[sic] Magazine

Writ on Water – A Wingless King

Okay I get it now. It’s taken me four plays but I think I’ve unlocked A Wingless King (AWK). Be warned though. On first listen this is a disorienting and vexing experience. What are Writ on Water aiming for here? What style? What genre? One minute they’re aspiring Goths and the next it’s out with the Spanish guitar.


Except that I get it now. It’s not really a drawback to have a genuinely gifted guitarist in a dream-pop band is it? I mean, do we need yet another band playing over-simplistic three blind mice, scales with heavily delayed guitars? No. Here’s a real guitarist. This guy can PLAY. And so from time to time the maudlin gloom on AWK gives way to a serene Iberian vista.

I’m going to have to stop using WOW as an acronym for Writ on Water. (WoW maybe?) WOW looks funny on the page and sets up all kinds of clumsy gags. Mind you, ‘Ancestor’ really does have all the wow factor you could possibly wish for. This is my favourite Writ on Water track by some margin. It’s a shock too after the albums pastoral first two tracks. The vaporous, echoing vocal reminds me of Craig Lorentson from the group Lowlife or Hooky circa New Order’s Movement. Then a sci-fi guitar slices you open like a laser scalpel.

“I want to crawl into the womb and I want to re-emerge as someone else”

Wow indeed.

The album though? Honestly, it’s all over the place. So no, we don’t get treated to 11 ‘Ancestor’s. Instead it’s a trawl through all kinds of early 80’s, indie label influences. The tribal incantations of Dead Can Dance permeate ‘The Laughter Ceases’, The Cure are evidenced by ‘Dead Give Away’ and ‘Wondertime’ is a spectral Morrissey (if The Smiths had been on Sarah Records or early Creation). Then, just when you think you’ve got AWK nailed down in your understanding, it goes all yellow6.

Writ on Water love poetry and take their name from Keats. They must share vocal duties between the two mainstays Jeff MacKey and Daniel Johnson. One of these guys is deep and sonorous like the aforementioned Lowlife while the other recalls the late Billy MacKenzie or even Bowie. AWK is an interesting and engaging record if you give it a chance. You will need some patience because this album is all variety with no continuity whatsoever. This is challenging terrain to cross. Bring a map and compass.



Ancestral Echo Wunderzeit!

Also available are Ancestral Echo and Wunderzeit!, two EPs available separately or bundled on one CD. The first is more dance infused, the second, more acoustic and reflective. I’d venture to suggest that those who find confusion on AWK will find more bafflement here whereas those who appreciated that album will find more to delight.