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Sky’s the limit for Wilco - Metro US

Sky’s the limit for Wilco

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Wilco plays the Malkin Bowl on Aug. 20.

Though founded on spry roots-rock, Wilco has always focused on the importance of silence.

The experimental country-rockers have long been interested in a minimal aesthetic, balancing melody and stillness while occasionally rocking out.

Largely assembled during post-production, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was their first album to unite skeletal melodies and whispered lyrics with a sense of expansiveness. Bassist John Stirratt explained the group was influenced by 1970s Kraut Rock, and wanted to recreate the movement’s interest in space and sonic texture. A Ghost Is Born brought those ideas into an organic setting.

“Around Ghost [Is Born], we were listening to more minimal music — Neu! records and Kraut rock,” he said. “[We looked for the] space between beats — the sparseness — [and] I think gravitated towards the musical parts coming in and out.”

The group’s new album, Sky Blue Sky, places the focus squarely on the players themselves – especially singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy, whose vocals dominate many tracks. This development comes alongside a new lineup, with experimental jazz/rock guitarist Nels Cline and guitarist/keyboardist Pat Sansone now on board. Along with technical expertise and musical ideas, the lineup birthed a newfound confidence — a confidence that comes with age, Stirratt said with a laugh.

“Ghost was purely organic…The idea was to sound like people playing in a room,” he said. “[Sky Blue Sky] came out very unadorned…The first thing I thought of was that it was a triumph for Jeff vocally.”

When recording, instead of working with post-production technology, the group relied on their sense of hearing to inform songs. After carefully listening to one another play, band members jumped in to play their parts.

“That’s the advantage of bigger band,” said Stirratt. “[As a] four piece, it sometimes felt like we were trying to fill up space. It’s always easier to pull back [with a bigger band].”

rob.mcmahon@metronews.ca

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