Home Read Area Resident’s Album Of The Week: Wilhaeven | Infinite Jest

Area Resident’s Album Of The Week: Wilhaeven | Infinite Jest

This Ottawa musician is one of the best local recording artists I'd never heard.

I was not optimistic. When you get an email from the friend of a friend who has made a record and they want you to review it. Ugh. Even worse, it’s a fellow Ottawa artist. I was worried. It’s because I am one, too, so sometimes it’s hard to be objective. There’s a tendency to be like those sheep from the movie Babe when it comes to scrutinizing peers. Maybe even Statler & Waldorf.

But as it turns out, I’m not sure how anyone couldn’t love the new double album by Ottawa’s Wilhaeven (Paul Anthony). Somehow he’s managed to do something I’d have never guessed possible — made a deeply moving and introspective album of instrumentals. And with a Harry Nilsson-like wit, one of them’s even called Every Detail Of My First Kiss. It might seem like a joke, but he delivers.

Some of these songs have been in the can for more than two decades. I’m not sure if it says more about him or me that I can’t tell which ones.

Anthony admits the record is heavy, and not in a Kyuss sense. It’s personal. He slips in little sequences, soundups and uses song titles to give emotional significance and weight where one might not normally expect to find it. Me, anyway. I’m kind of a novice when it comes to downtempo. When I first started spinning this album, it reminded me of Com Truise, or some sort of child born from a union between Leon Michels and Georgio Moroder.

One thing Anthony cautioned me about is what he refers to as “portion control.” He admits the 80-minute album is “jam-packed” and suggests not trying to listen to it in one sitting. I don’t necessarily agree. It depends on what you’re doing. I find Infinite Jest to be an enjoyable listen — engrossing if you’re focused on it, or concomitant if you’re doing something else and it’s just spinning in the background. My partner is an art director at a creative design agency. They have an intimate little office — with a turntable. Infinite Jest would be an excellent choice to put on. In fact, it was a Sunday afternoon when I put it on for this review, while she and I were making pies. Monday morning she was asking if she could take it to work with her.

The 55-year-old has been making music since he was a teenager. Wilhaeven is just one of the musical projects he does. Others have included Canada High, Rigid Body Dynamics, Touched Fables and Equal Ways.

This time around he deliberately set out to make a laid-back, West Coast-style album, which he feels is “an outlier in the field of outlier electronic music — the underbelly of the underbelly.”

I don’t know much about those terms, but to my ear — and as someone who, like Anthony, makes music alone — he’s done an incredible job of using varied synths and beats. This doesn’t sound like one person. The tracks don’t sound the same. This isn’t dance music. Anthony created it for individual consumption — ideally with headphones. But, like I said, I believe it works as ambient while-you-toil music as well. It also would be perfect for soundtracks to things like showreels and portfolios.

“Hopefully this means the emotional centre I’ve tried to create inside each track can be found and appreciated by others,” he says.

Not only is the music great, but the album packaging and the vinyl itself is stunning. A gatefold sleeve with cool, minimalist artwork and translucent silver heavyweight vinyl. If you get a physical copy (which will also be available on CD and as a digital download) you may notice it is dated 2023. I guess this proves how patient Anthony is. The album was originally scheduled to come out last year, but his previous Wilhaeven album — The Touched Fables — proved quite popular, so he decided to push back the release of Infinite Jest.

Anthony self-releases his stuff, so that makes him a true indie artist — one with a focus on affordable high-quality, rather than cheap and cheerful. He also is an inspiration for those of us with day jobs who really, really enjoy having a creative, musical outlet. Growing up in Ottawa, it was the city’s DIY punk scene that showed him it was possible to make your own records.

But don’t think for a second this is a vanity project. There are no images of Anthony to be found anywhere on the album (though there is what appears to be an old high-school shot on his Bandcamp page) and he doesn’t drop names or involve any of the many famous friends he’s accumulated over the years. He just makes fantastic music, from a very honest, hard-working place. It is cool, but also has an inspiring work ethic. The production and packaging are as good as anything available in the mainstream.

One of the best local recording artists I’d never heard.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.