Tacoma, Washington guitarist/vocalist Ben Von Wildenhaus is a masterly mood mediator, a debonair director of nocturnal melodic splendor, a patient explorer of deep emotions in song. His third album, Everything In Flower (Globos Records), is his most accomplished (Ben is also known around the NW as a founding member of Bellingham's Federation X).
Everything In Flower is also Von Wildenhaus' most song-based full-length, as he tailored his compositions to the supple voice of new singer Amanda Bloom. The first album since 2015’s II, Everything In Flower begins with the delicately beautiful “Working On My Novel,” which wafts into earshot with a vaguely Eastern melismatic lilt. Not unlike the Doors' “The End,” it bears a subliminal, seething sound that's demonically angelic. “Drones” exemplifies the record's eerie strain of romantic, exotic rock and slinky sophistication. The duel vocals of Bloom and Von Wildenhaus—the former's vibrant and creamy, the latter's deep and rich, redolent of David LaFlamme's of It's A Beautiful Day— commingle with pleasant friction. Bloom's opening gambit—“It's just a matter of time before we come undone/It's just a matter of time before we fall apaaaarrrrrttttt”—captures the record's tone of roiled feelings.
“Farewell” is louche lounge rock that would make the hairs on Blue Velvet character Frank Booth's neck stand up. “Flowers” was written for Northwest Film Forum's competition to perform a live soundtrack to Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 opus, The Holy Mountain. The song didn't win, but Von Wildenhaus kept it in the band's repertoire. Its lyrics paraphrase that cult existential movie's dialogue and themes, e.g., “give up your pleasure/give up your pain/surrender your hate and what you desire/you're not alone/the grave receives you with love.” A gorgeously morose ballad, “Flowers” possesses the elegant lurch of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Bloom's tour de force emoting makes it a highlight.
Another standout is “Low Grey,” a nearly 10-minute Low-like dirge, tempered with sparse blues solemnity. The sublime languor is shattered by cataclysmic guitar clangor redolent of Sonic Youth's SST years. It's the album's most outrageous move, a rare rupture in the prevailing exquisite poise. “Summer's Dream” eases back into mellow jazz mode, with Sampson's sax melody evoking a most languid reverie. It's Everything In Flower's most hopeful moment.
In “Working On My Novel,” Bloom sings, “I'm working on my novel/Feels like I'm almost done/I'm working on my novel/Like I've just begun,” forging a piquant metaphor for the restless creator enmeshed in an endlessly regenerative process. The sentiment applies in spades to Von Wildenhaus, who's attained a new peak with Everything In Flower. Its strange perfume becomes your blood. -Dave Segal
Praise for previous Von Wildenhaus releases:
“Wildenhaus anti-prismatically recombines the worlds of David Lynch, Marc Ribot, Jad Fair, and Luis Bacalov into an oddly familiar new whole.” – Tristan Bath, The Quietus
“A tight confluence of meditative anti-shredding.” – Jessica Hopper, Spin