Unwed Sailor – Little Wars

Unwed Sailor
Little Wars

Unwed Sailor compose fertile instrumental post rock. Their fourth LP, Little Wars, abandons distortion in favor of clean, rich soundscapes. This album won’t give listeners many hum-a-long melodies, but Little Wars works because these talented, engaged musicians have chemistry and craft songs with patience.

This incarnation of the band apparently includes 3 guitars, 2 drum sets, a bass guitar and keyboard. Layered 6-strings alternately chime and mute over the grounding bass. But it’s the drums that steal the spotlight. The unapologetic rhythms roll these tracks onward and tie everything together. If there’s an issue on this release, it’s the keyboard.

Quality compositions truly set Unwed Sailor apart. But the keyboard effects give the band some separation, too. Unfortunately, legions of rock fans just don’t like synthesizers, so the sound could be a turn off. On Little Wars, the synths are a bit much sometimes, but by and large they successfully create space and elevate the other instruments.

The album begins with “Copper Islands”, a solid track featuring an intro inspired by The Who that soon simmers down while adding complexity. “The Garden” puts focus on the guitars, as figures change and bolster each other. All the seams disappear into the great rhythms. Bass, synths and drums anchor “Aurora”, a very rhythm heavy, almost orchestral piece. This song is smart. “Lonely Bulls” presents the guitars at their most melodic. This song speaks of a soft determination nudged onward by more spotless drum work. This will prove a favorite for many listeners.

Those are the best songs. But the title track, “Little Wars”, as well as “Campanile”, “Echo Roads”, “Nauvoo”, and “Numeral” have their weaknesses. And you can often point the finger at the synthesizer.

But every cloud soon reveals several silver linings. Band leader Jonathan Ford engineers these heavily nuanced pieces, and has been doing so since 1998. Little Wars isn’t for those who like their music fast and heavy, but everyone else will benefit from a listen.