ARTIST: Prayer Wheels
RELEASE: Spring EP
RELEASE DATE: 27/06/16
RECORD COMPANY: Ringbill Records
There are many who think that there is only a couple of ways to present sophistication in music. Such folks will believe something like ‘there is either sophisticated music or sophisticated lyrics… Or both combined’. And that is completely true but there are many, many more; one such way is to not openly display either of these very things and instead construct a song that sounds like it was written in the backyard for nothing more than pleasure and enjoyment. These very types of songs appear totally (and I mean totally) and thoroughly on Prayer Wheels EP Spring. It stands as a testament to the prevalence and high standard that the ‘keep it simple’ method can be utilized for; it is also easily enjoyable, intelligent and a relaxed rebellion in song form. Prayer Wheels are an alternative rock/garage/indie rock band from Ottawa, Canada, with influences and touches of punk and math rock impinged within their sound; spread out and presented over a simple four tracks on their aforementioned EP Spring. Held within the four tracks are simple, under five minute, regular instrumented songs that the band have written engineered and produced with a reminiscent 90’s-garage rock/noise rock underground aesthetic. But the songs themselves are a different kettle of fish to that of the airwaves that frequented the reams of alt and noise rock in the nineties, when everybody was in a garage band and thought if they could make a racket worthy of Sleater-Kinney then they’d be the next band riding on the airwaves and visiting the mainstream. The songs are more informed by math rock, classic punk and even a bit of metal, with a touch of beautifully yelled/sung vocals by a talented group of both sexes.
The EP opens with the stunningly swift but neatly crafted ‘Cavalier’ which resides at just over the two minute mark, with a whopping four lines of lyrics (and by lyrics I mean shouts). I thought initially that it was a simple EP intro but then noticed that most songs were built around this very form. ‘Cavalier’ begins with a sweet guitar intro which breaks into a heavy metal style breakdown after the opening shout of the lyrics that project the comfortable, alternative style of vocals that the band present on the release. Underneath the rocketing drums and guitar is a noisy piece of guitar that seems thicker and heavier than the rest of the mix and acts as a tie in with the rest of the music. The much more conventional ‘Charlatan’ follows, with a Breeders style vocal tone and imaginative build up to a brilliantly written chorus. The bands vocalists chant in unison as the song delves deep into the corners of a more downtempo sound, one that exuberantly highlights their skill with simplicity and a noisy, guitar-orientated form of minimalism. As the lyrics are more substantial than the previous track, the Prayer Wheels use sound in a more conventional style, with a fantastically Fang Island inspired riff and progression in the chorus.
‘Seesaw Sequence’ follows in a more upbeat tone, but this time the alt-rock is inspired and features a mathy style guitar in the background and returns to the fantastic gang singing and layering of voices. This is perhaps the EP’s most intricate track; one that features substantial play around with instruments and song writing, which the band use to present their capabilities to the fullest. This is followed with the heavy ‘Cormorant’, the EPs fourth and most swinging track. On this track, the bands singing becomes harmonised and places more at the back of the mix, placing emphasis on the swinging and heavy guitars that are again inspired by some form of heavy metal. The song also features a trademark that emerged into the mainstream of the nineties; sampling. The sample fits well into the second half of the song as the band’s sound bounces up and down with its smart and clever approach to steer clear from an overproduced sound. The lyrics seem distant, almost subtle, but this only compliments the mix and reinforces the great music that it sits within.
To conclude, simplicity prevailed substantially on this EP; that mixed with the bands song writing skill and simple approach to writing good enjoyable music. Yes, layering and large productions full of instruments and over produced drums can be great (even fantastic) music… But by listening to this EP I noticed just how overdone (in production) a lot of bands are, especially those who do such in the name of being ‘alternative’. And it must be said that Prayer Wheels are not strictly minimalist in the very definition of the word; they do not feature drums played with one stick without a kick or a guitar that is so quiet it could be in another room, but they are minimalist in the sense of their genre. This very sense connects sonically with the bands contrast of sound and voice, in that the music generally remains quite heavy while the group sung vocals echo with harmony and swiftness. I thought the production was okay, that it could have been constructed more fluently, but praise must be universally given to the mixing, which somehow sounds like it wasn’t mixed at all (in a good way). This whole picture is painted by the preverbal brush of the band and their performance; those who deserve the most praise in the creation of Spring. Perhaps some might not be swept back by its intelligence and subtlety and some may even say it’s just a bunch of folks banging around playing loud music with distant lyrics… But isn’t it all that? It is, in fact… And it suits those listeners who love that genre. But that’s where the band seem to step up to most of their listener’s level (even those who drowned their ripped jeans and second hand amp after hip hop took over) by boiling their music down to enjoyment and imaginative little tunes. They sonically excel with this through lyrics, mixing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.