Wolf’s Skull 2020
Velvet thrills from murky recesses of cinematic mind: initial steps of a winding trip.
If the “Folsom” part of this project’s name evokes images of confinement and the title of its first full-length effort implies primal rituals, the music composed by multi-instrumentalist Romsam Malpica encompasses both notions, incongruous though they may seem. Stitching them together is a secret ingredient, a story, although the listener doesn’t have to follow all the peripeteias the album’s chapters offer, because the characters that lurk in there – with artwork and videos to support the concept – are subservient to the sonics, an arresting melange of orchestral soundscapes and electronic elements. Think of it as danse macabre, but add a pinch of adventure, and somber fantasies should become flesh and blood.
While opener “The Wolf & The Woods” outlines the record’s frightening dynamics through cello splashes, which whispered words rustle across before acoustic strum and hypnotic chant flow in to dissolve the gloom, the darkness will never go away even in “Awaken” when the piano and violin create a creepy chamber space that the slow glimpses of suspenseful hip-hop groove fail to compromise. Still, “Dr. Schmidth” could be much scarier were it not for too-histrionic rapping laid over majestic waltz, yet the chilly blues and glacial choir in “Iceland” – spearheaded with brittle guitar – as well as the tango of “The Red Room” more then compensate for theatrical moments such as “The Lady In White” whose danceability defies fear anyway.
Down-to-earth rhyming weighs down on the exquisite tension of “The Wolf” too, whereas the rocking throb of “Just a Boy” can send shivers down anyone’s spine, and the unexpected surf twang behind “Lamb Or Wolf” is pleasantly shocking, bringing a stronger impact than “Last One” – a cosmic oratorio of sorts. This piece is surprising in its own way, so the versatility on display only spices up the outcome. “The Wolf And The Skull” being a mere start of a larger aural picture, the album’s truly fascinating.