Gideon Wolf: I Am Wolf
Chemical Tapes

I Am Wolf presents a dramatic but not unsatisfying stylistic move away from Tristan Shorr's debut Gideon Wolf album Paper (issued on Fluid Audio in 2012). In place of the instrumental (piano and cello) and classical focus of the first recording, the new cassette-released set is heavily rooted in multi-tracked vocalizing and a style that has as much in common with blues and gospel as anything conventionally electronica-related. It's a risky move by Shorr, but one that pays off, especially when the songs' vocal arrangements are executed so effectively.

He takes full advantage of the multi-tracking potential afforded by modern technology on the forty-one-minute recording, in particular the way it allows him to stagger vocal and instrumental phrases. Using repetition in this way strengthens the hypnotic effect of the songs as the listener finds him/herself lulled into a state of reverie when the songs' melodic patterns, vocal and otherwise, ebb and flow so insistently (the opening minute and mesmerizing middle part of “The Silence” are good representative illustrations of the approach). More often than not, his appealing voice is heard naturally, whether as a single element or multiplied into a wordless choir; during the mid-section of “The Devil,” however, it's transformed into a grotesque scrape whose utterances verge on unintelligible. The blues-gospel dimension also emerges during the hymnal rumination “Neon Marks” where Shorr's gentle voice and expressive piano playing dominate.

“Blocks” immediately establishes the project's vocal-heavy focus with lulling overlays of Shorr's soft murmurings, the song's effect entrancing when the vocal lines accumulate and flow so seamlessly into one another. Though other instrument sounds—a sea-sick swirl of broken piano cascades and electronic flutterings—eventually replace the vocal section, the message is clear: despite the recurring presence of electronic beats and ambient-industrial textures, voice remains I Am Wolf 's foremost sound element. That's never more evident than during “Promises” where Storr, against a backdrop of wordless vocal lines and industrial beat pattern, threads into a startling whole a series of different phrases (e.g., “I can hear,” “You gotta stop runnin' your mouth,” “I'm tired of all your moods”).

August-September 2013