Release Date 03/01/2008
(Burnt Toast Vinyl)
Unwed Sailor have been innovators in instrumental rock since their debut release in 1998. From beginnings in various post-punk and hardcore bands, including Seattle's Roadside Monument, Johnathon Ford's Unwed Sailor exhibits that wild power with the restraint of a seasoned musician and performing veteran. Their signature sound is based around Ford's leading bass melodies, melodic string keyboard arrangements, intricate groove oriented rhythms, and sparkling chime like guitars. As they prepare to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Unwed Sailor are as busy as ever. At the end of November 2007, the band finished recording and mixing of Little Wars, their 4th full-length. The new full-length, Little Wars, has been a concept for several years, originally planned to be a special 10" vinyl only release. Initial tracks were recorded in late 2002 and the band began playing a track or two as part of their live set. "Copper Islands" is a building block for the album and has become a fan favorite from their live shows. As the band grew comfortable playing the songs live, Ford decided to re-visit and expand the material into a full album. The final Little Wars sessions were recorded and mixed close to Ford's Tulsa, OK childhood home in nearby Norman, OK by Chad Copelin (Page France, Umbrellas, Ryan Lindsey) in his new Blackwatch Studios.
Little Wars is the band's most ambitious and complex release yet, building on melodic lessons and recording techniques learned over the last several albums. Not content to follow up with their energetic 2000 debut full-length, The Faithful Anchor, with a mere sequel, the band recorded 2003's The Marionette and the Music Box, challenging its fan base with a Peter and the Wolf inspired, classically influenced fairy-tale. In 2006, Unwed Sailor released The White Ox full-length and Circles ep that further departed from their live performance sound, exploring Eno/Lanois ambient recording techniques, resulting in a brooding, gloomy ambient opus wrapped in southwestern imagery. Little Wars reflects both the depth and breadth that the band has developed through these diverging releases and its live show. The songs are energetic and highly melodic, but gently colored and focused by layered keyboards and percussion with a delicate ambience. Unwed Sailor has had a revolving cast of musicians in recent years, audiences treated to various colors and flavors of the band, emphasizing its many different aspects. The core line-up that recorded The Marionette and the Music Box with Johnathon Ford was re-assembled, including longtime guitarist Nic Tse who now lives in Hong Kong, drummer Matthew Putman, and guitarist Matthew Depper, and combined with the current live band which includes keyboardist Brooks Tipton, drummer Patrick Ryan, and guitarist Andrew Haldeman.
The album opens with the Who influenced "Copper Islands" which sets the pace for Little Wars, reminding fans of the live show and immediately pulling the band back towards its earlier energetic melodies. The title track and "The Garden" continue on the melodic trend, carried by the energy of drummer Matt Putman's solid complex danceable rhythms, but also bending the record back towards lush ambience with various choir and synth keyboard parts that bring to mind The Cure or New Order. Unwed Sailor is not afraid to be aggressive as it moves on towards its heavy distortion influenced "Aurora". While it is trendy to incorporate heavy/distortion influences into instrumental rock these days, Ford has tapped into this energy many times over his career, especially during blistering Roadside Monument performances. On at least one occasion, Ford was so caught up in the frenzied live performance, he ripped the four strings off his bass with his bare hands. But even on "Aurora", the heaviness is balanced by Tipton and Depper's lush keyboard arrangements, creating soaring sounds that are sure to inspire, further evidence of the Unwed Sailor dialectic. "Echo Roads" is a more traditional rock composition, carried by a Neil Young influenced melody. "Lonely Bulls" recalls the cuckoo-clock staccato of The Marionette and the Music Box, mixing in dense layers of keyboards and storybook/lullaby melodies. "Numeral" closes Little Wars drenched in heavy effects and ambience bringing to mind Brian Eno or Pink Floyd. Little Wars stands alone. It is truly a unique, progressive, and challenging addition to the growing number of instrumental albums hitting the shelves.
Unwed Sailor hit the road in a big way in 2007, touring extensively throughout the US on multiple tours and playing shows with bands including Murder By Death, Battles, This Will Destroy You, Twilight Sad, mewithoutyou, Appleseed Cast, Lotus, and Daughters. Unwed Sailor is currently booking tours for Spring 2008 in the US (dates set for March and April with Owen and Ryan Lindsey) and early Summer in Europe to support Little Wars, continuing to challenge and impress audiences with their energetic live show.
