Considering that Newark Wilder has only existed as a band for about two years, it’s difficult to say their imminent dissolution is the end of an era. But with their final show scheduled for this Friday at Mammal Gallery, it’s also hard not to feel a sense of impending loss for Atlanta music. Over the course of their two albums, the group displayed a willingness to shed their musical skins in order to evolve into a band that was by turns more thoughtful and daring. This is especially true of founder and bandleader Ben Kinzer, whose own transformation from a wide-eyed wunderkind to something of a stately songwriter has been impressive.
In observance of their final show, Kinzer and company were hoping to complete a new EP, but as time grew short, the band was forced to scrap that plan. Instead, this week will see the release of Newark Wilder’s last two songs, the first of which we’re proud to premiere for you this morning.
Much like their last single, “Hundertwasser,” this meditative offering was composed in a single night, and features Kinzer taking all the reins — from the gauzy vocals to programming the track’s ambient mix of piano, Rhodes, mellotron, and bells. “Lately programming instruments has been more inspiring to me than playing them,” says Kinzer, “because if you set parameters around the instrument and then just let it run inside of that algorithm, I find more interesting things happen than when I am just sitting at a piano, confined to only what I can think of at that moment.”
And indeed, there’s a delicate beauty to “Recessional Hymn,” a kind of solemn grace that sweeps through every pulsing note and atmospheric chord. The end result is airy and impressionistic with Kinzer providing just enough emotional resonance to keep it tethered. Given the revelations above in regards to his recent process, it’s possible that Kinzer’s primary function here is to establish a set of rules and push all the variables into motion, but algorithm or no, this feels like one of the songwriter’s most spontaneous moments. It’s no mystery, given how much time and effort he’s put into Newark Wilder, that he should feel compelled to offer some parting music, but rather than using the group’s final moments as a means for lamentation or to sink into nostalgia, Kinzer keeps his gaze outward, looking to his friends, colleagues, and contemporaries for inspiration.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the element of ceremony in shows lately, how seeing bands play at Mammal or 529 ties to religious services I experienced as a child,” he explains. “How there are certain moments where the walls come down and you can see the musician in a truthful way and certain moments when it’s put on, a performance. So I wrote this as a meditation to be played over the house speakers at the end of a show as people are walking out, as a sort of cool-down from whatever they experienced during the night, and a reminder that all of it is a performance. Even outside of the music, even the people talking and drinking or doing dumb shit, it’s all a performance. Which I see as a soothing thing. It makes me feel less self conscious when I find myself performing in those situations. The name has also taken on a new meaning for me as it is one of the final songs we are putting out.”
Newark Wilder will play their final show on Fri., August 11 at the Mammal Gallery alongside Twin Studies, Sea Ghost, and Sequoyah. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.