The Moonlight E.P.
Gothic artistry and bloodied teeth, hide a softer heart and innovative spirit.
The Moonlight E.P. is available at:
REAPPROPRIATING any misgivings about certain genres of music…
is essential, when diversifying tastes and horizons. Of course there are exceptions that disprove the rule. No matter how many examples I hear of rap or modern pop, the effect is still the same: no one is ever going to make it appealing to me. It is the nature of music, in all its open-arm, open-door lack of discretion and discrimination: everyone is welcomed. This causes a lot of trade, but a serious admonishment in quality controls and tariffs. The best results and nicest surprises, seem to emanate from artists and talents, whom are willing to mix styles and sounds; to create unexpected delights. Even if an act purports to belonging to one particular genre or style; by adding different effects and sounds: jazz or swing stylings; classical strings; blues guitars etc., then you have a greater chance of making interesting music and exciting waves. It is not an exact science, obviously: many have tried and failed. Muse’s recent foray into dub-step on The 2nd Law, was met with derision and projectile anger. It is a lesson for bigger acts and established bands, I suppose. If you get it wrong, it can take years off of your life expectancy and alienate a lot of fans. New acts have the least and most pressure, all at once. On the one hand, they have no critical or commercial expectations, nor any large swathes of fans to please. That said, survival and growth is a difficult achievement, and there is an innate and inherited tendency to be overly-cautious and unambitious when making your infant steps. Night Wolf is an artist whom I have been aware of for a few months now. Here was an example of a blue-collar human, with white-collar work ethics and promise. Definitely a man of the people, and one whom respects fans and non alike; he (Ryan Wilcox), has made a name and reputation for himself, after producing a string of incredible tracks. It is not just the subject and lyrical content; it is the sounds and sensations within those tracks. I, personally, was struck by the classical and operatic aspects of some of the songs. It is a difficult thing to pull off: mix classical styles together with modern themes and words, whilst pleasing the purists, and drawing in all sects of potential fans. Night Wolf has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. On the surface there is the imagery: the voracious night hunter; ruby eyes, with snarling teeth, and a carnivorous intent. It is when the beast is subdued and its belly tickled that the flip side is revealed: the diverse and daring composer, sans sharp teeth and claws; only a desire to please and inspire. It is a juxtaposition and contrast that excites and surprises.
The Moonlight E.P. is a release that displays those polar edges, with fervent abandon, and adventurous spirit. It was the previous E.P., Watts The Time Mr. Wolf, which cemented me as a fan of Night Wolf and Wilcox’s talents. There were myriads moves and shades within that record. I was hardly surprised when I happened upon the initial seconds of The Moonlight E.P., and realised that I was not going to be disappointed. It is 5 tracks of switch, unpredictability and above all, quality:
Chosen: Its life begins calmly, and with portentous beauty. There are classical overtones, bordering along the edges of Romanticism. One could well imagine strings and an orchestra eliciting the same sound, only here the evocations are created by a punctuated electronic sound; to my ear it sounds like a grand piano, only with an echoed and electronic edge to it. There are hints and reminiscences of club tracks of the ’90s and early-’00s: you may be predicting some sort of synthesised pulverisation and reckless fury being revealed; designed to get the sweatiest and more fatigued of revellers, dancing. There is evidence to suggest that similar territory may have a Night Wolf flag planted. Classic reverence and majesty remains in focus for a little while. The mood and atmosphere slowly builds: the authour wants you to be cast asunder and seduced in the infant stages. When a xylophone twinkle is bolstered by a twirling and energised percussion, this, conjoined with the classical edges, builds a momentum and gravitational pull. The pace of the background string sounds is composed, but passionate. In the foreground there is a mixture of sensations: xylophone and percussive temporsiation, mingles with harder and tougher beats, as well as a piano line that skips and rides of a wave. It is the way that Night Wolf builds up a song: beginning on modest and striking foundations, and layering steps and floors as he goes, that is the most distinctive tattoo to be seen. Around about the 1:00 mark, a couple of components are scrubbed from the mix, as the xylophone and strings, are teamed with a skiffing and dancing beat; before long, a distinctly classical flavour takes centre stage. Brooding strings work away behind the central focal point: building