard. A great opening track that sets the wheels in motion.
"A New Dawn" has an almost floating dream like feel to it featuring, violin solos, choir like background vocals, and just an admirable overall effort by the entire band. The song almost brings it's listener "out" for awhile, away from reality. By this time, you should be settled in and ready for the second half of the album which gets even better.
By the time you get down to "Armament" you will be kindly rewarded with a mixture of heavy piano, aggressive vocals and an emotional burst of angry musical artistry that is my select highlight of the album. This song to me is an instant classic. It will snap you back to life and give you a new breath and desire to continue listening. A very empowering almost metal like aura is rooted in this song which can be easily seen in one of AWITN live shows. At the time of this review the song was posted up on the AWITN myspace page.
The second to last song "Go Now" is a sad and dark piece with a cheerless and desolate sound throughout its entirety that rips the heart out of your chest. At the end of the song the sound of crickets trails you into the final song which has a "Wish You Were Here" type vibe called "True Love Will Find You In The End" These last two songs should be one song together, they complement each other and transition so seamlessly that you could accidentally assume they are one long song. "Go Now" has prevalent keyboards and a lot of atmospheric effects and the other is mostly an acoustic sounding guitar and inspirational soft vocals by West but both have the same feel to them. The last song (or, the second half of the song), like the first, strolls off into the soothing sound of crickets and radiates a feeling of being outside in the middle of nowhere on a clear summer night with you and nature. A sound that a man who lives in Hanska, MN population 443, must be quite familiar with. A perfect ending to an almost perfect album.
Holding true to the name "A Whisper in the Noise", this small town band in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a world often too caught up in itself offers it's humble yet inspirational music to those willing to be taken away for awhile to a place of peaceful seclusion to forget day to day life. You just need to be willing to put in the effort and give it your full attention. This is far from "catchy pop music" although it is very listener friendly for the most part. For me, when a band can make one look outside of oneself to face every thought and emotion bottled up inside of them, and be allowed to just dive completely into the music, it means that you may have found something truly special. If this sounds like something you let your music to do for you, then I encourage you to go out and buy it, because this is, and what becomes, A Whisper in the Noise.