Wye Oak, the experimental duo of Jenn Wassner and Andy Stack, may have released five acclaimed LPs over the past decade or so but ‘No Horizon’ is the first EP to see them write music while both living in Durham (the one in North Carolina, not the UK one that you drive a few hundred miles to during a pandemic with ‘Stay at Home’ rules in place…).
The five songs find the band heading into ever-more experimental territory as they push the boundaries of what this band can sound like. The opener ‘AEIOU’ begins with swirling and optimistic piano, fun-filled drums and choral vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place at the start of a modern Disney film. Electronic beats are soon added as it gently glides into otherworldly, sonic dream pop: ‘If you speak my name. Use my name… The one I gave myself’. The melodic and chilled-out prog of ‘No Place’ follows – although this sound is beautifully broken up by the harmonious vocals and robotic spoken-word voice delivering the same words at the same time: ‘One thought as one red apple’; ‘Who are you? Who am I? What happened to us?’
‘(Cloud)’ is 65 seconds of incidental, fractured tones that leads into the closing ‘Sky Witness’ with aplomb. With a gentle, swaying start that combines nature sounds with electronica, the brooding bass adds something extra while Jenn sings about knocks on a window and asks if the world is just a concept. It falls somewhere between Anna Meredith and Joanna Newsom before taking a turn into abstract art pop – and it works so well.
Although Wye Oak say there is ‘No Horizon’, the journey to get there is something special.