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Almost three years after the release of indie rock band Freelance Whales’ first studio album, Weathervanes, the band has sprung back on the scene with their sophomore album, Diluvia, released on October 9. Fans will be pleased to hear that the band has evolved in their own way, while still maintaining the qualities that entranced listeners in the first place.
The ideas behind both the lyrics and instrumentals have been, and continue to be, abstract. Freelance Whales’ take an introspective approach, which began with Weathervanes,and has now been taken to a new exciting level with Diluvia.
Take “Aeolus”, the first track off of the new album – you are first eased into the song by a musical pinging, almost like that of sonar. Then the band’s harmonies join in, guiding you deeper. The feeling created is as if one is floating on the sound, which is heightened by the arrival of lead singer Judah Dadone’s spirited and youthful voice. Interestingly enough, the next song grounds the listener with the introduction of the signature presence of a banjo, which was so prevalent on Weathervanes. More concrete sounds join in throughout the course of the song; with a solid trumpet backing and interludes that feature synchronized clapping.
It is evident within the first two songs that this is more than just an experiment with sound, and rather, every choice made by the band is deliberate and has a goal. Through a good portion of the album, there is a distinct alternating pattern between spacious songs that feature the presence of the band’s new synthesizers, and songs that seem to be anchored in the sounds of the traditional banjo, trumpet, keyboard, and sax.
This is an album built upon contrasts. There is of course the contrast of sound, which expands with the introduction of Doris Cellar’s vocals as lead on “Spitting Image”. Cellar has a keen, assertive tone, which, with the presence of Dadone’s ethereal voice, raises again that question of the “spacey” (as Cellar puts it) versus the terrestrial.
Looking beyond the sounds, the lyrics are artfully crafted to encourage further contemplation of this contrasting dynamic. In a startlingly titled song, “The Nothing”, which opens with the use of synthesizers and harmonium, immediately we are faced with a morbid fascination with the loss of control: “The nothing came in little drones/ a darkness sewn in folded quantum tourniquets.” This continues with the lines, “when all the bridges wave and flex/ with bending pitch in fractals woven/ all your friends will call to us/ it’s floating overhead.”
But yet again, there seems to be this struggle, for in “DNA Bank”, which is not only the longest song on the album, coming in at 7 minutes and 43 seconds, but is also appears to be the most lyrically complex. Though this may seem to be a more subjective judgment, there is no denying that the lines, “the information we contain pulls us down in a muddy lake/ and now we trek restlessly grafting onto anything” actually illustrates the terrifying weight of some knowledge, possibly gained by introspection, and how it challenges the idea of “nothingness” that is also articulated in other songs.
These ideals are even apparent in the band’s live performances. In an interview with WERS, Doris Cellar elaborated, “We have a huge beautiful backdrop with … big beautiful reflective mirrors that represent the constellations, and we’re hoping that people will look into it a bit.” Judah Dadone clarified, “…its for people that are looking but its not overbearingly so”. Though there is so much to analyze within this album, it is also expertly designed so that appreciation of it as a work of art can be completely aesthetic. The harmonies and the unconventional marriage of instruments such as the harmonium and glockenspiel create a unique and peaceful listening experience. The album may very likely become a soundtrack to someone’s evening walk, morning coffee, time with someone special, or any quiet moments in between.