Patrick Wolf

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Patrick Wolf



viii. epilogue

So that’s it.

Our hero has left behind pumpkin soup and dreams of riding giraffes on the rocks, turned his English eyes red, and, driven by the black beating of his blood, run run run as fast as he could, away from collapsing houses, school, sexuality, and the Childcatcher. He ran to the lighthouse, and then crossed the threshold to Paris to start it all again, where he sent his suffering into the fire. He ran the risk of being free, walked along shores and gathered shells, and went over the edge of the world with a green tent and a violin.

He’s gotten lost and been enchanted in secret gardens and the magic position, lost himself in danger and dead meat in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Berlin, but survived through hard times, oblivion and thickets tall around him to count his casualties. On Blackdown, he grappled with mortality, despair and desire, and reconciled with his father, and was led through Battle by the Goddess’ Hopeful Voice.

And now, finally, he has ventured back to the city, full circle, having learned how to battle and how to be conquered, and decided to lay down his weapons in armistice, to look to the future and mark time and ground together with someone else, to build houses and homes.

That’s it for me, too.

A few final notes. If you’ve enjoyed listening to and reading about Patrick Wolf this week, please please please think about buying some of his music or going to a show. He’s currently signed to a label, but these days that doesn’t necessarily mean anything and knowing Patrick he could be independent tomorrow. This is his website, this is his twitter, and his Tumblr is here, which occasionally has some interesting stuff.

Nothing I’ve written about can quite capture the feeling of his live shows - some of them are filmed and on YouTube and worth searching out, specifically his 2007 Grand Finale at Shepherds Bush and a 2005 show from Amsterdam, but if he swings by your city, it’s certainly worth the price of a tickets.

It’s been an incredible week - I don’t think I knew what I was taking on in doing this, no matter what I was warned by everyone else who preceded me. A few thanks:

- To Hendrik - thanks for letting me talk about Patrick for a week, and for not killing me for going over post limits and the weekend, and for help with the myriad technical issues caused by Tumblr.

- To Isabel Cole (especially you, for helping me trust my instincts on ‘The Childcatcher’), Jamieson Cox, Katherine St. Asaph and Zach Lyon for being sounding boards and proofreaders, as well as emotional support, encouragement, and generally awesome Internet friends.

- To Sabina, Iain, Nick and Dave for starting a really awesome conversation (over a couple of months) that I hope is going to continue.

- To my irl friends for putting up with my non-existence for the past week, and especially to those I’ve dragged to Patrick shows in the past. (You know who you are.)

- To my boyfriend, because thanks to this wrap-up, I’m now 10 minutes late for our plans tonight, and a public apology is probably not a bad idea.

- To all past contributors to One Week One Band, for setting the bar so damn high.

- To Patrick and/or Team Wolf, for linking to and retweeting me, and getting the attention of so much of the Wolf Pack. Plus, for making ten years’ worth of incredible music.

- And finally, all of you, for putting up with all my ramblings, the inordinate amount of posting, and occasional pictures of Patrick Wolf riding things. I’m glad so many of you were excited, curious, or at the very least open to reading and thinking about Patrick’s music. Apologies for covering every single song, but Patrick’s albums are so conceptually unified that it would have felt like a disservice to only deal with selections. It’s been fun.

Going to wrap things up with one more post in just a second, but I figured that while I’m still running the ship, I’d post these.

Back in the days of the first three albums, Patrick and his cat used to post handwritten letters up on his site with information about the progress of various albums, and occasionally music recommendations. Figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw them up here, since they might be of interest.

If they aren’t readable, I guess save them or open them in a new tab and zoom in. The quality should be high enough to zoom and read.


Bitten (feat. Sol Marinozzi Bjorck)


Patrick Wolf


Brumalia EP

vii. nunca se olvida que siempre viva

Brumalia EP [Mercury Records, 2011]

Brumalia is an EP assembled around ‘Together,’ which Patrick said made him want to make an “inner city winter months story record." Much as Lupercalia was named after a lupine festival of love, and Lemuralia (the odds’n’ends EP) was named for the festival where ghosts of the dead were exorcised from haunted homesBrumalia is named for the Roman celebration of the year’s shortest day. In keeping with its winter theme, the songs on Brumalia are slightly heavier emotionally than those on its sister album, but there’s an undertone of hope in keeping with Patrick’s newfound peaceful temperament.

Having finally exhausted all possibilities for songs about wolves, with ‘Bitten’ (lyrics) Patrick has capitalized on the werewolf vs. vampire moment society is currently in and written a song about vampires.

