The San Francisco International Film Festival has made a tradition of assembling a live musical group each year to score a silent film. In the past, this has included artists like Stephen Merritt, Yo La Tengo, Deerhoof, and Black Francis. In 2013, the festival has put together an ensemble including Mike Patton (Faith No More), Scott Amendola (Nels Cline Singers), Matthias Bossi (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), and William Winant (Mr. Bungle) to score the 1924 fantasy-horror classic Waxworks, directed by Paul Leni.
Wye Oak: “Civilian”
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/wye_oak_civilian.mp3|titles=Wye Oak: “Civilian”]
Since its debut album in 2008, Baltimore indie duo Wye Oak has drawn a concerning amount of comparisons to Yo La Tengo. But despite the group’s occasionally mellow tones and deliberate tempos, singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack have presented more than pleasant, easy-going moods since If Children, that promising debut.
Even onstage, Wye Oak builds a full sound largely from Stack’s straightforward but well-defined drums and Wasner’s warm and often loud guitar playing, which is very resourceful on its own. (Stack also plays some keyboard parts with one hand while drumming.) Though they always manage to sound like a fleshed-out band, the two reap at least one benefit of a two- (or even one-) person act, which is that sonics don’t distance them from the meat of a song. Even the streaks of feedback on If Children tracks “Warning” and “Orchard Fair” felt at one with the progressions of the songs, certainly anything but careless or sloppy.
And even the things that make Wye Oak records a bit difficult say more for them than against them. The sample of indistinct chatter that begins the new Civilian, for instance, gives opener “Two Small Deaths” an aptly unsettling place from which to sneak up. Don’t count on re-settling all that often, even when things are as pretty as you’d expect.