up another round of momentum and movement. With little warning, something bordering on musical apocalypse is unleashed. With heavy dub step overtones, it is a pulverising sonic boom, that pulses at first; recoils and sits back, before pulsing again. It is almost a weaponised component: taking lives, moving on, before taking some more. The decision to keep the calmer elements in tact, and juxtaposing those with dub step heaviness works well, and creates an eerie and exhilarating clash. It is a song that- at this stage- will be loved by dub step followers, but has shades of Massive Attack and ’90s dance as well. It is heavy for sure, but has that same inventiveness and sensation. The beat, and tripping, nimble tail is a mechanical beast, that skips and pirouettes before letting out a double roar. Something more restrained and melodic takes its place, and changes the direction again- completed with classical edges. As if you were in safe waters, once more the monster rises from the waves, intent on taking further lives: the dub step line is repeated, sticking to the twin throb-calmer tip-toe structure, through to the end. The energy has been sapped and it is a song that is designed to lull you into a sense of false security and hit you by surprise. It mixes the sounds of the streets, with the melodic and cultured compositions of the classical music scene, and wins on both front. 9.4
Wasting Time: Perhaps on the order of a physician, the first steps of Wasting Time are calmer, and much more meditative. There are feint strings in the back of the room, and a large classical influence again. It is an almost balletic main thesis that is present. Mixtures of Handel, Tchaikovsky, mingles with elements of modern composers; the overall sensation is one of calm, and romantic regard, once more. The string and percussive sounds act as a heart beat and blood-flow: flowing and beating where necessary and keeping the mood alive and breathing. A beat is dropped in, that picks up some momentum and infuses the atmosphere with tension and a hard hit too. Combining the punchy percussive beat and the swaying and pioneering classical lines together makes your heart race slightly, whilst your mind and soul are soothed. This combination spirit, and constant anxiety, really makes the track. You always think that there is something lurking, waiting to punch. It is the feeling of being on edge, made stronger but the bass-heavy beat, that keeps the song electric and invigorating. If you tie all this together with the beauty that is always present, the overall effect is striking and memorable indeed. It has a charm and authority that could see it as a soundtrack to a spy film or taut indie thriller. If I was to describe the perfect theme for a bold and daring drama, this would be it, and it conveys so much without a word being said. It is testament to the compositional skills of Night Wolf, as well as the innate ability to marry sounds and genres together to reveal a strange relationship, that means Wasting Time is another brilliant step. After the gut punches that were present during Chosen, this is a remedy: a relaxing and exciting slice of sound, designed to calm your nerves, and put a big smile on your face. 9.6
Burn The Money: Night Wolf was inspired to write Burn The Money after watching a series of videos. It was then that the idea to write a hip hop number, all be it a grittier, more diverse song. The first thing that happens in this song is the introduction of a vocal. It is not sung, however; it is spoken word. As the title may suggest, the minutia of the song is a financial figure; it is a relate-able tableaux for a modern age. The music underscoring the voice, begins life bearing dark, languid strings. It is an instant mood setter that does not dominate or even try to equal what is being said; instead lurks in the shadows. The recording itself seems to be from an American newscast or news programme; I am not sure. Instantly there is a sense of mystery about who this man is, that is prophesying imminent economic doom. He talks about interest rates on national debt will mean that, theoretically, by 2013 it could mean “total bankruptcy for the U.S. economy”. Instantly there is a immanency to proceedings. The message does not go on to bring us tidings of joy, but stays on message, explaining what the wider implications will be. At the 0:30 junction, the recording is stopped and the piano line is not in the spotlight. It is initially dark and funereal; reminiscent of Stravinsky and Raschmaninoff, with a hint of an audible shoulder drop. There is a build-up as lighter notes mix with dark; a feint drum cymbal is heard, before strings come back to play. They are playful and delicate, counteracted by a solid and militaristic drum beat. In a way the mesh and interplay of sounds and moods reflects the theme of the song and act as a musical countenance. The tone now has more of a hip hop theme; a bit of Massive Attack, Tricky, maybe later Portishead too with a delicate nod to Cypress Hill, The Progidy and Jay-Z. Just before the news recording