Wreche (2017)

Wreche (2017)


John Steven Morgan--Pianos and Vocals
Barret Baumgart--Drums

Recorded at Studio 459 in Los Angeles by John Steven Morgan & Crosby Morgan.

All songs written by John Steven Morgan.

Mixed and Mastered by Colin Marston at Menegroth, The Thousand Caves, Queens, NY.

Art & Design by Max Moriyama & Athena Wisotsky. 

Fragile Branch Records, 2017


photo | Nestor Guevara

There’s nothing here but heat and dust, dust and light, time and space—no great upheaval beyond the mute accumulation of aeons, no setback beyond the routine catastrophe of morning sunrise. Daylight sears and returns every speck of rock and sand, every pore and follicle of human pride and daily grime, each miserable stick of charred inedible plant life back to the perfect sterility of lunar space. What passion could be conceived here, what sin, what germ? In the shade it’s 129 degrees. On the asphalt it’s 180. In such climate the body can lose a gallon of water in just a few hours. As the brain begins to coagulate it envisions water everywhere. Across the road, the dead lattice of the dwarf trees twists, blurs and pulses like seaweed inhaling the crests of coastal waves. The undulating layers of fossilized strata stain the cliffs with the leak and drip of virgin springs. The highway mirage ripples cold with alpine refreshment. The pale granite domes high above the scrub pines scream of melting snow. The coyote rotting off the roadside reeks of healing sulfur hot springs. Water— the last thing you’ll find and the only thing you need. 


The next phase of a long-standing collaboration between pianist John Steven Morgan and drummer Barret Baumgart. 

Wreche remains consistent with the duo's earlier minimalist exploration of piano and drum derived gloom however this debut finds the two pushing even harder at the possibilities of genre, luring staccato keys and crushing blast beats into a previously uncharted terrain in which black metal and classical vie for privilege, hope, and death in smog laden basin of suntanned predation and persistent misery. 

Artwork, Photography, & Design by Max Moriyama & Athena Wisotsky. 

These collisions of sound and style, and the interplay between piano and drums, prove to be immersive over the length of the album precisely because they’re so unusual, so well-conceived, so fascinating, and performed with such remarkable virtuosity.

Moreover, the album is arranged in a way that inexorably draws the listener deep down into this dark well of spells. You will miss much of its animating spirit, and much of its impact, if you don’t start at the beginning and stay with it straight through to the end.
— No Clean Singing

Artwork, Photography, & Design by Max Moriyama and Athena Wisotsky

The mechanical and almost metallic sound of the piano lends itself well to the aura of dark disharmony that looms over the entirety of Wreche, whilst Morgan’s vocals retain the ice-cold causticity that paints the picture of the wintry, sylvan landscape depicted on so many a black metal album cover. Just over a minute into Angel City, however, marks the point at which Wreche begin to tease their classical influences to the listener, and attest to their willingness and ability to push past the black metal archetype and delve into waters that are not defined solely by the peculiarity of substituting guitars for a solo piano. A crushing drum fill gives way to a burst of booming bass notes that are played with the damper pedal to the floor the entire time, creating a crescendoing wall of rumbling dissonance. Once Baumgart’s triplet hammer blasts enter, the right hand of the piano penetrates with a whirlwind of tumbling keys that descend into a convulsion of atonal accents, before the duo seamlessly work their way into the succeeding passage, wherein Morgan’s piano work reaches its most emotionally stirring throughout the whole piece. It perhaps wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this descent is evocative of the work of piano virtuosos who surely inspired Morgan in his playing style. Particularly, the polyphonic texture of Angel City, as well as the chaotic closing track Vessel, with the rapid arpeggios in the treble clef being supported by the heavy left hand, could potentially take cues from the stamina-focussed studies by Frédéric Chopin, with Étude Op. 25, No. 11 — whose informal name of Winter Wind is amusingly fitting for a black metal aesthetic — coming to mind as testing the pianist’s endurance and technique in a similar fashion. Indeed, the inspiration that Morgan clearly pulls from classical music runs much deeper than merely surface level, and a great deal of the success of his compositions is the care taken to marry the most applicable elements of black metal and solo piano classical music in order to effectively unite two genres that are antithetical in many regards.
— Diamond in the Groove

photo | Wes Marsala

Artwork, Photography, & Design by Max Moriyama and Athena Wisotsky

photo | Hawa Arsala

Simply by using a benign technical choice at first [drums & piano], they give their music an extraordinarily vast dimension, perhaps as vast as the music itself. Sadly, the album is slightly “technical”, but when you see what the two Americans can do with a piano and drums, you resolve that talent is the only thing that is really coming through in this scenario. Wreche sublimates their vision of music to offer us a first album of colossal quality. A fantastic masterpiece.
— Heidnir Webzine (France)
Stumbling over the cresting lip of the dune, the traveler scries his oasis, a bastion in the sand. Its once grand facade cracks in the throbbing sun, perpetually battling harsh years of sand and gale. Worn doors slam shut as the traveler steals away into the cool of its ruined depths, unwittingly caging himself inside. The ancient nightmare within will never permit his escape. Wreche offers a spyglass into that bloody hall. They rip the spine from traditional black metal, instead selecting only a piano, a drum kit, and the traveler’s tormented cries to do their bidding. Their self-titled debut maniacally splices theatricality and madness to forge a new path through the darkness.
— Angry Metal Guy

Artwork, Photography, & Design by Max Moriyama and Athena Wisotsky

I keep saying this, but I’ll say it again: for those willing to step over boundaries, black metal is the genre most ripe for innovation. There are some that will argue that BM should remain kvlt and retread familiar ground for all eternity, but I can think of nothing less counterculture and “black metal” than towing such a line. Enter Wreche. Not only is this band willing to abandon convention, they abandon guitar altogether. With only the power of John’s classical piano performance and righteous howls backed by Barrett’s powerful drumming, Wreche proves that ravishing grimness has little to do with distortion.
— Metal Trenches (mid-year best list 2017. #4)
The piano is taken over by a creature that has lost their vocal language and is desperate to communicate with us...like a possessed Thelonious Monk...
It isn’t easy listening, I have to say, overall it is like Prokofiev played backwards during a thunderstorm
— Inhale the Heavy