The Wandering Lake is an one man show with Fayetteville, Arkansas-based Brian Kupillas as the show runner. A folk project at its core, Kupillas has swiped through an array of influences, from his timid minimal debut In Passage to the psych-folk on Maj Deegan. Given the lack of hesitation to experiment, many of Kupillas records have a discernible eeriness.
For his fifth LP (and second for the year) From James’ Garden is a culmination of what Kupillas’ output has been thus far. Still ingrained with folk music as its foundation, From James’ Garden still has a fair amount of experimentation but reverting back to the minimalist mindset he has explored on his debut record, In Passage. Given the record’s title, the overall sound alludes to nature, unburdened by the dregs of city living.
Soundtracking the end of everyone’s slumber, “Field Notes (Vibrations On A Theme)” is a brisk blend of tersely strummed chords and low synths. On a pleasant ebb and flow of flurried and sparse strumming, the crack-of-dawn anthem effortlessly soothes with its serene makeup. On more of a contemporary plain, “Seven Sisters” feels closer to a traditional folk number. Almost akin to a grief-stricken Hamilton Leithauser, Kupillas’ vocals are hard to make out, but adds some heartiness to the nature inspired collage.
The somber “Color Peels” shifts from the ebullient sprightly manner of the first two tracks and heads towards more of a dispirited direction. Along with the mood shift, Kupillas vocals take on darker qualities, sounding like a dejected M. Ward. The mood rebounds quickly with the next track with antsy guitars on “I Think I’ll Take A Walk” which are reminiscent of the complex melodies that are often heard on Grizzly Bear records minus the dense complexion.
Coming to a full circle, “Monday Morning Blues” is another fitting soundtrack to a new day. The hearty closer fringes on the dividing line that makes it either lo-fi or folk. Lacking in the overt briskness “Field Notes” and “Seven Sisters” possess, the muddled lo-fi manages to edge out tranquil vibrations and caffeinated buzzes sponsored by mildly intense ambient drone.