Space—that inky, voidlike entity where no one can hear you scream (or shred on your guitar)—has infatuated musicians for decades. Everyone from Sun Ra to Pink Floyd to Parliament-Funkadelic to Hawkwind to Kool Keith (among others) has used distant, mysterious realms as inspiration for sounds and lyrics, often to transcendental effect. Add Seattle duo Wehrwolve to that storied, starry lineage.
Composed of primary songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anders Covert and vocalist/keyboardist Rachel LeBlanc, Wehrwolve are about to release their second album, Interstellar Spaceports Lost, the follow-up to their 2008 debut full-length, Ragnarök. Interstellar is a nine-track excursion into the vast, enigmatic somethingness of space rock's furthest reaches. Every song title on the album is loaded with scientific/occult terminology that will send most listeners madly Googling in search of meaning. For example, "Extradimensional Mythopoetics (Qubit Verschränkung Matrix Holomorphic Hilbert Space)," "Kefahuchi Tract (Supermassive Singularity)," and "Caveden (Nibiru)" respectively refer to quantum mechanics, the largest type of black holes, and a theoretical catastrophic collision between Earth and a large planetary body. Covert clearly has no truck with silly love songs.
"My focus on selecting such alternate song titles was to inspire people to go beyond merely listening and encourage enlightenment through learning," Covert says.
Interstellar begins with "Heliosapien Empty Signal (Technological Singularity)," whose amorphous ambient drift is simultaneously peaceful and unsettling. That's followed by "Exebeche Be Going Now (Fractal Hedron Decoherence)," in which a lugubrious cello moans below a daze-inducing airstream of spindly, fractured guitar/harp picking and wafting synth debris. "And the Moon Hung in Fire (Selenhelion)" recalls the disturbing atmospheric pressure that composer Gil Mellé generated in his soundtrack for The Andromeda Strain. Similarly Andromeda-esque, "The Shadow Operators & the Mathmatics (Quantum Logic Gates)" finds Covert and LeBlanc singing as if in a trance, "The city's not sleeping/They're all dead/The city's not dead/They're all sleeping" amid a mysterious cauldron of electronics, rocket exhaust, and weirdly programmed beats that truculently hiss like air escaping from tire pumps.
Wehrwolve's IDM-ish proclivities surface in "Pictures of Dreams Make Us Scream (Schrödinger's Cat)" and "Kefahuchi Tract (Supermassive Singularity)," which feature discombobulated rhythms percolating and scattering over anguished, distended guitar drones. The swarming, menacing "Caveden (Nibiru)" closes the album with a distressed LeBlanc defiantly singing, "We're never coming back/That's all, that's all/A savage horror is growing/Our teeth are breaking/Our hands keep shaking."
Overall, Interstellar is a harrowing journey, aswirl with phenomenally strange sounds, turbulent atmospheres, and odd rhythms. It's no exaggeration to say that Wehrwolve's tracks act as portals to alternate realities—or at least to altered mind states.
"Much of the music, if not all, was produced throughout many long nights, sometimes during long insomniatic stretches," Covert admits. "The creative process at times replaced my natural REM cycle; rather than experiencing dream excursions unconscious, I would have them awake. There are other worlds than these."
The reference to the 1971 dystopian sci-fi flick The Andromeda Strain struck a nerve with Covert.
"I think you've touched upon something from my subconscious!" he says. "I haven't watched The Andromeda Strain since I was a kid, but my dad and I used to watch it quite often. He was always encouraging me to watch sci-fi films."
Interstellar flashed into terrifying life with help from producers Jason Smothers (of Are you a cat?) and Greg Campbell (aka Pressure Suit).
"Greg Campbell has been my mentor in learning the tricks of Ableton Live," Covert says. "He showed me the hidden ins and outs generally not found until years of use. Greg also introduced me to IDM back in high school. We grew up together, influencing each other along the way.
"Our relationship with Jason Smothers was highly coincidental," Covert continues. "And it worked out for us to help each other: He was in the midst of creating a new recording studio and needed start-up clientele, and we just happened to be in the early stages of our album. He greatly helped in mixing the produced background textures I'd created electronically in Ableton with the live-recorded electric guitar and vocal tracks. We were often on the same page sonically and conceptually. Jason's attitude and approach definitely enabled in the studio what I had been feeling alone while creating the electronic elements."
With such fervent interest in science and science fiction, Covert is enthusiastically part of the outer-space-oriented legacy referred to above. That obsession could come in handy. "I've always been interested in science, my nose at all times in a book about quantum physics, the latest cellular biology breakthrough, or astrological phenomena. As much as the real thing, the genres of sci-fi and fantasy also greatly interested me, if not more so. Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite authors. If this whole music thing doesn't work out, I plan to begin the path toward becoming a scientist. It's either a record deal or CERN."