Spacious and oh so deliberate music from a band that happens to know a thing or two about dense noise and churning rhythm as well. Which of course, to me, makes the quiet, ruminative stuff all that more compelling—how interesting to find “You’re Not Really Here” closing off an album as otherwise clamorous as WL’s debut, Hold. It’s almost as if the ambient noises you can hear in the background at the beginning of the song are the band’s guitars cooling off, audibly, the way an automobile engine makes those clicks and clacks after you’ve shut it down.
And yet, interestingly, this song was the first thing the group ever wrote, when as yet a duo, and singer/bassist Misty Mary’s vocals on this track were recorded at that first meeting/rehearsal with guitarist Michael Yun. The din was yet to come. But it is very much Mary’s voice that seems to be the secret weapon tying the music’s dynamic range together. Airy but precise, it is a voice as much at home getting enveloped by harsh waves of distorted guitars as it is floating more vulnerably above the minimal backdrop presented on “You’re Not Really Here.” I like that she enunciates her consonants and doesn’t seem to lose her speaking voice in the process of singing; listen for instance to how she fully sings the “r” sound in the word “here,” in the titular phrase that closes each verse. There’s something dreamy about its concreteness, if that makes any sense at all.
Despite its skeletal start, “You’re Not Really Here” does in fact acquire some evocative instrumentation, most notably the organ sound that presses forward at 1:38 (is it actually an organ? a cool guitar effect? don’t know), which lends a magisterial, classic-rock aura to this meticulous and haunting dirge.
WL—which can be pronounced “well” or, simply, “double-you ell”; the band is noncommital—is Mary, Yun, and drummer Stevie Sparks, who has worked regularly for various Danger Mouse productions, and has drummed as well for Daniel Lanois and the Avett Brothers, among many others (often using his given name, Steven Nistor). Both Yun and Sparks are originally from Detroit, while Mary came to Portland from Big Sur. Hold was released digitally and on cassette last month. You can listen to the whole thing and purchase it via Bandcamp.