Ever the shapeshifter, it’s hard to believe Patrick Wolf has been making solo music for two decades now, so youthful does his appearance seem. Yet, here he stands having weathered many storms, both personal and professional. Indeed, thunderstorms as metaphor feature in this, his most recent EP.
In many ways, The Night Safari feels like an amalgamation of all of his best ideas, in that it finds the sweet spot in his most commercial and experimental ideas alike, mapping out a singular trajectory as an artist who loves both The Fall and Madonna (an artist I can truly relate to). There has always been grit hiding in his pearls.
Needless to say, he weaves loss together with acceptance, resilience and hope. The recent passing of his mother cannot help but surface in his lyrics, both celebrating her and marking the deep sense of grief. This paradox is what fuels the music.’Nowhere Game’ has playful, electronic bubbling , but an uneasy pop nous at its core.
‘Archeron’ is more esoteric, with its complex time signature, and the title track, touching on family and moving ahead to the uncertain terrain that is the future, is a truly affecting piece, underpinned by violin, harp and cello. A slow burn, it builds to a glorious crescendo with church bells.
With so much pop dominated by autotune, etc, Wolf is a rare artist, treading a beautiful path full of invention and raw emotion: he’s too esoteric for the beer guzzling indie crowd; too pop for hipsters. His voice too is mellowing, sounding increasingly like a David Sylvian purr in more introspective moments. Yet it soars as well, into a throaty defiant roar.
This can only bode well for future releases. The Night Safari is a trek away from obvious routes, and the full moon is a compass. We’re safe in his paws.
Out now via Apport