The Great Bewilderment is a series of overlapping and multifaceted ambitious songs written following Vanderwolf’s ejection from the UK and subsequent nomadic wanderings. In a series of mishaps and unforeseen circumstances, including a global pandemic, Vanderwolf finally sought refuge in the sunny climes of Los Angeles, where he currently resides and where much of the new album was written and recorded.
The music was first developed and rehearsed between Max, drummer Angie Scarpa and bassist, H. Chris Roy high in the hills of Laurel Canyon, and usually outside to avoid Covid infection. As the pandemic subsided, guitarist and recording engineer Tim Sonnenfeld was added to the line-up.
‘’We started with 16 songs and Angie was tasked with whittling them down to a tight 7. But then Love Stay Strong and Gratitude Suite emerged– and we just had to have those included in the collection.’’
When it came time to go into the studio, Vanderwolf reached out to long-time friend, producer/keyboardist Dennis Martin. Phil Alloco also came from NYC to provide some additional guitar and crucial moral support. For 9 days at Red Star Studios in SIlver Lake, Los Angeles, we recorded the bulk of this record– much of it performed and recorded live.
‘’Even a few of the vocals you hear on this record were recorded live and in one take.’ Additional overdubs, we’re done at Bunker Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Special guest appearances include Portishead’s Adrian Utley whose guitar solo and moog on ‘’Gaza’’ brings an incredible power to the song. For those more familiar with his restrained brooding melodicism, this solo may come as a surprise. “I wanted to hear Adrian rip a solo,” laughs Vanderwolf. ‘’I’d heard Adrian play like this before in various projects. I know his capabilities and influences. I wanted him to step out boldly for this.’’
Paul Merton, musical director for Brian Wilson, brings an incredibly rich harmonica to the Book of Dread. ‘’I’d known Paul from my time producing Brian’s WIlson’s Pet Sounds and Smile concerts in London and as soon as I’d written that part I heard Paul’s beautiful musicality in it.
The result encompasses an album of the sweeping grandeur of A’ Coming Home and The Book Of Dread, to the delicate, filmic despair of Sweep Away The Shards, The 6.09’s futuristic folk treatise on trials of work, Love Stay Strong’s redemptive rock, the soulful swagger of The Here And Now, before Gratitude Suite ends the album with a howling defiance.
“I’m not an artist who feels overly compelled to keep my music in the same narrow space,” notes Vanderwolf drily. “Some bands have a laser focus honing in on the same idea and repeating it with modest variation, but most of my writing is a reflection on what I’m learning – musically and otherwise. It’s a reflection of my emotions and experiences. Therefore, it’s as varied as my emotions and experiences. A song like, The Book Of Dread might be an exercise in developing my harmonic sensibility, chord voicing or rhythmic exploration. But it also might be a mythic tale of how relationships are pre-programmed to self-destruct due to pre-existing pathologies. That kind of subject matter benefits from this kind of expansive approach.”