After stunning audiences with the release of Five Roses in 2007, Miracle Fortress, the brainchild of Montreal songwriter/musician/producer Graham Van Pelt, has returned with its sophomore album, Was I The Wave?. Much like the debut LP, Was I The Wave? continues to highlight Van Pelt’s meticulous involvement in the recording process as the sole composer, performer and producer. But in many ways, the album marks an evolution in the overall sound of the project.
The sounds of Miracle Fortress have been described as both indie-rock and synth-pop in the past. I think it’s fair to say that Was I The Wave? represents a shift in Van Pelt’s instrumentation, slightly favoring the latter genre as dense layers of electronics dominate the majority of the 10-track album. But there’s no need to worry: The essence of Miracle Fortress’ musical identity that fans have grown to love over the last four years remains intact.
Was I The Wave? is divided into two distinct sections. The first half of the album suggests a crowded sensation. Layers of synthesizers and samplers create dense synthetic soundscapes with a gloomy feel, only to be sweetened by the melodic hooks of Van Pelt’s reverberant vocals. Tracks like “Tracers” and “Wave” demonstrate sincere usage of the electronic instruments, tastefully incorporating the sounds into layers of guitars and vocals. But Van Pelt’s sense of humor also shines through on tracks like “Spectre,” where exaggerated ’80s-style reverb places the drums and vocals in the distance while goofy synthesizers hover in the foreground.
The second half of the album returns to the deliciously open sound of Miracle Fortress’ previous records, allowing some breathing room to highlight the narrative lyrics. A presence of electronic instruments still remains on these tracks, but they feel organic next to the A-side of Was I The Wave?, as guitar strings are free to ring and Van Pelt’s vocals obtain a relative rawness. “Everything Works” may demonstrate these qualities of the B-side best with guitar harmonics audible even under vocal melodies dancing between high and low registers. Although some of the sounds used are radically new to the Miracle Fortress repertoire, Was I The Wave? demonstrates the perfect amount of experimentation and development of the band’s sound while remaining true to the music of its past.