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Now based in Los Angeles, all the members of Whale Fall are from some area of the American Southwest. In their second album, The Madrean, this half-experimental half-shoegaze group makes very clear the kind of influence this region has had on their sound.
The madrean region of the American Southwest stretches from the California high desert south to Mexico, east to New Mexico and north to Colorado. So named because of the region’s being close to and influenced by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, this term is usually used by botanists to describe the unique plant life in the region. Whale Fall begins with the title of this extraordinary album to express their love for the sounds and sights of the american desert.
Each part played by the members of Whale Fall in The Madrean corresponds to a part of the unique landscape that is the album’s namesake. The dueling electric and acoustic which sound a little like 90s shoegaze band Hum are meant to represent the earth and sky in the desert and the stark contrast between the two. The jazzy trumpet. saxophone and keyboards represent the flora and fauna which punctuate the vast and stark expanse of the landscape. In the desert one must also not forget the tectonic plates which created the incredible rock formations and ravines, here portrayed by bass and drums.
Describing the individual songs of The Madrean is a bit tricky when words are limited, but a great example of how these musical elements come together to create the sounds, feelings and even the sights of the desert is the track “Tahquitz, ” a somewhat eastern-inspired song which starts off very peacefully but builds with all these musical elements into a cacophony of sound and chaos, creating a similar experience to a dust storm in the desert. It seems difficult to imagine how music could conjure up such a violent natural experience, but Whale Fall achieve it beautifully.
Whale Fall’s The Madrean is truly a unique and special epic work. Their dedication to the theme of the desert could have backfired on them and created something hokey or hipsterish, but due to the musical talent of each member and their collective compositional skills, The Madrean truly captures the stark and emotive qualities of this special and one-of-a-kind corner of the planet. Whale Fall’s Bandcamp page offers the whole album with the “name your price” option along with their previous self-titled album, which is also an epic journey into sound.
Written by Layla Marino
Blog: (Dropping) Weird Science