Release Date: Jun 12, 2012
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
If this were myself in some past, at a low point, following a long extended time of exhaustion, Wymond Miles’ Under the Pale Moon could have easily become one of my favorite records. It would have been an artifact, a center for an orbital process of exiting the unending, a gateway to an escape process that requires an album to be more than an album to the listener. It would have been a thesis for what a friend once told me during one of these low periods, paraphrased to, “pop songwriting is one of the hardest and greatest forms of art.” My low points are littered with memories of emotive heft contained within the ecstatic universe of four minutes and thirty seconds or less.
The full-length debut release from the Fresh and Onlys' guitarist following an earlier EP, Under the Pale Moon, finds Wymond Miles coming off a series of personal tragedies, aiming to create a series of songs reflecting a newfound passion and appreciation for life. The result is something that may not always seem squared away with that impulse, but such is mass culture's desire to reduce things simplistically -- Under the Pale Moon is no Up with People-style production, but it isn't meant to be. Instead, the combination of crypto-goth moodiness -- nods to Bauhaus but especially to Will Sergeant's work with Echo & the Bunnymen are omnipresent -- and an older kind of drama, reaching back to Phil Spector's productions and Roy Orbison's mini-operas, recombines throughout on a remarkable series of songs.
This is the year where the dam finally burst for San Francisco's Fresh & Onlys, where the already prolific band's (three full lengths in the past four years, plus one more due later this year, for those keeping score) members finally produced more music than their marquee act could handle. Thus came the inevitable side projects: frontman Tim Cohen emerged with Magic Trick, while clutch guitarist Wymond Miles embarked on a high-minded solo career; his debut EP for Sacred Bones Earth Has Doors dealing in all sorts of esoteric subject matter that addressed several big-picture issues. Then, life went and intervened.
Under the Pale Moon is Fresh & Onlys guitarist Wymond Miles' second solo release this year. The first, Earth Has Doors, is an ornate, intricately composed four-song EP culled from a backlog of songs accrued over several years. Meanwhile, Pale Moon was written and recorded within two months. Compared to the EP, the album's origin story reads like a burst of cathartic inspiration; according to Sacred Bones, his closest friend and some family members passed away within a short period of time, inspiring him to write and record the album's 10 songs.
Wymond Miles began his solo departure from his old band, the Fresh & Onlys, by offering up a debut EP earlier this year, the gloomily lush Earth Has Doors. That album felt like a studio project, something carefully and studiously built and while it was a solid layering of blurry sounds, it also felt a bit stilted, like Miles was pushing too hard to find his own sound, to distance himself from his band. For his first proper full-length, he sped up the process.
The whole affair of Wymond Miles’ debut LP, Under The Pale Moon, feels very clandestine and cloistered away from his work as lead guitarist in the San Francisco sunny-psych band The Fresh & Onlys. The songs don’t clear the clouds; they create them, and boy, do they hang heavy in the air. The solo work of Miles — going back to his mystic, meticulous debut EP, Earth Has Doors — has always been musically disparate from that of The Fresh & Onlys, and on his debut LP, Miles continues to chisel out a personality of his own as a gothic romantic unafraid of crossing the same treacherous emotional bridges that Robert Smith or Television Personalities did in the ’80s.
A few years ago, Wymond Miles, the lead guitarist in San Francisco garage-rock group the Fresh And Onlys, began writing solo material. But then life got a little busy. Miles got a degree, became a father and released three albums in as many years with his band. Now that things have supposedly settled down (the Fresh And Onlys are prepping yet another album due out this year) Miles is ready to show the world what he can do on his own.He caught everyone’s attention with Earth Has Doors, his debut EP out earlier this year, a dramatic work that reflected the existential chaos in his life as he approached the age of 30.