Review: 40 Watt Sun: Wider than the Sky

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Have you ever listened to something so excruciatingly somber that, even on a particularly amazing day, you very nearly fell to pieces? No? Well, let me introduce you to 40 Watt Sun.

So there I was, just trying to get some work done and feeling pretty good about the prospects for the day, when along comes this song on my weekly discovery playlist. Huh, this sounds kinda slow and boring, I should skip this, I thought. But then I didn’t. Moments later my fingers stopped typing, my head drifted down, and an ominous dark cloud formed in my mindspace. Twelve minutes later I realized I had been staring off into the void, absolutely sucked into this song, with four minutes left to go. 40 Watt Sun are not musicians, they are a band of hypnotists.

Sometimes sounding like a late-90’s rock ballad, but actually good, these songs have a way of feeling both familiar and alien. It is refreshingly honest and a powerful mood-altering substance. Through it seems that Wider than the Sky was primarily written by Patrick Walker, I’ve never heard a trio sound more like a one man project before. There is a singular idea being perfectly executed with no ego to interrupt.

In the masterpiece that is “Stages”, the 16-minute opening track, Patrick achingly croons over a deconstructed doom beat and carefully spaced chords. The distance between those notes becomes an unbearably heavy object. He speaks to an overly self-aware audience, asking questions that we should all ask ourselves, and finding unsatisfactory answers. We are often aware how other’s failings affect us, but overlook our own lack of offerings.

“What have I brought you to, my love, that you have followed me?”

“Pictures” picks up the tempo a little after about 38 minutes of being slowly crushed to death. I would argue they foray into post-rock a little bit in this song, which is a perfect and unexpected variance. This time, he seems to speak of the virtues of a reality constructed by fragments of darkness.

The picture whole is seldom seen
And far less understood.
I’ll see only fragmentary parts
And fill the spaces as the dark deems right.

Proving again, with the likes of artists like Johanna Warren, iamthemorning, and Sea Oleena, you don’t have to be loud to be heavy and dark. You also don’t have to be unrelentingly depressed, as 40 Watt Sun proves with a slight feeling of optimism. Things may not go as planned, but maybe, after all is said and done, it won’t be so bad.

Wider than the Sky is an interesting album for me, in that it has some of the most emotionally powerful moments I’ve heard this year, but the length hurts it due to a lack of variation. If there was one more post-rock tinged song, or maybe even something a little bit heavier, I would be shoving this album in everyone’s faces for the next few months. Maybe I’ll just be those weirdos who shares a single song. If you want a condensed version of this album, check out tracks 1, 2, and 4. Individual tracks would be ranked much much higher than the album as a whole, so while it sits at a 3/5 for me, I urge everyone to delve into a track or two. Maybe you can stay absorbed in the gloom for almost an hour, but I needed to take a few breaths of fresh optimism to get through it.

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