• Ben Etridge
  • Wolf People

I think I mistakenly dismissed the British band Wolf People for a long time because I got them confused with one of those other lame Wolf bands—not Wolf Eyes, I like them—but Wolf Parade or Wolfmother. I can’t remember which one—or maybe it was both of them. But it turns out I really like Wolf People. I eventually caught up with the band’s first proper album, Steeple, about a year after it came out (2010)—there’s also an earlier collection of singles called Tidings that I’ve never heard—but the group’s latest album, Fain (released, like its predecessor, by Jagjaguwar), is the one that’s really got me hooked. The band makes its Chicago debut on Monday at Lincoln Hall, opening for Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

The group puts a kind of retro-proggy spin on British folk traditions, suggesting what Pentangle might’ve sounded like if they were more into fusion than modal jazz. There are moments on Fain where the group goes a bit too far into this realm, like the noodly “All Returns,” parts of which conjure some Spinal Tap Stonehenge action. But on that same song the gorgeous, delicate singing of Jack Sharp pulls it back from the abyss. (There were some moments on Steeple where the presence of unison flute lines gave me Jethro Tull nightmares). The production on Fain is spot-on—full-bodied and clear—and the songs are uniformly strong, with lots of terrific guitar interplay and forceful rhythmic propulsion (which has a crispness that no one would confuse with anything from the proggy 70s), effectively leavening any potential Ren Faire stench from Sharp’s singing. The music is dense but dynamic, with guitars that crunch and lacerate, and grooves that steamroll, yet the sound is never bludgeoning or imprecise. Below you can check out “When the Fire Is Dead in the Grate,” one of the album’s hardest-rocking tunes.

Today’s playlist:

John Zorn, Music and Its Double (Tzadik)
Jean-Luc Fafchamps, KDGhZ2SA, a Six-Letter Sufi Word (Sub Rosa)
Två för Tommy, Två för Tommy (Found You)
Luiz Bonfa, Amor: the Fabulous Guitar of Luiz Bonfa (Atlantic, Japan)
Talking Cows, Almost Human (Morvin/Jazz Sick)