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Gideon Wolf’s two albums to date, “Paper” and “I Am Wolf”, have showcased two quite different sides to the artist also known as Tristan Shorr. “Paper” was a largely neo-classical album, with distinctly abstract, drone leanings. “I Am Wolf”, on the other hand, turned the focus to the vocals and songwriting that made tentative appearances in “Paper”, whilst adding much more direct electronics and beats. “Diagram”, a new EP for Time Released Sound (a late addition to their chocolate box series), in some ways represents a connecting of the dots between these two very different albums.
The piano, prominent on “Paper”, is very much back; indeed, it is the nominal focus of the short collection. Playing long, languid chords and often heavily treated, it fits well alongside other Time Released Sound albums of crystalline ambience by Sonmi 451, Monolyth & Cobalt, Mikael Lind and others. On ‘Wire’, the instrument rings out every few seconds or so, shuddering into lengthy reverberations. For the rest of the EP, the piano follows pretty much that same path of sonorous rings. At the end of ‘Line’ is a melodic figure of short pairs of high notes like ice cracking, but that is the exception rather than the rule. ‘Diagram’ sees a little more dynamic activity, as the keys rise and fall in waves of ever increasing size, at first keeping pace with the billowing ambience, but eventually overcome by it. It’s a busy ambience, with lots of drones jostling for attention, and it continues uninterrupted until the last couple of minutes of the piece, when the bottom end drops out to allow the piano for a final look in. There’s nothing quite as dynamic as “Paper”, nor quite as bold, but nevertheless there’s a certain weight, a certain heft, to the piano that Shorr makes good use of, and which gives “Diagram” something a bit more than the everyday ambience that the EP can initially resemble.
Similarly, the electronics turn out to be dirtier and more unstable than on “I Am Wolf”. ‘Wire’ opens with a drone that appears to have no edges at all, and a pulsing lo-fi rattle fill out the track pleasantly enough. But a stretch of feedback towards the end upsets things somewhat. By the time of closing track ‘Vanishing Point’, feedback, bristling waves of distortion and something that sounds almost like a knife being sharpened make up the main body of the electronics. That the final result doesn’t sound quite as ferocious as it does on paper only makes it the more disquieting, particularly given the EP’s calm, piano-ambience set-up.
There’s nothing as direct or as easy to hang on to as on “I Am Wolf”, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Diagram” is a slipperier character, with elements of Gideon Wolf’s two guises so far, but ending up as its own being as well. The upshot of that is that instead of solidifying an identity like it initially suggests it might, the EP adds new possibilities instead. While this is perfectly fine and interesting for a short, twenty minute collection, Shorr might have to settle somewhere for his next full-length.
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