Album Review

David Tagg – “I Am The Wolf” (Second Sun, 2011)


David TaggWolf Suite I

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The last I heard of David Tagg he made Pentecost, a soft pink album of reel to reel tape organ drones. According to Discogs, that’s the last thing he released, but he’s got a new album on Second Sun, which is a label that doesn’t churn out excessive amounts of records (in fact this is their first release for 2011) so it’s always a treat when one comes out and you damn well better pay attention to it.

“I Am The Wolf” retains that textured tape warble but mostly sheds the organcore from Tagg’s last, taking sides with his pal Brian Grainger and soaring through guitar drone fields. Three tracks, one 30+ minutes, checking in at just over an hour, allowing plenty of breathing room & exploration in the depths of loneliness. This is an album of non-depressive melancholy, a warm gloom that doesn’t suck you into a spiraling suicidal nightmare. Sadness is abound but it isn’t overwhelming, it’s like a dreamlike daze, walking through life noticing the beauty while everything’s washed in grey. Soft guitars smoothed out into a hiss filled plain, weaving tones dancing under patchy clouds of unspooled tape. “I Am The Wolf” is a gorgeously secluded island inhabited by your own hopes & anxieties.

This takes an approach that I can really appreciate, not the “all or nothing” style that’s so typical. There’s a delicacy that I can’t quite catch, and I think it has to do with the elusive emotions mixed with the album title and art. So there’s that ghostly rad/creepy dude on the cover, with a photo of a plane dropping bombs on the inside, and a dedication “in loving memory of Paul ‘Pops’ Sparber.” Maybe this is an ode to a family veteran who used to fly bomber planes and was known as “The Wolf?” Maybe it’s supposed to be a statement on the wolfiness of war? Or mmaayyyybe Tagg has dreams of becoming a pilot but instead of dropping bombs he drops stereos like Craig Colorusso’s Sun Boxes into wolf land, blasting “Wolf Suites I-III” with subliminal wolf messages so he can command a wolf army and turn Earth into Wolf Planet. Just a theory.

Tagg’s new record is truly wonderful, an endless haze of subtlety that does to sounds what sun beams do to afternoon mist. Whether he’s wielding a guitar or an organ, this dude keeps the tape aesthetic stimulating and he’s made sure he’s on my radar for future releases. “I Am The Wolf” is a fuckin winner.