Andrew Wyatt began his career in music years ago in his native city of New York where he made a name for himself playing with Joan Wasser and members of the Jeff Buckley Band in Black Beetle, as well as Michael Tighe’s post-punk revival band The A.M. After some “eventful” years involved in pop songwriting, his curiosity led him down the garden path and he decided he would try his luck writing music for an orchestra. He says, “Against my better judgement I became obsessed with doing this, so I decided I would confine my mania to one month.” Armed with a tiny hourglass and an out-of-date version of Apple’s Logic music program, Wyatt went to work. He knew only one city could be home to this ambition, Prague. His reasoning? “The least expensive place to do strings,” he jokes. Upon arrival he realized the language barrier was twofold. He spoke not a word of Czech and none of the players could make sense of his feverishly notated scores. Then, things got better.
Wyatt’s first solo full-length, Descender, finds Wyatt accessing the pop storyteller side of himself while also marking a departure from his recent work with Grammy-winning production duo Bloodshy & Avant in Miike Snow. It’s a lush song cycle that marries timeless instrumentation with deep confession and forward-thinking production, making classical sounds seem thoroughly modern while allowing their untempered natural beauty to still shine.
A darkened, huddled romanticism permeates the record’s sweeping string arrangements and Wyatt’s vulnerable vocals, hinting at beauty observed, already conquered, but unable to be re-captured or kept afloat. Much like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s depiction of Gatsby, one gets the feeling of staring at the green light across the bay, wishing you could just get closer to it even if (or especially if) it means getting far away from your home, your wares, your memories. Sonically, the sprawl of the orchestra calls up Sufjan Stevens’ expansive pop if it had a slicker, world-weary and love-hungry traveler behind the helm, focusing a deeper lens rather than a wider one on interpersonal connection.
Though he’s had recent forays into the concert hall composing Royal Ballet of London’s Carbon Life– a collaborative piece with Mark Ronson, Alison Mosshart, and choreographer Wayne McGregor, Descender marks another personal milestone for Wyatt: these are his first works entirely written, orchestrated, and produced by himself. The pieces were performed by Wyatt and Prague’s Philharmonic Orchestra as conducted by Adam Klemens, with additional appearances by John Herndon (Tortoise), Brad Truax (Interpol, Gang Gang Dance), Damon McMahon (Amen Dunes), Anthony Rossomondo (The Libertines) among others. Descender will be released worldwide on INGRID/Downtown Records April 16, 2013. INGRID is an imprint and artist collective founded in part by Wyatt and Miike Snow themselves, sharing curation duties with Lykke Li, Peter Bjorn and John, and several others.