Wind in the Wires
I don’t really care for happy music, at least not the kind that bops around with unrestrained gusto. Happy music tends to draw on an over-effulgent core of emotions without concern for intricacy, sophistication or, you know, varied adjectives once in a while. To be happy, it seems, is quite natural in music and doesn’t really speak of any great intelligence fueling a song. I mean, the Polyphonic Spree’s management of some 20 cast members is impressive on paper, but can you envision that many voices covering Bauhaus or ‘Pornography’-era Cure?
This isn’t to say that sadder music is always smarter—Dashboard Confessional, American Analog Set, umm, Nu-Metal—but between the two it is more often. Because when done properly, the saddest music isn’t just some conveyor belt of MySpace poetry but digs into outlying emotions of indignation and even rebellion. That sadness evolves from a simple emotional presentation to a canvas from which other emotional points emanate. Done well it’s also a reflexive act meant to display the artist’s shortcomings and trials without ever really coming off as haughty or didactic.
Patrick Wolf’s sadness emanates from his precocity. At only 21 he’s crafted perhaps one of the darkest pieces of alt-folk with ‘Wind In The Wires,’ his second release after the critically acclaimed ‘Lycanthropy.’ Wolf’s musical career began when he was merely 11 years of age, collecting heaps of dilapidated instruments and experimenting with a 4-track player. Tutelage at the Trinity College Music Conservatoire in London helped Wolf burnish the work of ‘Lycanthropy’ from an impressive but altogether turbid accomplishment into the thematic lucidity of his 2005 effort. This is music about sadness and loss, but Wolf isn’t static or stupid: far more is ready to be discovered.
“Too many sails/ Not enough breeze/ To sail on out of your Shadow Seas/ Too many rocks/ Not enough breeze/ To sail on out of your shadow Seas” sings Wolf on the shortest song of the album, his voice cracking and breathy while plucks of de-tuned strings append the dirge. He owns a very mellifluous falsetto reminiscent of David Gahan, except Wolf doesn’t use it portray the same ebullience. His dour notes are often shrouded by a distance and seldom fully revealed for what they are, save a couple of tracks on the entire album.
The music never quite exposes itself as folk, though that is the overwhelming influence. Distortion abounds but isn’t overused, instead sprinkled sapiently across all the tracks like the beats adorning “Teignmouth’s” piano or the treated scratches accompanying the violins on “Ghost Song.” And in each piece there is a frail folk skeleton holding it together both sonically and thematically (“The Gypsy King”), Wolf often singing the songs as though they were great and slightly modified lores. However, these alone do not make ‘Wind in The Wires’ so powerful.
“My name is Tristan/ And I am alive/ Sorrowed by name and Sorrow by Nature” sings Wolf on “Tristan,” where both he and instruments come to a full roar, a massive bass drum and Wolf’s staggered exhalation forming the song’s brief but refined peak. Here the sadness he previously articulated is presented as an uncontrollable predilection, one used as a public menace rather than left to metastasize through inner dialogue. It’s a fantastic mutation of the album’s theme, almost rebuffing “Jacob’s Ladder,” the accordion-driven dirge that preceded it.
The sorrow Wolf describes isn’t somehow bereft of dimension as with so many others, instead being presented from many different emotional perspectives and ranges. ‘Wind in The Wires’ is far more intricate than it initially lets on because of it, Wolf putting forth tales whose scope and complexity increase with far more attentive listens. Sad? Yeah, but not self-righteously so or in a self-deprecating fashion. As I previously said, Wolf is sad, not stupid.
Release date: March 15, 2005
Rating: 8.7 / 10
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