One of the most prolific artists in town, William Ragland continues to release a string of interesting collaborations this time with musician in Sweatermeat/Spoopy and comic book artist Yoko Molotov. Per usual, Ragland curates a sort of music that has a particular weight to it, although in the context of music writing, I hesitate to say heavy. To be fair, this is especially heavy music, albeit in a bleak, soul-crushing sort of way, like Sunn O))) sans the mountains of distortion. Instead, Ragland and company seem to create music at the bottom of the deepest void, a symphony made in a cavern at the bottom of the Earth, all rumbling bass and reverb so viscous as almost fluid. So when I write that this is heavy, I mean that this is like a condensed audio version of only the most Satanic bits of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and as such elicits that same kind of study.
It goes without saying that Wolv is a an especially dark affair, bleak but not stark; there is far to much movement here for it to evoke a barren landscape. What propels the opening movement, Eyes Like Moons Teeth Like Pearls, is a choral bass melody played at a glacial speed. There is a meditative quality to the music that allows you to zone out, despite the haunting tonal elements of the composition, making this a particularly difficult thing to place.
Perhaps even more difficult to place is the second half of the release, A Coat as Black as Soil and Heavy with Brine. Here, any and all ruminative passages, no matter how dark, are replaced instead with a cacophony of metal clangs and howled vocals. This isn’t to say that the two tracks are disjointed from one another, as there is a clear relationship between the two tonally speak, but that dynamically they couldn’t be more disparate.
What do you do with this music? I present this not as a disparaging comment, but as a challenge. As I get older, I often have to dig to find the utility in music, be that in terms of a narrative journey, or it’s logistical function as a study aid or exercise primer. Wolv fits none of these categories; the meditative qualities are offset by the gloom found therein, a particularly difficult chasm to vault over when trying to maintain focus, and the clanging madness of the second track is at times an endurance test. This isn’t to say that anything found therein is bad or even uninteresting as a subject of study. In fact, what Wolv -and all of Ragland’s music- does so well, is to serve as a reminder that music and art are one and the same. This doesn’t need to exist in any place other than the critical space that it creates, a thing to behold and consider, and if you’re like me, to serve as the soundtrack to your next nightmare.
You can listen to the album below: