Microwolf - You Better Go Now: "There's a really great 'soft focus', lo-fi, feel about You Better Go Now, however, it is no slouch in the production department as you'd expect from an esc.rec release - there's judicious use of location recordings and a great sense of detail to the sound palette."
In 5 years, the time between recording his last album and You Better Go Now, it seems Benjamin Van Vliet aka Microwolf, has managed to survive an existential catastrophe, emerging bloodied, bruised, panicked and thankful. Thankful that is, that in the process he’s discovered something he’d been expecting to find in others, a bitter reward by the albums closing. His voice, has a kind of troubled, faltering, American delivery and I’d say he’s cruised the roots music of the US for a while, along with his immediate neighborhoods own song sources. These influences are most evident on the albums closing song, Hangman, a song from the European folk tradition variously known and covered as the Gallows Pole (Led Zeppelin), Seven Curses (Bob Dylan), The Gallis Pole (Huddie Ledbetter) – it’s a song that suggests we don’t invest too much hope in others for our saving, and that for some, treachery is a means to gain advantage. Y’know the albums cover points the way, a rural mandala containing a faded sign-post, or is it a cross, a statue…
There’s a really great ‘soft focus’, lo-fi, feel about You Better Go Now, however, it is no slouch in the production department as you’d expect from an esc.rec release – there’s judicious use of location recordings and a great sense of detail to the sound palette. Benjamin says at the Bandcamp page “…using an acoustic guitar, a Casio keyboard, a banjitar, a snare drum, maracas, pots and pans, a Juno synthesiser and numerous other sounds and instruments, all processed through uninformed misuse of Logic Pro.” I reckon that gives a pretty good indication of where the album sits in the sound dept. and if you need further comparison I’d say its akin to the music of local musicians Adam Cole as Trappist Afterland and Paddy Mann.
The Microphones opens the album via a bubbling brook morphing into an equally bubbling percussion cycle, akin to a soundtrack signifying the maddening passage of time, in a movie about a person who’s sanity is slipping out of control. The use of the percussion is akin to the effect of a camera wielding dizzly in and out of focus, spinning towards the protaganists crash. Distant field recordings of children come and go, incantations ghost the edges of the song and possess the singer as he intones an odd freak folked melody, and then, the song peaks accompanied by clanging pots, pans and is gone. As an opener it sets up the mood of the album, swinging between the tensions of sadness, loss and a yearning for happiness, a means to shake the fuckedness that life can be asunder.
While at times harrowing, there are respites; It Will Fall – all wanting and yearning to open, has a delerious beginning – it soon becomes a shambolic musical joy, a sunburst through grey clouds. Benjamin really does create some lovely tensions between happiness and its shadows in songs such as these. Sovereign follows, offering respite, a gentle, subdued musical inlet, lulling the angst, the drama briefly contained, the protaganist having seen and then projecting into the future. This sense of peace follows on Seamus, a barely there soundfield of ambient textures – a quiet drone, a whirring pitch.
Songs can shape-shift through a kaleidoscopic sequence of movements perhaps most beautifully realised on my personal favourite, Salt Lake. This song traverses pastoral idylls, Neil Youngsish hurting, group chorus, through dissonant breakdown, angry bitterness and blissed sampleology – is it a vintage Hindi heartbroken plea? It closes in a melange of found sounds, backward looped sounding strings and electronic ambience – its accomplished, no doubt. Before the previously mentioned closer Hangman, we are gently coaxed by the reflective, sepia toned Silly with its beautiful cornet and ballroom orchestra samples that bring to mind the music of say Daedelus.
Go to it – celebrate a rich musical imagination rooted in songcraft and life’s sometime rollicking, bollicking trip.
nb. there’s a sister album of verdant loveliness, You Are the Everything.