Wolf People’s new album was recorded almost in isolation in a remote house in the Yorkshire Dales, where it rained practically the whole time. It goes without saying that Fain is not the go-to LP for your soundtrack to summer fun, unless your idea of summer fun is performing endless solos in a darkened room.
Very little has changed in the way of their sound since 2011’s Steeple, their ‘official’ debut following a collection of recordings from the mid-noughties called Tidings in 2010. Their mix of prog and folk remains a central part of their aesthetic. In fact, much of this output could quite easily have fitted onto Steeple and, whilst not exactly a carbon copy, does feel like retreading old ground. Any differences between the two albums are, if anything, very subtle.
Once the realisation dawns that this is more of an expansion than a progression, you’re left searching to play the best bits as opposed to the standout tracks. That’s because good tunes are hard to find when a good amount of them seem unfocussed. It’s one of those LPs that could have done with not just a bit more variation on how one gets from point A to point B but also precision. What’s more, in Jack Sharp they have a vocalist who can tell decent (if bordering on pastiche-laden) stories. Why they don’t give more space to his lyrics is a puzzle.
However, at its best, Fain can be a heady experience in the sense that Wolf People’s songs take plenty of detours in the space of a few minutes. Rather contrastingly, they’re also a band who aren’t afraid to go down long, winding roads with their guitar playing. Sometimes they’ll do both of these things in the same tune. The proggy All Returns contains both some fairly light passages and some bone-crushing riffs whilst NRR changes shape so many times that it takes a huge amount of effort to keep up. The end reward is rewarding.
If a parade of guitar noodling is what you’re after then there’s no shortage of it on Fain. On a technical level, Wolf People are a competent outfit but, for all its repetition, it doesn’t leave much of a dent in the brain. They are also so fully immersed in the period of their influences that it’s as if they are too far down the well to climb back out. Not a band hell bent on reinventing the wheel then. Hopefully their future material might serve more of a purpose.