Wanderwelle – Black Clouds Above the Bows

My soon-to-be 17-year-old daughter believes the world is ending.

More precisely, she is deeply pessimistic about our ability to save the planet from climate catastrophe and wonders out loud what state it will be in by the time she’s my age.

I doubt that her fears are unique. Truly, how could a teenager not draw the same conclusion? The progress being made on environmental issues is frustratingly incremental, and the cynicism of decision-makers in the corporate world and government is appalling.

Amsterdam’s Wanderwelle collective has produced the first in what will be a trilogy of albums focused on “the climate crisis and its effects on coastal areas around the globe.” Black Clouds Above the Bows lands May 27 on Important Records.

The eight-piece recording features antique cavalry trumpets, manipulated to “sound an environmental alarm in the same manner as they were once used to warn men on the battlefield,” according to the album’s notes.

This builds over the course of the LP, from the gently unnerving opener “Jonah,” to the more urgent “Dies Infaustes” and the album’s penultimate track “On Hail and Thunder.” Black Clouds ends on a sobering note: “My Body Lay Afloat” is every bit the dirge its title suggests.

Despite its heaviness, this is not an unpleasant listening experience. The electronics are luxuriant, even as they serve to emphasize the work’s message. The original trumpet recordings – unrecognizable as they often are – maintain their call-to-arms urgency. Like the generation my daughter is growing up with, it is sadly beautiful, but beautiful just the same.

We can expect more acoustic instrument treatments on the second and third releases in the trilogy. All Hands Bury the Cliffs at Sea will land later this year. The final entry is currently in production.

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