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A Wingless King (2008)

Credits: 

Words and music by Jeff MacKey
except The laughter ceases by Daniel Johnson (lyrical fragment by Jeff MacKey)
and Bittersuite by Daniel Johnson and Jeff MacKey
Mixed, produced, engineered and mastered by Writ on Water
Special thanks to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Art direction by Daniel Johnson
Additional art by Black Eye Nabi

Jeff MacKey: Vocals, guitars, bass, drum programming, piano
Daniel Johnson: Bass, flute, voice, valve trombone, drum programming, symphonic manipulation, toy keyboard, bells and whistles
with
Jared Mackey: Drums
Jon Sonnenberg: Piano

Band Notes: 

This project began following the completion of Pelléas in late 2000. In the process of recording the Pelléas tracks, all of which dated back to the mid-’90s, new material started coming together. This album represents a group of songs/pieces that emerged from that time period. The bulk of the recording was done during 2001, carrying over into early 2002, only to have the project then sit untouched for more than five years despite being close to completion. Some finishing touches were added in late 2007, and this is the result.

June 2008 – Tangzine

Writ on Water makes music for imaginary movies... the jazzy bass and Eastern melody of ‘The Laughter Ceases’ brings peaceful Japanese gardens to mind, instead. This particularly scenic one is followed by ‘Wondertime,’ which sounds like it is describing the innately beautiful curiosity of a small child... Of special note is ‘Dead Give Away’ which combines a guitar line straight out of early The Cure recordings, along with a heartfelt melancholy vocal that would make The Blue Nile proud. Then with ’Rain Over Unmapped Sea,’ the group comes off like Bowie at his Eno-produced best. Moments like these are when A Wingless King truly takes flight.

April 2008 – Decapolis

The lush ‘A Midsummer Wish’ and ‘Last Night of Her Sleep’ are immensely rewarding instrumental tracks that give you reason to go back and listen to the song over and over again as you discover something new each time. ‘Ancestor’ is a mixture of driving guitars and haunting vocals that dare the listener to not hit repeat and could not possibly be forgotten as this song simply begs for radio attention.

September 2008 – Opus

On songs like “Dead Give Away” and the dreamy closing track “Things Only Heaven Knows”, it coalesces into something quite spell-binding. All of which was something I was more or less prepared for... “Ancestor”, with its opening chants and industrial undertones that give way to searing, gothic guitars (somewhere, Mike VanPortfleet is proud/jealous) and crashing drums, took me aback (in a good way), while the lyrics conjure up the sort of existential sturm und drang you find in Joy Division's finest moments.

October 2008 – Down The Line Magazine

From the first track, you can tell that this is music made for a journey, created so that you can just sit back and let the notes envelope you. Ambience, distortion, echoes, hooks, nostalgia, and mystery all mix together to create a sonic refuge – perfect for relaxing after a long day (or maybe even setting a good mood for a new day). “Ancestor” has a plodding rhythm section surrounded by music that is at the same time aggressive, dreamy, intense, and nostalgic. This song is followed by “The Laughter Ceases,” a track built around some fancy bass guitar work and minimalist vocals. This is one of those albums that just oozes coolness because you can tell everyone involved didn't care about trendiness, but making an artistic statement...

January 2009 – Crumbs in the Butter

I first heard the track 'Ancestor' whilst browsing through Myspace's often murky depths. Ancestor was the sound of a mushroom cloud of exploding guitars that sent a tsunami of beautifully dark shades to the sky. The track is JAMC worshiping deafening echoes of Bunnymen, whilst Slowdive twist the effects pedals in a deafening breeze. A brooding Shoegaze beast that is five minutes and twenty three seconds of the best chorus you have ever heard.

February 2009 – [SIC] Magazine

‘Ancestor’ really does have all the wow factor you could possibly wish for... a shock too after the albums pastoral first two tracks. The vaporous, echoing vocal reminds me of Craig Lorentson from the group Lowlife or Hooky circa New Order's Movement. Then a sci-fi guitar slices you open like a laser scalpel... The tribal incantations of Dead Can Dance permeate ‘The Laughter Ceases’, The Cure are evidenced by ‘Dead Give Away’ and ‘Wondertime’ is a spectral Morrissey (if The Smiths had been on Sarah Records or early Creation).

March 2009 – Terrascope Online

Deeply reverberated vocals, Fripp-like guitar lines and mid-to-slow tempos give much of the music a wistful, shoegazing sound. Elsewhere, uptempo cuts take hold, such as the dramatic “Ancestor” and the gritty “Rain Over Unmapped Sea.” “The Laughter Ceases” is an oriental sounding chant-groove with great bass and flute. Really good, this track. Other cuts, such as “Wondertime” and “Dead Give Away” suggest a less electronic, more soulful New Order. A very good album overall.