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Album Review

Patrick Wolf, 'The Bachelor'

August 10, 2009

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Indie Rock
Patrick Wolf The Bachelor
Bloody Chamber Music
ESSENTIAL “Damaris’’

It’s usually not a good sign when you have to keep checking to make sure there aren’t any other open pages playing music in the background on the computer. So it goes with London musician Patrick Wolf’s latest. It’s probably some sort of baroque, electronic pop experiment, but to those with an underdeveloped taste for the avant-garde, it sounds more like hanging out in the hallway of a particularly pretentious band rehearsal complex. In Wolf’s defense, the obfuscation is intentional. Throughout, he shuffles a deck of alternately haunted and just plain scary vocal tracks haphazardly while violins and piano churn away like the groan of a rusty tin shack shifting in the wind. A general hum of ambient conversation noise fills in whatever cracks are left over. It’s a shame, because on the rare focused song (“Hard Times’’) Wolf works with a deep, resonant voice that proves more than capable of carrying a thoughtfully skewed tune. On “Damaris’’ he leaves room for the cinematic string sweeps to stretch out over an electronic beat and keeps the vocals understated. There’s talent here, but it seems Wolf’s spent so much time devising a plan to smuggle abstraction over the pop barricades that he neglected to pack the payload. Here’s a Wolf who didn’t even bother to dress in sheep’s clothing. (Out now)

LUKE O’NEIL