Jerry Adler and Yuval Lion were both members of The Blam, a Brooklyn based band that was in on the early days of what was later referred to as the Williamsburg Scene and that recorded three albums prior to splitting in 2005. Perhaps their albums made less of an actual impression in the Indie world than they deserved, one commentator wondered why it was that, given the similarities between the bands, that The Shins were more popular, although at least one of The Blam’s songs found a wider audience when it was soundtracked into an episode of The Office (the US version of the British TV comedy written by former Suede manager Ricky Gervais). Listening to The Blam, it does sound as if they struck lucky to some extent. With so many bands and musicians writing in the hope that some influential media production company will pick up on their work and turn it into an advertisment or or even just background noise in one of those scenes where the protagonists of some comedy/drama go socialising, The Blam can rest upon their laurels to some extent, and despite the fact that The Shins got more press and album sales I think I need to point out that luck is only part of the story for a musician like Jerry Adler.
Adler formed his own project, the folk based and perhaps more favorably received Flugente after The Blam imploded, and while I can’t provide very much info as to Flugente’s success in those wider fields of the media, his Wave Sleep Wave project which also involves former Blam drummer Lion looks set to repeat the experience of The Blam, insofar as the determinedly Indie presentation – the album is released on Adler’s own CurbCut label – will perhaps keep Wave Sleep Wave on the periphery of the Indie music world and it’s perhaps fair to say that you are reading one of possibly very few reviews or even mentions of the album. As the kind of musician who can comfortably keep his activities very nearly off the radar entirely, Adler is perhaps aware that while he both wants and needs to make music, that retaining control of his own work is a must, for any number of reasons.
Enough preamble, although I found the background to Wave Sleep Wave and their eponymous debut an interesting one. Actually about their music, two things are instantly notable. The first is that Adler’s practised explorations into electroharmonics, utilising a combination of effects to extend his guitar notes into cycles of droning repetition work with fully realised skill, the guitars and their apps combining seamlessly to produce alternately grinding, ethereal and disssonant sound patterns. The other, and 2nd track “Zip It” reveals this, is the influence of The Pixies, with both the guitars and vocal referencing that band’s “Doolittle” heyday. There is however a less strident note to Adler’s vocal and playing than the cacophony of Black Francis and his cohorts at their early 90s peak, and “Hey What” has both Adler and Lion displaying a lighter and more melodic approach than the shrieking discordancy The Pixies were capable of, the songs midsection breaking the air of developing claustrophobia with sudden brilliance. “Laws” is Wave Sleep Wave assimilating their influences into their own craftsmanship and while Adler’s vocal carries a note of grim desperation, the instruments are given space to develop the song toward a tightly scored and continually developing conclusion, with Lion’s percussion providing a rattling adjunct to Adler’s six string histrionics.
It’s “1001″ that really shows us what Wave Sleep Wave are capable of though, a thudding, near deranged blast of sensation and emotion that only Jerry Adler has ever experienced or can actually express and it’s also the track that reveals the paradox at the heart of Wave Sleep Wave. Jerry Adler’s talent is a quite real and far from pretentious one, and his capabilities as a musician and songwriter are exactly those that the Industry Machine might only too readily wish to reshape to its own designs. An actual auteur and canny enough to keep his own abilities in check, Adler’s latest project isn’t quite his magnum opus although I for one am left in no doubt that the next or perhaps third Wave Sleep Wave album will perhaps see him receiving the kind of fulsome recognition his music rightfully deserves. Until then, anyone chancing upon a copy of Wave Sleep Wave might wonder exactly where it sprang from and, like this reviewer, make a point of checking out the highly varied and idiosyncratic back catalogue of one NY musician whose work still might find itself sliding into the ‘neglected greats’ category.