Here’s a fun little game: spend a few minutes charting the musical progression of Johnathon Ford’s Unwed Sailor project. Sure, it’s technically remained an instrumental “post-rock” outfit, but the form that’s taken has changed quite a bit over the years — from the solid, graceful compositions of 1998’s Firecracker EP and 2001’s The Faithful Anchor, to the whimsical orchestrations on 2003’s The Marionette and the Music Box, to the more experimental, ambient excursions of 2006’s Circles.
Put simply, you don’t really know what you’re going to hear when you listen to a new Unwed Sailor release, only that it’ll be interesting and thoughtfully composed, which brings us to Take a Minute. The EP’s title track comes closest to the “traditional” Unwed Sailor sound and lulled me into a sense of familiarity, but “Internal Reality” soon broke that illusion with spacey synths, stuttering rhythms, and turbulent guitars.
“The Headlands” is a haunting rush of shadowy gamelan tones, dark guitar drifts, and otherworldly textures that evokes a nocturnal journey through unfamiliar lands. Meanwhile, “Night Nest” may be the most abrasive song in Unwed Sailor’s repertoire, with twisted, distorted guitar scrapes, wails, and tones colliding with industrial beats.
Take a Minute ends with the masterful “The Other Way,” which ventures even deeper into the shadowy territory of “The Headlands.” Spectral notes flare out against a foreboding atmospheric backdrop while solemn strings give the song a classic slow-burning Godspeed You! Black Emperor feel. Occasional guitar strums send some shimmers of light through the song, but their contrast with the surrounding darkness only adds to the cinematic foreboding.
This sounds terrible, but I often forget that Unwed Sailor is still around making music, thanks in part to Ford’s seemingly constant involvement in other projects (e.g., Native Lights). But looked at positively, that makes each new Unwed Sailor release a delightful little surprise. (Thanks, by the way, to Ryan Ruppe for the head’s up.) That’s doubly so for Take a Minute, which, despite running less than 25 minutes, is particularly ambitious in scope and sonic diversity (think Grails’ wonderfully mercurial Chalice Hymnal).