Dusted Reviews

Wolf Eyes - Slicer

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Wolf Eyes

Album: Slicer

Label: Hanson

Review date: Nov. 24, 2002

The Next Stars of Noise

In short order, Michigan audio-masochists Wolf Eyes will be judiciously recognized as one of the best experimental noise groups on the planet, alongside rising-star contemporaries like Black Dice, Nautical Almanac, and Lightning Bolt. With well over fifty releases, most hand-reproduced using tape recorders, lathes, and CD-R’s, Wolf Eyes have done more than shape the direction of a sound. They have pioneered a particular thread of lo-fi aesthetic, rooted in necessity (thanks to lack of funds) and the noble desire to make all of their tremendous output at least temporarily available. If their friend and previous collaborator Andrew W.K. can manage his way into Coors Light commercials, it’s fairly certain that Wolf Eyes will have achieved full-on noise god status by this time next year. They have already opened for acts as interesting and varied as Low, Sonic Youth, and the Locust.

There is, as always with successful bands, some serendipity of timing. As fond memories of no wave and to a certain degree punk pervade the musical underground in 2002, musicians like Wolf Eyes who can pull off energetic live noise are decidedly in fashion.

But frankly they deserve the attention. Their shows are some of the cruelest adventures to be experienced at present. Employing an assortment of self-made electronic devices, re-wired effects boxes, drum machines, tape manipulations, unintelligible vocals, and horns, the three band members (John Olson, Aaron Dilloway, and Nate Young) make a spectacle every time and everywhere they play. At a recent Detroit show, their smoke machine triggered a fire alarm and they continued to play, in time with the alarm.

Their recordings mirror this energy in different ways each time, which is one of the reasons why owning a lot of Wolf Eyes records is a good idea. For example, the recent CD reissue of the album Slicer, originally a cassette-only release on Dilloway’s Hanson Records in 2001, shows the band’s ability to be exciting even when they’re not rocking out. This is a fairly contemplative album, characterized primarily by extended reflections on elementary samples or beats. I guess you could call it atmospheric, but the music isn’t (and isn’t intended to be) soundtrack-like.

More so it is a catalog of welcome intrusions into silence. The first track (none are named) is an a-cappella number, just a man’s voice divided into rhythmic pieces with no other sound save for the abrupt click of each snippet being cut off. It is a fitting warm-up to the general starkness of the album. Track two features a repetitive and distant horn playing the same four notes, a drum machine playing a simple crackling beat and, in the immediate foreground, lite fuzz and feedback. Track three is primarily blank space with what can only be described as indescribable sounds making periodic and succinct cameos. The song becomes increasingly regular before giving way, on track four, to a symphony of electronic whale sounds which eventually are joined by a beat. Scariness and funk collide a la no wave on this track, though not nearly for long enough.

Track five is a beautiful piece, not especially scary and actually quite pleasing in timbre. It is a sparse presentation of sounds, seemingly derived from just one or two sources, changed in myriad ways with whatever types of machines and tape destruction methods, and arranged loosely into a rhythm. Unquestionably Wolf Eyes are emphasizing sound here, not song structure. But what makes this track interesting is that these hundreds of variations are organized into a palpably evolving continuum. This is a trick the group frequently uses live, and the idea is well represented on this recording.

Tracks six and seven rely on electronics, probably synthesizers and tone-generators, one-at-a-time, changing very slowly. Here again the profusion of silence greatly determines the feeling of the songs. If there is aggression in these tracks, it is at best latent.

Slicer may not serve as the most representative introduction to a group whose main appeal lies in their noisiness. However, it is irrefutable evidence of their broader creative abilities. Wolf Eyes are rapidly gaining attention because their talent is multi-dimensional, and with each new release seemingly more limitless. The ways in which they produce sound are, in contrast to nearly everybody, completely novel, and the wide respect they’re gaining with fans of noise can only grow as a result. Please remember this review when, in a few years, Wolf Eyes plays “Burn Your House Down” on Saturday Night Live.

By Ben Tausig

Other Reviews of Wolf Eyes

Burned Mind

Fuck Pete Larson

Human Animal

Read More

View all articles by Ben Tausig

Find out more about Hanson

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.