(Lower Floor Music, 2017)
No one needs any introduction to Wolf Eyes, so let’s get at it. Undertow is a muted affair, blast furnace doors only cracked a smidge to let a minimal amount of destructive heat out. The doors are tended by Nate Young, whose deadpan poetry seemingly emanates from the spookiest late-shift factory worker in the history of creepy old factories. Is this factory even open anymore? I think Wolf Eyes just hangs out in it and tends the blast furnace, freaking out any passersby who dare risk the razor wire atop the chain-link fence encircling the grounds. I like to picture Harry Dean Stanton. I would never want to meet up with him in an abandoned (or is it) factory in the dead of night. He probably feeds on cocky teenage troublemakers.
John Olson and Jim Baljo accompany Young on Undertow, Olson’s sax manifesting terrifying spirits and Baljo’s guitar manifesting terrifying spirits as both meander through minimal territory with periodic detours into every horror movie genre you could possibly imagine. The first four tracks of the album make up half of it, sonics broken apart by technology, each a brief foray into the subconscious of a literal demon, because they exist, especially in Wolf Eyes’ worldview. “Thirteen” is the fifth and final track, and also half the album, fourteen minutes of fractured guitar, sax, and Young’s vocals fed through a food processor. Its passages are long, dark, the corridors through which you experience the terror are unending. Well, until it ends, that is, but until then, “Thirteen” filters Badalamenti-esque blues and smoky jazz (!) through a topography of razors, each second more frightening than the last. It’s uncomfortable to experience, bordering on unendurable, like watching a rhesus monkey getting sawn in half for science. But Wolf Eyes cut their science with an accessibility, patterns, emotional cues, and although all of this points us toward unending dread (Dread, obviously, is the name of another Wolf Eyes release), it’s the kind of dread that’s worth revisiting. Fun dread!