Dreams In Splattered Lines by Wolf Eyes

Release date: May 26, 2023
Label: Disciples

If you just stick with your weirdness for long enough, people come around to respecting you for it. Wolf Eyes have been turning out the lo-fi, electronic, noise-poetry gear so long and so hard that you really just have to tip your hat. A subterranean ride through surreal sound collages and hand made sonics, Dreams In Splattered Lines marks 25 years and very likely thousands of releases. Now operating as a duo they have always kept the idea of the band and their music in flux, although the results bear their unmistakable smeary fingerprints. Wolf Eyes are never going to move on from the underground fringes and ‘get serious’, they will never become a rock band, a song writing partnership or a jazz improv collective, they are already all this and less.

January’s Difficult Messages album collected up a series of collaborations originally released as limited 45’s and credited to a variety of different temporary outfits. One of which brings the start point here ‘Car Wash Two w/Short Hands’ finds a tune by Short Hands (Wolf Eyes + Alex Moskos of Drainolith) playing on the radio as they go through the car wash. Is that really what’s happening or just a fanciful description of how the distortion and degradation heaped upon it sounds? Doesn’t matter really, although Wolf Eyes is generally a ‘hands on’ analogue concern. So wind the window up. 

These short tracks are all two or three minute pieces, informed by the behaviours of hit singles, although that’s not immediately obvious. Sing-along choruses and bombastic key changes are noticeably absent. If it’s easy to take Difficult Messages as a damaged and random jukebox of a record, Dreams In Splattered Lines is more like a wayward soundtrack compilation. Each track a chaotic snapshot from a winding journey through hidden worlds, a postcard trail of saturated colours and enigmatic inscriptions.

John Olson’s home made woodwind contraptions loop and call over a harsh industrial rhythm in the first half of ‘Engaged Withdrawal’. A beat like Iggy’s ‘Nightclubbing’ strikes up and we can imagine the two of them, out on the town, staggering back and forth along the river, through the interzone. On ‘Plus Warning’ Nate Young’s beat rambling is eaten by robot locusts. He comes back strong on ‘Exploding Time’ riding chunks of electro buzz over a slowly forming rhythm, pushing against sheets of sideways sound. Meanwhile ‘My Whole Life’ teems with night time paranoia like a drunken inner monologue spilling out on a lost march through a strange part of town.

Then there’s the exquisitely entitled ‘The Museums We Carry’ a river glide of calm adventure, hand percussion and alien ethnographic vibes carrying more of Olson’s mournful pipes. The idea of portable personal museums seems ideally matched to this record, a story made of the fragments of flotsam in your pockets and wallet, a mixture of essential and ephemeral. Wolf Eyes’ music has a transient sense of captured moments and odd combinations thrown up by the street level thrum. Music for the Dada theatre of your life.

Purely by pushing their shopping cart of trash ‘n’ treasure behind their own wayward star for so long, Wolf Eyes have become something of an institution. A reputation as giants of the avant-noise-underground can perhaps obscure their essential playfulness. This isn’t harsh or assaultive music set to rattle your teeth or nerves. It’s open hearted, made with an almost childish delight in the physicality of sound, for the myriad pleasing textures of sonic degradation. These short pieces are dense with layered musical thoughts, covered in streaks of elastic, synthetic sound and swirls of snippets and clanks. Dreams In Splattered Lines.

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