Patrick Wolf Sundark and Riverlight Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Marking a decade of releases, this set shows that Wolf is a songwriter to be admired.

Tom Hocknell 2012

Patrick Wolf fans are familiar with his constant re-invention, so this revisiting of songs from previous long-players will come as no surprise.

However, as Wolf is equally known for theatrics, followers may be surprised at the acoustic nature of these re-recorded songs, released to commemorate a decade in the business.

In his own words, this set is "A rebellion... against the digital age of Auto-Tune and mass-produced electronic landfill music." It is not a ‘greatest hits’, as he hasn't really had any. But that is not to say he shouldn't have; as with Ed Harcourt, musicianship does not always equal commercial success.

An album of two halves, the first disc is the introspective Sundark. His debut single The Libertine sounds surprisingly similar, missing only its pounding beat; although its rearranged strings frame his plea to be free more desperately than ever.

Vulture is similarly effective, the simple piano and wind-effect emulating the stripped emotion perfectly: “Mother don't worry, your boy is doing fine.”

In places the conceit of the project is its weakness: the lack of deviation from piano and strings accompaniment. But Paris, originally from 2003's Lycanthropy, appears stripped of its industrial nonsense and subsequently shines as the live anthem it has become; while Together redraws Wolf as troubadour.

The directness of Bermondsey Street and the gothic Bluebells are further highlights. The Magic Position loses the original's joie de vivre, and may or may not refer to a lost chapter of Karma Sutra, but remains one of his finest songs.

Despite channelling Blackadder for the cover, Sundark and Riverlight is thankfully more chamber pop than chamber pot. It's an elegant collection, but an acquired taste.

Those unfamiliar with Wolf are advised to begin with the Riverlight side, or last year's successful Lupercalia album. This stopgap album risks losing commercial momentum, but is a reminder that despite a tendency towards self indulgence, Wolf remains a songwriter to admire.

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