patrick wolf

Showing 75 posts tagged patrick wolf

Thanks, Hendrik! Hi, everyone. I’m Alex.
This week, I’ll be writing about an artist who (sometimes) shares with Ke$ha an affection for unicorns and glitter. Tumblr informs me that he recently said (of his latest, fifth, album):

Ke$ha was the inspiration behind going more organic and acoustic, more human. Because I turned on the radio and everything sounded like 2001: A Space Odyssey – like the computer malfunction. Everybody was turning into robots. So I decided to make something about love, intimacy and for it to sound like two bodies making love. - Patrick Wolf (source)

Of course, he also loves Girls Aloud, and numbers Britney Spears (and not just the uptempo stuff - he loves ’Everytime’) and Danja among his influences, so that’s not necessarily a critique so much as it is a statement of purpose.
The first time we reviewed Patrick Wolf over at The Singles Jukebox, I opened my blurb with a disclaimer: “I’ll admit at the outset that it is completely impossible for me to be remotely objective about Patrick Wolf.” That part remains true, and it’s something I want to get out of the way upfront. Worrisome words for a music writer, but I’ll do my best over the course of the week to convey why his work consistently wows rather than merely gesticulating wildly and frothing at the mouth.
I also said this: “His music is interwoven with the past seven years of my life, having acted as balm, inspiration, steel and spine at various points in time.” Most of that is true. Last.fm informs me that I’ve only been listening to Patrick for slightly over five years - since late 2006 - but the music has bled backwards in my memory, and if anyone can stand to be a bit forgiving about self-mythologizing and being creative with your past, it’s Patrick. But we’ll get to that.
Despite the remarkable consistency of certain aspects of Patrick Wolf’s career, he’s the sort of artist who has had a lot of different sounds and faces and looks, and people’s feelings about and expectations of him are frequently shaped by where, how and what exactly he was when they first encountered his music. With that in mind, I’m going to wander through his work chronologically. [ETA: I guess I didn’t quite make the structure clear - today I’ll spend on general introduction and his debut EP, and spend each consecutive day on one of his full-length albums.] If one day’s offerings aren’t your cup of tea, stick around, because the only thing I can guarantee is that the next day’s music will be fairly different. By week’s end, I’m hoping that everyone will have been won over by at least one album.
ETA2: Why, yes, that does appear to be a mandolin behind his head.

Thanks, Hendrik! Hi, everyone. I’m Alex.

This week, I’ll be writing about an artist who (sometimes) shares with Ke$ha an affection for unicorns and glitter. Tumblr informs me that he recently said (of his latest, fifth, album):

Ke$ha was the inspiration behind going more organic and acoustic, more human. Because I turned on the radio and everything sounded like 2001: A Space Odyssey – like the computer malfunction. Everybody was turning into robots. So I decided to make something about love, intimacy and for it to sound like two bodies making love. - Patrick Wolf (source)

Of course, he also loves Girls Aloud, and numbers Britney Spears (and not just the uptempo stuff - he loves ’Everytime’) and Danja among his influences, so that’s not necessarily a critique so much as it is a statement of purpose.

The first time we reviewed Patrick Wolf over at The Singles Jukebox, I opened my blurb with a disclaimer: “I’ll admit at the outset that it is completely impossible for me to be remotely objective about Patrick Wolf.” That part remains true, and it’s something I want to get out of the way upfront. Worrisome words for a music writer, but I’ll do my best over the course of the week to convey why his work consistently wows rather than merely gesticulating wildly and frothing at the mouth.

I also said this: “His music is interwoven with the past seven years of my life, having acted as balm, inspiration, steel and spine at various points in time.” Most of that is true. Last.fm informs me that I’ve only been listening to Patrick for slightly over five years - since late 2006 - but the music has bled backwards in my memory, and if anyone can stand to be a bit forgiving about self-mythologizing and being creative with your past, it’s Patrick. But we’ll get to that.

Despite the remarkable consistency of certain aspects of Patrick Wolf’s career, he’s the sort of artist who has had a lot of different sounds and faces and looks, and people’s feelings about and expectations of him are frequently shaped by where, how and what exactly he was when they first encountered his music. With that in mind, I’m going to wander through his work chronologically. [ETA: I guess I didn’t quite make the structure clear - today I’ll spend on general introduction and his debut EP, and spend each consecutive day on one of his full-length albums.] If one day’s offerings aren’t your cup of tea, stick around, because the only thing I can guarantee is that the next day’s music will be fairly different. By week’s end, I’m hoping that everyone will have been won over by at least one album.

