Wanderjahr
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Wanderjahr

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


“Always clever, mystifying, sometimes outrageously provocative... well crafted songs”
— Chris Rietz, music writer for The State Journal

“...a sweeter journey into magical mystery tours you’ll not take. Which is to say that this music is fiercely intelligent, delightfully well-crafted and just plain fun to listen to.”
— Kevan Breitenger, writer for Indie-Music.com

“Their sound, from slow to rock, is brilliant, and so is Wanderjahr”
— Lindsey Anderson, music writer for The State News

“Excellent... you have to buy this album”
— Phil Lawton, writer for EvilSponge.org

“One of the most complete and cohesive collection of songs that any local band has delivered in recent memory”
— Cale Sauter, music writer for The City Pulse

“The integrity in Wanderjahr’s music is apparent in every song and performance. These guys are great... The Temple Club’s favorite band.”
— Jerome White, General Manager of The Temple Club

"Wanderjahr has reached that fabled place where the record is original and deep and you discover new stuff with every listen, but the songs still translate to a great high energy live show."
— Aaron Bales, of Lansing twang-rock favorites Flatfoot


“It’s obvious this band works hard to carve it’s own unique niche into the world of alternative music.... very original and impressive playing.... this band is experimental at it’s best.”
— Holmes, lead vocalist for Canadian band Explore The Floor
(From a review on GarageBand.com)
- Wanderjahr


In a departure from its usual "live-in-the-studio" approach, the veteran Lansing five-piece band Wanderjahr has built a dense, multi-layered confection of sound in "Is to Disappear," released this month.

It's the band's third full-length release, the first since 2002's "Burn Ordinarily," and it's the pinnacle of Wanderjahr's trippy, neo-psychedelic, Moody Blues/Pink Floyd-esque leanings. Devoted to pop songwriting and awash in a hybrid 1960s rock ballad style - they proudly use the words "bombast" and "lysergic" in their own promo material - it's a marked contrast to the cultivated rawness of much current grassroots rock.

Fans of the genre will appreciate the pastiche engineered by Nathan Brown (who also plays keys with the band's musical cohorts The Fuzz), complete with backwards guitars ("I Give Them A Name"), "Itchycoo Park"-style phase shifters ("Old Hat") and more.

The layering is so thick that at times "Disappear" tends to fade into one sonic color, and lead singer (and songwriter) Mike Clauwert's plaintive, Rod Argent-like vocals are occasionally blurred in the mix.

That's too bad, because the lyrics are the CD's great strength (they do appear on the insert, in really teeny print). Always clever, mystifying, sometimes outrageously provocative, each one of these nine songs circles around a theme of magic, deception, illusion, and what happens when one is taken in, or when one sees through the artifice.

It's a perfect conceit for love songs, and many of them are: the title cut, or the tragic "Lovely Apprentice," perhaps the most moving in a program of well-crafted songs. But the metaphor can be stood on its head, as in "Mesmerize," the album's final track - in which the palette of synths and jangly guitars gives way to a Sonic Youth-like power-chord assault, and suddenly the magicians themselves are targeting you.

---Chris Rietz - Lansing State Journal


Overall: 5 Stars

Music: 5 Stars

Vocals: 5 Stars

Replay Value: 5 Stars

Get past their name because once Wanderjahr - which I still don't know how to pronounce - enters the music-loving sector of your ears, it'll become obvious that names are just a tag, and what is heard behind the group's title is all that matters.

Wanderjahr - a local psychedelic rock group comprised of five gentlemen - has been around the East Lansing and Lansing music scene for seven years, and are now releasing their first "proper" album, "Is to Disappear," tonight at The Temple Club, 500 E. Grand River Ave., in Lansing.

The album, a beautiful "headphones" record - meaning it's best to listen to it with a pair of 'phones on your ears so each instrument and sound effect can be heard clearly - starts out with a quiet, building distortion which eventually gives way to Mike Clauwaert's haunting vocals.

Clauwaert, who sings lead vocals and plays guitar for the band, has a voice of dripping platinum - it isn't too emo, it isn't too indie, it isn't too rock. It's absolutely perfect and sexy-sounding.

Yes, sexy.

He whispers, "Tell me how to disappear," while multiple drums, swooshing keyboard effects and acoustic guitars behind him that create a balanced and smooth blended rock song.

And that's only the first track.

Wanderjahr is different from most bands around here. Unlike the groups who have one completely rocking song and then the rest of the CD flops, Wanderjahr continues their musical adventure from beginning to end, in-between and completely throughout.

If you're thinking, "Those are all the same statements," it's because "Is to Disappear" doesn't miss a single beat.

The fourth song, "Emperor Peacock," again begins with Clauwaert's beautiful soothing voice, but soon the ensemble of instruments backing him creates a mysterious, fun and country-sounding song, that is still soft, but nice to listen to.

Gary Whitmore on guitars, Dan McCormick on bass, Sam Rose on keyboard, and Chris Harden on drums have each taken their desired musical talent and have expanded it by 1,000 feet.

