June 12, 2011

Album Review: WU LYF's Go Tell Fire to the Mountain

AwkwardSound first introduced you to WU LYF as a BUZZSound shielded in a shroud of viral mystery, a publicity trend that become 2011's predominant PR theme for young bands attempting to make a name for themselves (without actually having to give out their full names.) But after 18 months of poking and prodding the music world culminating with the release of their debut album, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, WU LYF has no choice other than to drop the curtain and let themselves unravel before the public stage. We now know the band consists of lead singer, Ellery Roberts, Evans Kati on guitar, Tom McClung on bass and Joe Manning on drums (whose goofy-grinned faces you can see here -- a stark contrast to the slew of ominous PR photos that earlier depicted the band as a chic, cult-like gang of youths.) All this has not come without controversy either. A recent article in The Guardian outed WU LYF's managerial ties to creative marketing mogul, Warren Bramley (who has worked with big name brands such as Adidas and Reebok,) thus raising the question whether or not WU LYF's multi-faceted post-apocalyptic web-front has all just been a carefully contrived ruse. The band has responded to the allegations with a shrug of indifference and maintains all their music, videos and art is self-created, but knowing there's a flow of money funding their efforts does put a damper on what was assumed to be a DIY effort.

All this said, what's ultimately important about WU LYF is their music, and Go Tell Fire to the Mountain is an uncompromising debut album that would have likely reaped benefits without the viral marketing hoopla. Recorded in Manchester's St. Peter's church, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain is liturgical-sounding in nature and fleshed out by hypnotic tribal beats and bombastic post rock riffs -- An English by-product to trends born in North America such as Funeral-era Arcade Fire, Animal Collective and Explosions In the Sky. The glaring distinction between WU LYF and the rest is Roberts' gritty, howling vocals that echo off the walls of open space where these tracks were recorded. It's also an album best listened to as a whole since its repetitive, beat-driven tracks ("L Y F," "Cave Song," "Concrete Gold") accentuate the pop melodies ("Spitting Blood," "Dirt") while still leaving restraint for the dramatic, climactic standouts ("We Bros, "Heavy Pop.") While Go Tell Fire to the Mountain isn't a reinvention of any genre, it's an original conglomeration of diverse persuasions. Whether or not WU LYF can sustain an eager level of curiosity in listeners now that they've been found out remains to be seen, but at the very least their music holds up and leaves considerable room for growth in case the smoke and mirrors fail them.

WU LYF's Go Tell Fire to the Mountain will be released June 13, 2011 in the UK, Europe and digitally on L Y F Recordings, with a North American release date of August 22, 2011.

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