Here's their bio from the myspace page:
Born in Seattle in 1998 at the tender age of intent, Unwed Sailor is helmed by Oklahoma-born songwriter Johnathon Ford. The basis for the instrumental project came into being while Ford was still writing with Seattle luminaries Roadside Monument. Pulling towards a bass guitar-oriented sound, the songs he had begun to craft did not fully feel right for Roadside Monument, thus the unbeknownst predestined forming of Unwed Sailor. Not aiming for Unwed Sailor to fall into the regular confines of a typical band, Ford's ever evolving cast and crew has been tirelessly composed over the years of good friends and company. Throughout the past decade, Unwed Sailor has shared the stage with the likes of Pedro the Lion, Mary Timony, The Danielson Famile, Sufjan Stevens, Early Day Miners, Minus the Bear, The Advantage, The Starlight Mints, Battles, and Mates of State(just to name a few....). The band has since been relocated and based out of cities across the United States, including Chicago, Seattle, Washington D.C., Jackson MS, Little Rock, AR, and most recently Lawrence, KS. With over 14 US tours and four in Europe, the band has traveled almost as much as it has evolved.
From their 1998 debut ep release, Firecracker(featuring Dave Bazan from Pedro the Lion, and Casey Wescott from The Vogue & Seldom) to their 2001 full length release The Faithful Anchor(engineered by Dan Burton/Early Day Miners), the band strived to create side door studies into the pictures behind sound, while opening multiple avenues in the creation of reflective, legitimate, sometimes instrumental music. In 2002, these studies also produced two short film soundtracks for independent film maker Chris Bennett - Stateless (a musical collaboration with Early Day Miners), and For Jonathan, a multi-genre compilation featuring artists as varied as The Album Leaf and Mikael Jorgensen to Jessica Bailiff and Her Space Holiday.
In 2003, the shape of Unwed Sailor changed dramatically as the sound became less a standard suite of songs, developing instead into a growing creature, cinematically-operated and tell-tale both in its sonic and packaged presentation. The resulting album was recorded and released as The Marionette and the Music Box; music set to tell the painted "story-book" story of a lonely little marionette in search of a cherished, lost music box. Describing the picturesque brushes and swells of a rather unique orchestra, Unwed Sailor composed pieces as suited for concert halls as they are the hot, impassioned stages of dark night clubs from city to city. As a live performance, the music is only more chaotic in its finely-tuned restraints. Here audiences are treated to a powerful performance, played out as though on the screen; they walk away from the shows as though from a theater, excited and curious about the world again. On stage, Unwed Sailor as people melt away, becoming nobody and everybody at the same time; a two hearted octopus with every arm working twice as hard.
In 2006 the band introduced two brand new recordings with Dan Burton(Early Day Miners) once again behind the soundboard, the ambient EP "Circles", and the atmospheric and brooding full length "The White Ox". These releases were supported by national tours with Me Without You, Murder By Death, and The Appleseed Cast, as well as an extensive 5 week tour throughout Europe. Unwed Sailor continues to tour throughout the United States and Europe during the year of 2007, as well as release their anticipated new full length album "Little Wars".
Some press quotes:
"Ford labors on somber, epic sound-paintings that recall Eno's philosophies of discreet music, but can also roll into more jazz-infused rhythms, spearheading a more out there kind of post-rock."--Real Detroit Weekly
"Pulsing cadences conjured up the rolling rhythm of white-capped sea waves, complete with rushing piano work and drumbeats like sunbeams piercing down into the blue depths. Even to a reviewer 30 feet away, their labors shoed Unwed Sailor's members were burning themselves up, giving their all in a tightly focused and highly coordinated effort, sweating in the warm July night air as their surging harmonies shook the Opolis." --Adam Scott, Norman Transcript
"The White Ox is darker and more melancholic than anything in the Unwed Sailor catalog...the band proves that they have no fear of pushing their music to the minimalist extreme...and is probably the most daring thing they could have done." --Matt Fink, Skyscraper
"Caught in a place where minor chords hang like nooses and strings are plucked like feathers, the chill-out room just got a hell of a lot colder." -- Urb
"[The White Ox] is music that allows for dreams to process, but also warrants much introspection and attention." --Drowned in Sound
"The White Ox picks up where previous Unwed Sailor releases left off...presenting six beautifully articulate instrumentals. These pieces spin like modern mood pieces but they were recorded with such precise attention to detail...that they would probably best be described as modern classical compositions. The tracks are colored by a variety of odd instrumentation...sometimes sounds take over as the songs become more like abstract paintings. Once again, highly recommended." 5/5 --BabySue/LMNOP
"And it's no accident that the atmospheric arrangements are restrained and complex, designed to push the limits of conventional rock music into stately and beautiful sonic terrain." --Paste Magazine