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Whale Fall take listeners on the auditory equivalent of a journey up and down the west coast of the United States.

Music Review: Whale Fall – ‘The Madrean’

The MadreanIf you have worked on the iconic television show The X-Files, I will always make time to see what else you have come up with since then. That’s one of the main reasons I picked up Whale Fall’s new album, The Madrean. The Los Angeles-based fivesome—Aaron Farinelli on drums and percussion, J-Matt Greenberg on keyboards and cornet, Dave Pomeranz on guitar, Erik Tokle on bass guitar, and Ali Vazin on guitar—have chosen a band name that is quite intriguing and sets the listeners’ expectations quite high. A whale fall is, quite literally, the carcass of a cetacean (such as a whale) falling into specific zone of the ocean floor, becoming the impetus for a complex ecosystem to evolve.

The Madrean, released last December, is an instrumental rock album with mostly post and alternative rock flavours. There is a certain cinematic feel to it, which was carefully constructed by the band as a tribute of sorts to the western side of the United States. One can easily imagine some of these tracks accompanying shots of California’s long highways, or hear the Mexican influence permeate some of the tracks as a tribute to the States’ southern neighbour.

The band’s website welcomes listeners with: “We are proud to present our sophomore release The Madrean, an eight-chapter instrumental story of the Madrean region of the American West”. The journey begins with the mid-tempo “The Dawn Thief”, launching up on this trip up and down the western American coast. The slow build-up allows us to appreciate the talent behind each instrument—the bass, the guitars, the percussions, the horn—with each carefully added layer increasingly drawing the listener in. It’s interesting how the horns are at times just another instrumental layer, but at others, seem to always take the place of vocals. The cinematic feel of the entire album is immediately noticeable; I couldn’t help but think how this piece would have fit perfectly in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (another show that gives an artist extra cred in my eyes), enhancing a pivotal, emotional, character development scene.

The following seven tracks go from sparsely layered (“On River On Route”, “El Pistolero”, and “Overpass L.A.”) to dense (“I Shall Sail No More (No More Shall I Sail)” and “Tahquitz”). Some heavily feature horns (“Overpass L.A.”), while others lean towards more cello (“The Madrean”). There are many moments that make you sit up and take notice, such as the bell and percussion break in “I Shall Sail No More (No More Shall I Sail)”, the explosion of horns in “Overpass L.A.” that no doubt will make many a listener remember being stuck in traffic, or the rhythmic drumming in “El Pistolero” that makes one think of running hoofs.

The cinematic nature of their music makes The Madrean an instrumental release that can’t be played in the background, at least not for the first couple of times. An attention-grabber, it can, if you allow it, take you on quite a relaxing journey up and down the western coast of the United States. Give it a try on SoundCloud, and check out more information about the band on their official website.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.

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