Say hello to the most unreviewable album of the year. Not literally, of course; who’s ever heard of saying hello to a CD? Besides, that conversation would be a big waste of time:
You: Hello, Human Animal. Nice to meet you.
Human Animal: Skree!!!!Eeeeeeee!!Dunnnndunnnnn!!!SiSssss!!!!Rrreeejxlm!!!!!VxxxxBlorffffffffffsde!!!!
Wolf Eyes is a noise band, see, and damn proud of it. The final, unlisted track on Human Animal is a cover of “Noise Not Music” by some band or person or perhaps musically inclined cult called No Fucker, and that song’s title is a pretty accurate description of Wolf Eyes’ sound. So even though this is ostensibly a music review, keep in mind that your humble music reviewer is still unsure if there’s any actual music to be reviewed here. The members of Wolf Eyes have no truck with all those fussy aesthetic affectations you’ve come to expect when you put on a CD. Melody, harmony and rhythm? Recognizable song forms? Bourgeois trifles? Out the fuckin’ window.
In their stead you get mostly instrumental meanderings comprising cold, electronic drones of unknown origin, wailing and moaning like torture victims; eardrum-piercing squiggles of high-frequency detuned-radio skirl; and, in a few of the louder songs, clattering percussion salvos from every direction. Some of it is admirably brutal-sounding and intense, though not nearly as much as you’ve perhaps read (put it this way — during its most “difficult” moments, Human Animal is harsher than a car alarm but less harsh than your alarm clock. Actually, come to think of it, the first two minutes or so of “The Driller” are kinda lovely).
But the most impressive part of this album is that, throughout its entire tuneless, dissonant thirty-three-minute duration, Human Animal is rarely boring; it’s filled with cool sounds. Check out “Rationed Rot,” an eight-minute soundscape populated by what sounds like a nest of mechanical bumblebees, a pack of mutant bats and one rather stoned-sounding human animal spouting bad poetry amidst the chaos. Or opener “A Million Years,” which is pure horror-movie creepiness: long periods of ominous silence punctuated by particularly punishing percussion, only to dissolve into a skronking saxophone solo — think Bill Pullman in Lost Highway — followed up with a good solid minute or two of rebarbative banshee wail. Those two tracks are the highlights, and although the rest of Human Animal is not nearly as riveting, there are always some interesting sonic ideas/experiments at play at any given point in the album’s remaining six tracks.
“Interesting” and “experimental” for sure. Still, artists don’t play so fast and loose with their chosen aesthetic form without a good reason. Lost Highway, for example, shattered film’s narrative conventions precisely because it was about film’s narrative conventions. With music as weird and non-musical as Wolf Eyes’, these are the obvious follow-up questions: What’s the point? What are they trying to say? Are they commenting on music itself? What’s it all mean? Ask Thurston Moore, a major Wolf Eyes fan, and he might tell you (as he did Time Out New York a few years back) that this record’s radical deconstruction of accepted musical comforts (harmony, rhythm) evokes our current “spooked shitless” generation. Maybe. But I suspect these three suburban Michigan lads like to make weird noises just for the sake of making weird noises. Which is either lame or noble; I can’t decide.
“The Driller” MP3