Not Not Fun Records, 2013High Wolf is obviously no stranger to complicated instrumental composition. On his most recent release, Kairos: Chronos, he creates a work that is at times elusive, consistently impressive, and stimulating enough to provide ample room for contemplation amidst its contoured layers, contrasting soundscapes, and subtle chord progressions.
The immediate density of Kairos: Chronos is striking. Whereas instrumental music normally relies on forward motion and significant musical transitions — layering different parts as the song goes on, altering their course, and then perhaps disassembling them — High Wolf’s compositions are much more dimensional. He does not just layer one part; he layers many parts: everything from the bottom register’s bass-y synth, to the percussive section’s plethora of ever-changing electronic and real beats, to the upper register’s ethereal and stringy synths and distorted electric guitar parts. In doing so, he creates a lush wall of sound that beeps, shimmers, and grooves, moving inward and outward, as well as back and forth.
High Wolf’s fluid body of instrumentation is punctuated by unique and contrasting sounds, both electronic and organic, that work with and against each other within the album’s deliberate composition. What seems most distinctive in Kairos: Chronos‘ bed of sound is the raw, tribal percussion that runs throughout the album’s tracks. Natural, resonant, and almost primitive, this beat grounds the album, while Kairos: Chronos‘ atmospheric electronic parts — cascading scales, beds of lush synths, and the occasional jangling, dunking, or twanging noise — project it still farther out. The variety of sounds High Wolf uses on the album create distinct moods from track to track and within tracks, ranging from celebratory to pent-up and finally — at the very end — delicately hopeful.
High Wolf’s use of contoured sound and composition give it texture and variety expansive and stimulating enough to create a powerful listening experience. Because Kairos: Chronos employs so many unique sounds and layers, it’s nearly impossible to be aware of all of them at the same time. Instead, our attention shifts from one to the next to several as they come waving in and out of our consciousness to the music. Without lyrics, instrumental albums generally fail to have an explicit story line, and instead rely on their listeners to appropriate their own personal context. By at least suggesting a story or painting a picture, however, an instrumental album can stimulate contemplation and allow for a more meaningful listening experience — as Kairos: Chronos successfully does. Far from being flat, the album’s songs are textural; they build and move in all different directions and vary even in their variability. Within the album’s enveloping depth of sound, buried chord formations subtly move us and create the vague impression of something wet, something tribal yet otherworldly. This stimulation and spaciousness prompts contemplation, and a connection with the music that fleshes out its “unfinished” parts. Through its complicated instrumentation and contrast of sounds and textures, therefore, High Wolf’s Kairos: Chronos has the unique power of evocation that is exceptionally influential in an instrumental album
High Wolf – Kairos: Chronos Tracklisting
3. RIP X
4. An Empire Upon An Empire