Atmospheric rock for twilight times.
The beauty of Wilsen and how the trio made their second album ‘Ruiner’ is that they are able to be both loud and quiet at the same time. Songs can sound urgent and dramatic whilst using just voice, acoustic guitar and atmospherics. Then another track will burst into electric guitars and feel calmer or just as urgent as the ballads. ‘Ruiner’ is a fantastic deep dive into pensive rock.
A perfect example of these two elements of Wilsen’s work comes from ‘YNTOO’. It starts off as a gentle noodling of guitars and tiny drums whilst Tamsin Wilson’s voice echoes around you. This builds up slowly into a shoegazing echo of noise and cymbal smashes in the distance like a full-on rock moment before fading away. Either side is two beautiful ballads. ‘Birds’ is a haunting and delicate acoustic and vocal piece whilst ‘Wearing’ unravels pensive and fluid melodies and rhythms – all acoustic and all willing you to race your heart faster. It is the expert way the album takes you on a thoughtful but often taut journey that really struck a chord with me.
Part of this is down to the fantastic production. Tracks like ‘Wedding’ revel in distorted guitars gargling under the surface. ‘Birds II’ and ‘Down’ allow the embellishments time to breathe whilst understanding how to rock too. It is both unrushed but meaty and that is a difficult balance to reach. Wilsen themselves refuse to sit in a folk, shoegaze, indie, acoustic rock box. They pour different elements into each track and make their own brew. They even tackle a heavy alt-rock with ‘Feeling Fancy’ and ‘Fuse’ before ending on a Jesca Hoop styled outro ‘Moon’. You really get the full gambit of rock and each song bleeds into the next both emotionally and sonically. It is a cleverly constructed album.
The other part of why ‘Ruiner’ works is down to the musical ebb and flow. Wilsen doesn’t create music that smashes in with power chords. There is a natural eruption that often builds over the course of a track. That allows not just the intensity to build up but everything comes alive. Drum unmute themselves. Guitar riffs shine. Vocals open up. Atmospherics sparkle. These kinds of nadir moments that take place across multiple songs have been carefully written and crafted into the songwriting process and I love how this also works in an album setting. Care has been taken to ensure the album flows – this isn’t just a collection of songs – its a story. This is also evident in the subtle lyrical and sound choices too.
So if you are looking for more rock music in the vein of greats like Daughter – Wilsen is absolutely a band you need to discover. ‘Ruiner’ has grown and grown on me upon each listen. What it lacks in immediate anthems it more than makes up for in meaningful moments. Delicious.
Recommended track: Down
Support Higher Plain Music
Higher Plain Music is part of the Higher Plain Network – a one-man indie media project. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. In return, you’ll receive additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and free downloads. You can also donate using PayPal. Sharing the website helps too or using the affiliate buy now links on reviews. I receive a few pence per Amazon sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. I’d love to make this a full-time media network and your support can make that happen. Thank you.