May 13, 2018
“The Wormholes are trying to provide the world with a ‘cosmic perspective.’” That is the overarching goal of Cosmic Propaganda, the latest seven-song effort from Charlotte’s The Wormholes, an electronic synth-rock three piece devoted to bringing about a new age of propaganda in the world of music. This specific yet entirely ambiguous objective comes from band member Chris Walters. Walters elaborated, stating that the aforementioned cosmic perspective is “a wide-angle view of existence; one that removes human ego.” Whether or not Cosmic Propaganda succeeds in eradicating the plight of human ego from society is yet to be determined but, even if it misses that mark for now, the record still stands as the most definitive reflection of the band to date. Each of the songs showcases the three members at their most experimental and creative as they continue to explore the cold, dark depths of human consciousness, a-la-Jules Verne, outer-space style.
Cosmic Propaganda starts off with an instrumental track called “Whistleblower,” a song that closely resembles what you’d experience if you were suddenly thrown into the world of Tron. Somewhere in that mix of classic ‘80s synth and sparse vocals, you find yourself entirely captivated, sitting on the edge of your seat for what’s to come. This dynamic overtakes the first two songs on the record before you finally sink your teeth into what The Wormholes are really getting at. The musical journey of this record is much like getting to know someone for the first time. At first, you only get quick glances at them – slight insights as to who they are, what they’re like, what they value. Then, slowly but surely, you dig deeper and they open up. The climax of “Devil Music” is that moment personified.
After getting through three songs of Cosmic Propaganda, you’re almost ready to dismiss the record as repetitive and lyrically scarce. But right at that second the patience pays off as the shocking, jazz-influenced guitar sounds burst forth, rocking you back into complete focus. From there, the record continues on, leaning full tilt into styles borrowed from funk and soul, blended with the already established electric, jazz, and rock sounds. With Cosmic Propaganda, The Wormholes have demonstrated an excellent, experienced handle on pacing and balance, showing that they have made their record into a musical experience; a journey, rather than a one-off, that can be appreciated in any order.
For as intriguing as the music of this record is, the lyrics can be even more enigmatic. Keeping in mind the mission statement of not only this release, but the band as a whole, listeners can expect quite the otherworldly tone from lyricists Chris Walters and Ben Verner. When asked about where the band’s lyrics come from, Verner extrapolated the process: “We will settle on a concept for a song, and then usually text each other lyrics and edit them until they feel right to both of us. Chris’ writing style is more ‘scientific’ as I call it, and mine is more abstract. The mix of the two is what you get on this album.” This combination is exemplified at its peak with the song “Propaganda,” a voice clip lasting less than a minute and a half, pulled from the Aldous Huxley essay, Brave New World Revisited. It’s dictated in Cosmic Propaganda by an authoritative lecturer, chopped and screwed with a haunting chill to reflect the dangers of Huxley’s knowledge, repurposed by The Wormholes to showcase their main point.
“We’re taking the idea of propaganda and turning it on its head,” Walters said. He is straight to the heart about his lyrical goal, something that can’t be said with as much confidence for the overall lyrical content of the record. Sometimes meandering, The Wormholes’ lyrics are focused on using the subtleties of propaganda to influence the masses towards a collective consciousness of happiness, compassion, and love. This noble pursuit can sometimes become clouded in the minutia of the abstract, ethereal wordplay of Cosmic Propaganda, but it’s always there, if only lying just beneath the surface.
Cosmic Propaganda is The Wormholes in seven songs. It pulls you in with dream-like soundscapes and intentional ambiguity before launching you into an experimental world of blended genre and abstract lyricism. Each time you come out on the other side of this half-hour record, you take away something new, whether it’s an altered perspective or a deeper appreciation for a style of music you hadn’t yet explored. Perhaps that is the short-term for The Wormholes, wrapped in their endeavor to bring about collective positivity to a burdened world. And, perhaps, that may be enough.