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Wymond Miles - Under the Pale Moon

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Artist: Wymond Miles

Album: Under the Pale Moon

Label: Sacred Bones

Review date: Jun. 12, 2012

Sacred Bones has become a haven for artists that like to cast their creative eyes over musical archetypes from decades past before refracting their gaze through recent musical trends to create something that, if not new, is at least putting the label on the map. The question still remains (in my head) whether the results ever successfully throw off the shackles of influence, but their consistency, both in terms of musical quality and art design, is refreshing. Not to mention the fact that, in Gary War’s Horribles Parade, Sacred Bones has given us one of the great unfathomable pop-rock albums of recent years.

Like his labelmates Led Er Est, San Francisco resident and Fresh & Onlys guitarist Wymond Miles has looked across the pond to feed the creative drive of Under the Pale Moon, although the Limey echoes here are a lot warmer and majestic than the New Yorkers’ dark synth minimalism. Instead, Miles has drawn from the same well that gave the world Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, The Smiths, The Teardrop Explodes and even Slowdive or Suede. Under the Pale Moon overflows with graceful synths, loping Peter Hook bass, jangly guitars and Miles’s moody, evocative vocal turns. The crisp electric guitar lines bounce off strummed acoustic ones, the drum set is bolstered by tambourines and maracas to flesh out its measured polyrhythms, and Miles’s voice is drenched in echo and multi-tracked in order to better underline his lyrics. Words like “silence,” “shadows” and “night” crop up frequently, whilst Miles balances his more overwrought moments with shades of gothic darkness that bring to mind Joy Division or The Sound. Very much a patchwork, it’s not easy to pin down one genre that Under the Pale Moon borrows from the most, which is both to its advantage and its weakness, hence the fact I couldn’t shake off thoughts of the similarly unfocused Suede (Dog Man Star period, in particular).

The cliché goes that familiarity breeds contempt, and it’s very true in the world of pop music. But by blurring the lines of his influences, Wymond Miles has been able to create an album that is very much a reflection of his own vision and personality. Under the Pale Moon won’t make you sit up and shout “woah, what’s this?!?” in the way I did when I first heard Horribles Parade, but nor is it a meager copycat album. With so many of those thrust down our throats these days, that’s worth celebrating.

By Joseph Burnett

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