March 16, 2006

Wolf Eyes' Thick Skin

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Wolf Eyes aren’t metal, and they’re about as goth as a chest wound. Wolf Eyes might not even make music. Since 1997, the band has been eschewing proper critical definition with a tortuous tail of CD-Rs, cassettes, and LPs. Disguntled, most critics toss the band into the wormhole of the experimental music scene: the “noise” genre.

While Wolf Eyes may not identify themselves as a member of this rarified sect, they certainly aren’t avoiding the classification. Their music embraces seething electronic screeches, syrupy vocals, and cavernous echoes that may lead you to question the progenitor of their electronic manipulations: man or machine? If you’re in need of a challenge, brandish your moleskine and make your way to the Noyes Community Center tonight, where Wolf Eyes will busy themselves with effacing your every attempt at classification.

Though Wolf Eyes may put fear into the hearts of pop lovers, the band is far from arrhythmic. Minimalist grooves can be found writhing beneath the skin of many of their releases, especially their “high profile” albums Dead Hills, Burned Mind, and Dread. Their primal beats often invite foot stomping and torso convulsing; at times, they command it. If you’re willing to loosen the collar a bit, Wolf Eyes’ sounds will prove as cathartic as they are challenging. This is some potent stuff.

The group found widespread recognition in 2003, after Sub Pop Records (home of indie darlings The Shins and Postal Service) contracted them for a full-length album. Wolf Eyes presented Sub Pop with their most haunting album yet, full of sinister soundscapes as frightening and invigorating as the best scenes in horror cinema. Try envisioning the horned beast that lassoed Gandalf in LoTR; now imagine the sound of him bounding towards you while lashing at you with his plasma whip. That’s the title-track. The album lifts this and eight other sound collages from an imaginary Gomorrah and ties them together judiciously, never loosening a death-grip.

After tweezering Burned Mind from your disc drive, drop in an earlier effort, Dead Hills, and prepare for a bath in the sound of urban decay. The second track off Dead Hills, deftly titled “Dead Hills 2,” opens with a pogo-stick drum beat that sounds as if it fell from an 8-story building. As these monster beats multiply, an electronic slash is added to the mix, and soon vocal sludge oozes into the mechanical stew. Taking to the West Coast with the next cut, “Rotten Tropics,” the band lets boulder-sized beats ricochet over an L.A. already polluted with sewage and white noise riffs.

Sounds kind of depressing, huh? While I wouldn’t bring a Wolf Eyes disc to the next family picnic, the band isn’t all about terror and woe. The impressive sounds conjured up on their records may just leave you uproariously happy. To hear a band pushing the limits of “modern music” is quite a treat. Wolf Eyes explores the shrinking gap between technology and humanity in the information age. It happens to be a scary subject. Wolf Eyes is just here to remind you.

Archived article by Andrew Meehan
Sun Staff Writer