Origin: Montréal, Québec
Was I the Wave? is the long-awaited sophomore offering from Montreal musician and producer Miracle Fortress (Graham Van Pelt). Miracle Fortress gained international recognition in 2007 for his debut album Five Roses, a unique collection of psychedelic shoegazey-pop that garnered high praise from numerous outlets. The Guardian gave it five stars and called it “gorgeous from start to finish,” Spin proclaimed “Montreal’s latest revelation is a pure pop pick me up” with four stars; and the Montreal Gazette called it “an indie-rock / synth-pop masterpiece,” bestowing five stars. Indeed, it became a much-loved record with something of a cult-following, for those in the know. It was also short-listed for Canada’s Polaris Prize that year, alongside Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and Feist’s The Reminder.
Though Van Pelt has been busy since the release of Five Roses with his more extroverted band Think About Life, Miracle Fortress has been relatively quiet, until now. While it bears little stylistic resemblance to his debut, Was I the Wave? is in some ways a similar offering, insofar as it takes us on a trip deep into Van Pelt’s unique musical mind. There’s not much of an argument for calling this record indie-rock—it’s essentially an electronic offering—but existing fans won’t find it too difficult to hear Van Pelt’s signature habit-forming hooks swimming among the big synths, and deep beats.
Like Five Roses, it was created in isolation from top-to-bottom, with Van Pelt serving as composer, arranger, performer, producer, and engineer. Taken as a product of his occasionally hermitic temperament, many of tracks here express themes of alienation, anonymity, or the desire for the assurances of intimacy. The record’s first side keeps a deliberately crowded atmosphere, with moments of pressure, anxiety, and relief. The second side is more open and personal, as the production offers breathing room while the lyrics aspire to a more direct narrative of domestic comforts, or resistance to social overexposure. Was I The Wave? nevertheless functions as a running sequence, though the A and B sides respectively reflect the darker and lighter moods of Miracle Fortress. High volume and repeat listens recommended.