Published Feb 22, 2017Philadelphia based psych-folk seven-piece Shadow Band started as a conduit for Mike Bruno's songs. Bruno himself began as a solo musician in the New Brunswick, New Jersey freak-folk scene before assembling multiple instruments and musicians (including members of Weyes Blood and Bad Braids) to first form the Black Magic Family Band, which subsequently evolved into Shadow Band.
Their debut full-length, the home-recorded Wilderness of Love, finds the band utilizing a number of unconventional instruments (waterphone, lily harp, flute, Theremin) as well as guitar and other more standard fare to complement Bruno's brooding, sunless songcraft. Alas, despite the uniquely varied approach, this album never seems to get off the runway.
The album begins with "Green Riverside," a gloomy, almost creepy affair that sets the tone for what can feel like an exceedingly homogenous and unvaried album — notwithstanding the eclectic instrumentation.
The album continues on arousing very little in the way of exciting or affecting music, save for a couple of tracks. "Morning Star" is one of these exceptions, calling to mind '60s English folk rock acts like the Zombies or Fairport Convention in a pleasant, nostalgic sense. Additionally, final track "Daylight" might be the most optimistic song on the album, proclaiming that "the sunlight is coming out today" and treating the listener to a poignant melody accentuated by strong male/female harmonies.
Although the band has stated that they were partial to making the record in the comforts of their jam space, one gets the sense that this album would've been better served had it been recorded in a professional studio instead of a home art space in south Philly. The songs seem to bleed into one another in a repetitive way here, and the assorted mix of instruments used, such as the flute, tend to be awkwardly placed within the songs, raising eyebrows more than the quality of the music.
Shadow Band are a talented group, but they seem far too concerned with fitting as many instruments onto the album as they can instead of focusing their efforts on writing compelling songs. (Mexican Summer, mexicansummer.com)
Glenn Vanderkloet (Mexican Summer)