On Jupiter, Brooklyn trio Upper Wilds voyage deeper into the cosmos, mapping out the overwhelming enormity of the universe in soaring hooks and blistering noise. The third installment in the trio’s exploration of our solar system looks to its largest planet for a daring exploration of scale and perspective. New York underground mainstay Dan Friel’s melodic gifts and wry lyricism are magnified and propelled ever outwards by the thundering rhythm section of bassist Jason Binnick and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher, all immersed in rippling fuzz. Just like its namesake, Jupiter stands as Upper Wilds most colossal offering in their catalog. The raw power of their music is amplified to titanic proportions, sky-clawing riffs invoking the sheer awe that the heavens inspire.
Throughout Jupiter, Friel makes canny use of shifting perspectives to make sense of the universe’s infinite expanse and our place within it. The buzz-saw groove of “Drifters” mirrors the relentless forward-motion of the NASA Voyager space probes pushing out to the edges of the known universe, Friel musing on the likelihood that they outlast the existence of the earth and our sun. “Short Centuries” pays homage to the oldest married couple on Earth, Julio Mora and Waldramina Quinteros, and love’s ability to echo out through the eons, rising from a slow shuffle to ecstatic peaks bolstered by guest vocals from Katie Eastburn (KATIEE) and Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers). Album centerpiece “10’9”” liquifies the trio’s fizzing distortion into molten sludge in an ode to the tallest person on Earth, still a mere speck from the perspective of the cosmos. “Books About UFOs” turns instead to the legacy of science-fiction in punk music, their bounding cover of the Husker Dü original amplified by Tobias’ screeching saxophone. The juxtaposition of strange true stories of the human experience alongside grand interstellar narratives brings the enigmas and mystery of space home to the more familiar and mundane.
More than any Upper Wilds album before it, Jupiter makes humanity’s endeavors in space exploration an inseparable part of its sonic DNA . Recorded with Travis Harrison at his studio Serious Business in Brooklyn (Guided By Voices, Dope Body, The Men), the trio’s live recordings are augmented throughout with found sounds insipred by the Voyager Golden Record – a double LP launched with the 1977 Voyager probe spanning field recordings to compositions by J.S. Bach and Laurie Spiegel. “Greetings” opens with greetings to the universe in 55 languages, a cascading choir calling out to the void. “Voyager” blends field recordings of wild animal calls and morse-code bleeps into a rollicking pulse before erupting into galloping riffs. “Permanent Storm” opens with the sounds of rolling storms, echoing Jupiter’s eternal storm aka the Eye of Jupiter’s unending turbulence in its searing guitars. While the Voyager Golden Record’s intended audience may have originally been the extra-terrestrial beings that might encounter the probe, Upper Wilds bring cosmos-seeking sounds back to earth with a record made for and about humanity.
Jupiter finds comfort in space’s unending expanse. Far from feeling defeated by the smallness of our existence in the face of an uncaring universe and ever-expanding infinite, Upper Wilds capture the power of creativity to extend our lifespans far beyond our limited time on earth.
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