No Answer: Lower Floors
De Stijl (2013)
In their rather prolific career, Wolf Eyes have developed a near-cult following in those who want something louder and more abrasive, yet don’t have the energy for hardcore nor the patience for Merzbow records. They inhabit a very specific alcove in the world of independent music, but this alcove is very relevant, as it is both inaccessible and accessible at the same time.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the band, Wolf Eyes create unique textures of layered noise consisting of synthesizers, guitars, vocals and other random madness, mixed through an array of effects and modules and placed over steady beats; they only follow loosely the format of conventional song. That being said, there is nothing new here, which in the case of Wolf Eyes is a very good thing. In a way, their latest album, No Answer: Lower Floors, is a return to form — a term I despise yet is quite fitting in this case. Their more recent albums, such as Always Wrong and the Moods in Free Time series, flowed in the direction of the lack-of-boundaries noise; the tracks on No Answer, on the other hand, are more reminiscent of the band’s break-through albums, Burned Mind and Human Animal, which follow more standard song and album structures without losing the free-form noise.
Noise rock albums tend to be structured in one of two ways: with very few yet very long tracks, or with countless short tracks. No Answer leans more towards the former, with most tracks upwards of twelve minutes, though the title track is only a minute-and-a-half-long. This tendency towards lengthy songs can either be a blessing or a curse, and in this case, the result is mixed. Opener “Choking Files” and “Chattering Lead”, are the two standout tracks on the album; both probably drone on for too long, but are saved by being constructed out of fabulous tones, generated out of what I believe to be heavily distorted synthesizers and guitars. They’re the type of songs that prove it pays to have a set of really nice headphones, so you can really take in the details. Both tracks involve typically incoherent Wolf Eyes vocals, which float over the noise, giving the tracks a somewhat more human touch. (I use the term “human touch” very loosely.)
Where the track length fails, however, is in “Confession of the Informer”, which just drags on for too long. Granted, it’s twelve minutes; somewhat longer than any other on the album — but its place as the second to last track, on an album which you have enjoyed up until that point, leads one towards distraction and a loss of interest in the music. Nothing ever really happens.
The album is quickly saved however, by the raucous “Warning Sign”. The song is led through its entire six-and-a-half-minutes by an ear-splitting tone and rough yet faint percussion. The song wraps up the album on a perfect high note, instead of lingering on and overstaying its welcome. Like “Confession of the Informer”, it doesn’t really go anywhere, but in contrast, it doesn’t really have to.
Like all Wolf Eyes albums, it just comes down to whether or not it’s your thing. While I am generally not a noise enthusiast, I do enjoy the occasional album, and No Answer does a fabulous job of fulfilling my ever-so slight demand. But if noise is not your thing, then best ye stay away.
Wolf Eyes – No Answer: Lower Floors Tracklisting
1. Choking Files
2. Born Liar
3. No Answer
4. Chattering Lead
5. Confessions of the Informer
6. Warning Sign