The Wilderness of Manitoba, Leif Vollebekk and Artur Dyjecinski
I had never heard of The Wilderness of Manitoba before (you’d definitely remember if you’d heard that name) and it had been a while since I’d listened to some live folk music, so this night seemed the perfect one to head to.
Artur Dyjecinski (I’m not sure how you prounounce it either!) was first to play. Understated and humble his music has a real Country feel to it. He had a female vocalist, another guitar player, bassist and drummer playing with him and the harmonies with the other vocalist worked really well. The music was interesting in its tone, sort of pensive but by no way self-indulgent and the same goes for his lyrics. His voice reminded me very much of Anthony from Anthony and The Johnsons at times; it was deep and echoey and had a cracked quality to it.
What became clear towards the end of the night (which I’ll go into more later) was that the acts playing on this night were part of a mutual appreciation society for each other! Just before the end of Artur’s set he talked about the Bromance he had experienced with The Wilderness of Manitoba (TWoM)) and how much fun they’d had touring together. To prove this broism the lead singer of TWoM came on stage and sang with him for his last song. Clearly at ease with each other and understanding each others’ style of music, it was a great finish to Artur’s set.
Leif Vollbekk was next, just one man, his guitar, a loop machine, violin and harmonica (eat your heart out Dick Van Dyck). What hit you instantly was his voice; husky and soulful it filled the room (which was packed). In one of his songs he played his violin and then looped it, layering his vocals over it. I usually associate layering with Electro music but it really really worked. The song 1921 was a stand out one for me. He began it by playing his guitar and looped it, then did the same with the violin and then went back to play his guitar again. With this eerie foundation in place he began to sing; bleak but beautiful lyrics, a love song of sorts with the back drop of buildings and the cityscape. The looped violins and guitar echo the lyrics about ‘She’s in the shower, I hear pipes creaking, groaning like the traffic outside’. A winning song for sure.
The Wilderness of Manitoba then arrived on stage; the crowd clearly huge fans, they were greeted with a massively warm welcome. Their first song Bluebirds got things off to a dreamy start and showed just how well their voices work together. It had a willowy 70s feel to it with added depth from the cello.
What this band does so well is build atmosphere. One song called Summer Fires, included a banjo, guitar and tambourine was light and evoked exactly that summery feel. The drummer created a cracking beat and the four vocalists achieved great harmonies together. What should also be mentioned about TWoM is the range of instruments they play which include cello, banjo, guitars, drums and what I can only reckon is a metal pestle and mortar?! (If it’s a proper instrument and I’m being ignorant then please correct me – and apologies in advance). Whatever it is, when the pestle is run along the top of the mortar it makes a fantastic chime-like sound.
Personal stories feature heavily in their lyrics; one song was about the banjo/cello player’s (Stefan) father which was pretty melancholy (It included a fantastic banjo solo by Stefan). Another called Evening, was written by the lead singer’s mother in 1960s. Clearly unafraid to tap into honest emotions in their lyrics, it gives their music integrity. Other standout songs were Summer Fires which was a short but sweet song with great harmonies, November and Dream Catchers. In some of their songs there were hints of Kings of Convenience and Fleet Foxes in their gentle harmonies.
Their last song was Four City Love and they explained it didn’t make the album because it was a bit of a ‘barn burner’ compared to the other songs. Barn burner it most certainly was and the whole audience got involved with whoops and claps whilst TWoM went for it on stage. I say ‘last song’ but inevitably the crowd weren’t allowing them to get away that easily. After many cheers and encores they came back on and this time accompanied by Artur and Leif. They sang a beautiful couple of songs together and even exchanged hugs at the end.
A great night with top music and as hinted at the beginning, a hell of a lot of bromance!