WILD HONEY-TORRES BLANCAS.
Wild Honey-Torres Blancas.
Label: Lovemonk Records.
Just over four years ago, Wild Honey released their much-anticipated sophomore album Big Flash in April 2013. This was the followup to Wild Honey’s 2009 debut album Epic Handshakes and A Bear Hug. While it was released to plaudits and praise, Big Flash marked the coming of age of Guillermo Farré the man behind Wild Honey.
When it came to recording his sophomore album Big Flash, Spanish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Guillermo Farré found himself working alongside Stereolab’s Tim Gane. For Guillermo Farré this was almost surreal, and if the truth be told, was a dream come true. When it comes to Stereolab, Guillermo Farré admits that he is something of a superfan. The chance to travel to Berlin and work with Tim Gane in his Berlin studio was too good to refuse. It also proved to an important part of his musical education.
From the outside, Tim Gane’s Berlin studio may not look much, but looks can be deceiving. The studio is well equipped, with a wide selection of instruments and equipment. Tim Gane was keen to show his new pupil how it worked, and Guillermo Farré proved to be a quick learner. He was enjoying learning from his former idol, who he now regarded as a friend and mentor. What Guillermo Farré was learning was invaluable, and played its part in the sound and success of Big Flash. It was released to widespread critical acclaim in the spring of 2013, and marked the coming of age for Wild Honey.
Just over four years after Big Flash, Wild Honey make a welcome return with Torres Blancas, their long-awaited and much-anticipated third album which was recently released by Lovemonk Records. It features another member of Sterolab, Sean O’ Hagan, whose lush, orchestrated arrangements are a feature of Torres Blancas. So too are Guillermo Farré’s expressive vocals, which are sung in Spanish, rather than English. This is just the latest thing that has changed since the release Big Flash.
During the last four years, Guillermo Farré has come to terms with what could be described as a mini midlife crisis. By the time he reached his mid-thirties, Guillermo Farré and found himself at a crossroads in his life. Suddenly, he was racked with uncertainty, and found himself questioning just about everything in his life. This ranged from where he lived, to his lifestyle, his family and friends and even, how he was making a living. For Guillermo Farré the future looked uncertain.
Fast forward to 2017, and that uncertainly is long gone. Guillermo Farré was a much more relaxed and happier man. He’s no longer racked by uncertainty and has accepted the cards that he’s dealt. Life is good, as Wild Honey completed their third album Torres Blancas, which marks the return of a newly revitalised and rejuvenated Guillermo Farré.
For Wild Honey’s third album Torres Blancas, Guillermo Farré wrote ten new songs. He also took charge of production, and is responsible for the multilayered arrangements on the ten carefully crafted songs. They feature Guillermo Farré and a few of his musical friends.
Not only does Guillermo Farré takes charge of lead vocals, he also plays guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, synths, percussion and uses samplers on the album. He’s joined by backing vocalist Anita Steinberg, who has been part of Wild Honey since day one. They were joined by a few of Wild Honey’s musical friend.
This included Wild Honey’s rhythm section, which featured drummer José María Rubio and bassist Javier Lorente. Drummer Lor Adrián Ceballos plays on the two tracks that bookend the album. Raúl Gil plays trumpet and flugelhorn, while Sterolab’s Sean O’ Hagan adds lush orchestrated arrangements on four tracks. Isabel F. Reviriego was drafted in to add the vocal on Horoscopo. Joining this small, but talented group of vocalists and musicians was a ‘bedroom pop genus’.
This was LA based produced Maston, who plays a part in the production process and deploys a myriad of effects. This includes tape delays and detuned Wurlitzer organs, which adds a tropicalia vibe. Guillermo Farré describes this as “creating that feel of music made under the sea”. Torres Blancas is a very special album.
It took its title from a huge residential building in Northern Madrid, that Guillermo Farré walked past every day in life for fifteen years. Sometimes, Guillermo Farré hardly noticed the building’s presence, while other times, he ridiculed it. Not any more though, as the newly rejuvenated Guillermo Farré has grown to love the building. He appreciates its beauty and takes pride of the its place on Madrid’s skyline. It’s certainly a building he’ll even forget, having named Wild Honey’s third album after Torres Blancas.
The ballad El Volcán de Montserrat opens Torres Blancas. Just a lone piano plays before a chiming guitar joins. So too, does a crackling sound that replicates worn vinyl. Soon, the rhythm section join and accompany Guillermo’s tender, heartfelt vocal. Meanwhile, while washes of synths and a piano accompany flit in and out. They accompany the cooing, ethereal vocal as this beautiful slice of pop perfection reveals its secrets.
As Torres Blancas begins to unfold, it’s as if a code is being tapped out. Suddenly, it’s all change as lush strings sweep in, and join the rhythm section and shimmering Byrdsian guitar. It accompanies Guillermo’s tender, wistful vocals. Soon, though, lush strings dance, keyboards glisten and the effects-laden guitar still shimmers. Gradually, the arrangement builds, while the rhythm section making their presence felt. They take care not to overpower the vocal and harmonies, while the strings play a leading role. They’re part of a carefully crafted arrangement where elements of sixties sunshine pop sound and psych combine to create a dreamy, rueful backdrop for Guillermo’s vocal.
Dramatic drums rumble and accompany a chiming, chirping guitar on Ojo de Cristal, and soon, are joined by crystalline synths. Meanwhile, Guillermo adds a hazy, lysergic vocal as the arrangement takes shape. This includes harmonies and dancing strings that soon, replace the vocal. Later, keyboards shimmer as the lush strings dance, while drums are caressed and shakers accompany a tender vocal. By then, all the pieces in this musical jigsaw have fallen into place, on a carefully crafted song where it sounds as if Wild Honey have drawn inspiration from the Beach Boys and Prefab Sprout.
