892 words on Patrick Wolf
Patrick Wolf’s first record Lycanthropy was quite a difficult one for me. On the one hand it’s quite different from the music I usually am enthusiastic about. On the other hand it had so many different and exciting sounds in it, ranging from subtlety to raw power, that I really got obsessed with it and listened to it a lot.
A few months ago, Patrick’s sophomore album Wind in the Wires was published and I made sure that I got my copy early on. But I couldn’t really make up my mind about it. On the one hand, everything sounded much tamer and duller than on Lycanthropy – milder computer bleeps, softer percussion, less shouting… probably symptoms of being ‘professionally produced’ in the music press. On the other hand I got used to that after listening to it a couple of times and still enjoy listening to it.
While the album opens with the bright and energetic The Libertine, which is also available as the album’s first single, and whose lyrics so remind me of my former idea that Patrick’s songs are strongly Kafka-esque, it quickly drifts into less energetic pieces like Teignmouth which it directly cross-fades into and sets the album’s direction:
On the night train / from the city to the South / I saw spirits / crawl across the river mouth. / In skewed ascension / with no destination / like this lone bachelor in me. / This constant yearning / for great love and learnin / for the wind to carry me free.
Not only is this quite good but it leads us out of the city and into the countryside – right to the coast in fact, as the next track The Shadow Sea suggests. This is pretty much in line with all the stuff they wrote on the web site about Patrick loving the country side. Somewhere it was even said that while Lycanthropy with its strong name and songs named London or Paris is more a city album while Wind in the Wires is a countryside album, going out of the city and into the mysteries of countryside. Not just for all the light and airy parts of course but also for its darker sides. – Ahem. Perhaps that interpretation is going a bit too far, but it really struck a chord with me. And it may also hint why I’m less comfortable with the new album: I’m not terribly fond of the countryside. It’s nice to go there and look around but I don’t like staying there.
Next comes the title song Wind in the Wires –
It’s the sigh of wild electricity, which has its moments and Patrick’s incredibly strange pronunciation of electricity’s second c. But which is also a bit long and slow for my taste – but possibly intentionally. This is followed by the idyllic The Railway House about growing old together and The Gypsy King which still has a train in it but could do with some extra excitement. The short and slightly tense strings piece Apparition ends the A-side.
Ghost Song opens the B-side and continues carrying a bit more tension – very carefully, though – and trying to
bring beauty back in season. A little siren at the end fades right into The Weather which builds up slowly and very carefully to its slightly energetic refrain. Next up is the very short Jacobs Ladder adding a bit more obvious electronics to the album before going into Tristan which is probably the album’s most Lycanthropy-esque song.
Eulogy, the penultimate song is slower and – adequately – with some sad violins. It sounds like a good conclusion of the album. But there’s still Lands End, which sounds a bit like a ‘bonus track’ to me. It doesn’t really fit into the flow of the record as all the other songs did but it lighter. A kind of good-bye, opening with the self-referential words
The work is done and the record pressed, exhibiting a fair amount of self-consciousness.
So while I would have preferred a rougher, more energetic and less well-mixed album, Wind in the Wires is still a treat because it’s actually telling a story and all the songs are made around the topic of
leaving London for Lands End and deal with the country and sea sides, with trains and ships and all carrying what seems like a dark 19th century feeling to me. Many of the songs remind of things I read, be it Kafka or Dickens or …
It’s a wild stretch of land
Such a sad place to be
When the night comes heavy down
And the sands turn to sea.
Many saints have lost their love
Many a pilgrim dies unseen
In that wild stretch of land
In that fire to be free.
Other Patrick Wolf related stuff on my site and from my Patrick Wolf links at del.icio.us: A cool interview with Patrick and some info to go with it as well as a Wind in the Wires review from the same site. More interviews with Patrick to go with the release of Wind in the Wires and an older one that went with Lycanthropy; A review of the album with big words and an interview; Patrick giving strange answers to strange questions on his site.
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