By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[Lower Floor; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Texas”, “Empty Island”
Undertow is the 26th album of Wolf Eyes, a band known for their noise music and the copious number of tracks they have made in their 20-year-long career. This album features a creepy and more ominous tone than previous installments.
Undertow is five tracks long, ranging in lengths from just under two minutes to a whopping 14 minutes long. Noise music is not for everyone, but listening closely can create a unique soundscape that doesn’t rely on a melody.
“Undertow,” the title track, utilizes electronic undertones, quiet bass, and a breathy flute in a repetitive cycle. Over it, frontman Nate Young laments that “I spent too much time outside.” “Laughing Tides” begins with high-pitched shrieking sounds, and low percussive hits churn underneath. The pattern loops and twists, with the shrieks becoming louder and more frequent.
“Texas” is a good example of a soundscape that creates a picture. The combination of a creaking door sound matched with a flute siren paints a picture of an abandoned building or an empty field. There are sounds resembling wind and rattlesnake-tail shaking. The door creak sound is constant and repetitive, and every time it happens the piece becomes more dissonant. It is one of the most interesting of the tracks to listen to.
“Empty Island” is the least eerie of the tracks. It features percussive metal hits and a warped guitar solo. It seems more sporadic than the previous tracks, and is not as repetitive, especially because it adds more music-like sounds rather than sound effects. This track is the most accessible for those who are not traditionally fans of noise.
“Thirteen” clocks in at almost 14 minutes, and is driven by a repetitive low buzzing sound, like revenge of the bees. Young comes in again, saying “I never had a lot / I never lost a lot / and I never thought a lot about second thoughts,” focusing on self-doubt and his loss of train of thought. There is a moment when it sounds like a violin being tuned, which is followed by a siren-like saxophone sound; it’s the closest look the listener gets into Young’s world.
This album is not for everyone. From a first-time experience, it is unique and interesting, but also confusing. The album has moments that feel like music, and others that seem too far out of the box to be seen as anything at all.