UNWED SAILOR

Underwater Over There
(Current Taste)
Add date: 5.14.2024
Release date: 5.10.2024




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Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Unwed Sailor have been on a tear over the past few years.  Following a quiet phase through much of the 2010s, they reëmerged with the aptly titled Heavy Age (2019), and two more full-lengths, Truth Or Consequences (2021) and Mute The Charm (2023), that chart a remarkable evolution of their bass-led, pop-leaning post rock.  On Underwater Over There – their ninth LP overall – a current of 80s goth and jangle-pop runs beneath a litany of memorable hooks and compositional left turns, creating a propulsive and intricate world of sound.

The band worked collectively on all elements of mixing and production to craft a meticulously layered environment, while maintaining an air of spontaneity and experimentation across the set.  Early standout, “Final Feather,” drifts through varying landscapes of airiness and haze on a high-neck bass hook, while the hum of voices adds a contrast of angelic comfort.  Bearing influence from New Order and The Cure in particular, its balance of gravitas and shimmer is the result of founding member Johnathon Ford’s intuitive writing method: the lead bass line comes first, followed by supporting melodies, drums, guitars, keys, and final detailing.

“Dusty” is a prime example of this process, as Ford’s powerful, low-end groove anchors a full-spectrum array of guitars, bells, and arpeggiations along with Matt Putman’s energetic drum section.  Its fluid pacing provides a perfect establishing shot, with shifting moods that gather into a coda guided by David Swatzell’s harmonized, glittering guitar riffs – a sunrise after a moonless night.  In quick succession, “Blue Tangier” widens the aperture with a pounding percussive refrain, vibrant bass tone and an unforgettable, fuzzed-out melodic motif. 

Sprawling centerpiece, “Junko”, is a loose callback to 2003’s The Marionette and The Music Box, its deliberate stride and interwoven melodies evoking the hands of a mechanical clock, and the anticipation of something long-awaited but nebulous.  It drifts effortlessly from innocence to intrigue, expands into a mesmerizing howl, and vanishes abruptly into mist.  “Antoinette” conveys many of Unwed Sailor’s unique strengths in a tight four minutes, as its mysterious, wah-wah melody snarls across a massive and deeply textured bed of percussion, pulsing with the kinetic push of a steam engine, equal parts beauty and brutality.

Title track, “Underwater Over There”, commences the final act with aquatic synthesizer loops that ease into chorus-tinged bass and towers of rich melody and counterpoint.  This patient fortitude carries into the penultimate piece, “Bend the Air”, which offers the album’s most cinematic passage, a climax of emotional release and breathless exhilaration.  By contrast, the brief closer, “V & V”, is a balladic, piano-led ode to Ford’s cats, Voodoo and Veruca; you can easily imagine them resting in a sunbeam, as its backdrop of field recordings nods to the bustling world outside.

While honoring their forebears in winks and nods, Unwed Sailor remain totally inimitable in their approach and style, twenty-five years into an acclaimed career.  The band’s clear vision for Underwater Over There has yielded some of their most indelible work, and their inventive, passionate approach gives a strong sense of plenty more beyond the horizon.