Brighter Later – The Wolves
With a name that puns on a Nick Drake album title, Brighter Later have my attention before a note has even been played, along with some high hopes for what I’m about to hear. Thankfully, what’s inside the box does not disappoint – my anticipation is immediately calmed by the abundant warm tones, enfolding textures and layered melodies of debut album The Wolves.
Hearing opening track ‘All The World’ is as much like experiencing weather as listening to music: a gorgeous broth of analog sounds swirls around, envelops and stimulates, miraculously, never overpowering or collapsing into disarray [although the threat of such collapse is always present, adding to the sense of contained excitement]. The overall sensation is rich and soothing and I am drawn closer to the sound as seconds lapse into minutes and songs slowly model themselves into a record.
There are many notable tunes on this album [‘The Woods’ and ‘All The Great Lakes’ boast choruses that many songwriters would give half an arm to have penned] but it is moments – a rhodes hook, a repeated vocal phrase, a soft percussive flourish – rather than songs, that define the steady and cohesive landscape of The Wolves. The real craft in the Brighter Later sound lies in the skilful and, dare I say, elegant choices of what to feature and what to let blend. The subtlety employed in this selection process exhibits an almost culinary finesse and suggests, to my ears, a painstaking [in its best sense] recording and mixing process.
I knew I’d enjoy this album after the first 20 seconds and I expect people who aren’t going to like it will know it just as soon. The Wolves knows exactly what it wants to be and makes no apologies for that but, for this listener, there is something compelling about art that knows itself and owns the knowledge. That’s not to say there is no antecedent to the sound of Brighter Later: the dreamy soundscape pop they create is not reinventing any kind of wheel. Comparisons, for those who need them, could be drawn with the gentler side of The Velvet Underground, the deluxe swoon pop of Mazzy Star or even the lush sonic washes of other Melbourne locals Underground Lovers, but in talking about The Wolves I felt little urge to discuss genres or make comparisons. This album stands up on its own as a delightful listen, regardless of whether you have it on in the background while clearing your desktop or thumping through headphones, lounging in your favourite listening chair.
The sleeve notes announce The Wolves was ‘written, produced and engineered by Jaye Kranz at her home in Melbourne’. Brighter Later, it seems, is a vehicle for the compositions of multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Kranz in collaboration with Virginia Bott on bass and backing vox; the duo’s beautiful singing and playing is supported on this album by a small but accomplished band of collaborators. Shane O’Mara’s delicate lapsteel and Cameron Potts atmospheric drumming deserve special mention, standing out in a strong field.
Other members have joined since completion of the album forming a quartet for live shows – a tantalizing thought, indeed.
If this is what happens around there, all I can say is I hope Jaye Kranz and friends are planning to spend more time at home in the near future.
Here’s a couple of tunes from the album…