Legowelt – The Paranormal Soul


"You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a nay-sayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I'll gladly take another, because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman."

‘The Paranormal Soul’ begins with this Twin Peaks quote, a love-and-compassion outpouring from the usually efficacious Albert Rosenfield. It’s a reference you might expect from Danny Wolfers (aka Legowelt) after all; he seems to share the same skewed aesthetical exaggeration as Mr Lynch. One look at the gaudy tack of early-internet design adorning his website or at the artwork of this release (the ludicrous posture, as a dome of celestial light beams from his outstretched hand, with a stage of tropical foliage and synth assembled) affirms the sense of a mutual predilection for the antic. But this Lynchian element comes on a very broad, facile level. As you’d expect from his previous material and the kind of image suggested in these displays, Legowelt’s warp is less surrealistic noir, more low-budget, outdated sci-fi, wryly but lovingly invoked.

Peculiar stylings aside, the quotation’s a fitting choice in more ways than just this one. Intoned in the nature of the monotonal phonics you often hear on Trax records, the quotation ends dramatically on 'love' before a cue of brazen thud, like a ritualistic indoctrination before the onset of Wolfers inevitable overspill of hyper, manic cyberkinesis. Overspill of the best kind. Even so, it does consist of gestures which are palpably enamoured with earlier visions and sonic depictions of the future, rather than being defined by an intent to contemporise and strive for the future itself (whatever that would now constitute) But as Wolfers has proved since the mid to late nineties, his synthesis of Detroit and Chicago’s sonic terrain and Carpenter/Vangelis-esque soundtrack moods, doesn’t come off as temporally fixed, temporary infatuation, but promises fluid intermix and genuine thrall. This kind of synthesis rings true for ‘The Paranormal Soul’.

In a less broad sense, there's also, like Drexiya, Dopplereffekt, and the ‘Frustrated Funk’ material, the same stiff automation that’s been present in previous work; registers and frequencies that sound like a pre-programmed droid emanation. With this though, as always, there’s an anxiety that hints at uncontrollable malfunctions or virtual entrapment. The first of this release, ‘Danger in the Air’ is laced with this broad designation of influence as well as this kind of foreboding; favouring chronic, jacking barges and Detroit strings. At the same time, the synth is brassy, like the accompaniment for some neglected arcade game, with all its cheapened but still-intoxicating, kaleidoscopic artificiality. ‘Clap Yo Hands’ (for a producer with work called ‘Total Pussy Control’ and ‘Swimming Cat Spa’, this kind of colloquialism is by his titular standards, tame) comes closest to something contemporary in the form of sleek, glassy, subaqueous house populated by the soul of each vocal sustain, one of them passionately protracted like gospel with warehouse echo and the other defined by robotic tone and regularity. Regularity also comes in the form of crisp hi-hat consonance in ‘Elements of Houz Music’ but it’s less fixed, more solemn and sinewy, melancholically gliding in more conscious tones, like some analogue house elegy. This opening is enough of an explanation as to why Wolfers has such a revered status (and stock) in the circles of established institutes and dance classicists (the Clone label) and in those of younger staples (Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. label and the Greek acid-house imprint, Echovolt)- it’s music made (obviously) in the present, that dips prudently into the past, constructing a medley of sci-fi soundtrack, horror house and techno in its purest, original form, with segments of these influences all benefiting from the advantageous panoramic hindsight and subsequent slant of Wolfers.

You get that sense in the next two; ‘Rave Till Dawn’ and ‘Sketches from Another Century’. Adrenalized by rave energies, like ‘Where Were U in 92’ but less curt and addled by those damn sirens, ‘Rave Till Dawn’ has more endurance and goes further out in prolonged ambiences, more cosmic than day-glo, and ‘Sketches…’ has a booming pulse but also treads with the reflux-squelch of acid under its feet, with a later flourish of synth shimmer, as if the light on the album artwork has developed a voice of coded scintillation. Here, rave didn’t end (all too quickly like a narcotic dud) it’s just morphed into something more refined, without the transience (adapt this thought realistically to expectations despite my hyperbole) ‘On the Tiger Train’ bridges things slightly, with fluted perambulation before ‘Transformation of the Universe’ careers beyond all the acid-house anxiety and horror-house lurk like an irrepressible shuttle going to some unprecedented height. ‘Voice of the Triumph’ then desecrates things with a severe battering of 303. You start to feel you’re going to get much of the same with ‘I Only Move for U’ with its similarly irascible beginning, before the sumptuous fade of strings germinates, accompanied later by some warbling recurrence of (again) flute. ‘Renegade of a New Age’ then levels it all with brooding muscularity; that monotone comes back but it’s nestled between tropical FX and the dense, verdant submergence the jungle these FX evoke might hold.

Although the totality of ‘The Paranormal Soul’ doesn’t segue seamlessly, each of these ten cuts withholds a fluid distillation which stays remarkably coherent, despite its splicing of varying elements from techno and house in its earliest forms with the nineties rave, the eighties arcade and the seventies sci fi. With the proliferation of bands and artists drawing on sources more and more multifarious and obscure, ‘The Paranormal Soul’ affirms that plurality (internet-driven or otherwise) has got to have a real basis. Thankfully, Danny Wolfers/Legowelt still does, proving that Albert Rosenfield’s quote applies not only to himself but also to the man from The Hague who's also, evidently, still loved up.

(Tim Wilson)