Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wo Fat - The Conjuring




When it comes to listening to Wo Fat, I feel like I have to prepare for it. I mean, mentally gear myself up for the onslaught that I’m about to put myself through. That almost sounds like a negative thing, but nay, Waveriders….this is a positive practice. It’s like any professional athlete goes out and stretches the muscles prior to the contest. In the case of Wo Fat, I stretch my mind and try to anticipate that which is unpredictable. You see, one doesn’t just listen to it….one doesn’t just put it on and walk away….it simply becomes a part of your being, it flows through your veins like the life giving blood, Wo Fat becomes entwined with the DNA of the listener and takes on a life of its own!

Personally, I would have never thought Wo Fat could surpass the effort that they put forth on the just-add-water classic of The Black Code, and I’m having a hard time saying that they have with their latest offering, The Conjuring. But, in no way does it fall short of its predecessor. One simply can’t compare the two records….it’s actually more appropriate to think of them a sister records, shades of the same seed, 1A and 1B. Thematically speaking, the albums are completely different….The Black Code with its pulp fiction sci-fi slant versus The Conjuring with its B movie-esque haunted realm theme. But musically, Wo Fat carries on with its tried and true experimental heavy blues jam vibe.

Like its predecessor, The Conjuring is a five song gem with the second side of the disc being the land where experimentation and the art of musical flight take center stage. When I read other peoples thoughts on Wo Fat, I feel like they’re only scratching the surface. Words like “doom” or “stoner” inevitably creep in as the key adjectives, and there’s no argument from this camp on that front….but I also feel that by limiting this band to those keyword searches is a disservice to what this band is really doing. Y’see….strip all the titles away and Wo Fat is a blues band. An unorthodox blues band, but a blues band nonetheless. I would go as far as to say experimental blues, pushing the boundaries of tonality and musical arrangements to the outer limits of time and space.

Just listen to the opening strains of “The Conjuring”…..feedback drenched over the wah’ed out bass lines and when Kent Stump and Michael Walter crash in on time the groove takes over. More groove than full frontal riffing, riding the roll of the rhythm section, the song is propelled into a world unto itself. Once Tim Wilson adds his low end heft to the glorious bombast, “The Conjuring” kicks into high gear. Once you’ve listened to what these guys are playing, take a step back and listen to how they’re playing it. It feels like they are putting every ounce of emotion that they have into every note, as if their existence (and ours) relies on the perfect execution of the performance.

Then, the trio falls into the jammy jam areas of the music, the rhythm section (world class one, at that) holds down that groove….Wilson really keeping everything together while Walter adds flourished beat after flourished beat, and Stump bends the strings in one anguished cry of torment after another. This phenomenon is no more present than on side two opener, “Beggars Bargain”, where the song kicks off with a southern boogie swing. The tune eventually explores a pelvic grinding groove and ultimately spirals into a phantasmic musical journey, each musician feeding off of the other….and those time changes! Good God….its otherworldly and proof that we have alien DNA floating within us.

There are few bands that I watch with such anticipation and rabid interest as Wo Fat. You never know exactly what’s going to happen, but after all of these years of plying their trade and learning the fine art of gravitational manipulation, Wo Fat continue to redefine the word “heavy” as it applies to sound. With each release, this Texas trio seem to get better and better….having an almost symbiotic relationship with one another, knowing where the next one is going before anyone has even thought of going in that particular direction. For one song to completely define what Wo Fat is doing on this record, listen to the closing track, “Dreamwalker”. It pretty much encapsulates the entire album in one sexy and grooved out masterful jam.

And the crazy shit about these guys? Their live show. Hypnotic and life changing….almost like a religious experience. What you hear on the records only gets better.

Okay….I’m exhausted from listening to this album again. I need a nap.

- Pope

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