We here at Angry Metal Guy Industries try our damnedest to approach each album with an open mind and our full, undivided attention. We also give many, many listens to each album, grasping at as many straws as we can to formulate a 600-word review, and trying to relay our experience with said album in a way that’s both entertaining and informative. Sometimes, though, after so many listens, an album can be so thick with atmospherics and density that approaching it can feel hopelessly impossible. Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine crafted a beautiful, ambient post-rock album in Wistful, her second full-length, but for whatever reason, despite the lush atmospherics, her angelic voice, and beautiful melodies, it felt distant, like a siren’s call faintly heard from miles away. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get into Wistful all week.
But then something happened. I was thumbing through old pictures that I saved in digital form with the album playing in the background. Opening track “Delusions” gently progressed while I was electronically thumbing through distant memories of good times and good friends, some of whom are no longer among us. Sylvaine‘s voice, beautiful and wispy, became inseparable from the flood of memories. What was once a dense forest smothered in a thick fog, turned into a lush arbor teeming with life. Her Alcestian command of atmospherics and tension cut through the mundane, and by the halfway point, when her voice and her musicianship gives way to a single flanged, reverberated guitar tone, the most simple-yet-effective of melodies hits right in the heart. When she begins wailing over that, it’s an emotional waterfall that doesn’t stop until the song quietly slumbers.
Wistful is layered with these quiet, but intensely atmospheric moments of introspection that may be unapproachable at first listen, but given the right frame of mind and some patience, they will eventually open up to the listener. “Saudade” builds like an Isis song post-Oceanic, but instead of crashing waves, it feels more like a hot summer sun going down, offering respite from the oppressive heat. “A Ghost Trapped in Limbo” captures the feeling of desolation remarkably well, with quiet moments featuring only a couple of keyboard swooshes and sparsely strummed guitars before building back up to a more hopeful outcome. Tied for the most effective song for introspection and reflection with its fellow bookend “Delusions,” the title track showcases Sylvaine at her strongest vocally, gently lulling the listener into a gentle sleep, closing out the album like a pleasant dream.
There are qualms I have with Wistful. Sylvaine utilizes a rasp during “Earthbound” and “In the Wake of Moments Passed,” and while they’re not horrible, they’re not necessary. She’s not Myrkur, and besides, her singing voice is absolutely beautiful. Also, this is not even remotely an easy listen. Wistful is so packed with layer upon layer of ambiance and instrumentation that it’s difficult to punch through at times upon first (or even third) listen, but it does reward you if given a chance. Astonishingly, the production sounds remarkably discernible, given the sheer amount of ambiance you’re hit with. The bass is audible, the guitars shimmer, and Sylvaine‘s voice cuts through the haze like a warm, incandescent light.
Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s never a good thing to judge an album by its first several listens. Open up your mind and your heart, and give Wistful a fair shake. I’m sure you will be captivated like I am. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some friends to call and catch up with…