I hesitate to label Wander simply a Filipino-American band but, that's the way they were pitched to me by PR materials, and, since my wife is from The Philippines, I was naturally a bit curious when I saw that. That the band are excellent is what's really important here, with their new album, March being one of today's best new releases. If they draw attention to themselves and other excellent Filipino-American, or even Asian-American, bands, that's great too.
Fans of early Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky will find lots that feels familiar on March, but Wander manage to imbue this stuff with a degree of vigor that makes this kind of thing seem fresh again. The title cut, with its fine video, is cinematic in scope, the soundscape built off of a few simple chords and hooks. Similarly, the even longer "Faraway" features a bit more variety, and a few challenges to the quiet-loud-quiet formula, here made enticing and a bit hypnotic.
The four members of Wander -- Christian Francisco (guitar), Bernard Barcela (guitar), Joseph Aguda (bass), and Ryan David Francisco (drums) -- have a jazz-like sense of coordination here, with the players displaying the sort of intuitive understanding of sonic dynamics that it usually takes other musicians decades to achieve. The two middle tracks on March, "Parade" and "Catch", are direct and punchy, and redolent with a few hints of the material of a few harder post-rock bands, while the lyrical "Daydreamer" takes things in an introspective direction, with closer "Eveleth" being almost catchy despite its length, and lack of lyrics.
I liked March a lot. And while I can make easy comparisons here to earlier acts, the music of Wander feels special. There's something elemental at work here, such that a listener feels like the musicians are intentionally holding things back a bit in order to make the bright flashes of their prowess more impressive when they arrive in the middle of a tune. I guess when described in writing, it sounds so simple. But when it's heard, it's something large and positively epic.
March is out today.
[Photo: Christina Dao]