They aren't afraid to experiment with the sounds their gear makes and it shows on their tracks, but not in a tacky way.

For example, after all the intimate, relaxing jams, the last track on "Is to Disappear" blows you out of the water.

"Mesmerize (Fall Awake)," starts with swooshing ocean sounds and a deep bass riff in the background. A lonely electric guitar starts a solo and is soon matched by another electric guitar and drums.

It's slow, but it's only a minute into the six minute song. After two minutes of what sounds like a jam band warming up, every thing fades out, and the boys of Wanderjahr give us a grinding, punk-rock piece of meat to chew on and spit all over the place.

Their sound, from slow to rock, is brilliant, and so is Wanderjahr.

The only criticism is that the album could have a few more tunes and sometimes Clauwaert's vocals are hard to hear, but both of those small problems could be fixed on another album release later on down the road. Hint, hint.

--- Lindsey K. Anderson



- The State News


Wanderjahr is defined as “a year or period of travel, esp. following one’s schooling and before practicing a profession.” As one discovers the journey that singer-songwriter Mike Clauwaert and guitarist Gary Whitmore embarked on seven years ago that led to their band Wanderjahr’s forthcoming LP “Is to Disappear,” it becomes apparent that the band’s moniker is decidedly fitting.

“We started playing together quite a few years ago with myself and Gary,” Clauwaert says. “We underwent some line-up changes over the years that have changed our sound and got us to where we are currently.” Where they are currently is on the verge of releasing one of the most complete and cohesive collections of songs that any local band has delivered in recent memory.

Although the band plays it down a bit, this Wanderjahr effort is distinctly conceptual. “Is to Disappear” finds the band discovering it's sound and birthing something more complete and consistent than its past efforts (including 1999’s “Early Glaciers are Seldom Waves,” 2000’s “Pretending to be You” and 2002’s “Burn Ordinarily”). Clauwaert credits a large portion of the metamorphosis to 2002 additions, keyboardist Sam Rose and bassist Dan McCormick. “We just started writing when we added Sam and Dan. Really, we wrote over two albums worth of material.”

Wanderjahr’s previous albums all maintained an atmospheric flavor, but they relied more heavily on either noisy guitars or general feedback to convey each song. “Is to Disappear” offers nine stories, but is comprised essentially of one point. “I was looking at vintage magic show posters online one day. That’s when I decided to write some songs about stage magic,” Clauwaert says. “We also noticed that some older songs had links and references to a theme like that as well.”

In the end, the band brought on graphic artist Cole Closser (ashcandesigns.com) to bring the stage magic concept together artistically. Closser did a full gallery of illustrations (as well as the band’s Web site) for the album’s highly aesthetically pleasing album pack.

While “Is to Disappear” may be a bit of a departure from Wanderjahr’s earlier material, the key elements of its sound can still be found in these nine tunes. The band’s love for experimental guitar noise is still all over the album in spades (especially on “Mother Nature’s Gun” and “Mesmerize”); it is just of a more flowing nature this time around.

Clauwaert still blesses the proceedings with vocals that should please anyone who has ever listened to Pink Floyd and found themselves wondering what it would sound like if Roger Waters sang more like he was from small-town, middle America. Rose’s keyboards and auxiliary sounds creep up all over the album without warning and seem to come and go like that mysterious individual across the bar trying to subliminally convince you to pick them up — attractive enough to let you know they’re there, subtle enough that you don’t notice them when they’re gone.

Drummer Chris Harden and McCormick do a fine job of shifting the tempo, never becoming really fast, or terribly slow, for that matter. These two deliver 10 different shades of moderate tempo, which still manage to provide enough contrast for the listener to pick up on the dynamics at play.

If pressed for a bottom line, you could definitely get away with calling Wanderjahr psychedelic music for song writers, although I’m still not sure if it does the band justice.

“We just want to keep writing songs and getting better,” Clauwaert says. “Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we can tour a little bit and maybe get an indie label to put out a record for us.” The release of “Is to Disappear” should catapult Wanderjahr right onto the map.

The band will be joined at the Temple club by local favorites the Fuzz and Calliope. They will also perform live, debuting some new songs off the album and doing an interview on MSU radio, Impact 88.9’s local music show, The Basement, between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18.

--- Cale Sauter
- Lansing City Pulse


It ain’t smoke and mirrors, folks, it’s the real deal. After seven years with Wanderjahr and an afternoon online studying old magic show posters, lead singer Mike Clauwaert decided to write songs about stage magic. Enter Is To Disappear, a concept album successfully themed on illusion, with all the sonic rabbits and doves you could dream of.

From their perfectly formfitting name to their trippy music, a sweeter journey into magical mystery tours you’ll not take. Which is to say that this music is fiercely intelligent, delightfully well-crafted and just plain fun to listen to. Actually, Clauwaert claims the 5 piece band “wanted to shoot for a more detailed, ‘headphones’ kind of record, something you can explore as well as just listen to.” Mission accomplished, to sublime perfection.

