There’s a dreamlike quality to SDRAZIW, the third release (and first full-length) from Saskatoon, SK’s Wizards. And just like a dream, if you’ll excuse the Cure reference, their music has the potential to tilt suddenly: it travels, often instrumentally, through gauzy, sunlit shoegaze landscapes, only to shake you awake with shots of dizzying overdriven vertigo.
The band operates its wiz biz somewhere across the nexus of pop, garage, psych-rock and surf. There are definite echoes of Scottish noise-pop heavies The Jesus and Mary Chain to be heard here (notably on songs like “Undone” and “Manikewan Ocean Dreams,”) but Wizards’ LP is not confined to such a simple comparison. “SDRAZIW” builds a whole magic tome of contrasts between easygoing song structures and bouts of untethered volume, wicked rock moments and washed out introspection.
Opener “Journeybone” is initially reminiscent of Seattle rockers Band of Horses: the wholly instrumental track picks up a sprawling, high-gain head of steam as it builds toward a climax draped in waves of noise and thick, wooly distortion. The next two tracks, “Holy Smoke” and “Purple House” definitely showcase Wizards’ surf and pop influences more than any others on SDRAZIW. The former pairs chiming clean rhythms and phaser-drenched leads with smooth baritone vocal delivery, shot through with just the right amount of deadpan dryness. Both of these tracks tell hazy tales in a rambling, somewhat comedic, monologuing tone. “Purple House” doubles down on the slightly offbeat style with a mutant sea-shanty feel that reminds me of Victoria, BC alt rockers Immaculate Machine… at least until its closing section cranks the guitars up once again.
Things get back to more traditional loud-quiet-loud shoegaze dynamics starting with “Life is Elsewhere,” which strikes a balance between delicate, poppy melodies, tinkling xylophone, and full-bore guitars that would make J. Mascis proud. “Undone” opens with pure surf-rock and some exceptionally crafty soloing, then whips out a decidedly spaghetti Western six gun as the heavier lead guitars kick back in with a slick rockabilly feel in the song’s middle section. The same rockabilly accent sneaks to the fore across much of the album’s back half: it gives energy to the barnstorming “Party Pooper” and underpins the verses of “Marble Giants” before that song cuts loose with Mountain King-sized choruses and manic shredding.
The album closes with “Heaven’s Full,” a song that’s pitched ideally for sending a live crowd home satisfied. It builds on cascading scales and huge shots until coalescing into a sort of psych-rock reinterpretation of “Que Sera, Sera,” backed by sitars and crashing drum crescendos – going out on a seriously weird and wonderful note. Overall, it’s an album that is equal parts friendly, unconventional and fierce, and certainly one worth checking out.
Top Tracks: “Life is Elsewhere,” “Undone”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good) *swoop*