No. I’m not serious. Although, he does draw on imagery and characters from Dracula in order to paint a picture of self-destruction and addiction. But where Patrick’s own descent into the abyss on The Bachelor was a picture of despair, ‘Bitten’ is an offer of support. In between the verses, Patrick takes on Tilda’s former role as the Voice of Hope, encouraging, “Don’t give up now.” The chorus, meanwhile, reminds its subject, “You’re still yours.” In a sense, ‘Bitten’ brings Patrick’s music career full circle; it’s the first recording on which he’s played theremin since his days in Minty. ‘Bitten’, and Brumalia, opens with Patrick’s Argentinian friend Sol whispering the phrase nunca se olvida que siempre vida, which could function either as Lucy’s epitaph - Never forgotten. Always alive. - or the maxim embodied by the EP - Never forget that you are alive

Time of Year' (lyrics) is Patrick’s long-awaited attempt at a Christmas single, basically. (It wasn’t released as a single, but the Brumalia EP was, so let’s not quibble.) In typical Patrick style, it’s somewhat contrarian, focusing not on those present for festivities but on those absent - family and friends overseas in the military. The anti-war statements:

What frankincense or myrrh do they seek
To send our soldiers to those burning sands?
How many crosses more must we stigmata our soil with
Until we reveal the blood on our hands?

are a little on-the-nose (but not as clumsy as those from The Bachelor's 'Count of Casualty'), but the sentiment is certainly endearing enough, and the continued presence of saxophone in the midst of a big orchestrated number is a joy. In his description of the EP, Patrick announced:

I would guess this is the last big orchestral pop production song I think I will do for a while… After this EP I’m already hungry to change everything up again, draw a line under the last 10 years of work and start some reinvention.

- Patrick Wolf,, November 30, 2011 (source)

Given his poor track record recently of sticking with his future musical plans, I wouldn’t necessarily believe him, but if this is the last we hear from hi-fi pop Wolf for a while, don’t say he didn’t warn you.

It wouldn’t be a proper Patrick Wolf not-quite-a-Christmas-EP without some sort of a carol, especially given his tradition of recording or reworking traditional folk songs and English poetry (see: Idumea, The Hazelwood, Augustin, The Bachelor, Armistice). So of all the hymns to pick, of course he would cover ‘Jerusalem' (lyrics). The text is a poem by William Blake that was set to music in the early 20th century, and uses its religious subject matter to celebrate the pastoral (“England’s mountains green”, “England’s pleasant pastures”) and criticize The City and industry (“Was Jerusalem built here, among these dark Satanic mills?”). And if we’re talking “bow of burning gold” and “arrows of desire,” may I direct your attention to this picture, c. The Bachelor?

It’s a gorgeous melody, and it lets Patrick really work the lower range of his vocals, before letting him climb further up the octaves in the song’s latter half.

The only problem is that, due to a childhood filled with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, my only previous context for ‘Jerusalem’ was their ‘Buying a Bed’ sketch, which features the hymn in a central role, and lent it humourous associations that I’m still struggling to unlink. Now you can deal with it, too:

Nemoralia' (lyrics) is a brief meditation on the London riots of this past summer that incorporates samples from news footage. I still haven’t totally absorbed it as a song; the (presumably sampled) martial drumbeats, sounds of flare-guns and stuttered beats feel sonically like a return to Lycanthropy, and the lyrics seem to use the conflict in Patrick’s old neighbourhood as an opportunity to reflect on where he’s come from and how far. The saxophone solo, it should be noted, is a tribute to the late Poly Styrene and her band the X-Ray Spex.

Pelicans' (lyrics) is about a journey along the Florida Coast, but it’s also the latest of Patrick’s bird songs. Here, rather than flying off into the sky with another, Patrick contemplates how to balance stability and spontaneity, longing “to be as careless as I once was,” and wondering if growing up means slowing down. Given recent comments, the answer is probably not:

It’s not in my nature to settle down at all. I have settled down in the last few years, but it’s very much in my behaviour pattern to make sure that as soon as I get comfortable, to quickly ensure that I get uncomfortable as soon as possible.

Do you know where you might go?

PW: I just went to Florida. I want to go to somewhere that’s the opposite of my life; I want to go somewhere where there are crocodiles and pelicans….

…and retired Americans on sun loungers?

PW: Maybe I’ll make a bluegrass album or something. I think I’m ready for a country album. I’d be like the male KD Lang.

- “A Watershed Moment,” The Quietus, June 23, 2011 (source)

And finally, ‘Trust' (lyrics) a brutally honest picture of Patrick’s own fear of intimacy, and an admission of frailty despite his display of strength over ten years of battle. It features the harp-playing of Serafina Steer, whose beautiful 2010 LP, Change is Good, Change is Good, I discovered through Patrick’s recommendation. (Check it out!) But I digress. Most intriguingly, ‘Trust’ features the declaration that “I never should have listened to the fortune teller” - a repudiation of the moment that (at least narratively) sparked Patrick’s transformation into ‘Patrick Wolf’ back in his Paris days. The song ends with the German word Vertrauen, which means “to trust in somebody,” and these parting words:

"And when you lose this trust
Remember must
Two fugitives
From the winter months
Rewriting all
The rules of love
To the world around us

and a hint of accordion, which is as good a place to leave things as any.

