Back in 1992, the under-appreciated Blonde Vinyl Recordings put out the criminally overlooked Sylph by a virtually unknown group called Writ on Water. Fusing a dark, goth-rock sound with dreary atmospherics and soundscapes, it was probably a little too much for the general Christian market at the time (which was inundated with D.C. Talk and Audio Adrenaline, if I remember correctly). As a result, the group faded into obscurity, apparently content to play hockey instead of record new music. I was convinced I’d never hear from them again, until Jeff Mackey e-mailed me out of the blue to tell me about the band’s upcoming releases. The band released the entire Sylph album, as well as various demos on MP3.Com. As a result, the band was inspired to write again, and Pelléas is the result.
If you’ve heard Sylph, you’ll know exactly what Pelléas sounds like. If there is any difference between the two releases, its that the noisy experimental passages that filtered throughout Sylph are absent on Pelléas. Pelléas sounds more rooted in dark, goth-influenced pop. The loss of two members has only slightly affected the overall sound. If anything, it sounds a little more synthetic, especially in the drums. But it doesn’t harm Writ on Water’s music too much, because their emphasis has always been on texture and ambience. Most of the time, Mackey’s content to let his voice float around, ghostlike, in the background. However, he’s not afraid to sound brooding and menacing, which adds an edge to Writ on Water’s atmospheric approach.
Although I once thought I’d never hear from these guys again, I was thankfully proven wrong. Writ on Water has returned, and it sounds like there’s more to come in the future. Although the sound on their latest effort hasn’t developed too much from Sylph (which is well worth the time it takes to find or download), their sound was so good on that album that I’m not one to complain. If you’re a fan of Projekt Records and their roster of darkwave and atmospheric artists, or really wish you could get into goth music but don’t want to put up with the genre’s posturing and melodramaticism, Pelléas is for you. It may have taken them 7 years, but songs like “Greyest” (with it’s ringing guitars, drifting vocals, and a bassline that came straight from The Cure’s Faith) prove that some things are worth waiting for.