On Se Lève

James Wolf

Verses Records, 2016


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


While I wasn't exactly surprised by the vinyl resurgence in recent years, I have to say that cassettes coming back into the fold have been quite shocking. Not that I don't like the medium, but it's hard to imagine that many people still have the ability to play them.

This second album from James Wolf sees a physical release on cassette only, a move that is becoming much more common in the world of independent rock. A former player in outfits like Air King, Laconic Chamber, La Reproduction Interdite, From Quagmire, The Gena Rowlands Band, The Nitrate Hymnal Orchestra, The Picture Is Dead, Fern Knight, The Orchid, and Sourdeline, Wolf has certainly paid his dues in indie rock circles for over two decades now. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Culled from live recordings in 2015, On Se Leve showcases Wolf's electronic violin acrobatics. The five songs here swirl with intricate patterns that are both noisy and classically influenced, atmospheric and melodic, and seem both spontaneous and carefully contrived.

Side one starts off with “Bees’ Needs,” which is 12 minutes of twitchy, experimental droning that fades into desolate and moody violins that become slower and more calming as the song nears its end. “Beacon Six” follows and feels like an extension of  “Bees’ Needs,” with moments of screeching before a light and airy, almost space-like conclusion. “Has” and “A Farewell Glass” finish out the first side and are both quicker stabs at blurry and overdub friendly manipulation of a few notes, with the latter exemplifying Wolf’s cathartic and ebullient side well.

Side two of the cassette is the title track “On Se Leve” – all 24 minutes of it. It starts off with a warbling sci-fi feel; ambient noises find their way into the equation as well, with seemingly random bleeps amid soft violins. It presents an unlikely contrast of organic versus inorganic sounds. As the track progress, it moves across a very large and diverse expanse of tones, inflections, and emotions, resulting in a cinematic and warm listen.

This project is certainly not going to resonate with everyone. However, if your musical palate is sophisticated, cultured, and willing, James Wolf could easily occupy a very unique spot in your collection.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2016 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Verses Records, and is used for informational purposes only.