After two very well received albums, Paul Marshall (aka Lone Wolf) seemed to have disappeared into the wilderness. Acute anxiety attacks led to Marshall’s withdrawal from performing and, it seemed, producing music ever again.
However, when he learned that The Lodge, the studio where he’d recorded his previous work, was to close, his attachment to the place provided the spark that allowed him to push his anxieties to one side long enough to write and record music once again. The Lodge, Marshall explained via a recent blog post, was the only place (apart from his wife’s summerhouse in Sweden) that he ever felt human and so, with just the company of his producer James Kenosha and trumpeter David Wärmegård, he decamped to the place where he felt his most comfortable, and recorded this sparse and heartfelt album over the course of just six days.
Unlike Lone Wolf’s previous work which was primarily guitar based, Lodge is performed on piano and trumpet with some minimal drum accompaniment. If there’s a central, defining theme to Lodge then it is one of space. It’s there in the location of the studio and the acoustics of the recording space which can be heard on every one of these songs. Then there are the arrangements which are, for the most part, sparse which allows emotions and questions to hang in the ether. Finally there’s the headspace of Marshall himself, which is all over these songs, sprawled out and examined in detail as he attempts to make sense of himself and his anxieties.
The album opens with Wilderness, and a call on the trumpet, that just for a second sounds like Lone Wolf is entering the Twilight Zone. It’s an appropriate comparison, in that Marshall has made the step into a new dimension and a new reality; one where he’s able to create music and perform again. For a second the piano hints at Life On Mars, which also seems appropriate for someone so at odds with the world. Alligator follows and provides some insight to the depth of emotions that inform the album. Marshall’s high register vocals populate a world of lilting piano, and after hours jazz trumpet, it all sounds so dreamlike or a 1950s New York Jazz club after hours , but there’s violence in his words, danger lurks beneath the surface, coiled and ready to tear off arms.
Hidden emotions and notions of threat can be found in a number of these songs, which, given Marshall’s condition is perhaps unsurprising. Crimes possesses a big vocal hook but the percussive piano, haunting trumpet and the confessional lyrics, turns pop-nuance into something tortured and restless. The pounding piano lines recall the approach favoured by The Paper Chase, a band whose primary function was to deal with their main songwriter’s panic attacks and anxieties.
Much of this album’s strength lies in the immediacy and natural feel of the performance. Mess utilises the acoustics of the room perfectly to give the sound of the instruments and the song real life. It sounds as if Marshall is crooning directly into your ear. The live feels gives immediacy and a palpable sense of electricity; there’s an emotional charge throughout this album, but it is perhaps most evident at this particular moment.
There are, of course, emotions dripping from just about every single moment on Lodge. Taking Steps is another confessional and an apology that lays it on the line “I was so afraid, that’s why I hide…I’m taking steps just to be someone”. It’s a glimpse into just how debilitating life has been for Marshall over the last few years and yet, somehow all these details are delivered in a beautiful and heartfelt croon and wrapped in some phenomenally evocative and beautiful music. Token Water meanwhile evokes the languid passion of Patti Smith’s Birdland whilst also offering a sense of hope and new beginnings; apposite, given that Lodge is to be Lone Wolf’s last release. Its purpose has been served, and now, hopefully, Paul Marshall can start his life again, less anxious perhaps but most likely soundtracked by a consciousness full of beautiful music.