Release Date: May 17, 2011
Record label: Secret City Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Pop
MIRACLE FORTRESS plays the Phoenix June 9 with Junior Boys. See listing. Rating: NNNN Critics are worrying that fans of Montreal's Miracle Fortress, aka Graham Van Pelt, will be left cold by his sophomore album due to its minimalism, the steeliness of its synths and drum machine snaps and claps, and its melancholy air. While it's true that Was I The Wave? is no booming party-starter, it's hard to deny its emotion and beauty.
Four years ago, Graham Van Pelt earned a Polaris Music Prize nomination for Five Roses, his debut full-length as Miracle Fortress. It was a lush, loop-fed effort that found Van Pelt, formerly a major part of Montreal indie-poppers Think About Life, working with electronic melodies and textures. Nearly everywhere you turned, there was a rich sound or hook or surface to uncover, even if the songwriting frameworks didn't always click.
Miracle Fortress' 2011 effort, Was I the Wave?, is a dreamy and hypnotic set of experimental shoegaze and synth pop. Picking up where 2007's Five Roses left off, Was I the Wave? once again finds frontman Graham Van Pelt drawing on various touchstones, including the chimey guitar pop of Yo La Tengo, the ambient rock of My Bloody Valentine, and even some '60s psych-pop flourishes à la the United States of America. The difference this time out is that, while some of the tracks here take a minute to build out of their atmospheric guitar and keyboard intros, many of the tracks have an '80s synthy and drum machine-heavy dance-pop quality that is more catchy and new wave than experimental.
It’s been four years since Graham Van Pelt released an album as Miracle Fortress, the project he does all by his lonesome with the use of loop stations and computer software. That last album was his debut, Five Roses, which went on to be nominated for the 2007 Polaris Music Prize, the prestigious Canadian award based completely upon artistic value, rather than the biases of sales and/or your record label’s power. (Thankfully the Grammys haven’t succumbed to that behavior, or else John Mayer wouldn’t have gotten the praise he deserved for that “St.