Appearing out of the blue in the dying moments of 2015 the self-titled debut album from acoustic duo Wondergeist is something of an oddity.
Comprised of Peter Gilliver and Tantale frontman Steve Wickins, the duo have played a few semi-acoustic gigs over the last year or so, but on record have expanded that to add a full band to their songs.
Things start in promisingly easy fashion with a double tracked acoustic guitar hinting at something of Bowie’s work (that being very much in my mind as I write this) before growing into a kind of psychedelic folk with reverb and delay alongside not only Peter and Steve’s vocals but some excellently placed backing vocals from Jo Lamb and Jo Rathband – across the record these add a nice extra and more developed dynamic to the songs where she appears.
From there the songs jump stylistically from one to other but with most falling broadly into a kind of folk tinged indie area (though there is a blues rock song and a kind of country gospel number in there too). At points this has the feeling of wanting to have the grand sound of the stadium indie that emerged in the late 1990s while at others the songs very clearly demonstrate their origins as acoustic duo numbers with added instrumentation.
The two lead vocalists also have their own very distinct voices, which gives a sense of contrast between the songs and, while Gilliver’s is unique to this album and matches the ‘big indie’ feel, Wickins’ is so clearly characteristic there are points where his songs come across somewhat as Tantale-lite.
Unfortunately what this also does, in places, is make it all sound a bit disjointed, as if it were a collection of singles rather than a coherent album. I’m not saying it should be a concept album, just there are points where it sounds almost like a different band, track-to-track.
Recorded in the same bunker as Tantale’s Just Add Vice the production work from Mikey Ferbrache (who also played bass) is extraordinary and I’ve heard much worse come out of supposedly professional establishments on major labels. In fact the production is almost too good with the whole thing sounding more like a studio project losing something of the feeling a band might bring to the songs. That said all the guest performances sound great with Pete Mitchell, Stuart Ogier, Graham Duerden, Greg Harrison, Tim Adkins, Jo Lamb, Jo Rathband and Louis Le Couteur all providing extra instrumentation on everything from drums to flute and violin.
In the end Wondergeist is a nice, easy listen with some great playing and some exceptional production given the situation of its recording but, beyond that, it had more the feeling of being a collection of singles and ideas than a coherent album.