Found sounds, including birdsong, are deployed before the band are counted in on Mapas de Zonas Desiertas. Soon, the arrangement is sashaying along. Drums crack, and join lysergic keyboards, an organ and the rhythm section. It drives the arrangement along, and help provide the backdrop for Guillermo’s ruminative vocal. This time, the arrangement is quite different from previous songs. More effects have been used, and play their part in a dreamy, psychedelic arrangement. Later, it’s like taking a trip on a psychedelic merry-go-round, as Wild Honey like modern-day Merry Pranksters provide the musical accompaniment.
The drums that open Horóscopo sound as if they belong on a dance track, and are quite different from those used on previous tracks. They’re soon joined by melancholy keyboards that create a dreamy backdrop for another of Guillermo’s tender vocals. Soon, he’s accompanied by ethereal harmonies, sci-fi synths and a shimmering guitar. Meanwhile, the mesmeric drums fit perfectly into the arrangement, joining with the guitar, keyboards and ethereal harmonies in creating a quite beautiful, melodic and memorable song.
Desenfocada opens with a much tougher sounding guitar, before Wild Honey return to their usual indie pop sound. While the guitar is still present, it’s mixed further back in the arrangement and is joined by the rhythm section, a glistening guitar and Guillermo’s joyous vocal. Later, when it drops out, the rest of Wild Honey showcase their skills. As the bass weaves across the arrangement, drums provide the heartbeat and the guitars are lysergic, crunchy and rocky. When the vocal returns, the arrangement is briefly stripped bare, but soon, guitars chime and drums pound which is the signal for the arrangement rebuilds. Guillermo’s tender vocal continues to play its part in the sound and success of this indie pop anthem.
The tempo drops on Leopardo, with the rhythm section playing slowly as guitars glisten as Guillermo adds another heartfelt vocal. When swathes of wistful strings sweep across the arrangement. They’re the perfect addition, and join with the rhythm section who provide the heartbeat, while washes of guitar are drizzled across the arrangement. Later, when the vocal drops out, they combine what’s one of the best songs on Torres Blancas.
Reverb Infinita is another ballad, and as the title suggest, reverb is used throughout the song. It’s not overused, and doesn’t spoil another beautiful ballad. Less is more in more ways than one. The band take care not to overpower the heartfelt vocal and ethereal harmonies. However, when they drop out the rest of Wild Honey step out of the shadows and again.The rhythm section and chiming, glistening guitar showcase their skills. Then when the vocal returns, they begin to play softly. Later, it drops out and leaves the rest of band to create a shimmering, lysergic wash of beautiful, captivating music.
Closing Torres Blancas is the ballad Siguiendo a Desconocidos. Keyboard tinkle as the song begins to reveals its secrets. They’re joined by horns while the distant keyboard sparkle as a guitar is strummed and accompanies Guillermo’s wistful vocal. By then, drums have been added, and almost gallop long, while the rueful strings and then melancholy horns add contrasts. They take centre-stage, after the vocal drops out. A shimmering guitar is added to the melancholy sounding arrangement. The addition of synths signal the return of the vocal which is accompanied by ethereal harmonies. As the arrangement meanders along, the vocal drops out, leaving the rest of Wild Honey to create a melancholy and thoughtful backdrop. It seems that Wild Honey have kept one of the best songs until last.
After four years away, Wild Honey return with Torres Blancas, which is a career defining album from the newly rejuvenated and reinvigorated Guillermo Farré. He and his musical friends are responsible for what’s without doubt the finest album of Wild Honey’s three album career. It seems that Wild Honey have matured, and produced what can only be described as a lovingly created and carefully crafted album of perfect pop.
Although Guillermo Farré has masterminded the rise and rise of Wild Honey, it’s far from a one man band. Each and every musician and vocalist in this small, but talented and versatile band played their part in the success of the album.This included Stereolab’s Sean O’ Hagan who was responsible for the lush orchestrated arrangement. They transform the songs, and play their part in this career defining opus. So to some extent, does LA based producer Maston, who played a part in the production process and added effects on this genre-melting album.
Wild Honey combine elements of sixties sunshine pop and psychedelia, with tropicalia, indie pop and dream pop. Sometimes, a rockier sound briefly emerges, but mostly a much more poppy sound is to the fore. Obviously, Wild Honey is another band that have been influenced by the Beach Boys. However, The Byrds and Big Star have both influenced Wild Honey. So too have Stereolab, who have influenced Wild Honey’s last two albums. Another band that may have influenced Wild Honey’s brand of perfect pop include Prefab Sprout. There’s many similarities between the two bands.
Both Prefab Sprout and Wind Honey are purveyors of carefully crafted, hook-laden perfect pop. Just like Prefab Sprout, Wild Honey create cerebral, melodic and memorable music. It’s veers between joyous, uplifting and anthemic, to ruminative wistful and emotive. Other times the music is beautiful, captivating and tugs at the heartstrings. Especially when Guillermo Farré lays bare his soul on Torres Blancas, which was recently released by Lovemonk Records. It finds Wild Honey reach new heights.
Quite simply, Torres Blancas which is the latest, is also the greatest album of Wild Honey’s three album career. It surpasses the quality of Wild Honey’s two previous albums, Epic Handshakes and A Bear Hug and Big Flash. They were merely the musical equivalent of an amuse-bouche. By comparison, Torres Blancas is a musical feast that comprises only the very finest of ingredients. When they’re combined, the result is Torres Blancas, a carefully crafted album of melodic and memorable perfect pop from Wild Honey, which is a career-defining mini-masterpiece.
Wild Honey-Torres Blancas.