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Winged Wheel - 'Big Hotel' LP (12XU 160-1)



'Big Hotel', the sophomore effort of Winged Wheel, is an evolutionary document. Core members Cory Plump (Spray Paint, Rider/Horse, Expensive Shit), Fred Thomas (Tyvek, Idle Ray), Whitney Johnson (Matchess, Damiana), and Matthew J Rolin (Powers/Rolin Duo, solo) expand their lineup to include Lonnie Slack (Water Damage) and Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), and instead of the entirely remote method utilized to create their 2022 debut 'No Island', the far-flung party convened in person in Kingston, NY for a long weekend of live studio recording.

The results are undeniably compelling. The band’s signature cyclonic energy is simultaneously augmented and refined with the approach of real-time collaboration. After tracking three days’ worth of group improvisations, weirdly-born songs, and other spontaneous creations, the hours of material were edited with a similar intensity. Half-hour jams became three-minute ragers and fragments were looped into infinity, calling on the same spliced aesthetic as some of the most adventurous material by Can, Faust, or more recently the experimental production of the International Anthem camp. The stereo field has been torn apart and sewn together again, rerouted with strange and mesmerizing left turns. Vignettes of ambiguous construction, both tightly coiled and exploding, revolve around themselves, gathering intensity and mass, coalescing into something greater than the sum of its parts.

“Demonstrably False” swells into existence like a motorik tidepool, tossing fauna onto the shoreline where it sprouts legs with a steady gait lying readily in wait within them. The controlled frenzy of “Sleeptraining” marks a determined dash to a patch of reeds that are given form by the propulsive and minimal “Clean Blue Shelf,” where lush terror and the balm of shelter seem equally likely to dwell. “Grief in the Garden” describes itself like the eventual, fleeting triumph of eyeing the sun as it rises to declare the end of a starless night.

“Smudged Textile” seems another gesture from the sun, where it begins its work of burning swaths of cloud away to uncover the stark and perfect sky; it is around here that the sensation of flight becomes all but irresistible. The aerial coolness of “Aren’t They All” maintains a reassuring pace much more like a heartbeat than a flapping of wings, which flows naturally into “Soft Hands,” a piece that widens and ultimately splits the perception, somehow evoking an even, landbound march even as it continues to narrate that endless, gliding flight. “Short Acting” is blissfully ambiguous in its suggestion, managing to hint at the vault of heaven before descending unhurriedly but inevitably back to earth. “From Here on Out Nothing Changes” completes the vast arc, teeming as it is with the wild and singular energy of conscious life.

Where 'No Island' was born out of distance and murk, these songs breathe and erupt in close quarters. Though the band isn't necessarily concerned with finding new levels of clarity, there’s a newfound power in the steady drive of Shelley’s unmistakable rhythmic style, and the unexpected interplay that builds on this foundation. Big Hotel is the sound of what happens in the rare and intriguing moments when Winged Wheel are all in the same room.

-Jen Powers, March 2024

Winged Wheel :
Whitney Johnson
Cory Plump
Matthew J Rolin
Steve Shelley
Lonnie "Palmtree" Slack
Fred Thomas

band photo : Chris Turco

Recorded in Kingston NY by Chris Turco
Mixed by Fred Thomas
Mastered by Carl Saff
Art by William Schmiechen

Vinyl pressed at Smashed Plastic, Chicago IL

12XU 160-1 C&P 2024 Winged Wheel under license to 12XU