Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Return of Elf Magic

Wisp - Keeper Of The Hills

Deep in a mountain valley in Middle Earth stands the mighty Wisp – resplendent in his wizard’s robes, the Merlin of electronic music thrusts his knotted staff towards the three-mooned sky as he orchestrates a deranged army of dancing Orcs, goblins and elves, whipped into a frenzy by an insane musical collision between Aphex Twin and Genesis. Welcome to the wonderful world of Progtronica.

And no, that tag is not meant to be disingenuous. ‘The Shimmering Hour’ is an epic and conceptual album, as much influenced by medieval folklore as it is by the electronic music scene. Wisp came upon his artist name while reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and has been known to dabble in the odd game of Dungeons and Dragons. The progressive element can also be found in Wisp’s exceptional musicality – the boy can play as well as program, and like the key protagonists of the progressive rock scene, he is not afraid to indulge himself. All he needs is to don a fox’s head for live performances a la Peter Gabriel and the link would be complete.

As an artist who has done all his growing up in public – releasing a plethora of high quality net releases for free and frequenting electronic music messageboards - Reid “Wisp” Dunn of Niagara Falls, New York has always been judged by the harshest critics of all; the notoriously hard-to-please IDM fanboy community. But Dunn has emerged unscathed, virtually bulletproof to the jealous sniping and totally driven by his own convictions rather than someone else’s idea of what electronic music should sound like in 2009.

‘The Shimmering Hour’ is the follow-up to 2005’s excellent ‘NRTHNDR’, Dunn’s first “proper” (i.e. you had to pay for it) album. There are references to all the various stages of his prolific musical career within, making ‘TSH’ his masterwork. There is no doubting Dunn’s technical prowess – his programming and production skills are exceptional - but what makes ‘TSH’ so special is the fact that you can tell he has poured his heart and soul into it. In an oft-faceless scene, Dunn’s quirky personality shines forth from every second of his music and his sound is unique. You could spot a Wisp track a mile off. Yes, he is undoubtedly under the influence of Aphex, but Aphex soundtracking ‘The Legend of Zelda’ as directed by Peter Jackson.

Joyous paint-the-sky melodies, fucked-up acid grooves, banging, emotive Euro-rave, Bukem-esque ambient jungle, bewitching medieval folk, lush breakdowns and complex, pulse-quickening breakbeats are all dropped into the musical cauldron and bubbled into life to create a magical brew, rich with the spirit of Bardic lore but driven by cutting-edge electronic production skills. Wisp is at the peak of his powers now; it won't be long before you all fall under his spell.

Buy 'The Shimmering Hour' from Norman Records
Incredible Wisp archive - all his net-label recordings are available to download for free!
Wisp MySpace