recomposes itself, your mind is somewhere else. In mine at least, driving down a dark road heading for London, neon, multicoloured light beckoning my hence. Before I can be too entrenched in my own fantasy, we are back. It is only for a nanosecond, and the hip hop roll is in the fray; the synthesised night crawler is back; doing battle with a voice that says “the only way to make more money/Is to create more debt and inflation”. The combination of the two mileaux’s creates a psychotropic effect. The words affect the mind, soul and brain; the music raises the body, inflames the ears and brightens the eyes. It is a curious sexual call, from a curious allure. The sea has calmed slightly, and the infectious beat pitches tent in your limbic system. Just when you think that we are preparing to fade, Mr. Ominous, like Carrie in a 3-piece suit, rises bloodied from the water, to deliver another apocalyptic bromide. The coda of Burn The Money is that in spite of all the downturn, and fiscal tsunami, we need to “use it to our advantage”. Bloody Americans! The track as a whole has a sort of retro feel to it, that harks bark to the genesis of hip hop and big beat. Unlike many of the pre-pubescent shirt tuggers that are trying to acclimate base camp in your brain through a series of left turns, explosions and sample-laden perturbation, Night Wolf have pulled off a neat illusion. The track is quite uncategorisable. Sure there is hip hop, big beat, romantic classical with a light crust of old school rap. There is much to recommend for any lover of any genre of music. The spoken word segments are deployed effectively, punctuating the mood, and coming to the fore at the most effective times. The announcer is suitably anodyne and Mid-Western; in essence quite flat. This, coupled with the extraordinary soundtrack that levies the momentum, interject perfectly and the resultant song is spellbinding its efficiency and effectiveness. It is a tight number as well, and does not overplay its hand or descend into parody or morbid hyperbole. Instead, it is a tight manifesto that will long by remembered once the song has ended. 9.5
Darker Days: It begins almost with a Morse Code sensation. Dark and bass guitar-like electronic points are instantly defeated by sparks and fizzes of electronic percussion. You are not sure what direction the song will take, but suspect that we will hear a similar number to that of Chosen. There is no ritualistic cliche when you consider Night Wolf. Just when I was thinking there may be a classic de tour, a vocal line rocks up hard. The opening words “I’m so sick of these dark, dark days” sets a lyrical tone, and the inclusion of a “fuck-you attitude” goes some way to strengthening this view, and balkanising against the majesty of tracks such as Wasting Time. There is grime, dub step and urban influence. The vocal by Conscious Pilots brings some hip hop influence and authority to the song. Where as the previous tracks, supported by Centrist, had melodic and augmented highs, as well as a combination of quiet-loud; there is much more direct attitude and spikiness here. The words are intended to hit home, and make themselves known. The lyrics are punched out, tumble, spat and rapped: tales of poverty and hard city street living are present and dominant. Musically, there is not a sole tendency to have hip hop and dub step beats in the mix. That may add too much weight and menace to the track. Instead there are darker strings, reminiscent of Bond Themes, Muse’s The Resistance work, as well as modern hip hop and urban flavours. When words about “the underground”: a place where “the police are aware/But they don’t come round“, are tumbled forth with angry intent, it is hard not to be both intimidated and won over. The themes are relevant and modern. Lyrics about government statistics and bloodshed paint a picture of a very real of modern Britain. The Queen is name-checked, but not for any positive reasons; the young voices are fresh and filled with world-weariness and burden. Our vocal representative tells of how the rich are forcing the working-class down, and taking away their money. Chaos is the prevailing theme: every man for themselves. Backed by propulsive and majestically subtle strings, the words resonate strongly. They are decipherable and very clear: a lot of hip hop artists slur and blur their words so they are unintelligible. The vocal interplay by the two chaps is impressive. They don’t fight for the mic. and attention: instead they join forces and a strengthened and purposeful unit. They are “tasting the pain” in a “catch 22″. It is a track that is not reserved for fans of hip hop, urban or street music. Vocally, it is very strong, but not too foreboding. Conscious Pilots are already popular and regraded in their own right, but with the teamwork of Night Wolf, add weight and edges to a fantastic track, that will speak to the youth of today. The lyrics are impressive and consistently sharp, and the atmospheric backing and composition gives the track a great foothold, and rises it above the parapet. 9.5.
