Agitated Atmosphere: Wes Tirey - Journeyer​/​Forward, Melancholy Dream

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
07/17/2015
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Wes Tirey.Musical historians still ensconced in the psychedelic wonderland of the 1960’s still speak of Dylan going electric as a pivotal strike within the folk movement. That solitary function of Dylan’s boredom with the same old sound to convey his relevant imagery was also the kick start to an era in which the music began to match the message. While folk’s humble sound was carved on railways and migrant camps that served the embattled American heartland during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Progressivism had changed the meaning of the songs even if the messaging was the same. Going electric wasn’t a move toward pop, it was a move to make the message the mainstream for a little while longer.

As folk’s grip on public interest dwindled during the 70’s and 80’s, it grew more fractured and less functional. It became just another genre that had a predetermined quality and tempo to the casual observer, until a modern Renaissance (re)discovered the many splendors and quirks of folk. It wasn’t just a rambling man with a guitar and a story, but a wealthy catalog of regional noise and vibrant personalities mixing with each other until a melting pot of influences cooked down into what was as folk -- at least the very best of it. This is the spirit captured by Ohioan Wes Tirey’s latest; a ragged piece of folk that once more takes the message and places it in a new vessel. A release that explores the heritage without being beholden to repeating its mistakes.

Journeyer​/​Forward, Melancholy Dream is the delta to folk’s many forking rivers. Tirey rides the river like Mark Twain, turning his adventures into troubadour stories with rich melodies and disorienting noise. “Akhnilo Blues” is as traditional as folk gets; Tirey slowly strumming out a melody in an empty room, channeling the ghosts of another era to remind us that the ill we are living in now is a sickness born ages ago. “Old Ohio Blues” is the next iteration, drenching the soulful warble of Tirey’s voice in whispered white noise and ominous drones. “The Body’s Better” is the final folk reinvention, bursting with a hard edged melody that extols God as the scourge of Man. Yet Tirey does what Dylan did so often after being pegged as a turncoat: return to the roots when least expected. The cassette’s B-side is folk deconstructionism, Tirey returning to his solitary space to play heartfelt rhythms that echo off the walls and cause the floor to creak and the guitar to shake.

Much like the messengers before him, Tirey is unafraid of the repercussions of ruining folk’s tradition for its only tradition is reinvention. The genre’s greatest property is that is can evolve with the times to be as relevant and as storied as needed. It gets no better than Journeyer​/​Forward, Melancholy Dream in telling the whole story of folk’s strange and tiring odyssey.

Justin Spicer is the editor of Cerberus at Tiny Mix Tapes and contributes to online and print publications such as Ad Hoc and Cuepoint. You can follow him and his work via Twitter.

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