Having released 2012’s ‘The Lovers’ via a well-supported PledgeMusic campaign after finding himself without a label, the anxiety that was increasingly attached to live performance and staying afloat in a painfully ephemeral industry prompted Paul Marshall to knock his work as Lone Wolf on the head.
Only when he discovered that a studio that had been central to his writing to date, The Lodge in Bridlington, was to be sold and converted was he compelled to return. The resulting record, for which he plays all parts, is a brutally honest portrait of the reluctant artist.
The latter-period Talk Talk influences were already evident on his previous release, but that sense of luxurious claustrophobia is writ large on ‘Lodge’. The gentle background hiss and clunking of a pounded piano all add to the atmosphere on a set of songs where no attempt at artifice is offered. Marshall has talked in the past of being someone who finds it hard to say for certain that anything is finished and it could be argued that the limited time and spontaneous circumstances surrounding this record’s creation have freed him to let his writing pour out unencumbered.
The not especially ambiguously titled ‘Give Up’ is littered with vividly unfiltered, strikingly bleak imagery. “I’ve been sleeping with a blindfold on, sleeping with the curtains drawn,” Marshall sings, suggesting that the enemy isn’t necessarily outside. The song gradually builds around the refrain “maybe I’ll meet you in the water, maybe the water’s just dry land, maybe the water never ever really happened.”
The notion of being submerged both literally and metaphorically is contrasted with a gathering of delicate backing vocals, swirling piano and the insistent percussive pulse that offers a little hope. When it drops out at the end, the listener is left moist-eyed and uncertain. It’s a remarkable moment on an enthralling record.
Such moments of lyrical nudity are not uncommon amongst the eleven songs that make up ‘Lodge’. ‘Art Of Letting Go’ and ‘Alligator’ in particular are perfect vehicles for Marshall’s beautiful vocals, similarly imbued with anguish, and the sparse arrangements are augmented with skittering drum parts and mute trumpet. Along with opener ‘Wilderness’, they are the most Hollis-like moments here, although that knack for making the space as important as the music is central to this album’s dynamic.
The strikingly sombre two-minutes of solo piano that form the introduction to album closer ‘Pripyat’, named after the Ukrainian city abandoned following the nearby Chernobyl disaster, neatly capture the sense of abstracted isolation at the heart of its lyric. Marshall’s delivery is delicate, almost slurred, battling with the piano and trumpet, as Lone Wolf seems finally to be subsumed by the music. It’s a hauntingly slow, resolutely downbeat way to conclude a record that still finds beauty in despair.
In entering the studio for purely selfish reasons, Marshall has ended up crafting his finest work. The Lone Wolf years may be over but it would be a great shame were this to be a full stop.
Words: Gareth James
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