As already described in the review of The Fraying, the last single plucked from Through The Noise, there’s a certain reassurance in knowing that these songs are inspired by moods and feelings rather than real life situations. It’s just good to know that Megan Wyler hasn’t literally been unravelling. Still with the headphones on these songs have the soft intimacy of confession. The effect is spell binding and heartbreaking in equal measure. You find yourself hanging onto the poignancy of lines like, “For the times I hear you through the noise, for the times in truth I would avoid,” because you care deeply. The album is full of such nuggets, kernels of emotion wrapped up in layers of songcraft.
Part of this perceived intimacy perhaps comes from the way the album was made. Through The Noise has been recorded and produced by Adem at his Stoke Newington Studio. Apparently it’s an old wood working workshop and just one large space without vocals booths and so forth. His preferred method seems to be to go for the first take in order to preserve the essence of the songs and that perhaps is the key, with the arrangements being carefully layered around that nucleus.
In some cases this even involves found sounds or using unusual objects, such as a suitcase hit with a mallet or a lobster shell. If that sounds a little odd, then rest assured that it’s more to do with right timbre and tone, even if that involves thinking outside the box somewhat. The majority of the instrumental credits are actually far more instantly recognisable, with guitars, banjo, keyboards, bass, double bass and strings arranged by the enigmatically named Geese. There’s a couple of more exotic instruments such as glockenspiel and a zither, with the final track simply titled after the latter, curious instrument.
The way that Can’t Sleep opens up envelops you in warm and woozy guitars, bass with a somnambulant drum pattern, over which Megan’s voice seems to float, “Sleep… Breathe… Restless… Silent…” A shimmer of electric guitar with a volume pedal used to strip the attack has the emotional pull of a pedal steel and as the melody picks up, Megan’s voice ascends into a dreamy, heavenly tune. Megan confesses to being a night owl and you sense from this she’s looking fondly on at a sleeping loved one.
But this is an album of contrasts and gear changes and Drown has the full narrative flow of a folk ballad and behind the sprightly guitar strums and banjo lurks a murderous tale of betrayal and revenge. In this case an errant lover is led out of his depth during a seemingly innocent trip to the lake. Although his crimes aren’t specified, it seems enough is finally enough.
What follows are a couple of mini epics. Everyman positively glistens with guitar arpeggios and is peppered with lines that ambiguously pick at our morality. I’m not sure whether Megan is offering absolution or condemnation, possibly even a bit of both. Whatever the sentiment it’s a great slice of Americana. I’m Sorry starts simply enough with just Megan and her finger picked guitar, but then rises on different sonic architecture as first cellos and then swelling orchestration patiently build the track to the point where the final drop back to just voice and guitar creates a blissful release.
Kelebek seems to continue from where that leaves us with just voice and guitar. Even so the mid section is filled with lovely electronic keyboard motif and more of those upwardly mobile strings, launched from the ‘wooom’ of keyboard bass notes. In some ways this sets up a sequence of quieter tracks, I Know You Know, The Fool and The Fraying. All are richly liquored with intoxicating, bittersweet melancholy, beautiful tunes and Megan’s atmospheric poetry. The aeriform wordplay of Know You Know in particular casts verbal riddles. Although each song launches from simple acoustic guitar lines, the layers are built with skill and subtlety and the harmonic potential of each track is amplified, with Megan’s multi-tracked voice wrapping its tendrils round the pleasure sensors.
The stark, reverb heavy piano chords that start the title track offer yet another sonic feature. The gently plucked banjo adds a surprising texture to a song that in another life could be pumped high on dance beats, gaining anthem status on route. Zither then returns us to the dreamy state of the opener with the eponymous instrument used to strum chords that resonate with extra harmonics. Once again the string arrangement and the subtle lattice of sounds carry Megan’s voice, hushed almost to a whisper. It’s a beautiful climax to a lovely, finespun record.
If there is something ineffable about the pleasure of this record, it comes from the shifting focus of fine details and from the zephyrous quality of the songs. A gentle breeze of ideas, a silken shawl of a voice and the luxury of time stood still as the mind gently ripples with possibilities. Yet at the same time it’s assured and beautifully crafted. Megan and Adem have clearly worked well together and captured something quite magical in the process.
Review by: Simon Holland
Through the Noise is released on Nowever Records in June 2013.