Right now, while the rest of the United States is either snowing or trying to thaw, right in my happy home in Florida, it’s starting to become summer already. While many people find this concept idyllic, in reality it feels kinda gross and dreary. The sudden increase in temperatures and humidity, along with grey skies, compounds feelings of dread and sadness as the grey permeates and hovers until the skies finally break, and we are delivered that deluge of rain that makes everything somewhat better. It’s rare to come across an album that captures that break effectively. Wilt & Blossom, the debut album by Danish upstarts Cartographs, managed to do so with great ease.
“Wilt Over Time” opens with a thick, warm guitar sound that replicates what it must sound like when the sun tries desperately to break through the fog without success, and then lurches forth like a long-lost relative of Isis and Katatonia, with the wave-crashing heaviness of the former being held firmly in-check by the latter. Guitarist Caspar Schaap is careful not to lean too far into either camp, and his resulting riffs and melodies retain an ethereal shine to them without sacrificing the heaviness. Meanwhile, drummer Morten Scholl peppers the song with impressive fills and beautiful cymbal flourishes, without overpowering the riffs or the song itself. Already, the dreariness sets in, but colors begin to form amid the grey.
Those colors become vibrant as Wilt & Blossom progresses. Album highlight “Peace Was Never Mine To Be Found” dips into the same shimmery waters that Sylvaine crafted, with brilliant melodies that glisten like raindrops on a bed of flowers just after a storm. “In Teal” opens with a beautifully reverberating acoustic guitar that could lift the heaviest of fogs, before inviting you to a haze-filled, sun-drenched horizon. By the time “Blossom Under Leaves” storms off in its final seconds, you feel like you’ve just stood outside in the heaviest of downpours, and are slowly watching nature waking up around you, teeming with life and vibrancy.
Part of the success of Wilt & Blossom lies in how the album’s mixed. Vocalist Joachim Jensen blends in harmoniously with the instruments, his howls and screams adding an ethereal air without ever losing coherency or overpowering everything else. If there are any complaints to be had, I would love for Anton Dyrby’s bass to be a bit more prominent, as the only instrument that does feel lost in that otherwise heady mix his is bass. Also, it does at times feel like Wilt & Blossom is one, long song, but thankfully more than enough interesting passages and beautiful segues keep the music exciting and fresh.
So far, 2019 has left me largely unimpressed with a majority of its offerings. Cartographs skillfully cut through the mist with their impressive debut. If they continue this trajectory, then Sylvaine and Alcest will have some incredible competition. As it stands now, Wilt & Blossom is one of 2019’s surprise standouts, and a perfect companion to a rainy, overcast, muggy day. Miss this at your peril.