White Wilderness feels like a record that could have become a compelling collection of wonky strum-along pop songs with imaginative and colourful instrumentation, but ultimately it's indebted to an over-complication of ideas in a collaboration that struggles to flourish the way it should do on paper. »
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the newest entry into john vanderslice's deep and undeniably remarkable catalog is 'white wilderness', and it's a record like no other he's made before. here are nine new and wildly impressive vanderslice songs captured live over three days in a unique collaboration with the magik magik orchestra, a collective of classically trained musicians in the bay area led by artistic director minna choi. did you catch that? recorded live in three days! never in his long career of super-smart pop songwriting paired with masterful recording and production has jv shed his reliance on hours and hours of agonizing studio wizardry. never before has he passed up the chance to tweak and twist endlessly in mixing. for this album, all that went away. it's simply a room full of friends playing music. the magik magik orchestra have a comprehensive mastery of classic performance and repertoire, but also have a full appreciation of the aesthetics of indie and underground music. choi arranged and conducted 'white wilderness' with 19 members of the magik magik playing strings and horns, vibraphone, pedal steel and piano, an assortment of reed instruments, and much to jv's benefit, the voice of minna choi singing backup at key moments throughout the album. recorded in san francisco, 'white wilderness' was produced by john congleton, whose resume includes albums by st vincent, thewalkmen, explosions in the sky, bill callahan and many more. the results are stunning, and 'white wilderness' is a breath of fresh air for jv, as well as a great stake in the ground for his career of making stellar records.
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