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Longstanding noise/experimentalists, Wolf Eyes have made a career out of throwing curve balls. The band are most easily lumped into the “noise” corner, alas with some punk/metal/avant-garde sensibilities. But, for this group of Detroit noise terrorists, there is more than meets the eye.
Originally being the noise baby of Nate Young, the group has since come of age via a renegade adolescence of unwieldy instruments and punk spirited reckless abandon. Through their incessant releases and adoration from covert noise enthusiast, Henry Rollins, the band also leave a handful of noteworthy past contributors behind them.
Head Honcho, Nate Young, has found support in many a formidable names in the field of noisy experimentalism. Some of which include the Nepal bound Aaron Dilloway, Noisextra host Mike Connelly, John Olson & his meme credentials via InzaneJohnny, and “Crazy Jim” Baljo. These former and current members matter because, the latest Wolf Eyes release, Difficult Messages, is the result of cross-pollination between nearly all of them and more.
On Difficult Messages, the album is presented as a compilation between 11 different artists, with only one of them on the title track being attributed to Wolf Eyes. All subsequent tracks are assigned a different band name, but always consist of some medley of former/current members. For the sake of argument, I’m going to refer to this effectively as a Wolf Eyes album, rather than a wayward compilation of makeshift bands. But hey, the longevity of these fellas’ collaborations, whether still in the group or not, is nothing to bat an eyelid at.
The tracks themselves are actually cut from a selection of private press 45s featuring Nate Young, John Olson, Alex Moskos, Gretchen Gonzales, Aaron Dilloway & Raven Chacon. They were originally self-released in a series of nigh-on-impossible to find 7”s, but the choice cuts have made it onto Difficult Messages.
On first listen, Difficult Messages came across as jarring and untoward. This was likely due to my confusion surrounding its presentation as a compilation of different artists (the direct result of my first encounter with the album being from Spotify’s “New release from…” tab), and the inescapable summer sunlight as I stared into the monitors at my desk job. Upon subsequent listens (under the cover of darkness, might I add) and with more context, the many pieces began to fit.
Right off the bat, there are hints of familiarity in the opening title track. Not in the manic way you may expect, but in a more temperate way ala “Cynthis Vortex aka Trip Memory Illness” that concludes I Am A Problem: Mind in Pieces. In-fact, many of these tracks opt for eeriness and atmosphere over sizzling electronic outbursts.
Whether deliberate or unconscious, a number of these tracks give off light odours of Throbbing Gristle. The not-harsh-noise-but-definitely-fucking-otherworldly vibes run deep through this record. A major culprit is the processed horns on display. The echoes of this on Lost Head (attributed to Stare Case – aka Olson and Young) and Michigan Red Squirrel (by Animal Sounds) harkening to the whistling howls of Hamburger Lady of the reformation era.
“Dank Boone” adds a Clipping esquè hip-hop dimension into the mix, pairing the scratchiness and rhythmic beats in a fairly seamless way. While droning electronics prevail on the tracks “Feedback 6” and “Tense Lapse”, as well as industrial percussive elements and surging frequencies that litter the tracks on Difficult Messages.
Showcasing Wolf Eyes’ versatility and showing off its former members, Difficult Messages presents a collage of sounds and styles that are mildly recognisable. It’s telling that former and present members continue to work with one another, and pleasing to see the continued activity. Just make sure you listen to Wolf Eyes in the right settings, out of earshot from your colleagues.
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