Winged Wheel is a new indie supergroup, featuring Whitney Johnson (Matchess, Damiana), Cory Plump (Spray Paint, Expensive Shit), Matthew J. Rolin (Powers/Rolin Duo), and Fred Thomas (Idle Ray, Tyvek). It is the outcome of four artists who have crossed paths over the years putting their quarantine sanity projects together in a game of long-distance musical telephone, an incredible band emerging seemingly out of nowhere with minimal effort and most decisions made casually over Instagram DMs.
In August of 2020, Thomas was recording music all day every day at home, because it felt weird to do anything besides work on music indoors. Plump reached out to Thomas after seeing a video he posted to Instagram about how he got a cool drum sound using a single mic on top of the kick drum, asking if Thomas would send him some drum loops to use on the recordings he had been making. Plump eventually reeled in Matthew Rolin, whose unique style of guitar playing changed the whole direction of the project. (Notably, this record marks the first time Rolin has played electric guitar at all in years, particularly in a band setting.) Though originally Plump tried vocals on the songs, they didn’t work. Everyone was surprised and delighted when they asked Whitney Johnson to contribute her voice and she obliged.
It’s difficult to believe they’ve never all been in the same room. At times ripping and rollicking, like on opener “Monsella,” that pace often dissipates into more ambient kosmische zones (“Central Ceiling,” “Stone Oaks”). There is a definitive dreaminess to the record—largely the result of Rolin’s guitar playing, Thomas’s synth overdubs, and Johnson’s signature use of voice as emotive texture rather than discernible verbal messages—and a sense of forward motion maintained by Thomas’s drum loops and Plump’s basslines, which often propel as much as they waver, darting psychedelically in and out. But moments like “Lasso Motel” might make one wonder where exactly we are and how exactly we got here. The use of field recordings and occasional radio dial sounds in between tracks contributes to the sense that we are shifting in and out of different channels or realities—almost like we are being encouraged to take charge of our own through the audio controls.
Despite its origins in remote collaboration, this is music for open roads and shifting skies; a soundtrack for driving into uncharted territory. No Island functions reflexively as a title—as both a refusal to become isolated in the quarantined world and an adventure to a dream place outside, forged from many different insides.