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8 out of 10
Wellness is a group out of Brooklyn, New York, who wear their Indie Rock credentials on their sleeve. The group formed in 2005 when James Li, Dan Tobiason & Dave Stoller started working together on various musical projects. By 2008 they had built their own studio in Brooklyn and began writing and recording. As a consequence Wellness evolved from a project, a collection of ideas and experiments into a proper band with its own identity and sound, completed with the addition of Tanner Dempsey and Dillon Jenkins. "Replace, Rewire" is a consequence of this musical journey, the result of these experiments and ideas, this musical evolution. The record is now scheduled for an April 2009 release on Carrier Signal Records with the band playing shows all over the North America in support.
The opening track "The Power of a Magnetic Heart" typifies the sound of things to come on this record, that is heaps of space, tempered with sparse riffs at the opening that continue to drift around , gentle lullaby picking that suddenly breaks into over driven guitar chugs, yet somehow still being subdued and relaxed. The vocals are strong but minimal, painting over the instrumental sound but not blocking it out, which falls into a plethora of clockwork like changes. The real beauty of this track is that what Wellness does in 2 minutes others would drag out into 5 or 6 minutes, another standard that follows through on the ensuing pieces. "Only on the Weekends" is filled with ghostly processed moans that crawl around in the background behind the strong drums and simple riffs, the vocals picking up and soaring off into space, the song then falling into robotic thumps of feedback and distortion, out of which the wavering guitar melodies echo. The poppy choruses give real dynamics to the overall product, being both uplifting and optimistic
"Birds" is a more down beat affair, sound akin to fellow New Yorkers Interpol, crashing and spacey echoed guitar with somber funeral march vocals, heavy snare and tom sounds giving an almost electronic feel to the drums, with a thundering bass lime muted under the surface.
The title track "Replace, Rewire" is suitably haunting, peppered with stark feedback, a whisper filled piece that flowers into a Phil Spector style wall of sound. Bold piano melodies and steadily building guitars give a bright almost evangelical sound, semi reminiscent of the now defunct Remy Zero (responsible for 'The Smallville' theme track).
"Cannonball(somewhere in between)" has a sound that is more along the lines of Joy Division, especially in terms of the baritone vocals dusted over with gentle guitar melodies. "In The Worst of Ways" is spaced out, delay drenched effort that still manages to have a driving beat with an unsettling undercurrent that drives away with a chugging steam train drum beat ascended only to fall into a ravine of distortion and static, leading through a jigsaw labyrinth of smaller changes and shifts. "An Immediate Loss of Air" is a calmer synthesizer driven, almost Dream Pop, piece. The beat is almost Hip Hop, stark drums over which synthesizers and the ghostly guitar lines drift before being engulfed in more euphoric choruses. "The Surprise is Everything" has a definite somber feel to the guitar chords chosen and melodies that creep around yet this nicely juxtaposes with the full bodied upbeat choruses. "Battleships" is both frantic and dense at it's beginning, falling away into drums rolls and sounds like a radio tuning in and out, mushrooming into an cloud of distortion, crashing beats and guitar riffs that echo off into eternity.
Again and again the ambient atmosphere on 'Replace, Rewire' suggests meticulous studio work and production detail; an empty void at the heart of the record's sound betraying meticulous attention reminiscent of the sparse and eerie sound Martin Hannett created on Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures'. The vocal parts are less rather than more, not dominating or crowding the music. The instruments are not there to carry the words, rather the vocals and music support each other in an equality that is indicative of the over all symmetry (such as there being nine tracks, equally dividing into threes), suggesting the possibility of a Math Rock approach on the record.
There seems to almost be a set format for each song, beginning with sparse beats and riffs building to soaring choruses, every song forming mini epics that never last too long, Rather than getting tired or repetitive the results are always interesting and varied, up there with Radiohead's style of Post Rock, also sounding akin to Modest mouse and afore mentioned fellow New Yorkers Interpol. Wellness certainly warrants some attention and with luck and more hard work will continue to so in years to come.
1. The Power of a Magnetic Heart
2. Only on the weekends
4. Repalce, Rewire
5. Cannonball(somewhere in between)
6. In The Worst Of Ways
7. An Immediate Loss of Air
8. The Surprise is Everything