High Wolf Growing Wild

[LEAVING; 2015]

Styles: jam electronic, percussion, highlife, eclectic raga
Others: Black Zone Myth Chant, Konono No. 1, Sun Araw, Eno & Hyde, Lucky Dragons

Max P makes a deeply refractive, colorful world of electronic grooves, one whose principle appeal hinges on the constant, relentless interplay of a certain choice loop and the small changes made within it each time. It’s a kind of pocket psychedelia influenced by highlife and afrobeat jams and the repetitious nature of electronic composition. His music as High Wolf strives not for hooks or memorable melodies, but for consistent potential energy, a sacred space of meticulously groovy grooves and pretty patterns. These sacred spaces prove occasionally transcendent, even inspiring.

Max P’s music on Growing Wild feels descended from the work of not just other electronic producers on LEAVING — a label that’s released a lot of great music with this kind of hypnotic, long-form aesthetic — but also from classic highlife groups like Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou and even Fela Kuti, in a sense. The modular way the music develops in past releases like Kairos: Chronos is intact, but transformed via mbira, hand percussion, and a thin guitar into a beatific psych-out. His live guitar soloing, which occurs over a lot of these obsessive polyrhythms, exerts joyfully, and comments and responds like a singer would.

“Wild At Heart” makes for a pretty definitive opener. The song twists and morphs along a plethora of errant rhythmic ideas and back into itself again at a hopping ADHD tempo. Sometimes it dives into pure drum experimentation circa 90s IDM, only to back out respectfully and return to some core theme. Elsewhere, things are looser and less focused. “Girls, Amen” takes a killer change-rattle beat and dances around not knowing what to do with it, and “1314” advances but doesn’t make a move. Within both are a world of nuances and different sounds, for sure, but in a kind of restricted plane.

“Savage Beasts Be Wise” sets a piercing laser beam misfiring over some impetuous thundering, demonstrative and a little indulgent, but well served by its own eventual descent into chaos. And on closer “Exploratory Impatience,” an overly literal title makes for a perplexing but incredible six minutes of manic vocal loops, undercut by an impatient, bumpy kick. Within one song, so many things can be happening, and while a song won’t evolve through key changes, there’s an abundance of small melodic permutations that add up to a sprawling experience. External sounds are introduced to catalyze new musical evolutions, which take place gradually as an exchange of ideas between active instruments.

Beginning with one pulse or rhythm or a single unique tone, everything here unfolds innately while staying confined to a definitive loop, a dense musical broth of tuneful expression. The rhythms stay cozy in one area, filling in gaps, opening up for utility when needed, but always as a staid directive to the lively solos. I know live it’s probably because the guy is just playing a couple drum loops and jamming over them, but it works. It’s a vehicle for expression that’s a little indulgent no matter who’s doing it, but it still results in occasionally perfect ear candy. Max’s great strength is in following compulsions to new ends while ignoring conventional rules of composition, foregoing linear phrasing that would have turned this into a so-so “world-influenced” pop record and instead opting for an atemporal, curious psychedelia.

Links: High Wolf - LEAVING

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