Patrick Wolf

By James Burrell

Fusing ancient and modern instruments of the wandering minstrel, from laptops to recorders, Patrick Wolf's debut album forges a startlingly unique musical language. Not so much a record as a gateway to a fully self-contained, imaginary world he achieves a near-impossible dream in rooting the glitches and scattergun beats of electronica in the permanence of song. Sea shanties, fairground memories, the occasional burst of Euro techno and Braindance's finest acid breaks are all thrown into the bristling, energetic mix. Contrived though that might sound, this extraordinary sonic fusion succeeds, fuelled by accident and boundless, inspired energy rather than mere next level theory.

The world he conjures in his lyrics is a collision of the Dickensian and the modern, in which pastoral idyll collides against urban sprawl. At the centre of all this is the 20-year-old Patrick Wolf himself, self-mythologised into a wide-eyed Blakeian wanderer, shaped by innocence and experience, forced by the vagaries of fortune to develop his wolf-like alterego, forever shouting out in joy, defiance and brutal honesty.

This is a truly original debut in which music, production, lyrics, persona, a neo urchin look and even the self-drawn artwork coalesce into one single whole. Like a true pop icon, Patrick Wolf works as a total package. He is destined to inspire cult devotion, but you can't help hoping that some mischievous Svengali helps him achieve mainstream stardom, just to spice it all up.

But just as Lycanthropy refers to man becoming wolf – or, in Patrick's world, boy – it sometimes weakens under its own sense of becoming. In its rush of ideas and emotions it risks tripping over itself; while the occasional pang of claustrophobia hints at the danger of creating such a self-contained world. You are, as the listener and a visitor to his world, left with the feeling that it can be just a bit too much. For the most part, however, it intrigues and delights, setting the bar high for his next record and making you wonder where he'll go from here and what your next visit to a perhaps more-fully fledged Wolfworld will promise.
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