Listening to Wolf Eyes’ new album is like watching a horror movie through closed eyes—it’s far more disconcerting than any slasher-flick visual. Consider the first track, “A Million Years,” which begins with something like the sound of the shifting of an old, weathered house at night. You can imagine basement pipes clanking in random—you think—outbursts, until suddenly they become disturbingly deliberate. Then comes a squealing—clearly a saxophone—and yet it’s an ungodly, almost unrecognizable tone that cuts right to the core.
This is an album of songs set in wilderness and decay. Wolf Eyes has always done noise well, but Human Animal in particular is brimming with consuming textures: cadences like the muffled buzzing of flies caught in a net, burbling drains, heart beats, machine-gun fireworks, feverish screeching and the dripping sludge of something rotting. “Leper War” is a good example, creating a world in which a rainstorm, a crackling fire and what sounds like bugs devouring a carcass are indiscernible, if different at all.
Obviously this isn’t a soundtrack for your next dinner party. But for the fearless, it’s an evocative concoction that prods your imagination by making you struggle to make sense of it. (Erika Fredrickson)
Wolf Eyes plays The Loft Monday, Nov. 6, at 9 PM. Sick Llama, Raven Strain and Poor School open. $6.
The Beauty Shop
John Hoeffleur, the creative force behind Champaign, Ill.-based trio The Beauty Shop, is one sharp songwriter. His tunes tend toward Americana, classic arrangements of chords ornamented by fingerpicking and girded by solid but unassuming drums and bass. The music is engaging, familiar country rhythms tinged with rock ’n’ roll novelty—gruff but about as folksy as a long stretch of driving on the poorly maintained pavement of a midwestern county road. The music’s good, and it’s not even the payoff.
Hoeffleur’s lyrics teem with closely imagined detail. The “Monster” of Yard Sale’s first track “can scatter us away like the rotten autumn leaves,” while on “A Desperate Cry for Help” Hoeffleur sings, “I’ve heard tell of some new kind of sickness, and how it kills—you laugh yourself to death. And it paints you pale with a fresh coat of indifference. And suddenly I’m feeling ill.”
The imagery of these songs seems bleak in black and white. But fitted to the trio’s playing by the deceptive effortlessness of Hoeffleur’s scuffed-up vocals, the songs illuminate a world that’s far from barren—full of spry self-knowledge and filled with the feeling that a tune and a keen eye can make an awful lot of absurdity appealing. (Jason Wiener)
The Beauty Shop is scheduled to play Sunday, Nov. 5, but as of press time a location had yet to be determined. Call 239-0111.
The Chris Proctor Collection
Next time you’re all cozied up on a dentist’s chair about to have a root canal, ask the hygienist to cut the XM Radio and play Chris Proctor. Your experience will be much more relaxed if you allow yourself to float away on Proctor’s exquisite fingerpicking. The man’s mastery of his instrument is right up there with that of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke, but it’s executed with more of an ethnic flair.
The tracks on this collection add up to a different type of “best of” album. The tunes, all originals, date from the ’70s to the present, but Proctor was not satisfied with the initial recording equipment so he rerecorded it all. Along with the more advanced studio technology, Proctor also saw this compilation as an opportunity to document the evolution of his songs after 20 years of performance. Rather than simply rerecording every piece as it was originally composed, he updates the songs, documenting the metamorphosis for longtime fans. It not only makes for a soothing listening experience, but one richer than the average career retrospective. (Caroline Keys)
Chris Proctor plays Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 PM at the Crystal Theatre. $10/$2 off for Missoula Folklore Society members.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is a Train
Dim Mak Records
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is a Train begins with an unapologetically weird blast of herky-jerky digitalia, processed beats and alien noises, all set to a toe-tapping melody. The guts of songs like “Leave Them All Behind” and “Y.U.H.2.B.M.2” are guitar riffs, but their frames are thick with layers of fuzzy silicon flesh piled on by Londoner Nathan J. Whitey, aka Whitey, who plays the three or more different instruments on nearly every track of this solo effort.
Whitey exhibits something like the instrumental sensibility of Beck—blips and beats alongside barely recognizable tinkles and crinkles—but owes his stylistic allegiance to post-disco rock and psychedelia rather than Beck’s folk and blues roots. “A Walk in the Dark” tops new-wave synth melodies with futuristic processing while “Tantrum” hearkens to Depeche Mode in tone, but with a bassline funky and mellow enough to have been smuggled out of Motown. Secret-agent-smooth bass similarly fuels “Halfway,” executing the album’s turn from its jagged early tracks to a more straightforward approach—albeit with enduring, though episodic, electronics.
It’s a subtle transformation—a dextrous exhibition of hybridity and adventure in open-eared wonderment. (Jason Wiener)