Night Wolf – Hybrid Review/Interview
Night Wolf ft. Centrist
Watts The Time Mr. Wolf (EP)
Fly Productionz Ltd
Rating: Six out of Seven
by Silver Michaels
I love electronic music; I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been in love with this ever-evolving music since my first exposure to it in 1972. One of the things I admire about it is the tendency of the genre to take what could be liabilities and make them into assets; a synthesizer has no voice of its own, and there really aren’t any hard, fast “rules of composition” or the like. As such, imagination is the only limit. Perhaps that’s why, forty-plus years on, I can still get excited when I hear something as creative and accomplished as the debut EP from Ryan Wilcox, aka Night Wolf.
The tricky part can come when trying to fit electro stuff into some sort of descriptive genre-box. Evolving genres also breed evolving terminology, and sometimes it’s tough to know the subtle differences. I’m not going to try to get too much more specific than IDM with this release; there’s hints of dubstep, classical influences, moments that hint at grandiose soundtrack stylings… even the occasional hint at Berlin school sequencing. That’s a lot of ground covered and covered well in five tracks! The EP got my attention within seconds of the opening track, “Amor Vincit Omnia” (Love Conquers All, in case you don’t want to look it up). The opening riff is sonically and stylistically ominous and foreboding, with new melodic elements being introduced until the track is full, magnificent and complex without being overbearing within any of those factors. As is the case throughout the disc, the dance factor never leaves, and I can easily envision mixmasters in clubs the world over welcoming this with wide open arms. The trend continues with “I Fade,” here incorporating a catchy guitar opening that morphs nicely into a slower piece that I wouldn’t be afraid to offer to my goth pals. The female vocal provided by Leah McHenry is outstanding and adds a lot to the piece; voice well chosen, and a name I intend to learn more about. I personally would choose this as the first song on the EP I’d promote heavily, at least radio-wise.
“Hurricane” follows, opening with a line that harkens more to uptempo dance with a quick little sequenced tease, but again segues into something a little more involved than most club music. At about 45 seconds in, the track may lose a little too much momentum to make it a viable club track, but the point/counterpoint melody lines throughout are fascinating to my ears. While this piece might get the least attention from this disc, it’s a very fine example of the opposing elements Night Wolf puts on intentional collide to create his unique sound. The next track, “Shallow,” is anything but. Here, the strongest classical nods on the EP make themselves evident; both the melody and execution of the piece have a distinctly operatic/aria feel to them. Tension is present throughout as the track rises and falls with graceful flair; I’ll nod my head in a wise and knowing way when this man’s music is someday gracing epic feature films. The disc concludes with “Crossing Euro;” adding to the already impressive variety displayed in just a few songs, I can see fans of the very layered and complex stylings of Delerium or Enigma adding this to a favorites list. It is again incredibly melodic and full of texture, intensity and powerful elements that make for a very complete whole. This is truly a memorable close to the EP.
Obviously, I’m very taken with this music and as has been my want for a long time now, I needed to know more about the person behind this release. Reading a bit that he wrote about himself, I became even more intrigued with the man. His classical piano training started at age seven (I’m not surprised), but he abandoned that fairly early on to concentrate on creating his own music. He invested in equipment and was an early experimenter “in the style now widely known as dubstep.” He has played in rock bands, reggae bands and performed his electro music “using only my hands and my equipment, with no computer software.” Feeling family pressure to find a real job, Wilcox sold his equipment… and began traveling through Europe, working on farms for food and shelter. In the midst of many twists and turns during that journey, he became involved with a rap group in Hungary, apparently decided that music was in his bones and made the decision to dive full-on back into his musical career. Obviously, when it’s deep inside you, it cannot be denied, and Ryan declares proudly, “Now I’m a signed artist, I work with seven different music libraries in the USA and UK and I am scouting talent for my own projects for use in the film/game/TV industries.” Yeah, I needed to talk to this man.
I wasn’t sorry. I found that having a chat with Ryan Wilcox was as entertaining as listening to his music. Right away, I wanted some clue as to why his music was so diverse, and I got my answer quickly. When I asked whose music he personally enjoyed that he had been listening to recently, here’s the list I got: “Massive Attack, Eric Clapton, Ike and Tina, Delta Rae, Lana Del Rae, A lot of dubstep!, Benga, Dr Dre, Red + Method, Sir Joe, Alice in Chains, Enigma, Leftfield, Desert Eagles, David Arnold, Cypress Hill, Wu Tang Clan, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Kate Bush, Slikpknot, Hed PE, Limp Bizkit, Biggie Smalls, Funk Master Flex, Chemical Brothers, Jedi Mind Tricks…” Okay, that explains a lot! So how does he take all of these sounds he hears and enjoys and incorporate them into his own music?
Wilcox was very straightforward with his answer… and not too surprisingly, his approach to creating changes a lot. “It ranges from day to day, I sometimes overthink too much and I end up not finishing half of what I create… but I try to work on a new idea every day, Mike (ed. note: USA producer Mike Ziegler, aka Centrist) sends over ideas he starts, and we evolve the track from there. It’s usually done in a day. I like to lay a track and leave it alone, so I rarely go back on a song once its finished. I work better when I’m not thinking of any style to begin with. I like to see where my fingers take me!”
This is obviously an artist of deep creativity and energy. he says the business of music and the making of music don’t get in the way of one another; in fact, “that relaxes me,” says Wilcox. “I lay a lot of what I call ‘maps,’ ideas for future projects, and I know that when an op comes in my mail, I most likely have a start to an idea needed for it!” Still, would not finishing everything he starts on become frustrating over time? “Well, I never bin an idea,” he says. “Sometimes I feel the quality is just not good enough, sometimes the sounds just seem a blur and it’s better to start fresh. But sometimes even older ideas at least become good material for the music libraries. Even with all that, I wouldn’t change anything on the debut EP. It’s the mood that I was feeling at that time. Making music to me is like painting a picture, and once you have laid your first brush stroke, it can not be altered.”
Whew! I’m impressed. Wilcox realizes he’s only at the beginning of what may well be a very long journey. He says he would love to do music for a James Bond film or a Silent Hill game; he’s open to collaborations, even with old school guys (“Rick Wakeman of Yes!!”). He already has another EP scheduled for release in under two months, and yet, with all that, when I asked if he had any final thoughts before we closed our chat, I could almost see his smile when he answered, “You have not heard anything yet!” That kind of drive will not be denied, guaranteed.
Night Wolf. An IDM release that isn’t going to exhaust you with breakneck BPM; songs that aren’t afraid to incorporate what should be opposing elements and instead create a brilliantly blended mixture; downtempo music that refuses to bore you to tears; an artist overflowing with ideas and with no ceiling in sight… Keep an eye on this one, people. I know I will.
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Night Wolf can be heard on iTunes, and his Soundcloud page is at www.soundcloud.com/nightwolfuk