Wolf Eyes & John Wiese - Equinox (Troniks CD)
I thought I'd end this week the same way I began it - with some Wolf Eyes. This actually came with the PACrec CDs of yesterday but I had to delay reviewing them just to work that little gimmick in. I love it when a plan comes together. "Equinox" is by my count the fifth recorded collaboration between the Wolf Eyes gang and noise sculpteur du jour John Wiese. I remember the others coming (and going) on American Tapes and I haven't heard any of them, but at least they've got a storied past going. Wolf Eyes as a group have never appeared before on the Troniks label but Wiese's involvement is well-documented - solo releases, and in the groups LHD and Heavy Seals. This particular album is limited to a thousand units, so you have plenty of time to save up if need be.
Also worth mentioning are two other things that would seemingly add to the unusual nature of this beast. Whereas the earlier Wolf Eyes/Wiese collaborations were produced by John Olson, this one's handled by the other John (that would be Wiese). And for reasons not yet explained, the Wolf Eyes lineup here is Olson, Nate Young, and Aaron Dilloway (despite the material being recorded between July 2004 and December 2005). So, you know...if you're one of those dudes who think Mike Connelly ruined Wolf Eyes but really just wanted an excuse to hate them ever since they showed up on the cover of the Wire, here's your chance to partake in a guilt-free experience. If you follow the information given to you in the booklet and on the CD, you'll learn that "Equinox" is one track clocking in at 44:31. But that's not all. There's a hidden track. More on that later.
I'm not entirely sure how this was recorded, but if you were expecting a Wolf Eyes set with Wiese on guest laptop or whatever, you're way off. I think that what's implied by Wiese's production is that he took a collection of Wolf Eyes jams and mixed them down into his own vision, adding personal touches wherever deemed fit (kinda like his collaboration with Merzbow last year, and in a further continuation of his "recycling" style). So what does that add up to? Basically a piece that sounds much, much, much more Wiese than Wolf Eyes. Even the most subdued, ambient-infected, skull-scraping atmospheric horror binges that Wolf Eyes are known to embark on pale in constrast to how stark "Equinox" comes off. At times it's hard to imagine Wolf Eyes are even involved at all, save for the odd giveaway synth blurt or mangled guitar riff. The piece starts off almost unbearably slow, shifting into shadowy drones, lo-fi rumbles and the kind of bleak machinery usually associated with Wiese's solo outings. Close to half an hour in the track's mechanical pace increases rapidly and a wash of shrieking static burns your ears but it still sounds more like, say, Kevin Drumm or Francisco Lopez's digital fury than the true feeling of Wolf Eyes turned up to 11. The track dovetails off with strokes of a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, fitting given the sounds of the other 35 minutes or so.
But then there's that final, hidden track I was telling you about, with a running time of close to 15 minutes. And let me tell you, this one is an absolute epic. Really! About five minutes in we're treated to a recording of the Wolf Eyes crew (including Wiese and Connelly and others) watching - and giving their commentary on - a lengthy fireworks display in Echo Park, L.A.. This rivals the infamous "Banfield's East" CD-R in terms of sheer brilliance. I would pay good money to hear commentary on a variety of subjects from Wolf Eyes - no kidding. Like, there needs to be a talk show, or a radio show, or something (kinda like the Inside Inzane Studios podcast!). You might think I'm crazy but really it's impossible not to listen to this recording and at least crack a smile, if not a full-blown guffaw when Olson comments on a "square firework". In fact I enjoyed this track so much that when it ended, I promptly played it again, just to make sure I had gotten the full effect. When I told a friend about a review I read where Wolf Eyes spent the first 10-15 minutes of their set telling jokes, he replied that he could envision Wolf Eyes morphing into a stand-up comedy act. Still bringing their gear on stage, but just laying down belly laugh after belly laugh. All releasing limited-edition homemade joke and gag books on American Tapes. You at home all trying to figure out how to play the hand-cut A.A. Records lathe you bought at one of the shows so you can hear the punchline. Hipsters all writing on their blogs "all they did was talk, I can't believe I spent $8 on that show". Oh brother. I'm pretty sure this is what Van Dyke Parks had in mind when he wrote "Wouldn't it Be Nice?".
Like I said before - if you were expecting a hardcore Wolf Eyes/John Wiese jamming session, forget about it. In fact I would recommend this much more so if you're a John Wiese fan, as it's not so far removed from the kinds of things he usually puts together. Wolf Eyes fans on the other hand might be in search of something...meatier? But if you happen across this in a record store at least stop and give a listen to the second track (and scope the killer black and white photo in the booklet while you're at it). I promise you won't regret it. Okay, you might.