Updated: May 6, 2019
Written by Jose Benjamin Montaño
Hugh Wilhelm's last release, "Now I Know", can be daunting to parse through. At 67 tracks, the album moseys between spoken word narratives, delicate ambient riffing, and the occasional bittersweet ballad.With many of the tracks clocking in under a minute—some as fully fleshed etchings, others mere sketches—it plays like a journal, the many entries giving the listener a glimpse into the purview of a constant observer.
Like in the cityscape of the album sleeve, Wilhelm wanders elusively. Musically he is a flâneur , unafraid to entertain a haunting melody before moving onto the next thing that might call his attention—whether it be a chorus-drenched loop ("Third Eye"), a cappella wordplay ("Windows"), or musings about the Smithsonian Museum's taxidermy collection, ("National Mall").
Despite the constant departures, the singer-songwriter quickly demonstrates his ability to use the variety to his advantage. With refined technical skill, the different genres mold to give the album its own tonal coherence, as a stripped instrumentation helps maintain his voice a guiding lead in the mix.
On tracks like "Blue", near the start of the release, Wilhelm's vocal control is also evident—hushed whispers fold to a theatrical cadence, while a centerpiece hook evokes the feeling of being caught between tender fulfillment and fear of dependence.
In the same song, Wilhelm croons, "Vulnerability, it wasn't for me." But I think I disagree. It is precisely the way Wilhelm conveys his sensitivity that makes his craft so strong.