The Madeira "Ancient Winds" (Double Crown Records)
By Richard Hawes, November 8, 2015
The Madeira are one of the best surf/instrumental bands in the world
today. That's an opinion, but a Google search will tell you I'm not
alone in it. I'll refer to them as a surf band, but that's not a totally
apt description. There are decades of influences heaped on top of that,
but for practical reasons the label works well enough. A friend of mine
calls them "power surf," which I think works a bit better. They have
always been a BIG sounding band, and they sound remarkably distinctive
for a band that's a lot more rooted in their surf roots than many of
their contemporaries to whom the surf label is more loosely-applied.
Their melodies and arrangements are always complex and interesting,
which is to say every song has a hook and a strong melody. If you're a
musician of any kind, there's a lot here to appreciate. If you're just a
music fan and like anything you find that's good, I say the same.
The Madeira have always tended toward the anthematic, and Ancient
Winds takes that to the next level. This is an instro-surf rock OPERA.
If you follow the titles of the tracks and listen, there's not just a
theme but a story brewing that works really well in my mind. My favorite
bands in instrumental rock genres have something I vaguely refer to as
ambiance. It's not just how they package themselves; there's a tone and
character to the music that's evocative, and The Madeira have this in
spades. They have their own finely honed and distinct sound that
combines driving surf rock and various "exotic" elements (I'll let you
look/listen and draw your own conclusions about what that means) with
the band's other rock/metal influences. All this while still managing to
vary the tone and mood enough to keep the album from getting "samey,"
and even within each individual song there are a lot of dips and swells.
The very first track, "Journey To The Center of The Surf" is a good
example and an excellent start to the album.
Another factor that makes this such an epic album is that in addition
to the considerable songwriting talent of the two guitar players, Ivan
Pongracic and Patrick O'Connor (I like to listen to the albums without
looking at the writing credits to try to guess who wrote what), there
are tracks co-written by some of the most talented songwriters in
instrumental rock alive. First and most notable is the collaboration
with Jim Skiathis of legendary Australian instrumental combo from the
'60's, The Atlantics, on the song "The Argonaut." As is usually the case
with a Madeira release, there's also a cover of an Atlantics song,
"Coral Reef." The track "Hail, Poseidon!" was co-written by Jeremy
DeHart of long-running surf mainstays, The Aqualads, who've been turning
out strong material for decades. "Dawn in Cadiz" is a collaboration
with Alex Faide of the world-renowned Los Twang Marvels. Last but
absolutely not least is "Sirena" with Danny Snyder of The Tomorrowmen.
Talking about any one of these songwriters and their respective bands
would require a whole other review, but their contributions here are
What they've achieved with this album is most significant in the
context of every album that came before it. Few bands, especially bands
that make some REALLY good albums, manage to make a better one each
subsequent time. This time, yet again, they have with Ancient Winds.
Every one of their previous albums is well worth checking out, and given
their trajectory you may even want to start back there and work your
way toward this one.
purchase: Double Crown Records, Amazon, iTunes