Unbound At Last
On its fourth album, Unbound At Last, Milwaukee’s Sulek has expanded the diversity of its songwriting and sounds, soaring high with its dreamy atmospheric ditties and then crashing to Earth with the direct jolt of electric guitar thwacks and thrums. In between the free falls are some down-home, folksy acoustic tunes. It all works thanks to the driving force of the husband-and-wife team of Patrick and Ruthie Hoctor.
Along with original band member Chris Winberg, Sulek is now a trio, but the music it makes is as seductive as it is original. Early influences have ranged from Arcade Fire to Modest Mouse, but the mainstay presence of The White Stripes hovers above Sulek’s minimalist incantations, all the more appropriate as the band recorded Unbound At Last in the chapel of the Newman Center in Milwaukee. Patrick Hoctor is essentially a one-man band, playing everything from acoustic and electric guitars to cello, keyboards, drums, and percussion. Wife Ruthie lends vocals, and the two create a firm yet delicate balance that compels repeat listens.
Even the band’s name remains an enigma: “a mystery lost long, long ago,” according to Patrick. But the music emerges from the shadows, lingering gently around the restless spirit showcased in the single “Kissing Divinity,” with its anthemic refrain of the album’s title. The shadows turn more ominous with the slithering guitar twangs on “Devil’s Grin,” which promises no escape from the pain of past sins. Patrick Hoctor’s whispered warnings are as much a foretelling of what’s to come as a remembrance of things best forgotten.
Despite their youth, the members of Sulek come across as old souls, singing of lives and loves past with the wisdom of those who have lived through challenges, all the while maintaining a youthful gaze toward what lies beyond. Unbound At Last is well worth the walk alongside them.
Sulek celebrates the release of Unbound At Last Friday, July 20 at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn.