Wailing Urei - Is It Me? (Album Review)

Technology, much like nature, is fallible. Though modern technology and cloud computing promise accurate data representation and secure archiving, the truth of existence is that nothing is sacred, and even the most robust and protected information is liable to be corrupted. One need only look to the relevant example of Twitter, which has been marred by bugs and poor UX since its take over by a billionaire who shan't ever be named on this website. One artist aware of the unreliability of everything is experimental musician and producer Wailing Urei, the stage name of London-based artist Kyle Newman. Newman creates surreal and atmospheric music that seems to audibly degenerate as it evolves, existing in the in-between moment of creation and destruction. 

Newman injects his compositions with a glacial sagacity marked by searchingly delayed percussion, soft guitar phrases, out-there synths, and sprechgesang that culminates in a style of moody industrial soft-rock that is both daringly original and decidedly nostalgic. There is a tepid beauty in the closeness with which Newman approaches the listener, drawing them into his linear world of mercurial heights and emotional depths. 

"Drone" opens the collection with rising percussion that gently frames textured synths and spoken word before woozy, slightly out-of-tune guitars join to deliver a disorienting atmosphere that feels like falling from exhaustion and finding comfort in cold concrete. On "Sleep", Newman ruminates on the suffering of waking life ("Please let me sleep / "Tired of the sun / The days it brings / Leaves me undone") as he creates a warm security blanket to salve the aches of existence. There is indeed a sense of escapism to these recordings. The scant artist bio on the project's Bandcamp page reads "sounds to give up to". While nihilistic tendencies are present in the nonchalance with which Newman treats the clarity of his songs, this album, as a whole, may border more on the existential side of defeatism, with Newman giving meaning to futile emotions with compositions that create boundaryless landscapes. 

"Ash" marries vaporwave-Esque VSTs with carefully treated drum programming and a disconcerting vocal approach that sounds like Scott Walker if he had taken a handful of Xanax. Yet, for all the experimentalism and thematically dark subject matter, there are treasures of sound waiting to be found across the album's ten tracks. For example, on "Howling", Wailing Urei buries sophisticated brass sounds under his emotive guitar playing and intoxicating croon. Likewise, the brief "Barcodes on a Flickering Screen" fuses a delicate and melodic piano line with more aggressive sounds. As the album progresses, it appears to firmly find its feet instead of teetering out. "Trilate" employs the same toolkit as the tracks preceding it but stretches out the canvas with blurred structures that seek sedation. 

The epic instrumental ambience of "Future" bellows with low-end and sepulchral notions, while on the album highlight "Ode To", Newman appears to reach some level of accessibility with uplifting chords, gorgeously restrained vocals, and snappy percussion that fuses in an alluring stew of electronic shoegaze. The closing track, "Untitled", is perhaps the most rhythm-heavy cut on the collection, and its psychedelics could feel just at home on the dancefloor of a hipster-populated bar as it could the speakers of a drug den.


Is It Me? juxtaposes the natural nuances of human effort (guitar, voice, composition) with the more straightforward and easily manageable vehicle of experimental electronica, though Newman ostensibly juxtaposes these disparate elements by showing how they cooperate at the point of destruction. For that reason, there's a fragility to this album. The sounds never get too raucous or relaxed, but there's a sense that, at any point, it could go either way. This makes for an entertaining listen in which fans of experimental electronica and darkwave can find shelter from the less desirable aspects of existence.