Steeple is the first album proper from Wolf People and represents the emergence of a fully fledged band from the fragmented, haunted bedroom meanderings of their Tidings singles compilation, released earlier this year. Recorded in a converted chicken barn on the grounds of a 17th century Welsh mansion, Steeple takes on a heavier sound while maintaining the arabesque electric guitars, groove-laden drums and ethereal vocals that characterized its predecessor.
Cheerfully aware of the English rock band cliché of “getting it together in the country," the quartet did it anyway, inspired by the rural isolation of West Wales to conjure shifting rhythms, entrancing folksong and smoke-fogged, riff-stoked jams. Steeple captures a band in metamorphosis, bridging frontman Jack Sharp’s earlier solo efforts and the speaker-shearing attack developed in concert over the past four years. Now an accomplished live unit, the quartet have shared stages with the likes of The Besnard Lakes, Dinosaur Jr, Dungen, Endless Boogie, Lightning Dust and Tinariwen.
While the bulk of recording took place in Wales, the remainder was undertaken during post-day job, late night sessions in Sharp’s bedroom studio. The results are both more coherent and nuanced than previous outings, with Sharp’s keen ear for a tune complemented by heady instrumental passages that veer between dreamlike traditional melodies and feedback onslaughts. Proud of their heritage, both musical and cultural, Wolf People's vision faithfully reflects the myriad environments the group's members move between — the British countryside and various cities (Bedford, London and North Yorkshire) — while offering a universally appreciable set of songs for this age or any other. Wolf People are Jack Sharp, Joe Hollick, Dan Davies and Tom Watt.
Tidings is the first dark and frenzied offering from London's Wolf People — an alchemistic compendium of English classic rock that has been doused in wine, its pages left red-stained, blurred and melded in the most interesting ways. The quartet — and first UK rock band to join the Jagjaguwar inner circle — is eager to stress that Tidings is not a proper album per se. Collected from recordings made by Jack Sharp in Bedford, England between 2005 and 2007 (and mostly before the band as it exists now was formed), Tidings is wild with tape hiss, feedback and background noise — a fecund broth of sounds competing for the listener's attention. Stitched together in a style reminiscent of Faust or early Mothers Of Invention, the songs lay nestled in snatches of field recordings, winding tapes, squealing feedback, studio outtakes and the voices of dead relatives. The tunes themselves are full of hissing guitars, distorted blues harmonica, acid rock, mystical flutes and crackling tape, often based on updated versions of classic blues structures and half-remembered English folk songs. These recordings form the prehistory of a band that have recently garnered a reputation for blistering live performances around the UK. Their sound has evolved to include the diverse influences and musicianship of Jack's three colleagues and, as such, Tidings serves as index of possibilities.
On their debut self-titled album, Women embraced sonic brashness that deeper examination revealed to be tinted with sly pop melody. With their second album "Public Strain", the band has honed a sound truthful to that reverb drenched noise while allowing the pop sensibilities to surface into clearer focus.
This exact balance of delicate and dense is a pervasive thread throughout the album, reflecting the contradiction of the band's environment buried in urban sprawl framed by prairie landscape. Whether twisting through the urgent krautrock of "Locust Valley", an exercise of harmony through simplicity, or climaxing with the bittersweet melody of "Eyesore", the album somehow builds luminous contrast out of a palette of grays.
Sometimes light and spacious, at other times eerie and dense with an ominous weight, this self titled album touches upon Velvet Underground, Swell Maps or This Heat while not really having any obvious precursors - a lo-fi masterpiece cloaked in layers of vibrato and guitar wash.