John Vanderslice White Wilderness

John Vanderslice White Wilderness
White Wilderness shows a very different side of John Vanderslice. Rather than relying on his usual bag of elaborate studio trickery, he's collaborated with Minna Choi and her Magik*Magik Orchestra. Continuing that contrast, the entire project was recorded in just two days, but it doesn't come across as rough or unfinished. Quite the opposite, in fact ― this is one of his most immediate and welcoming records, thanks to the wonderfully rich arrangements. Rather than simply adding some strings to his typical songs, Choi and her musicians go from ominous and foreboding to playful, with hints of Michael Nyman and even Sufjan Stevens. When a song is stripped bare to just voice and acoustic guitar, as on "After It Ends," it feels lifeless and dull in comparison, suggesting that Choi is actually the star of the show. That said, Vanderslice is in fine form vocally and while the songs are somewhat mellow, there's nothing that disappoints. White Wilderness is more than just an experiment, demonstrating that Vanderslice's songs can flourish without his meticulous fine-tuning. (Dead Oceans)