Together [Lupercalia/Brumalia] [Dir. Mattias Johannson]

“Alone again in Paris,” Patrick sighs. Alone - his natural state, since the first time he fled there. But first, a delicately plucked arpeggio, a snare roll, a trilled noise of static, a sense of foreboding. “You’ve been on my mind.” Moroder synths and a morose baritone.  ”A rooftop in Berlin,” outside the studio, in the middle of recording. Can you believe that this was produced by Alec Empire? “These cities, this view / I see nothing without you.” Not ‘without you I am blind,’ but ‘imagining you here with me.’

The magic of ‘Together’ (lyrics) is that, despite the title, despite the despondency, despite the disco strings***, Patrick doesn’t give up his hard-won independence. “I can do this alone,” he insists, “but we can do this so much better, together.” How easy it would have been to insist ‘I can’t.’ Codependent? Not after the lessons of The Bachelor. But interdependent? Certainly.  ”Stronger we stand, together.” True love knows no sacrifice, because when you’re doing it properly it’s compromise. The way he lets his voice soar - finally - on the chorus, the swirl of the violins, the perfect marriage of sad verses and euphoric chorus. ‘William’ might be the heart of Lupercalia, but ‘Together’ is its climax.

'Together' is so great that Patrick recorded an entire new EP around it, is what I'm saying.

*** I lied before, about ‘The Libertine’. Those aren’t disco strings. These are disco strings.

[Lupercalia-era artwork. Brumalia photography by Patti Smith.]

People don’t normally approach me for collaborations but there have been a few really great ones. Marianne Faithful, Tilda Swinton, Patti and Nan Golding were my four most memorable. It’s nice to be asked. It can be quite lonely being a solo musician and going out there and being a bit of an island, so when someone like Patti comes along and believes in your work and believes in you like that, it means a lot.

- Patrick Wolf, “Time for Mr. Wolf,” DIY, April 8, 2011 (source)

The Falcons [Lupercalia] [Dir. Noriko Okaku]

From ‘A Boy Like Me’ to ‘Land’s End’ to ‘The Stars’ to ‘The Messenger’, Patrick’s always been particularly good at writing closing tracks that embrace the spirit of the album that they cap off, while still looking forward to what comes next. ‘The Falcons’ (lyrics) is no exception.

Soaring violin lines supported by a pizzicato violin line and finger snaps/clicks, the song is in a state of perpetual ascent. Birds have always figured into Patrick’s imagery - seagulls in ‘Pumpkin Soup’, the loneliness of ‘Pigeon Song’, the southbound birds of ‘Teignmouth’, the bad luck of ‘Magpie’ and the menace of ‘Vulture’.

If anything, ‘The Falcons’ fulfills the promise of ‘Teignmouth’. Back then Patrick hoped, “when the birds fly south / we’ll reach up and hold their tails / pull up and out of here.” No longer weighed down by history, trauma, fear, guilt or self-loathing, Lupercalia leaves us on a positive note - but one that acknowledges what came before.

Looking up, up, up for you
Looking up, up, up for me
Looking up, up, up for us
The video is stunning - falcons in negative flying over a black background, disembodied eyes, hands, faces, bursts of colour and shape.

Divine Intervention


Patrick Wolf



Divine Intervention [House]

Whither The Conqueror?

Lupercalia finds Patrick already conquered, happily domestic, Battle gladly lost. Having decided that much of the material he had written for The Conqueror was too similar in tone to The Bachelor, these songs were set aside, in addition to the Lupercalia tracks worked on with outside dance producers. 

Turning 27 and growing up, I felt like I was still stuck as a teenager, in a way. I wanted to make sure that I was growing so it was time to really get rid of a lot of the work I was writing.

Some of the best songs from that album I’ve used as vinyl B-sides so people can still hear the best work. It was just time to start a clean slate.

- Patrick Wolf, “Time for Mr. Wolf,” DIY, April 8, 2011 (source)

l suspect that neither Patrick’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ nor the gorgeous quasi-Gregorian ‘Sing' (lyrics) were intended for The Conqueror, but ‘Mercia' (lyrics) and ‘Divine Intervention’ (lyrics) clearly were.

'Divine Intervention' starts with a rich cello line and a chorus promising “You'll be filled with the good things again / You'll be fulfilled / You'll be filled full.” It chronicles what we've already heard about in 'Slow Motion', but more in the style of The Bachelor, filled with touches of flute and delicate orchestration, and similarly poetic language. It makes Patrick’s rescue from drink and depression feel more triumphant than romantic.

Similarly, ‘Mercia’ is a detailed story of two days exploring urban landscapes together - haunted houses and abandoned amusement parks - with imagery of golden apples, the cliffs and wild weather, recalling Wind in the Wires.

Neither one would have fit with the tone of Lupercalia as completed, especially given how much they seem grounded in specific personal experiences (note how general most of Lupercalia stays in terms of relaying details of events in Patrick’s life, even compared to The Magic Position, his last ‘love’ album) but perhaps they would have worked as part of a true counterpart to The Bachelor.