September 21, 2011

Review: Moss of Aura :: Wading

Instrumental music rarely makes a blip on my radar. Sure, I spin the occasional jazz record—the good stuff, classic musicians like Jimmy Smith, Ahmad Jamal, and Miles Davis—but I can't remember the last contemporary instrumental album I played from start to finish. Perhaps that's why I'm surprised how head-over-heels I am for synth maestro Gerrit Welmers' Moss of Aura LP Wading: there's no lyrics, no singing, just one dude playing an assortment of keyboards, synths, and drum machines—and it's one of the most captivating listening experiences I've had all year.

You may know Welmers from his day job as one third of Baltimore band Future Islands, whose recent string of singles "Before The Bridge" and "Balance" have made their forthcoming LP On The Water one of 2011's most hotly anticipated releases. But as devastating as the crazed vocals of Samuel T. Herring and the stirring thump of bassist William Cashion are, Welmers has made a record in Wading—though decidedly different in mood and tone than Future Islands—that proves just as rewarding.

Imagine sitting at the bar of a tropical-themed nightclub littered with fake palm trees and neon lights. It's after hours and smoke is puffed and exhaled all around you, rising to the rafters in clouds. You passed though, so you're not stoned—you've got work in the morning. But all of the sudden the lights are shining more vividly, there's a tingle down your arms, and you can't help but smile. Wading attacks in that fashion: it's a truly subtle and deceptively intoxicating listening experience, where one minute you're on the couch reading a book, and the next you're eyes are glazed over, your feet are dipped in the ocean, a cool breeze is running through your hair, and the sun's warming your skin. Welmers' songs don't play, they transport: from concrete cities and glowing computer screens to skylines dripping with running pastels. Wading is escapist art: a vacation of soft pillowy synth pads, cascading melodies, and warm Caribbean-filtered bass lines and percussion.

It's also a true album, singles be damned. There's no filler nor standouts here: every track is required listening, and they all connect within a single palette and range of tones. Wading's 11 songs are all titled with single words like "Neville," "Bling," "Sweat," and "Slick," which instead of telling a story, simply evoke a vague image and feeling. Maybe "Neville" points to the swampy soulfulness of the Neville brothers, maybe "Sweat" points to a hot, intimate, slow dance on the beach under the stars. The brilliance of these songs is how unspecific and unstuck from time they are: there's a certain amount of imagination and creative listening required from the listener to complete the picture, and whether it's conscious or not, it makes the experience all the more rewarding. Imagine this: it's the best soundtrack to the best movie you've never seen. Now go give it a spin.

Wading is limited to 500 copies on vinyl. Snag it and the rest of Moss of Aura's catalogue on cassette tape from Friends Records.

Moss of Aura - "Titan" (from Wading)

Future Islands


  1. please do not support this label. they do horrible things with their income.

  2. love this album. so much fun. i'm glad there's no lyrics. i feel like they would just take away from the amazing music.

    @anonymous your comment is seriously whacky.

  3. Anon, if you are going to say something like that please back it up with some evidence.