Wandcarver was the best local live “rock band” in Hampton Roads in 2014. While the aging FM 99 types and Veer readers were celebrating Seth Stainback and Roosterfoot’s dated sound, Seth McPherson with Wandcarver was attempting to add to the “rock n roll” conversation rather than emulate what once was. Let me not go too overboard however, as we all know, there is nothing totally new under the sun. When I see McPherson live in Wandcarver, I am in fact reminded of Zappa, a bit of early Genesis era Gabriel, hell, maybe even a bit of white boy George Clinton evocation, but ultimately the presence of McPherson as a front man and the sound of Wandcarver live isn’t stale or dated.
Article and photo by Fitz
I like to think of McPherson cultivating Wandcarver’s live set the same way I was taught at ODU that Picasso, along with Braque, founded cubism. The famed Spanish and French artists took from the later works of Cezanne, Primitivism, African Masks, and other non western art sources and molded them into what would be dubbed cubism by critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1908. The key to this metaphor (not solely about my desire to avoid crying at night when I think about the debt I incurred to learn at Big Blue) is that Picasso and Braque refused to adopt from traditional art techniques. That mentality of breaking with tradition along with the melding of multiple alternative influences is what makes Wandcarver’s music much more appealing and vibrant than that Rooster Foot dudes’. Next year however I’m sure when Veer holds their local music awards featuring Stainback and Roosterfoot with special guests Heretics in the Lab and The Hissy Fits it will be one amazing concert… that one could have seen on the side stage at the Virginia Beach amphitheater in the early 90’s.
Often sporting a religious robe and always sweating like Kat Williams towards the end of Pimp Chronicles part 1, McPherson offers a vocal that works in a manner reminiscent of Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou. I don’t really think McPherson can sing per se’, but his vocal is all heart and refreshingly inventive. Occasionally he will throw the vocal playbook so far out the fucking window that I can almost picture Yow of The Jesus Lizard watching from the bar and cracking a smile. Behind McPherson’s sermon of tongues, flailing cloth and sailing sweat is, an at times heavy rock band with screeching electronics, a penchant for psychedelia and I’d bet a love for early Talking Heads. It’s a fucking show folks! It beats the shit out of that Roosterfoot Dude jerking off a guitar until some leather skinned Lita Ford looking chick at Rogers creams her Jordaches.
While I’d gladly buy a ticket to any Wandcarver outing along with what ever my bar tab might come to by nights end, listening to “Stood Up”, the bands most recent album left me perplexed. Gone were the spastic electro hissings. Absent were the immediate and inventive vocals. Lacking were the quickly infectious rhythms that turn the minute they might become too redundant. “Where did the collisions of sound go?” I found myself wondering. In their place is an at times No Wave effort of an album, still with psychedelic rock featured (but possibly because of the low-fi nature of the recording) not too compelling or stimulating.
Low-fi recordings and art however should not be seen as “less than” ever. Access to money is in no way the determining variable in the creation of meaningful art. In fact often it is invention in the face of lacking means that brings to life works of art with refreshing qualities and characteristics borne of the required problem solving.
There is a balance one must find in the low-fi genre of expression though. Working in that manner one really needs to give a shit, being cognizant of the tools you do have at your disposal and how to best work in those restraints, while bluntly staying steadfast to ones creative voice. Musically one of the best examples of a band who recently released a humble recording and clearly fits a ‘low-fi’ descriptor would be Pain in the Yeahs. On their debut recording, “Step Out of the Light and Into the Darkness” which is in fact not the best of recordings sound quality wise one can find a great low-fi recording consisting of music that was clearly born of passion with an emphasis on odd time signatures and rooted in balanced minimalism musically. Lyrically thought provoking, the EP was recorded by front man Wagner and mixed by Jacki Paolella. It’s a recording that keeps the instrumentation simple and level with the vocals, as not to muddy up the humble recordings with a plethora of soundscapes and volumes that will get lost in the mix. In contrast when one sees the cover of Wandcarver’s album “Stood Up” with the image of the Abu Ghraib prisoner, one immediately is curious what McPherson might be saying lyrically. However, his vocal is often lost so deep down in the mix, that along with the omission of lyrics, listeners might find themselves a bit annoyed and confused. From the buried vocals to the lack of compositional drama and cluttered soundscapes on “Stood Up”, unfortunately to date the bands must see show does not translate to their recordings.
As of the release of this magazine, it is my understanding that Wandcarver will be on tour. Most assuredly they will be putting on great shows across the east coast for tons of kids whom are fortunate enough to see them live. However, for those that afterwards purchase their album, disappointment may unfortunately be inevitable. To date there is vast translation disparity between Wandcarver’s live show and their recordings
For more on Wandcarver visit them online at-
757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
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