Gasping at the majesty of the world, whilst recoiling in horror at the greed that threatens to destroy it.
Zefur Wolves – Zefur Wolves (release date 13th April 2015)
Husband and wife teams tend not to work.
Rennee and Renata, Peters and Lee…The Krankies (mind that Christmas tree). But as far as credibility goes, Cian and Estelle, the couple that make up Zefur Wolves (augmented by Danny Wall on drums, Zirian Tahirili on guitar and Trystan Palfrey on bass)are like the cool kid, bastard offspring of Sonny and Cher or Ike and Tina, without the spousal abuse of course.
As a fan of Cian’s vocals with both the Super Furry Animals and as a solo artist, I wasn’t sure how Estelle ios ‘s vocals would fit with his voice and his multifaceted musical soundscapes, but having previously heard Cian and Estelle working together on Baby Queen’s wonderful single Red Light I should have had no real fear. The Zefur Wolves debut is a beauty and fits in seamlessly with both artists’ previous works.
The opening Fading Out does the opposite and fades in with a gorgeous melodic intro which has Cian’s furry fingerprints all over it. Estelle’s vocals kick in with a cracked beauty over a tune that sounds like a sparse Motown classic (Spector would have ramped this up to high heaven, Cian show’d remarkable restraint) whilst the fade out contains the pops and pings (not popty pings microwave fans) of SFA’s Geurrilla era musings.
The extent of my Spanish is limited to the kind of vulgarities only used by a sun stressed road rager, oh, and “dos cervezas pro favour” but it did just about stretch to the title of Sin Fronteras – Without Borders – and this stomping romp with soaked up vocals couldn’t contrast more readily with the opening track if it tried. I haven’t a clue about the lyrics but they are beautifully enunciated, and both songs set the template for the rest of the album.
You like classic Indie rock?The Pixies? Check. The Jesus and Mary Chain? Check. You want it fronted by classic chord changes, distorted guitars and with a few hand claps chucked in towards the end? Check. O.K. Add a dash of too cool for school female vocals and you have the amazing Accept What You Feel . An early highlight of an album that three tracks in had me bouncing round the room.
Given Cian’s previous foray into musical politics, Let Us Be could well be another foray into the seedy world of back stabbing, shit dropping corporate Britain. Set against a downright nasty riff, the lyric could be both personal or aimed at big business, “fuck you and fuck your company” and “stakes get higher”. It rocks like a mofo. The first four tracks are breath-taking in their range of musical influences, so what’s next?
The wistful Troubled Soul features a delicious vocal dripped over a mogodan like backing and is the sound of the everyman reflecting less on the state of the world but more personally on the state of the self in response to a “world (that) keeps saying no” . A song of beauty in the face of, let’s face it, the increasingly difficult seventy years or so we get to spend on this planet.
Santi’s Eclipse opens with Cian’s wizardry, with spaced out sounds and a gentle guitar lament accompanying Estelle’s plaintive other-worldly vocals. Background echoes of country tinged guitar makes this a late night song, soothing baby Santi to sleep, and it is indeed a paen to Cian and Estelle’s baby who makes his vocal debut at the end, but not before the tune shifts into an orbit near the titular eclipse. Funnily enough, I write this three days before the solar eclipse of May 20 2015. Weird.
The sound of space segues from Santi’s Eclipse into Alhambra. The Super Furries are friends with Granddaddy and this tune is a definite nod to Jason Lytle’s atmospherics with its heart tugging suggestion that “You will find love in our hearts”. It is a song of hope, a beautiful musical interlude, a fragile Celtic born melody.
After the lull comes the storm. Your Days are Numbered starts with Cian gabbling over a frantic beat with intermittent guitars. It has MC5 riffs aplenty and lasts a mere 1 minute and 24 seconds. Is Right.
“Money makes my world spin and I get poorer every day, I got no soul if I did I’d abuse it”. Gallagher (Noel not Liam) crescendos abound on top of an incessant funky backing on Wake Up. Once more, politics touch the album’s edges and then it slows right down…loudly! “Falling asleep and I’m never sure if I’m dreaming, waking to find nothing’s real” is the coda that takes us to the end…a great choice for the B-side to single release Too Late (out now).
The latter is a wonderful ballad that would not have been out of place on Cian’s debut Outside In, since it is a song in keeping with the whisper or they’ll break type that proliferated on that gorgeous solo effort. Estelle’s voice soars on this and then a beautiful outro accompanies us on the road to Native, a shrieking and curious instrumental. Needless to say, there is loads’ happening on this album that is only appreciated on second and third listening.
Blistered vocals open up Secret Song and whereas the other songs are most definitely collaborations, with Cian and Estelle sharing the billing, the former allows Estelle’s vocals to dominate this dark track. At about three and a half minutes in, as the vocals initially subside, the instrumental that takes over is a thing of wonder, before the vocals re-enter to lead us wistfully to the song’s end.
I was born and brought up next to the sea in Wales so am always a sucker for the sound of waves, and so This One’s for You was always going to be a winner with me. It is a simple and lovely ballad with its telling final line of “I’ll never be the same as I was yesterday, I’ll write it in a song” and then we have five and half minutes of the warmth of the peaceful sounds of the night, sounds rarely heard in the frantic lives we lead and the political climate that Cian railed so superbly against on They Are Nothing Without Us and that Zefur Wolves touch upon in places here.
Zefur Wolves contains classic echoes of past glories with Cian’s own band as well as Estelle’s influences, alongside the best of the bands from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s that have soaked into the songwriters’ lives.
The recording/production is sumptuous and was apparently recorded with the vibratory nature of the universe in mind. The music and vocals certainly give that impression as this magnificent album sounds like its gasping at the majesty of the world, whilst recoiling in horror at the greed that threatens to destroy it.
It is out on the 13th April. Go get it here;
It’s quite something.
13/04 ・ M.O.D, London. CND Protest
18/04 ・ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
25/04 ・ Wrexham – Gŵyl Focus Wales
16/05 ・ Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
23/05 ・ Liverpool (TBA)
30/05 ・ Merthyr. Merthyr Rising Festival
05/06 ・ Maesgerchien, Bangor
21/08 ・ Greenman Festival