Music » Critics' Picks

Wolf Eyes, Metalux, Chris Smentkowski and Hroom Hroom

Friday, April 4; Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center


Do Wolf Eyes appreciate a nice walk through the daisies? Baby bunnies? Short answer, no. They have songs called "Rotten Tropics" and "Half Animal Half Insane"; they like contraptions that make scary scrapes and hideous hisses. "Dead Hills I," from the "Dead Hills" EP, sounds like a contact mic buried in the depths of an android jungle.

"Wretched Hog," from the band's just-reissued début full-length, Dread, is an odd one, a long electronic warble that, over the course of seven-odd minutes, gradually attempts to coagulate into some sort of structure. A steady cardboard-box beat arrives midway through to keep a drunken semirhythm, and a high-pitched bleeeep strikes at even intervals. It ends up a big ugly mess. Most Wolf Eyes songs end up messy -- or really quiet. "Am I alive or am I dead?" wonders vocalist/machine builder Nathan Young, and the music provides a simple answer: "No."

Lyrically, Wolf Eyes is kind of one-dimensional. We're all tortured, and all that complaining gets kind of tiresome. Still, the trio is so chock-full of aural ideas that it makes up for the whining. Part Throbbing Gristle, part Masonna, all noisy most of the time, the group gathered around the relatively vibrant Ann Arbor, Michigan, experimental-music scene of the late '90s and early '00s. Over the course of a half-dozen releases of varying lengths, Wolf Eyes have risen to the top of the experimental-noise scene.

The stuff they've put out together is seldom melodic, so if you're looking for a tasty riff or a phat beat or an awesome guitar line, you'll be disappointed because what you'll get in their stead is at times rough on the ears and the patience. But if your head's in the proper place -- preferably somewhere in the realms of the meditative -- the ugliness burns away and reveals a depth and richness. Also playing on the bill are Bulb Records labelmates Metalux, along with Brain Transplant's Chris Smentkowki and Hroom Hroom, a duo consisting of Blueberry McGregor and Aleta Lanier, of the Star Death.