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The best kept secret in music



If Bonnie “Prince” Billy recorded a twenty-first century ode to Pink Floyd’s early masterpiece Ummagumma, it might sound something like Shipwreck’s debut offering. The Champaign-Urbana quartet has tapped into singer Harman Jordan’s countrified roots in The Buzzards that welded that style to a classic psych-rock structure heavy on the effects. It’s hardly a marriage of convenience, which makes the results all the more of interest. Jordan’s fingerpicked electric guitar is still at the forefront of most of these songs, which are bathed in a sonic swamp of psychedelia compliments of co-singer-songwriter John Owen’s work on guitar and piano. The songs themselves inhale deep, diaphragm breaths, and reflect a prism of influences that range from the delicate fuckery of seventies dub and the outsider post-punk of Pere Ubu to the recent, accessible exploits of The Flaming Lips and the post-hardcore movement led by groups like Jawbox and Tar. As with most debuts, there’s room for improvement here. Some of Origin’s sounds sadly stuck in the early to mid-nineties, but I chalk that up more to production miscues than a lack of forward thinking. What separates Origin from many other first tries is a guttural instinct to dare to be different. Shipwreck has succeeded at rising above the stale static of their indie peers, and finally given music fans of Champaign-Urbana a reason to forget about Hum and move on already. (Doug Hoepker)
- Skyscraper

"The Hub"

This quartet has idiosyncratic sound that demonstrates their poignant sense of humor and openness to experimentation. The vocal and lyrics of Harman Jordan and John Owen waiver somewhere between the crackling of Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and the baritone country twanginess of Dean and Gene Ween’s astro-psycho-punk rock. That is to say that it’s unconventional, but it works. (Josh Kessler)
- The Hub

"Buzz Magazine- Origin review"

On a scale of 1-100, Origin is a 99. Bold words for a full-length debut, but not hyperbole. Origin floats by like a message in a bottle, its lyrics like dialogue in a dream after reading a stack of old mystery comic books; the overall effect is one of spooky beauty.

Both guitarists sing: Harman Jordan is the tremulous baritone, while John Owen is the throaty bass. They take turns as storytellers, setting moods so opaque that character development and context never matter. "Cavern" is what "Isis" would be if it had been written by Edgar Allan Poe instead of Bob Dylan. "Island of the City" shimmers in its extensive expression of longing, drowned in the siren song of Miranda O'Dell and Michelle Owen. "Orphan" simmers, then boils into a slideshow about fire and fowl.

Shipwreck have consistently characterized their style as "subaquatica," although the arid atmosphere of "Spur," "Cactus" and "Sleeping in the Saddle" on Six Buttery Megahits EP was more consistent with desert psychedelia. Origin is somehow wetter, yet no oasis. Oil-based, it paints in muted tones with a luminous finish. Due for release July 5, Origin seems a serious contender for album of the year. - Buzz Magazine

"Openingbands- Origin review"

One should not a review an album on an empty stomach. In fact, one should not make their first album review on an empty stomach. I find myself scrambling for some cream cheese and a piece of bread as I wait for the peaceful trail of piano on "Coma" to give way to the head swaying drums of "Cavern" and the repetition of Shipwreck's album, Origin. It may be the hunger pangs, but I find myself remotely paranoid and disturbed by the endearing vocalist's ode in the first thirty seconds. The words ache of plagued sincerity, describing the passing of a former love, but seem to leak that equal amount of creepiness visible in Johnny Cash's "Delia's Gone" or Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." I'm perturbed, and almost simultaneously entranced.

It is easy for the singer to draw comparisons to a bastard child of Talking Heads' David Byrne and Joy Division's Ian Curtis, but his place in the band proves to be more than just a channeling of the postpunk movement; the lyrics do not bathe themselves so much in darkness as to leave me, well...emo. A sense of humor is more than visible in some portions (The use of "verily"; "cheap-ass blush wine") as well as brilliant usage of imagery (The entirety of the song "Buckle"), but a few songs leave one wondering why the background vocals are louder than the lead singer. All of what I love about the vocals are present in the foreground, and it only seems that the morose oohs and ahhs deter from the solidarity of this.

