Slow Wolf, a pack of London-based musicians, have recently released their debut album, Territories. This eight-track collection of folk / blues tunes has a strong connection to nature and the struggles endured by the animal kingdom to survive. Martin Brooks (vocals/guitar), Henrik Ekeus (guitar), Duncan Menzies (fiddle), Joe Sherwood (bass) and Pete Grant (drums) are the members which make up the band.
Driving Lonely was the first song to be released from Territories. A great sense of displacement hangs heavy in the song as the desperate search continues for a place to call home. The Dust Bowl era of the American Midwest comes to mind as families were forced to search for new territory to farm as their previously arable land turned to dust from bad farming practices and drought. Track two commences with gentle bouzouki strums before the song kicks in with gentle drums, fiddle and a start – stop rhythm. The inspiration for this track is in the brackets of the title, Colder Now (The Ballad of Franz Reichelt). The man in question was the designer of one of the first parachutes who sadly fell to his death after jumping from the Eiffel Tower while testing one of his inventions in 1912.
Struggles in nature prevail in The Thread I Sew. Martin Brooks’ torn vocals lament ‘the waiting of running out of food.’ There is a great sense of hardship for scant reward in order to survive or to simply wait around to die. In contrast, the beauty of nature is celebrated with great respect in ‘Mountain Under the Sea’. There is no doubt who is the boss, Mother Nature, and Brooks is well aware of this.
Out of the Strong is a beautifully melodic song. The instruments blend together cohesively, combining seamlessly with the longing in the lyrics. Once more there is yearning for the meaning of existence. Where are they all going to? questions the afterlife and if it exists at all. However, the chorus line, ‘Out of the Strong a sweetness will come’, suggests that death holds something special in store for those who can hold firm in their beliefs.
More soul-searching follows – ‘You let it out / Your look within’ in Let it Out. What is revealed is up to the listener to interpret but most probably it’s something deep, something worth exploring within and then shared. The fiddle at the end is quite sombre, perhaps redolent of a discovery of the same mood.
An arid, barren landscape is evoked in the penultimate track on Territories. Unsurprisingly it is titled Desert Song. Again there is a list of questions in the lyrics as the search continues. Brooks does not claim to have the answers – ‘I wouldn’t know if you knock on my door’.
I Will Look For You is the bonus track on the album, possibly as it sounds more like a jam than a complete track. The improvisational nature of this song ends the album on an optimistic note as the uplifting arrangement of the instruments work together to create a bright image of morning light. Unzipping the tent to view scenic mountainous surroundings is what comes to mind, most probably due to a recent mountain trip I’ve been on.
Slow Wolf’s debut is an interesting listen and promises more good things to come from the London-based band. Thematically, there is a strong sense that we don’t need territories to define ourselves but instead should celebrate the larger territory that is nature. This is something much more lasting and tangible than borders and states. The digital version of the album can be downloaded for free on Bandcamp.
Review by: Philip Soanes