Sundark and Riverlight
Nov 07, 2012 Web Exclusive
This double album opus is, if anything, an audacious conceit, as the ever-adventurous Patrick Wolf cherry-picks numbers off of his full-lengths and reinvents them dramatically. Some of these numbers succeed spectacularly, while some fall flat on their faces, which is essentially the point for Wolf. He’s an artist who thrives on crashing ambitions, and has undertaken his most over the top project to date with Sundark and Riverlight.
These aren’t always predictable transformations—“The Magic Position,” one of Wolf’s biggest hits, is carried by a sawing cello, and the torque-fueled strut of the original is eschewed for a lapidary grace.
“Wind in the Wires,” the title track from Wolf’s second album, is stripped of its grit and fury in favor of a certain resigned acceptance. A staccato violin and mélange of chamber strings buttress Wolf’s whispered plea to “Give me back my family,” an augmented lyric that lends the track a certain gravitas, in direct contrast with the original’s bereft dementia.
“The Libertine,” also from Wind in the Wires, has a near Scott Walker-esque nefariousness in its braying string arrangement. It’s one of the few tracks here that actually feels more dangerous in a more austere form without the sonic bluster Wolf normally swaps in.
The record peaks with Wolf’s bare bones take on “The Vulture.” Supple piano ripples as eerie as anything off of Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call take the place of synth swells, as the number becomes a sad-eyed lament to the machinations endemic to the record industry. “The big wheels turn turn/And all the forest fires burn/And all my dead meat years,” Wolf bleats as if he’s conducting an exorcism, and indeed this excellent compilation of old tracks revisited sound like a profound psychic cleanse. He’s conducted a bloody autopsy, left the corpse for us to pick over, and is ready to move on to his next challenge. (www.patrickwolf.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10