ETA2: Why, yes, that does appear to be a mandolin behind his head.

Track

The Hairy Song (Demo)

Artist

Patrick Wolf

Album

The Acne Tapes

The Hairy Song [Demo]

A lot has been written about Patrick Wolf’s childhood. A lot of it is fairly outlandish. A lot of it, both true and false, came from Patrick himself, who spent a lot of time constructing the persona of ‘Patrick Wolf’ early in his career. (Another thing that he shares with Ke$ha is that – when he wants to be – he is a grade A troller). Anyway, let’s get them out of the way now. A lot of the following is (probably) true.

  1. Patrick was born ‘Patrick Denis Apps’.
  2. He was not born in a lighthouse in Cork.
  3. He was not, in fact, raised by wolves.
  4. He was, however, raised by artists – his mum is a painter and his dad is a jazz musician who also did time in the satirical punk band The Snivelling Shits.
  5. He built his own theremin at the age of eleven.
  6. He attended an all-boys school where he was a choir soloist and performed for the Pope in Italy.
  7. At school, he was bullied so badly that his parents sued for their fees back.
  8. He attended a (different) boarding school with Lily Allen
  9. At fourteen, he was a member of the performance art collective Minty, and performed with them.
  10. For those unfamiliar with Minty, this should give you a vague idea.
  11. He left home at sixteen, went to Paris, and formed a noise band called Maison Crimineaux.
  12. Not necessarily in that order.

‘The Hairy Song’ (lyrics) is an early demo that was never properly released. It’s a bit silly, but it’s as good an introduction to Patrick as any, before we get to heavier stuff. The entire track comprises of a combination of buzzy electronics and accordion, with occasional strumming ukulele. If, per GaGa, “I am my hair,” then this is a fairly accurate portrait of our hero: “Cannot change, will not compromise”. Defies good lovers – golden boys and girls alike - and is laughed at by both “common kids” and “art kids.” Aptly enough, Patrick’s hair tends to conspicuously change colour and style with each album to match his music and mood.

For an early track, ‘The Hairy Song’ manages to capture both the defiant individualism and vague alienation that characterizes a lot of Patrick’s work. Plus, it ends with a joke about L’Oréal’s Studio Line.

At four-thirty, I was in a maths lesson. At night, I was on stage with a man who was shitting golden eggs. 12 years old! It was genius! I’m very proud of my past.

Patrick Wolf, on his time in Minty, “Wild Boy: An interview with Patrick Wolf”, The Mind’s Construction Quarterly, Winter 2003 (source)

Track

A Boy Like Me

Artist

Patrick Wolf

Album

The Patrick Wolf EP

i. total chaos and a holiday home in the east

The Patrick Wolf EP (Faith & Industry Records, 2002)

Patrick’s first EP was released in November 2002 by Faith and Industry Records, the label run by British folktronica artist Capitol K. Enough of his early songs combined acoustic and electronic elements for him to quickly get saddled with the same moniker, but it doesn’t really capture Patrick’s sound.

'Folktronica' bugs me, it sounds like it's used to describe some kind of 'Best Of Lounge' album, from, like 1997! – DIY, 2007.

This is the album cover:

Note the unicorns.

Bloodbeat’ (lyrics) opens with Patrick mewling acapella, “My blood beats black tonight,” followed by the layering of arpeggiated synthesizer chords and skittering beats to create the core of the track. Isolated blasts of sampled gunfire periodically serve as punctuation in between verses. From what I can gather, it’s essentially about the abandon of nighttime driving. The oft-sung about pleasures and freedom of cruising down the highway in the summer with friends are inverted – Patrick wakes at dusk and speeds down the highway, eyes closed, alone. The vocals are ecstatic – “No need for comfort! No need for light!” is celebratory - but nevertheless, ‘Bloodbeat’ is about escape. Patrick’s stated purpose is to feel, to run, to scream.  He’s hunting down demons and eating terror, but the car is running because he is too. When he sings “and here it comes, it comes for me,” it’s unclear whether he’s the pursuer or the pursued. (Arcade Fire? Eat your heart out.)

