Slowcream: Wax On Wool

In its bold integration of 20th -century classical, spoken word, and experimental electronic genres, Wax On Wool exemplifies a noticeable advance upon Live Long and Prosper, Me Raabenstein's previous Slowcream full-length. In the new, forty-seven-minute release, the Berlin-based producer again seamlessly weaves past, present, and future into provocative set-pieces, with each one offering some distinctive change in style and mood from what comes before, and ultimately proving itself to be an exploration worth taking.

Wax On Wool's most ear-catching aspect is the presence of Major Major on numerous tracks; his low, slightly-filtered voice is rendered even more disturbing by the cryptic, even bizarre lyrics that Raabenstein has him drawl. In the mutant, glitch-laden blues “Into Butter,” the words “Last night my friend shaved my wife / He shaved her good with his knife / He turned around and said, “That's okay” / I paid him anyway” appear alongside a lurching, bottom-heavy pulse. “Mild Mountains” couples the woodsy pluck of an acoustic bass with Major Major's macabre lines “Meg Ryan called me last night / She said my voice was cute / She's in the mood for love” offset by swells of silken strings and the singing tone of a solo violin. While the lyrics in “Punch Indigo,” which presumably refer to the Golem legend (“And you, poor creatures, who conjured you out of the clay?”), are more straightforward, Raabenstein isn't above including tongue-in-cheek humour in the lyrics, as “They shaved my legs / They shaved my balls / I look like Madonna / Six feet tall” proves when it's heard against a lurching funk groove during “On Carpets.”

The purely instrumental tracks are memorable too. “In The Cave” presents a lulling dream-like electronic flow augmented by vaporous streams of strings, oboe, and harp, while the quietly uplifting “Luck of the North” hews to a more conventional electronic line by layering restrained vibes and synth elements over a placid backing. “Gwynplaine's Hill” resembles the kind of narcotized drift reminiscent of a ‘70s-era Miles Davis in-studio tape experiment during the time of his infatuation with Stockhausen. Raabenstein has a penchant for creating unusual juxtapositions, such as the bright ping of steel drums that's paired with strings, oboe, and electronic beats during “Wanderlust.” By intertwining elements of romantic and serial classical music with electronics, Wax On Wool fuses the accessible and experimental into a challenging, sometimes disturbing, and yet still musical whole.

March 2009