French artist High Wolf lets his music speak for itself. Not much is known of the man behind the name, other than that he’s French and goes by Max — or at least that’s the legend as it currently stands. Instead, he uses a totemic approach in his music to connect with others, tapping into the spiritual potential of drone, dub, ambient, and New Age. On new album Growing Wild, High Wolf takes that approach into the sparkling world of African-inflected electronic music.
In a sense, Growing Wild sounds like the mystic intersection of Panda Bear and Tinariwen, or Konono No. 1 on some ritualistic drug. Unlike some of his past work, which tended towards murky psychedelia, this one dizzies in a brightly lit space. There aren’t dark corners in “Girls, Amen” or lead track “Wild at Heart”; the shifting percussive electronics repeat and vacillate in full view.
“Savage Beasts Be Wild” sounds like High Wolf is attempting to reach the higher plane through a dial-up modem connection as African polyrhythms compete with screeches and squiggles. “Life Don’t Care” has a near new wave bent, angling its square-wave synth percussion between stuttering guitar. Closer and album highlight “Exploratory Impatience” uses a chopped chant sample in a round, layering the bits of tape together so that the beginnings and ends dissipate.
While the formula and process doesn’t seem to have changed much — those that liked albums like 2013’s excellent Kairos: Chronos will still be on board — the clarity changes the relationship to the music. The spaces between the loops are no longer mysterious gray areas waiting to be filled, but simply spaces. The album doesn’t reveal Max in any more detail either. Despite the brighter spotlight, you won’t come away from Growing Wild with any sort of new revelation on High Wolf.
Essential Tracks: “Wild at Heart”, “Exploratory Impatience”