Empress’ (lyrics) is one of two songs on the 12” that don’t reappear on Patrick’s full-length debut. It’s a poetic sketch of a relationship betrayed, constructed around a chopped-up sample of a music box playing the children’s lullaby ‘Frère Jacques’. The delicate dissonance of the deconstructed music box creates a sense of melancholy through the first half of the song. By its midpoint, heavy plodding beats dominate, and Patrick’s tone turns menacing, as he intones: “My Empress, I’m coming down for you,” before the track dissolves away. It’s not entirely a ‘song’ but it’s the one track on the 12” that still sounds genuinely strange to my ears.

‘A Boy Like Me’ (lyrics) is essentially Patrick’s manifesto:

A boy like me is told he is both nine and ninety and
A boy like me should shut those books
Join the army…
But a boy like me would never be seen fighting for peace.
I want total chaos and a holiday home in the East

A boy like me should know much better
Than to raise his flag in stormy weather
But I just can’t get enough electric shocks
I wanna buy a lighthouse and ride a giraffe on the rocks

So, what is A Boy Like Me? A Boy Like Me is preternaturally young and old, torn between the anarchic independence of chaos and domesticity, intelligent but impulsive.

Musically, it’s built around a loop of something that sounds like a kazoo and a barbershop quartet consisting entirely of Patrick, augmented by handclaps and some Atari beats. Shouts of “GO!” interrupt the beat much as gunshots do in ‘Bloodbeat’. I know, I know, it sounds like a total mess, but somehow it hangs together as a high-octane pop song.

Track

Pumpkin Soup

Artist

Patrick Wolf

Album

The Patrick Wolf EP

Pumpkin Soup [The Patrick Wolf EP]

'Pumpkin Soup' (lyrics) is the odd song out - unlike anything we’ll hear from Patrick until at least Wind in the Wires. Even now, it feels unique in his discography. The rest of these songs are propelled forward, fleeing something dark in the past, or at least rushing towards an independent future; this mood becomes even more pronounced on Lycanthropy. The gentler songs that appear later in his career still tend to focus on the present or the future. ‘Pumpkin Soup’ is the one song by Patrick that can genuinely be described as nostalgic.

The tone is set from the first second: notes are haltingly played (practiced?) on the piano as waves rush in and out, and children outside laugh. The piano line asserts itself and is joined by cello, viola and violin. By the second line, Patrick is taken “back to another time of duffel coats and…late September evening sand.” There’s a tricky emotional narrative going on here. Patrick manages to simultaneously convey the beauty of these evenings – his mother’s baked apples and pumpkin soup, the glow of evening sun, riding a brand new bike down the hill – while still recognizing their transience.

The glow of last September’s sunset is, in Patrick’s present state of mind, a sign of oncoming troubles that hadn’t yet occurred. “Embrace the moment / ‘Cause everything changes and / All this will, too,” he declares. Patrick’s dream of the future may have been temporarily undone, but this is the lone glimpse of the home he is driven from by the black beating of his blood. His career from then until now is, as much as it is anything else, a document of his struggle to rediscover the peaceful moment of domesticity depicted here.

ETA:

Just found a picture of the actual Patrick Wolf EP, so I figured I would post it retroactively just for completism. The following is scrawled across the top of the 12”:

hello hello x

I hope these four songs can some-how hold your hand for a short while + when you are ecstatic they can be someone to dance with + when you are Bored (or sad) some nice-holiday seaside-with-cockles + sandy shoes and a big bowl of pumpkin soup

xx P xxxxx

Nostalgia to me is quite a lazy thing. When I catch myself being nostalgic, I feel I’m not being forward-thinking enough.

Patrick Wolf, “Patrick Wolf Bares His Teeth… and Feathers,” SOMA Magazine, 2009 (source)

Alright, I think that will be all for today. This seems like a natural stopping point!
Tomorrow we’re going to tackle Lycanthropy, Patrick’s debut LP. It’s mostly in keeping with the sound of The Patrick Wolf EP - a little more abrasive at times, and with a touch more accordion - and probably his most ‘difficult’ piece of work.
The cover should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect:

Alright, I think that will be all for today. This seems like a natural stopping point!

Tomorrow we’re going to tackle Lycanthropy, Patrick’s debut LP. It’s mostly in keeping with the sound of The Patrick Wolf EP - a little more abrasive at times, and with a touch more accordion - and probably his most ‘difficult’ piece of work.

The cover should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect: