High Wolf Ascension

[Not Not Fun; 2010]

Styles: meditative, psychedelic
Others: Forest Swords, Sun Araw, Black Dice’s Beaches & Canyons

In his new book, The Great Reset, noted urban studies writer Richard Florida underscores the need for talented people to exist in a physical nexus so that creativity can be properly fostered. The book is mainly about the conditions needed to generate economic growth during this interregnum, and Florida puts tightly knit, highly creative urban communities at the heart of the matter. To succeed in the world that Florida posits, one needs to be highly mobile and culturally adept, to be able to seamlessly integrate as one important node in a larger web of creative talent.

There is no doubt that we are at an impasse, economically, politically, and culturally; across the board, the very basis of our existence, from Dakar to Detroit, is in flux. While Florida’s notion of reform is certainly more immediate (needing to occur in the next 10-20 years), there are ideas of creative organization and collaboration that reach a bit further into the future. In his wonderfully utopian Collective Unconsciousness: Man’s Emerging World In Cyberspace, Pierre Levy outlines his concept of “living cities,” virtual territories where creative interactivity occurs organically at lightning speed, free of geographical limitations. One can already plainly see both Florida and Levy’s realities coming to fruition. In Florida’s case, the massive migration of creative talent to major urban centers, and in Levy’s, the propagation of meme factories such as 4chan and online think tanks such as Space Collective.

High Wolf is a solid representation of the mobile and creative world that is necessarily taking shape. Wrapped in secrecy, this French musician has been rather prolific over the past year and change, releasing nine substantial albums on a variety of formats on labels smattered around the globe: Tokyo’s Maomoo, LA’s Not Not Fun, and his own Winged Sun. His latest, Ascension, is his second for Not Not Fun, a label that has been on a bit of a hot streak this year with strong releases from Pocahaunted, Sun Araw, and Magic Lantern. Much of the label’s creative core resides in the Los Angeles area, but it says something about our current state of interconnectedness that High Wolf — native of France, traveler of India — can tap into the same mind space as many of his geographically far-flung labelmates. In a recent interview, High Wolf speaks on how being so connected has helped his music find the right people.

Ascension is a title that indicates an upward trajectory, and the material on offer here is certainly a big step forward for High Wolf. Mastered by the accomplished hands of Pete Swanson (Yellow Swans), High Wolf’s loop-heavy, highly meditative pieces have an impressive sheen not present on past releases. A track like “Diego” falls somewhere between Stellar Om Source and Sun Araw, with more clarity of individual sound elements than either. I doubt it was written for Diego Maradona, but properly utilized could do a spiritual favor for the troubled Argentine megalomaniac/former soccer great. It’s a heady number with a surprising breakbeat buried deep in the mix.

“Cloud Head” is full of watery, bubbling organ sounds and space cicadas, perhaps inspired by High Wolf “getting deep” in India for two months prior to recording this album. Like the majority of Ascension, the loops continually swell to a breaking point and then dissipate. Broken up into two movements, the first sways peacefully, setting the stage for a massive-sounding synthetic, cosmic horn, a sound one might imagine heralding the arrival of Cthulhu or Lex Luger. “Solar System Is My God” is another panegyric to the cosmically-minded, featuring deft tablas, corporeal guitar washes, and smart use of that timeless instrument, the handclap.

Although not earth-shatteringly original, High Wolf’s Ascension successfully amalgamates everything from the hazy funk of Sun Araw to the expansive experimental scope of Black Dice’s Beaches And Canyons. Had it been released in the early aughts, it would be a highly regarded classic. Instead, its simply a strong album that demonstrates an impressive creative fluidity that we can expect to become increasingly prevalent amongst the world’s more creative souls.

Links: High Wolf - Not Not Fun

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