Collected Electric

Lone Wolf
April 29, 2009, 13:57
Filed under: Music

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that music is a really big deal for me. Culturally speaking, it’s the most important thing in my life, having beaten a fair few contenders to attain that top spot. I value my integrity as a consumer within the music industry, but I’m only human. So when the upcoming album of my favourite artist, Patrick Wolf, is leaked over the internet, is it really so reprehensible for me, who has already pre-ordered and paid for the album, as well as investing in its finishing, etc. via Bandstocks, to download the bootleg? I don’t intend to resurrect old arguments about the ethics of digital piracy; for me it’s a crime of passion. But I couldn’t download the album without reviewing it here.

The Bachelor, Patrick Wolf’s fourth studio album, was written to relate the singer-songwriter’s darker experiences over the past two years or so. Originally intended as one half of a double album along with The Conqueror, an optimistic account of finding new love, The Bachelor is now to be released separately on 1st June 2009. Like 2005’s Wind in the Wires, this album sees Wolf return to a more naturalistic, folk style that suits the mood of the record well. His trademark experimentations with electronics retain a strong presence, but The Bachelor is a far cry from the machine-pop sensibilities of previous album The Magic Position.   Patrick Wolf - The Bachelor

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t biased, but in simple terms, The Bachelor is a triumph. Moving without being morose, and boasting a scale that some have labelled as ‘overproduction’ but is in my opinion perfectly appropriate to Wolf’s immense talent as a songwriter. Far from being only a rendering of his battle with exhaustion and depression, this album endeavours toward the universal on a winding path that crosses many moods and styles. The frantic energy of songs such as Oblivion (which sees Wolf take up an electric guitar, heaven forfend) and Vulture is offset by the choral yearning of Who Will? and Damaris. Title track The Bachelor, a duet with modern folk legend Eliza Carthy is chaotic ballad that charts Wolf’s loneliness of late 2007 with a sound that can only be described as ‘post-folk’. Recorded when Carthy’s voice was lowered by her pregnancy (really), the joint vocal acieves a guttural ferocity that contrasts strikingly with its grassroots fiddle-and-piano arrangements.

Eliza Carthy is of course not the only artist to collaborate with Patrick on the album. Digital hardcore ingénieur Alec Empire produced Vulture and Battle, probably the most aggressive tracks on an album that largely relies on nuanced emotional gravity to relay its message. Most exciting of all the collaborations, however, is arguably the spoken-word contributions of Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton, who takes on a maternal, advisory voice. These spoken epithets serve to reinforce the message of hope that rests at the heart of  The Bachelor, guiding the lost Wolf through the mazes conjured by Thickets and Theseus.

Like his debut Lycanthropy, this album is an intensely personal one, but Wolf also takes time to increase his scope in a way rarely seen on his previous records. Blackdown is a frank and touching appraisal of his relationship with his father and his position within the familial space, while in Battle, Hard Times and Count of Casualty, Patrick takes an unprecedented dive into current affairs, attacking everything from homophobia and the war on terror to social networking websites. This addressing of modern social issues makes a refreshing change from Wolf’s world of unicorns and talking magpies. Nowhere is this more powerful than on The Sun is Often Out, a haunting elegy for Stephen Vickery, poet and friend of Wolf, who committed suicide in April 2008. In short, this song is beautiful. It showcases Patrick’s remarkable new maturity as a vocalist, set against ghostly, orchestral strings that reach a climax with an uplifting choral refrain that effectively sums up just how epic this album is. I cried. Twice.

— Chris


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