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Multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Dan Friel remains unrivaled at creating ferocious pop songs out of blistering noise. A mainstay of the Brooklyn underground as co-founder of noise-punk band Parts & Labor and the alchemist behind a slew of fuzz-baked solo releases, Friel has played alongside the likes of Lightning Bolt and Black Dice and collaborated with acclaimed string quartet ETHEL. His rock trio Upper Wilds runs Friel’s ebullient spirit through mountainous art-punk, culling a rush of melody that drips with molten distortion. On their third album, Venus, the band naturally moves closer to the sun, expanding in both bombast and precision. Venus synthesizes the experimentation of debut Guitar Module 2017 and the thunder of 2018’s Mars into ten lean cosmic love songs.
On Venus, Upper Wilds orbit the planet named for the Roman goddess of love at full tilt. The rhythm section of bassist Jason Binnick (who also mixed the album) and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher (Black Black Black, Golden Error) tear through off-kilter rhythms that land with meteoric impact. Friel's guitar sputters and froths before soaring into frenetic leads that pack every moment with powerful melody. Alien croons and glitching sparks spill out of Friel's wild, filtered humming amplified into oblivion. Venus’ few moments of respite lay bare the raw efficiency and beauty of Friel's songwriting, like crackling space transmissions to loved ones thousands of miles away.
Friel interlocks allegories, strange true stories and deeply personal sentiments into raucous jolts. "Love Song #2" invokes the turbulence of Friel's cousin long-distance trucking in the midst of a pandemic — and love's tenacity to stay connected against all odds. The ensemble embodies the acceleration of life's momentum, the tempo ratcheting each time Friel intones "It's all speeding up now, It's all flying by". The swing and swagger of "Love Song #7" uncovers the glee and absurdity of real life NASA astronauts Jan Davis and Mark Lee, who united in a secret marriage before a joint mission. "Love Song #6" examines alienation through the lens of a couple left behind by the Heaven's Gate cult. On the boisterous "Love Song #3", Friel sees constellations in his son's freckles and finds comfort in how familiar the vast expanses of starlight appear.
Upper Wilds traverses the havoc, mystery, and joy of humanity's countless follies in both space and love. Venus is a raucous and joyous celebration of the wonders of what is beyond comprehension internally and externally. Join them on this exhilarating odyssey.