The Pineapple Thief’s eleventh record comes as an aftershock of 2015 as a great year for atmospheric prog rock. Bands like Riverside and The Dear Hunter released records that tickled the fancy of bigger audiences with more accessible songwriting and more subdued sounds, something which The Pineapple Thief have been doing for a longer time now. In comparison to earlier material, Your Wilderness features a leaner mix of chorus-driven songs with a more open production. Individual instruments do not clutter together here, but instead they are left to roam free, giving the album an aura of spaciousness.
RELEASE DATE: 12 August 2016 LABEL: KSCOPE
This spaciousness is generally filled with a mood of melancholy and despair, not in a desperate sense, but rather with an air of resignation. The songwriting is deliberate and fragile, with the instrumentation often swinging back to a bare minimum, before swelling again, like a rising tide. Backed by ex-Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, Bruce Soord leads his band through a variety of moods and feelings, ranging from the gently introspective No Man’s Land, through the uptempo Tear You Up to the spread-out contemplation of The Final Thing on Your Mind. The appearance of woodwind player John Helliwell (Supertramp, The Alan Bown Set) on Fend for Yourself is a great addition to the record, even though Soord leaves the clarinet player little room to stretch his legs. With just a short solo and a few ad-libs near the end, this is where the album comes just short. This is not the only case where instruments or songs are not able to come to their full potential due to them being cut short (cf. the end of Tear You Up). I know that Soord did this on purpose – in contrast with his previous material – and I’m not calling for long extended intros and endings, but a few more seconds here and there would have done this record a great deal of justice.
Your Wilderness consists of eight songs that are loosely held together by two concepts. The Wilderness lives in all of us. It refers to the human condition, and to the anguish and amazement that stem from the endless possibilities that are presented to us in this life. Next to that, Your Wilderness talks about human relationship – in the words of Bruce Soord “separation, estrangement and reconciliation”. Whether those words refer to a romantic relationship, a friendship or family ties is unclear, but that’s not the matter here. Your Wilderness speaks of life in its universal form, the life that is of importance to everybody.
Giving credit where credit is due, The Pineapple Thief have absolutely done a fine job with this record. Never have they been able to fascinate more than with this material, and even though the songs are accessible – even radio-friendly – the album takes its time to completely sink in thanks to the presence of sonic depth and intellectual substance. This album has an extensive concept, but this might be lost on the more casual listener who simply puts on this record to listen to it just as a collection of songs. The loose affiliation of the tracks with the universal theme, as well as the composition of radio-friendly rock songs might make the album’s message slip under the radar of the inattentive listener. This is not a terrible issue. Your Wilderness is an intriguing, well-written record that might be enjoyed casually, but it does the album a disservice to not regard it within the scope of its theme.