Origin gives a multitude of fans of different genres the opportunity to enjoy the music of Shipwreck for its place as a sonic melding pot. On "Orphan", a downpaced flurry of electronic beats leads into an almost ambient driving force, where it immediately hits a wall of fluttering guitar and funk. Yes, funk, that delightful little muse enlivens this record at moments when one least expects it. With such a heavy attribution of space rock and the ghost of Parliament Funkadelic, it seems difficult to call this an ambient record. While some songs like "Sawbones" and "Double Six" leave one with a wary feeling of sleepiness, it isn't too hard to find a nearby track that wakes the individual from their sedation. One of my favorite tracks, "Coyote", starts with a gorgeously dark pop melody and a sense of urgency from the chugging guitar clicks. What delights me most about the track is the slight interspersing of slide guitar and faint piano giving life to the dirge-like background vocals. Likewise, on "Souvenir" and "Telegram", two of the latter tracks on the album, the conflict between torpor and vigor seems to make for the largest degree of creativity in the record. Heavy and mildly distorted guitars take the place of their spacy predecessors, the drummer seems damn near ecstatic to be playing in double time, and the music has just turned into a fire-breathing space mutant; swiggity. We are immediately saved from this menace as the last track, "Coma", returns the tone to the band's common ground, a constant heave between a pacified melody and a vicious desire to break loose. Gripping my bagel, I long to see if this victory will ever come to a head, and let the CD revolve yet again. (Favorite Tracks: Buckle, Coyote, Orphan) -

"Innocent Words- Origin review"

Shipwreck is a band whose identity is irrevocably connected with the stories and the folklore they create. Each of the songs on their album Origin are like engaging puzzles inviting the listener to find the few pieces left to fill in.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the song “Island of the City,” which depicts French monuments and landscapes that become phantoms, feminine sirens that rack both the song’s central character and the listener with longing. “Come on home / if you can / because I'm not leaving here.” It's this hauntingly simple chorus that builds into an achingly sincere falsetto, reaching into something that’s neither lovesick nor homesick but everything in between.

“Orphan” starts out quietly enough with a simple drum machine sequence, but this is soon replaced by a jarring guitar motif that underscores something darker and more sinister. “Sawbones” is a nightcap drenched in sanguineous tremolo; it soothes and then stings like a warm shot of brandy.

“Coyote” starts as an animal's narrative of survival, but there’s a dismay in the drawl of its chorus slide guitar that points to something grander, heartfelt and tragic in the creature's passing of perilous terrain it understands only in vague notions of “chain link fences” and “blinding lights.”

Larger still, there's something chivalrous in its playful surf guitar passages, something innate to its fabric that describes the sense of traversing through heaven and hell for the ideal of love. The closing song, “Coma,” with its words, “Who was here before?” spoken over gentle piano crescendos and recumbent sighs, reaches a soaring finality, then sets into the distance.

From these and other moments, the measure of Origin becomes clear.
Figurative, literary and beautiful, it is a triumph of musical and lyrical affinity.
~ Joseph Pence - Innocent Words


House of Cards-EP
Six Buttery Megahits-EP
Cavern-Single on the Green St. Records Compilation


Feeling a bit camera shy


With the House of Cards EP, Shipwreck has released the first of four EP’s they plan to put out over the next 16 months. Sticking to an ambitious goal of writing, recording, releasing, and promoting a new EP every four months, Shipwreck is beginning the foundations of a plan that will set them apart as one of the hardest working bands operating without the support of a record label. Choosing to forego the standard path of most bands, Shipwreck aims to condense the write-record-release formula into a breakneck pace that in 16 months will accomplish more than many unsigned bands ever do.

This rapid turnaround between albums shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of concern for the quality of their music; on the contrary, by choosing to release songs in the EP format, the band is afforded the opportunity to spend the time necessary in the studio to meticulously craft each song into a fully developed piece of work. The band has already rapidly made its name in its hometown of Champaign-Urbana as one of the most sonically complex bands in a scene where creativity and craft is valued far more than trendy appearances and flavor of the month sounds.

On House of Cards, Shipwreck continues to sharpen its already formidable musical and lyrical skills. The arrangements have been stripped down to their bare-bone essentials while the parts have been shrouded in delicate layers of carefully selected tones and textures. Behind washes of melodic interplays, the rhythm section builds tense, stark structures that wait until just the right moment to break into striking crescendos. Lyrically, the singers weave dark, strange tales that while evocative and haunting, are careful not to rob the listener of the mystery created by each song. Shipwreck wields its words and music to pull the listener wholly into each song, while creating just enough chaos and intrigue to elicit the need to return to further explore the deep layers of sounds and meanings.

Every musical group has a learning curve that, in the case of talented acts, sees a band grow as songwriters and recording artists. With its 4 EP plan, Shipwreck is looking to bend that curve to the breaking point.