WRIT ON WATER
A WINGLESS KING
2008 Cyrus Shade Recordings
Review by: Matt Crosslin
Writ on Water makes their second comeback, re-releasing all of their old albums and finally releasing a fully realized second full-length album. Of course, some great material has been released since 1992’s Sylph, but those were demo collections and EPs.
So the big question is – do they actually sound good, or like a bunch of has-beens trying to capitalize on nostalgia? Take Sylph and think about what that band would sound like today if they had about 10 albums out, releasing one about every 2-3 years after Sylph. That is exactly what A Wingless King sound like. Even though they went on hiatus a couple of times, you can’t tell that at all.
Or, of course, you could just go to their MySpace page and listen to some tunes. Like Jeff MacKey said in the interview, Sylph was an album that had an arc to. Some of the songs worked great on the CD, but not individually. A Wingless King is more song-driven. There are still several ambient numbers like Sylph had, but also several songs that can sound great as stand alone tracks. I can say, without a doubt, that I like A Wingless King more than Sylph.
From the first track, you can tell that this is music made for a journey, created so that you can just sit back and let the notes envelope you. Ambience, distortion, echoes, hooks, nostalgia, and mystery all mix together to create a sonic refuge – perfect for relaxing after a long day (or maybe even setting a good mood for a new day). “Ancestor” has a plodding rhythm section surrounded by music that is at the same time aggressive, dreamy, intense, and nostalgic. This song is followed by “The Laughter Ceases,” a track built around some fancy bass guitar work and minimalist vocals. This is one of those albums that just oozes coolness because you can tell everyone involved didn’t care about trendiness, but making an artistic statement. Non-modern Western-pop music influences also abound on this album, a definite plus in my book (see “Rain Over Unmapped Sea” for some almost Eastern-sounding vocal inflections).
This music is a little different than most of what is out there – so check out the tracks on their MySpace page. If you like those, you will like the whole album. Don’t forget to pick up their back catalogue while you are at it.
2005 Blonde Vinyl Recordings
Review by: Steve Ruff
This album dropped sometime in 2004 and I didn’t actually get it until 2005… I wish I had heard it sooner. This is probably my favorite Knott solo album. Actually, Michael is backed up here by a bunch of guys that are really talented. Andrew Prickett plays guitar, as does Shawn Tubbs, Frank Lenz is on drums and percussion, as well as several others that play on the album as well. If memory serves me correct, Shawn Tubbs was in the original Violet Burning line up… anyway, back to Mike Knott.
This album is full, coming in at thirteen tracks. The music here is solid and the lyrical content is some of my favorite. The themes are diverse, but the lonesome and heavy hearted tracks are abundant. The music ranges from what I would call ‘rock n roll dirges’ (Comatose soul, The Down, Pale) to more pop oriented tracks (Pusher, Lollipops & Daises, Finding Angel) and some acoustic influenced stuff as well (Boxcar, Frequency). The song Gold sounds like it has a pretty heavy Beatles influence and Cruz ‘n Ride sounds like it could have come from the Aunt Bettys era.
Again, the lyrics on this album really stuck with me. Knott sounds very introspective on this release, but you can never really be sure who he’s singing about. Michael has always had the uncanny ability to write poignant songs about the everyday events that we see, and that most would probably not even notice. Check out the lyric from the title track:
“If I could reach through these eyes, and hold the very part of her that the world has broken…
I wish I had hands
I wish I had hands to heal this life
And I wish I had strings
I wish I had strings to tie high
This comatose soul”
This record was my favorite purchase of the year when I got it. If you don’t have it you can still scoop it up from Michael’s website (http://michaelknott.com). Buy it, plug it in, take a deep breath and enjoy…