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Miracle Fortress

Was I The Wave?

[Secret City; 2011]

By ; June 17, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

I have a theory for the origins of the current glut of indie pop: it’s easy to write feel-good, carefree summer jams with pleasant melodies and arrangements. People aren’t that hard to please in this regard. If you sound nice, there’s probably a market for you. Was I The Wave?, which was released very under the radar over a month ago, falls squarely in this category. It’s just an album of catchy summer tunes that never ventures away from its celestial retro highs, and a mutually exclusive comity between depth and ambiance means it’s a triumph of sound above all else.

The album openers with a real corker: “Everything Works” clicks away splendidly while singer and chief architect Graham Van Pelt aloofly delivers slinky melodies. Next comes the bubbly dance jam “Spectre,” with a rhythm section that has elements of post-punk tastefully wedged in and a memorable pitch-shifted hook floats above the chasmic production. There’s half of a very good album here. I say only half because it is a succinct ten tracks, and you’d be hard pressed to find somebody who would want to make a case that “Wave,” “Before,” and “Until,” all of which wrap up before their two minute marks, are actually songs.

But when he isn’t just experimenting with noise, Van Pelt’s knack for coaxing warmth from largely electronic compositions and his fondness for grain and texture emerge in a new light. “Miscalculations” juxtaposes glistening keyboards with gently sculpted guitars, that when broken down into their carefully measured parts are just solid songwriting. When it all comes together it seems irreducibly complex. The 80s homage wears thin in places, however. “Tracers” is a heavily indebted to the morose drone of Joy Division, and Van Pelt attempting to channel Ian Curtis is a little embarrassing.

With more ups than downs, Was I The Wave? is a pleasant diversion with a small handful of truly inspired moments. There’s been enough time since Van Pelt’s debut as Miracle Fortress for him to craft a superior follow-up, but instead he’s churned out something that’s mesmeric in its own quiet way. It’s a decent place to disappear to for a while.


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