Wye Oak, “The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs”

Wye Oak
The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
MERGE
7/10

The first track on Wye Oak’s new album, “(tuning),” is just that: thirty-seven seconds of various ruminations on a B, and then C note, as piano and keyboard prepare for the record’s actual opening salvo—the grandiose, wryly titled “The Instrument.” As that song skitters along, pushed forward by an atypical time signature, we are drawn in and compelled to listen; and, as with a number of songs on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, “The Instrument” builds to a repeated crescendo that finally disperses in a wash of synthesized noise. Thus begins Wye Oak’s sixth studio album, which can easily be described as their most ambitious to date.

The Baltimore-originated duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner have a leg up on ambition; since forming in 2006 under the name Monarch, they have taken on the unenviable task of playing as many instruments as a more populous band might. From his drum stool, Stack works not only the skins, but keyboards, bass lines, and backing vocals, while Wasner handles all guitar and lead vocal duties. Slackers, they are not. Their prior releases stretched the boundaries of the indie-folk movement they are typically associated with, adding noisy and psychedelic touches alongside Wasner’s dreamy vocals.

The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs takes all the musicality the duo has mastered to date and builds on it, with “building” being the operative word. Songs like the title track, “It Was Not Natural,” and “Symmetry” all contain huge choruses and denouements. Elsewhere, our concepts of a traditional song structure are challenged, like with the minute-and-a-half old-fashioned “My Signal.” And closer “I Know It’s Real,” a heart-wrenching mid-tempo rocker, stays true to the album’s grandiosity.

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