In its latest album, “Ancient Winds,” The Madeira takes listeners on a journey around the Mediterranean and shows that surf rock appeals to more than beach bums.
With plenty of reverb in the guitars and dynamic contrasts by the drums, “Ancient Winds” is an excellent example of contemporary surf rock.
The Madeira released its fourth studio album, “Ancient Winds,” on Sept. 1. Students may be familiar with the band because Hillsdale’s own Professor of Economics Ivan Pongracic serves as the band’s lead guitarist.
Like much of contemporary surf rock, “Ancient Winds” is an instrumental album. Each of its 13 tracks build on one another to tell the story of an epic naval adventure in just 44 minutes.
“The theme of sailing the Mediterranean is loose in the background with the ideas of forward motion and groove driving the album,” Pongracic said.
The Madeira immediately captures the sounds of setting sail with the quick-tempo opener “Journey to the Center of the Surf.” The reverb of the guitars and the steady drumbeat invoke the image of a ship venturing forth in high spirits. The song captures the optimism and vigor present at the outset of an exciting endeavor.
Even without lyrics, the images evoked by the combination of the song titles and music are enough to carry the listener from shore to open water as The Madeira steers a course for an aquatic showdown with “Leviathan” in track 12.
“Instrumental surf rock is like classical music or a symphony. Obviously, they are not the same, but each expects you to use your imagination. Listeners have to fill the gaps in the story after the music and song titles set the stage,” Pongracic said.
The nature of an instrumental album written as a coherent whole largely precludes the selection of singles. For instance, when “Ancient Winds” plays on shuffle, the larger narrative of the album is lost. Songs like “Coral Island” no longer sound like a pit stop for supplies on a Greek island, but like a campy track from a dollar store “Christmas on the Beach” CD.
One of the most interesting places The Madeira expects listeners to “fill in the gaps” is the final song, “Into the Deep.” Following the intense and up-tempo battle in “Leviathan,” the decrescendo and sounds of waves in “Into the Deep” trigger a sinking feeling.
“The slain monster sinking or the defeated sailors say more about the listener than us,” Pongracic said.
Regardless of which side lost the battle, “Into the Deep” is one of the strongest songs on the album. The guitars’ darker sounds and the slower tempo set up a stark contrast with the cheery beginning, and highlights The Madeira’s talent for producing diversity in a genre where songs are not differentiated by lyrics.