Sunday 30 June 2013

I-Wolf & The Chainreactions - Flesh + Blood

Album review by

Wolfgang Schlögl is a member of various musical projects in his native Austria, but late last year saw the return, after nine years, of his I-Wolf & The Chainreactions guise with single 'Let It Go'. No one-off, he's now released two albums, both on the same day and with some tracks appearing on both records in different forms. Firstly is the longer of the pair: 'Flesh + Blood' - the "life" record; the idea being that this is more upbeat, enthusiastic and contemporary. In places it is, at other points it feels dark, but that's as much a representation of the artist in general as anything else. One thing that is for certain is that it's incredibly diverse and experimental. Take opening track 'Trailerpark Voodoo/Howling', seven-and-a half minutes of soundscapes, strange noises, sporadic beats and a soulful female vocal. Attempting to pinpoint a genre is futile, the best you can do is call it avant-garde and be done with it.

The single 'Let It Go' is on both albums. In this instance it almost represents itself as a modern form of space-rock, and those sound effects and unusual touches carry through from the first track, in fact they're omnipresent on these albums. This is more accessible and has a gospel twang, like someone remixing a Spiritualized track. The brass-led 'Turn Where Your Heart Is' may have some uptempo industrial beats and (possibly) flute, but it's not exactly full of the joys of spring. It is another fine song though, and perhaps it just means that I-Wolf has a different idea of "life" than we do. 'Exploration Blues' is a highlight; again its soulful and again it's innovative, but this one's more approachable and would make good single material, the vocals are perfect. The beat is played around with more for the jazzy 'Blazing Fires' and 'For So Long' could be described as trip-hop, touching on rap and showing the diversity of the music I-Wolf makes.

That point seems to see a change in the album's style. 'Hearts On Fire' also touches on trip-hop and could be from an experimental work from the '90s. Although well made, it's not as successful as some of the album's previous songs, yet remains within I-Wolf's comfort zone; he knows how to make music this way. This venture into different genres continues as 'Wicked Paradise' takes inspiration from the rise of bass culture, the constant being those soulful female vocals that seem here for the duration. Beats change again and are joined by some twinkling piano on what sounds like it could be a retro-cinematic soundscape with 'The Lightning And Thunder', that is until the vocals enter the fray, pinning the song back in line with the rest of the album. There's such an ominous feel to 'It Will Burn Us' (even with the prog organ break) that you begin to wonder what kind of "life" 'Flesh + Blood' is meant to represent. They wrap things up with a screeching dubby genre-mash called 'Total Eclipse'. Yes this is a lively album, but far from a happy one. That said, it's inventive, innovative and not afraid to go out on a limb. Pop fans will find little of interest here, but seekers of left-field treats will get hours of enjoyment from a substantial body of work. And this is only half the story...

I-Wolf & The Chainreactions' website

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