Problem: Completing our travels, and coming into land, is Problem. Now there is not a classical or orchestral start; nor is there any dub step thud or threat. There is almost a science fiction aspect to the intro. It begins with high-pitched and twinkling electronics, projecting the image of a ultraviolet robot. You are taken aback and intrigued at the same time. A building swing occurs: your feet and fingers start to tap and soon a more frazzled and frantic buzz joins in, and takes the song in a new direction. It is the mechanical and retro sounds, that combine, buzz, trickle and endeavour that captures you. There is no menace or violence from the start, only sparks and fires of excitement. Soon enough, the different lines and avenues are met with a tense and static hold. It is unsure if we will hear a dub step smash, or classical leanings. It is the latter which prevails. The foreground remains in tact (joined with percussion), but it is the backing and distant scenery that catches your ear. I am not sure what the ‘Problem’ is, but judging by the range of chaotic and composed sounds, one suspects it will not be resolved, even after the song has ended. A staccato and head-rush of electronic sound presents itself as well, adding to the mood and energy of the song. In a way there is again a retro feel: something in-between ’80s and ’90s dance, but given a lot of modern shine and touches. The track is evocative and politicising and scenes and images will be in your head right from the opening notes. Night Wolf strike a chord, and run with it. The pattern and structure that is cemented fairly early on, is ridden and rides along, drawing you in. It is the mastery and skill with which this is done that is most impressive. I myself can’t even begin to guess where the sounds were from, and how they were mixed, but it is the unique recipe that hits hard: almost a hallmark and expected step from Night Wolf. Pauses open up to allow the sound of strings to be heard. Our authour is not content to just stick with a sound and not deviate: little flecks and sparks are created, and diversions taken to allow the song to remain mobile, memorable and surprising. Problem has an epic quality and is a fitting closer to a brilliant E.P. There is no hard-hitting rush or dub step beats; you are able to collect your thoughts and contemplate. So much so that by the end of the track, you’d like another track to come along; such is the tease, that you are left wanting more. 9.6.
Another triumphant release from Night Wolf, that goes to show that he is always thinking, working, and making moves few others would dare. I know for a fact that he has a fervent and dedicated fan base and works hard to recruit new followers and potential fans. I was impressed by his previous release’s mix of styles, and surprised by how many changes and switches are to be heard in a single song, let alone an E.P. The Moonlight E.P. is a natural step forward and another release filled with innovation and style. There are so little artists out there whom are daring and pioneering when it comes to cross pollinating and mixing sounds and samples together. Within the 5 tracks, there is classical, dub step, urban, spoken word, as well as hip hop, and one suspects that a future release will expand even further on this. Who knows where E.P. no. 3 will take us: jazz? Heavy metal? Stoner rock? Disco perhaps? Any and everything is possible, and it is always exciting imaging what is in the mind of Wilcox and Night Wolf. Until the next steps are made, we have an E.P. of taut, tight and focused tracks, that display a keen and growing talent. Get on board now…
AND get lost in the moonlight…