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The Wilderness of Manitoba, The Windmill, Brixton, July 31st 2012

August 19, 2012

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing the Toronto-based band the Wilderness of Manitoba three times in the space of a few days. As I said then, they appeared in this country on the crest of a mutli-part harmony wave created by the success of Fleet Foxes the previous year. To suggest that they’d jumped on a bandwagon would be unfair, though, as they’d carved out a very particular niche for themselves – cello, singing bowls and a female voice made theirs a different sound from most of those earnest, bearded bands.

In the years since, they’ve lost the services of singer Melissa Dalton but gained those of vocalist and violinist Amanda Balsys and drummer Sean Lancaric. Clearly these changes were going to affect their sound and, sure enough, they’re a more rounded-out band now, with a rockier, more indie edge. Most of tonight’s set at the Windmill consisted of new songs and for the most part I enjoyed them a lot. Frontman Will Whitwham is a genial leader and an expert songwriter. In fact, I think the songs are stronger than those of the past, though the rustic harmonies are just as fine.

After the show, I said ‘hi’ to Will and we talked about the band’s activities since we last spoke a year or so ago. Will was keen to get their new album, Island Of Echoes, out there, but the band is looking for someone to release it in the UK and Europe, where there’s plenty of ‘punter’ interest but none from record people.

If they were a UK band, these days I’d suggest just pressing, printing and releasing it themselves, while making sure all their media antennae (Facebook, mailing lists, Twitter, internet radio etc) were at full twitch to promote the CD as much as possible. But if you’re a band from across the ocean, that’s a very difficult proposition. Life’s hard for musicians these days – a theme I’m sure I’ll touch on more in the future.
Finally, for your delectation, here’s their closing freakout from the show, courtesy of MrHiderN:

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