WOLFSHEIM

Album: "Casting Shadows"
Label: Metropolis Records (2003)
Style: Synth-pop
Songs: 11

B
 

Reviewed by: Darklight

Wolfsheim really made a name for themselves with their 1999 release Spectators. Even though the band has been making music since the early 90s, none of their earlier recordings have offered the same magic that Spectators offers. Spectators is one of those rare stand-out albums that does just about everything right for the genre it represents. And in this case, that genre happens to be synth-pop. But not only did Spectators appeal to synth-pop fans, it appealed to fans of all forms of electronic music as well. Unfortunately, I donít feel that this follow-up CD entitled Casting Shadows will be nearly as well received.

Four years in the making, this CD is quite a change from Spectators before it. I wouldnít really say that the band has matured more since theyíve always been a rather mature band. But I would say that theyíve toned down their sound quite a bit and, as much as I hate to admit it, have gotten more commercial. This overall album is very laid-back, relaxed and melodic in its sound. So much, in fact, that I would label it as easy listening.

Basically, if you took the slowest most tame and romantic song from Spectators, and made an entire CD based on it, Casting Shadows would be the result. This recording is completely void of any dance tracks. The songs here are soft and soothing with a light mood to them. So donít expect any club hits here kiddies, because thereís none to be found. This overall recording is warm and light hearted best listened to when soaking in a bath letting all of your troubles float away.

But I donít want to scare you away completely, because this CD is in fact very high quality and well polished. This is still indeed Wolfsheim with their patented nicely layered electronic programming, enchanting melodies and deep clear accented male vocals. And not every song will put you to sleep as there are quite a few that are somewhat upbeat and catchy. While still not energetic enough to be considered dance tracks, they do pick things up a bit here.

This is a consistent recording never really throwing any surprises at you. While each song does stand out on its own, they also stick to a similar formula never straying off the beaten path. Once youíve heard the first track, you have a fairly good idea as to what the remainder of the CD has to offer in terms of music. Also, unlike Spectators, there really are no songs here that you would want to crank loud and dance to. But there are some songs that I do feel stand out as hits such as "And IÖ", "Underneath The Veil", "Find Youíre Gone" and "Approaching Lightspeed". These are the best songs offered here, and do make this album definitely worth picking up. Everything else on the album is good as well, but donít stand out nearly as much.

The bottom line is that this CD should please most fans of Wolfsheim, as well as synth-pop fans in general. But if you like Wolfsheim more for songs such as "Once In A Lifetime" and "Heroin, She Said", Iím sorry to say that thereís really nothing here for you. While overall this recording should please most fans of Spectators, I think a lot of fans of that recording will also feel a little let down with this CD as itís lacking the same magic.

 

Album: "Spectators" (2001)
Label: Metropolis Records
Style: Synth-pop
Songs: 11

B

Reviewed by: Darklight

This is an extremely quality album with clean and polished upbeat synth-pop songs featuring energetic beats and melodic harmonies. The vocals are deep and clear with a unique accent and sing extraordinarily well with a smooth and confident flow.

What is impressive about this band is that while they create music that will appeal to a large listening audience, they still donít sound commercial or mainstream. They have a genuine feel about them that allows their music to sound honest and real. This is due in part to the songs having a slightly dark mood to them. Also, the lyrics are well written and delivered with true feeling and emotion.

For the most part this album sticks to a melodic sound, but there are a few songs that work well in clubs. The songs ďOnce In A LifetimeĒ and ďHeroin, She saidĒ are the best tracks on this CD and really stand out. They feature great structures and melodies with memorable choruses that you can sing along to. While there really isnít a bad track to be found on this disc, it would have been nice to have a few more songs similar to the two I previously mentioned. All of the songs do a pretty good job of featuring their own little touches that allow them to stand apart. But, unfortunately, there are a few that do sound a bit too similar to each other. Also, there are a couple of tracks that are too slow and romantic for me. Another complaint that I have is that most of the songs are rather short playing under four minutes. The total playing time for this CD is only forty two minutes. Thatís somewhat short for this style of music. Thankfully, the songs are developed well enough that they never feel too short. While it would have been nice if some of them were longer, they still work well at their current lengths.

The bottom line is that if you enjoy European synth-pop music with a slightly dark mood to it, this CD is a must.

 

Album: "Dreaming Apes"
Label: Strange Ways Records (1996)
Style: Synth-pop
Songs: 14

B

Reviewed by: Darklight

Wolfsheim is a German synth-pop band that have been making music since the early 90s. However, I just discovered them in 2001 when Metropolis Records released their Spectators CD domestically. Spectators initially came out in 1999 in Europe, so it was already two years old when I first listened to it. Since Spectators is such a good CD, I decided to look into the earlier releases by Wolfsheim. Unfortunately, their three previous full-length releases are expensive imports. So I decided against getting them. However, I recently ran across a used copy of their 1996 release Dreaming Apes for rather cheap and decided to get it.

Dreaming Apes is the Wolfsheim recording that came out prior to Spectators. And while it does share similarities to Spectators, itís also quite different in many regards. It has an overall more laid-back vibe to it. Also, itís not completely electronic. It features acoustic instruments along with piano and even harmonica as well. This tends to make a lot of the songs more accessible to a larger audience than the electronic dance focus of Spectators. Another aspect that makes this CD rather different from Spectators is the inclusion of five short experimental instrumental pieces scattered throughout the recording. Most are good, but there a couple that I could have definitely done without as they sound completely out of place on this release.

There are a few somewhat upbeat and energetic dance tracks to be found here, but not nearly as many as Spectators offers. While theyíre some of the better tracks here, they still donít come close to matching the catchiness and energy of more recent Wolfsheim hits like "Once In A Lifetime" and "Heroin, She Said". Actually, there are no stand-out hits on this recording in my opinion. While nothing is bad, nothing is really all that exciting, either.

The majority of this CD is made up of cold, dark and haunting songs that play at a rather slow pace. And several of them include only organic instruments void of any electronic elements. Basically, this is not a pure electronic synth-pop release. It features many tracks that couldnít even be considered synth-pop. There are quite a few acoustic ballads to be found here that have more of a gothic sound to them as a opposed to an electronic one.

If I heard this Dreaming Apes recording before Spectators, chances are I would have never gotten Spectators in fear that it would be more of the same. It really surprises me how much different Spectators is compared to this CD. I wouldnít have expected the band to change their overall sound as much as they did in such a short time period. While there are a few songs here that resemble the material found on Spectators, the majority of the album sounds almost nothing like it.

After hearing this Dreaming Apes CD, I have no desire in getting the two previous Wolfsheim recordings, No Happy View and Popkiller, that came out before it. Iíve actually heard several songs from both of them, and theyíre more similar to Dreaming Apes than to Spectators. So I think Iíll pass. But donít get me wrong, Dreaming Apes is indeed a very quality recording offering nicely composed music which is a blend of both electronic programming and organic instruments. And the vocals are deep, clear and emotional with a nice accent. But the problem is that itís just isnít for someone such as myself whoís mainly an electronic music purist that likes synth-pop 100% electronic and upbeat. But if you like more laid-back, mellow and relaxed synth-pop style music with organic instruments, this Dreaming Apes recording just might be for you. But if Spectators was your first introduction to the music of Wolfsheim, I strongly suggest that you take caution before getting Wolfsheimís entire back-catalog of music. I would recommend that you go to the official Wolfsheim site (www.wolfsheim.de) to listen to samples of their older music to decide for yourself if itís something that you will like or not.