The Unicorn Princess Royally Reviews ‘Hiraeth’ by WMD

- Posted December 16th, 2015 by

Happy December, chip folks!

When I started off writing articles with the Blog, I came across a west coast artist named WMD, and reviewed his release, ‘Entelecheia‘. A little less than a year later, I discovered his release, entitled ‘Hiraeth‘. Notorious for entitling albums with strong, morose, and sometimes unorthodox words, WMD named this album after a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. The only words close to it are words such as ‘longing’ and ‘homesickness’, specifically for a place that might not even exist. I have to admit that part of what draws me to WMD’s music is the sense of nostalgia and deep emotional connection that is tied into it, and I can’t help it. I’m drawn to things I have experience with, and can understand.

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WMD’s cover art — photograph by Meagan Abell.


When the album started, I was instantly reminded of what I wrote about in my review nearly a year ago: His staple smooth chords, low and controlled bass, so much room for more, with a kick that cuts the ambiance. Though totally its own composition, I was reminded of the Phil Collins’ era of ‘In The Air Tonight’, and pictured a Roland CR-78 beating with the melody. Instead, a pitch shifted voice comes in, singing along, and everything pieces together. I listen closely, and hear, “It never really mattered to me…”, though, it sounds like, really, it did more than anything. We’re driven to a bit-crushed and radio effect, and end scene. Beautiful.

Each track is its own story. Voice samples trail in and out of the album, there are instances that show flavors of side-chain compression, and I swear I could hear areas of the pacific northwest I haven’t seen before when his guitar kicked in on track 3, ‘Firewood’.

 

The title track of the album brings elements of lo-fi as a main character with quick panning chip sounds paired with portamento waveforms, while the voice samples serve both melodic and percussive purposes.

I think my favorite track on the album is ‘Covet’. Starting off with the sound emulated from dust on vinyl under a pitch shifted vocal line singing melodic gospel chants, a bluesy piano line accompanies along. You do not have to be a religious person to understand the struggles of life the words express, and when the beat drops at 1:50 with the singer belting and momentary 8bit mixed in, it’s like a religion in and of itself.

Every track on this album is a story. I enjoy music about something real, and something that makes me feel something. Music that uses sampled elements and sound created by the artist to achieve something unique that nobody has ever heard before. WMD proved himself, once again, that he is not only great at putting emotions into music, but he’s pretty damn good at sound design, as well. As I write this, 1:24 into ‘Kokedera’, I hear a tuned piece of electronic percussion that reminds me of the CR-78 that I mentioned longing for previously, and I smile.

‘remove the screen and crawl in’ showcases ethereal synth drones and outerworldly effected voices, strong sections, and my favorite: the use of unexpected sampled percussion in the mix.

 

Honestly, I feel like there’s a little of everything in here for people who love all sorts of genres: there’s sampling, expressive voice, smooth synth ambience, and even dance music. WMD has really grown since ‘Entelecheia‘, and continuously leaves his mark on each track. I also admire his ability to continuously produce emotional tracks that clearly have deep rooted meaning (he’s released two albums and one EP this year, and I’m hoping he releases an album again on December 31st, just like last year, of his unreleased tracks that didn’t make album cuts). It’s sometimes very hard for me to release music for a number of reasons, so his catalog motivates me.

While chiptune is definitely an aspect to WMD’s history, I love his music even more for incorporating other sonic elements into it. To me, it’s just as important to play an instrument as a producer as it is to know your way around hardware and softsynths. Having the physical connection with a guitar, for example, gives you so much leeway to express each note and to really feel how the strings move and what the instrument is capable of. Because of this, I’m continuously pleased with each WMD release when I hear live instruments and voice used.

I hope you listen to it. It’s very good, it’s very real, and I very much look forward to what’s coming next.

Till next time,
The Unicorn Princess

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