Review: 'II' - Wilson Tanner
Wilson Tanner is the collaboration between two of Australia’s most celebrated electronic musicians, Perth’s John Tanner (Eleventeen Emerson) and Melbournian Andrew Wilson (András). Their initial collaboration in 2013 saw release as ‘69’ on Hamburg’s Growing Bin Records and was acclaimed for it’s uniquely Australian take on contemporary ambient electronica, employing a variety of field recordings and unconventional instrumentation to capture a vivid essence of time and place.
The pair have joined forces once more to produce the follow up entitled ‘II’, soon to be released on Michael Kucyk’s lauded Efficient Space imprint. This time around Wilson Tanner turn their attention to the coast, recording the work aboard a 1950’s riverboat with an array of weatherproof electronics and a very long extension lead. The result is a maritime musical offering that beautifully marries Tanner’s penchant for earthly ambience and acoustic instrumentation and Wilson’s quirky brand of electronica. Across the record’s eight tracks, Wilson Tanner dictate a nautical narrative that incorporates each musician’s individual sensibilities while also charting a new course for the pair.
We set sail with pensive optimism for the journey ahead on My Gull, melodic keys play against flowing electronic ambience and field recordings to create a vivid image of coastal Australia where the rest of our expedition will take place. The following track, Loch and Key is driven by the rhythmic serenity of piano chords and a synthetic lead, creating a soothing impression of floating out to calm waters. Modular beeps interposed between the piece’s more tranquil elements characterise seafaring apparatus’ guiding us on our voyage. Melancholy acoustics and unsettling synthesis throughout Perishable begin to erode the sense of repose cultivated over the first two tracks, steering the listener towards unsettled waters. Agitated arpeggios then set the scene for a turbulent 12-minute odyssey through Berlin-school minimal electronics over the course of Killchord Pts I-III. Sequenced percussion and discomposed pads coalesce to evoke an image of a lone vessel battling against heaving waves and piercing ocean spray.
Eventually the waves subside and the aftermath is surveyed in Idle, the sweet instrumentation that distinguish the record’s opening few tracks now replaced with delirious, wobbling electronics complimented by bizarre sample work. Despondent FM keys provide a moment of introspection, leading the way through waterlogged field recordings and synthetic ebbs and flows on All Hands Bury the Dead. Almost at our journey’s end, Safe. Bird. is driven by an uneasy accented bass-line and modular beeps that are evocative of a distress signal broadcast in Morse code. Bursts of static interject over the course of the track, before a pacifying melody takes over ushering in the final track on the release. Crossing the Bar welcomes the vessel back to the safety of the harbour, where swirling pads and bass drones are complimented by leisurely lead synths and seagulls in the record’s final moments.
Undoubtedly some of the most accomplished material to be released from each artist, throughout ‘II’ Andrew Wilson and John Tanner demonstrate their profound aptitude for contemporary electronic music – as well as doubling down on their uncanny ability to create an impression of their surroundings in the resulting pieces. However, the most breathtaking aspect of ‘II’ is most certainly the way the pair’s mindful compositions create a vivid impression of a narrative across the record’s eight tracks
Words: Brenton Lowes.