Parken, Copenhagen, DEN - 14/5
Wolves and Machines
Written by: DR on 02/11/2012 22:41:32
More often than not, acoustic EPs are a source of fresh, if not brand new, material to segue fans between more noteworthy releases. But, for Wolves and Machines, the release of "Remedies" represents more than that: it's the 'other side' of the story from their debut album, "Ailments"; while there are re-worked versions of old songs, the release primarily features new songs; in the two years between this and their last release, Wolves and Machines have noticeably evolved as song-writers, which really stands out in the new material.
Wolves and Machines's fantastic aforementioned debut, "Ailments", hit a sweet-spot sonically somewhere between the progressive indie soundscapes of PM Today and the emotional intensity of Brand New's "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me". Its ambitious yet well-crafted lyrical concept of a sailor heading back out to sea in order to put distance between himself and the woman he believes he can no longer love, expertly trod themes of remorse, loneliness and loss. "Remedies" - a venture into acoustic dominated, even folk, waters - simultaneously reaches back to conclude the story of "Ailments" by offering the perspective of the other person (as evidenced by the album cover), and also shows that the band have developed their song-writing to tell this tale in a manner that isn't as simple as them picking up acoustic guitars instead of their electric guitars. Moreover, it does this while largely maintaining the consistently high quality level of their short career so far.
The older songs - "Discords", "Fevers" and "Ailments" - have an interest factor in how they once succeeded in being impossibly epic in sound yet are now re-worked for a more intimate setting. Unfortunately, the results are varied because the transition is smoother for certain songs than for others. For instance, the wave-like dynamics in the original version of "Fevers" were flawlessly executed and perfectly matched the tone of the lyrics. With this re-worked version, despite not a lot being wrong with the individual sections of layered android-y vocals in the opening/closing and bouncy folk verses/choruses, the movements between the two styles are awkward, and the overall result doesn't hold a candle to the original. "Discords" is solid, though, and "Ailments" gains fresh life in its stripped-down format. In its original form "Discords" is relatively bare anyway, so the warmer tones offered by the upbeat folky styling isn't a big jump to make, but it's still one made fairly successfully. Whereas "Ailments", with its energetic folk rhythms and floaty, infectious vocals seems to draw more attention to its insightful lyrics than you may have paid before.
Although the new versions of old songs offer results ranging from 'merely' decent to good, the new songs are usual Wolves and Machines excellence. "Beacons", undeniably one of the highlights, sticks close to the format that made "Ailments" so special - a quiet/loud dynamic with Aaron DeVries's softer, introspective refrains for the quiet opening, before the more emotionally intense outbursts in the climax - but it is "Coastlines" and "Remedies" that best display the band's progression. Arguably their only song so far worthy of the term 'hauntingly beautiful', "Coastlines", for the most part, is a deliberately subdued and sober affair. Comprised of DeVries's capturing effected vocals hushed to the point of whisper, solemn guitar strokes and a chorus of voices rustling in the background, the listener is sedately lulled until it erupts out of nowhere with a piercing guitar solo. Closer "Remedies" ventures close to outright ballad territory with its relaxed tempo and melancholic vocal call/response delivery between DeVries and Rebecca Ann Henry. DeVries's voice is a particular draw; he shows improvement in his transitions from the soaring cries to his lofty falsetto that was previously unheard of in his voice. A song as moving as this is a fitting closer to the EP and the concept overall.
Ultimately, "Remedies" does exactly what it set out to do: it gives fans new material, while demonstrating enough ambition and progression in their song-writing to leave us eager to hear where they are heading with their next full length. It is not perfect; yet, that this band could make such a foray into acoustic/folk music while continuing to offer moments of genuine excellence is a testament to not only their ability, but their enormous potential.
Download: Beacons, Coastlines
For The Fans of: Brand New's "Fight Off Your Demons" demos meets City & Colour
Release Date 26.08.2012
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