"I'm a river and a water person", Wolf told EQ way back in 2008 before thoughts about his 6th album Sundark and Riverlight had even crossed his mind. But although that comment was about his love of walking along the Thames daily, the fluidity and malleability implied by 'river and water' truly does reflect Wolf creatively and musically. While his previous albums have been tidal with the strength and originality to be truly influential, Sundark and Riverlight is the stream at the end of your garden; delicate and beautiful.
Sundark and Riverlight is a celebratory album to mark ten years in the business for the young Londoner. It's a collection of covers of his own music from his previous 5 albums and in many ways does not embody his fluidity. Known for his music tinged with originality and quirky style, this new album is neither original nor particularly quirky. It's difficult to say it sounds as though we've heard it before because obviously we have; it's a cover album! But nevertheless, despite there being no tidal change, no pushing the boundaries or reinventing pop, Sundark and Riverlight is a truly lovely album.
Opening with Wind in the Wires, the original having first appeared on the album of the same name, is one of the stronger tracks from the collection. It's a stripped back and stronger version of the 2008 version; cleaned back and with greater clarity of vision. Likewise, 'Oblivion' is pared down, simplified and made folksy, and is easily the greatest change; so different is it from the original that it's difficult to pick a favourite between the two because they are such dissimilar beasts. The original is 'busy', synthy and heavily percussive whereas this version is full of silences. The same stands for 'Paris' and 'Vulture'.
Covers of tracks from Lupercalia, having only been released last year, tend to be very similar and it seems the further the departure in time, the further the departure in sound. 'Bluebells' is also stripped down from the original, the skeleton is laid bare. Listening to 'Overture' is almost like listening to Antony Hegarty; in fact, throughout the album there are signs everywhere that Wolf has been listening to a lot of Antony and the Johnsons, though, of course, their styles have been compared for years.
It's difficult not to compare this album to the last ten years, and indeed it's supposed to be celebratory, but when compared to that work it doesn't quite make the waves that his other albums have made. To consider it standalone - a work in its own right - and it transcends. While you won't see it on anyone's list of 'Greatest Albums of 2012' it is, however, a beautiful collection of songs with a delicacy that's difficult not to like.
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