The layered atmospheric sound contains a veritable stew of instruments: banjo, cello, jaw harp, timpani, dobro, and a gong, not to mention the sound of fruit being peeled. Something for everyone, especially if what everyone craves is a neo-psychedelic palette of dense synths and jangly guitars, augmented by letter-perfect lyrics describing wildly creative scenarios of magical disenchantment, some mildly disturbing. It’s the old “mystery wrapped in a riddle within an enigma” thing, always a good time.

But it’s not all free-ranging jam; the band never loses sight for a moment of their very particular destination, somewhere post-Pink Floyd. Clauwaert’s enigmatic lead vocals occasionally get lost in the thick sound but not to the point of disorientation. Most cuts are fairly ethereal, gently swirling through themes of illusion, facades, and loss, with “Emperor Peacock” and “The Lovely Apprentice” standing out both instrumentally and conceptually, the cello laying down a firm bed for the strings and piano, Beatlesque vocals flitting over all. The last cut, “Mesmerize”, sharply detours from the rest of the album, with a harder rock charge and a more visceral feel. Overall, a most satisfying offering.

---Kevan Breitinger
- Indie-Music.com


A really impressive and enjoyable album from this Lansing, MI quintet. Fine songs, carefully crafted, with plenty of passion and invention. Psychedelic, but built around songs rather than riffage, though there is certainly some incendiary guitar present. Maybe a sorta Grant Lee Buffalo meets the Lucky Bishops deal. Plenty of smoldering languid blues underpinnings, a backwoods trace of country and folk and some doses of potent psychoactive agents taking it to a whole other level.

--- George Parsons








- Dream Magazine


Discography

Is to Disappear 2004
Burn Ordinarily 2002
Pretending to Be You 2000
Early Glaciers Are Seldom Waves (E.P.) 1999

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Background:

The Michigan based psychedelic / alternative rock group originally formed around 1998 with four young guys in love with The Beatles and Sonic Youth deciding to make a go at their own ambitious brand of rock n’ roll. Combining elements of loud, freak-out guitar with complex arrangements and strong melody, the fledgling band quickly became a local favorite of music fans and musicians alike. There has been a stream of musicians through the band over the years, but all around the constant and core of songwriter/guitarist/singer Mike Clauwaert. Former contributors include Gary Whitmore, Chris Harden, Dan McCormick, Sam Rose, Corey Fields and Steve Knapp.

The Sound:

Nowadays, the music is decidedly trippy, but not in the traditional psychedelic sense. Instead of extended noodling and aimless jamming, Wanderjahr crafts tunes with a bit of pop sensibility and a strong emphasis on songwriting. The songs are thick with bombast, grand noise and delicate beauty, all fused into a quality sonic experience that might sit comfortably between Modest Mouse and Pink Floyd in your CD changer. To quote Aaron Bales of Lansing twang-rock favorites Flatfoot: "Wanderjahr has reached that fabled place where the record is original and deep and you discover new stuff with every listen, but the songs still translate to a great high energy live show.”

Accomplishments:

The group regularly plays live shows in several areas throughout the state (including two opening for underground legends The Frogs) and has seen it’s fan base more than double in size in the past couple of years. This success has lead to their selection for many charity and local radio sponsored events playing for as many as 200 to 400 people, and regular local gigs that draw 100+ fans (which is impressive given the relatively small size of the city and the lack of venues). In January, the band began a campaign to play regularly in the Detroit area and have since played well received shows at The Magic Stick, The Belmont Bar, The Elbow Room (Ypsi) and even a Motor City Music Conference showcase at The Labyrinth. Also very recently, a song from their new album was selected for inclusion in the soundtrack to Michigan horror impresario Jeff Burton’s upcoming film, “Dead End Road” (starring Dee Wallace Stone of “Cujo” fame). They have thrice appeared live on Michigan State University station, 88.9 The Impact, are regularly played on the local spotlight show “The Basement”, and have had their song “I Give Them a Name” added to regular rotation. The song has since been on the list of top 5 most requested songs of the day at least 3 times.

“Is to Disappear” (Self-Recorded/Produced - Self Released November, 2004):

Though it’s not their first recording effort, the album is somewhat of a departure for the band, foregoing the ‘live in the studio’ approach for a more layered, atmospheric sound. “We wanted to shoot for a more detailed, ‘headphones’ kind of record with this one” says singer/guitarist Mike Clauwaert, “...something you can explore as well as just listen to.”

And there’s plenty here to explore. Along with more intricate vocal harmony, the band has added a variety of instrumentation to the lysergic stew: banjo, cello, jaw harp, timpani, dobro, a gong, and even the sound of the skin being peeled from a tangerine.

Playing on themes of illusion, both literal and metaphoric, “Is to Disappear” conjures images of stage magic... rabbits, doves, magical hats, smoke and mirrors. All the while, the songs are actually painfully human tales of love, loss and disenchantment. It’s not all gloom though. Many of the songs are bittersweet, the dark side making the light all the more illuminating and the joy all the more palpable.