Western, Creed, Spybey - W ands [Cold Spring Records - 2020]Crafted with a love for both vintage, analog synthesizers and tarot, Western, Creed, Spybey's W ands (Phil Western, BEEHATCH; Jesse Creed, THE PASSENGER; Mark Spybey, BEEHATCH) is a view of the first six wand cards in a lush, synthesized soundscape. Posthumously released (Western, RIP), this evocative and engaging album unfolds very slowly, making the most of each moment and allowing the listener ample time to soak in all the sonic scenery. Drifting and droning, W ands is a perfect album to start anew, with a clean mind and see where it takes you, much like starting your journey through the wands suit in the tarot.
With a bit over an hour to play with, W ands open slowly and (relatively) softly with "Ace of Wands." Much like the card that is being represented, this track is open and expansive, allowing for new opportunities and beginnings to shape and take hold. The synthesized cricket and sunrise synths reinforce this "new day" feeling and bring a sense of hope for the day to come. While one does not need to be familiar with tarot to enjoy this album, thinking of and reflecting on the cards while listening will certainly help any reader to gain a little bit of extra depth and connection with the first six wands. Moving onward and taking this advice and opportunity for growth from the heavens, "Two of Wands" sees the shift into the planning phases. With synths brooding and pulsing like one hunched over a drafting board, "Two" (the longest track on the album) shows the importance of putting the time into making your efforts worthwhile. The shifting focus on layers here seems also to speak on the creative process, fluidity of thought, and the drive to keep going forward despite shifts in direction. With plans in place and time spent in development, "Three of Wands" sees the ship at sea. Letting nature take its course, plans are now subjected to the real world while one becomes an onlooker. Backed by calm, slowly oscillating drones and bird sounds, "Three" reinforces the natural element of letting go and letting things develop within the surrounding world. There is also a fresh, "new day" element with the bird songs that hearkens back to the feeling instilled in "Ace." Interestingly, "Four of Wands," despite the celebratory subject matter, takes a harsh and grim tone. Lower and more ominous, it seems to base itself on foreshadowing for the next song instead of allowing itself to enjoy the celebration. "Five of Wands," fighting and discord, takes the low themes from "Four" and slowly elevates them. Bringing the tone higher and with a somewhat space vibe, "Five" lifts the album out of the grim mire and sets its sights on victory and achievement. With synthesized chants cheering on this growth, "Five" takes its time to set the record straight and move past the darkness that was created. Wrapping up this jaunt through the fiery wands, "Six of Wands" takes a solemn look at reward and recognition. Heavy and low, plodding and lording, one can almost feel the horse hooves hit the Earth during the victory triumph. Highlighting the darker side of winning, "Six" wraps up the album on a sparse, more open note much like the opener, "Ace of Wands." Bookending and showing the cyclical nature of opportunity (idea, planning, action, celebration, strife, victory, repeat), the sixth track wraps up a very engaging album that is open to many interpretations.
Western, Creed, Spybey's Wands takes an interesting look at a handful of minor arcana. Whether they stuck to them as influences during creation or after is unknown, but it does provide an intriguing blueprint for the listener. Whether or not one is familiar with tarot, Wands is a great piece of synthesized soundscape work and is rife for repeated listens and interpretations.Paul Casey