Reviews

Lone Wolf: 6 August 2010 - Chicago

Lisa Torem

It’s been a long, long day and a dark, dark night. Almost apologetically, Lone Wolf leaves amidst gracious applause, back into the steamy darkness of a somber night.

Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf

City: Chicago
Venue: Empty Bottle
Date: 2010-08-06

Chicago’s Empty Bottle is classic. It could be a stand-in for Liverpool’s famous Cavern. Posters are slathered on the black-as-tar walls with traces of yesterday’s Elmer’s Glue. A pool table sits burrowed in an ante-room and some archaic, original brick walls add to the sweltering blend of textures. The solitary disco ball looks like it should be in an illustration of “Where’s Waldo?”

Paul Marshall was supposed to play the 10 PM slot, but the Kissaway Trail had logistical issues, got stranded in Atlanta, and didn’t show, which meant that this singer-songwriter, now known as “Lone Wolf”, had to be reshuffled to the 11 PM slot. Three years ago, before this recent image change, Marshall had recorded Vultures which stood as an austere and unplugged debut which did not contain the ache and exhausting tribulations that his new album The Devil and I boasts.

About 18 months ago, Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde (former member of Cocteau Twins) tried to convince the man to create a new work, but Marshall had to find himself first. He ultimately ended up in Sweden recording with Kristofer Jonson (Jeniferever). Embarking on this new project, Lone Wolf played every instrument himself, except for drums, trumpets and strings. The cover shows muscled gladiators toe-to-toe in aggressive stances which sets up the clawing tensions that simmer beneath.

Lone Wolf is…dark. Besides having dark hair and dark eyes, he writes dark lyrics and strums dark chords. His influences include other somber types; Nick Drake, for one. Paul Simon? Okay, I don’t quite see that connection. Whatever. When he shows up on stage, he asks us to forgive him if he’s kind of shaky. It seems a little strange to see just the guy and his guitar. The stragglers are looking above him and seeing the full-band set-up. But, that’s going to wait until The Wild Beasts come on.

Lone Wolf tells us that he’s come all the way from the UK and invites us to come closer to the stage. His shirt, not surprisingly, is dark black. His finger-picking is gorgeous and a few girls in floral attire and halter tops amble towards the stage. A voice that is operatic, but not stilted, and sonorous, but not undisciplined, trails over their heads. He plays a pleasant folk-infested drone which belies the caustic lyrics.

He is singing his new single, “15” which is essentially a murder ballad. “A long, long time ago / We never danced or lost friends.” It begins innocently enough. But, when he explains that “The moon is on his back tonight,” the bleak theme prevails. So, when a woman murders a man because his name has 15 letters, is that such a big deal, dude?

From time to time, Lone Wolf confides in the hazy collection of faces. He thinks we should tell him if a song is not worth it, or if his strums should be more subdued. But, though this Leeds-based troubadour is quite diplomatic in his chatter, when he sings about using each other’s blood until we pass out, an eerie sense of Jekyl and Hyde persists.

After a few of these folk-vamps, Lone Wolf heads towards the keys. Playing “This Is War” involves several brisk tempo changes mid-song and, between each segue, there’s a strong impulse that we are hearing horse’s hooves stampeding across a rocky field. His classic line, “I slaughtered her a cow and I’m a vegetarian” is a humble reminder of how we are all capable of blindly stretching ourselves beyond our sedentary comfort zones after experiencing great passion.

Lone Wolf seamlessly switches from chest to head voice and his phrases sound remarkably like that of Tori Amos. His voice steadfastly hangs on to key syllables, and then he hang-glides off them. It’s really, sonically, the best of both worlds: a pleasing tenor with a sensitivity usually touched on by the feminine muse. He purses his lips in agonizing loneliness and pits together conflicting emotions that can never be resolved nor picked completely clean.

“Keep Your Eyes on the Road” is the Wolf’s new single and the video produced by Ashley Dean makes it a sensory circus. But, solo, this means that the man works his guitar like a mechanic hunched under the hood of a Honda before a holiday weekend. The rolling and tumbling progression rivets across the neck as the Wolfman moans, “Get me out of here.”

Several bold ladies in the room have been moving more closely, little by little, towards the stage, and by the end of the set, the simmering, almost explosive minstrel is surrounded. Lone Wolf is spent. It’s been a long, long day and a dark, dark night. Almost apologetically, he leaves amidst gracious applause, back into the steamy darkness of a somber night.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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