Jeffrey Alexander is an unstoppable force of talent, with a seemingly bottomless well of ideas. This well has been a consistent source of some of the most creative music of the last 20 years. Dire Wolves, one his latest artistic outlets, is already about 24-25 releases deep (according to Discogs, anyway) and each one offers enticingly heady vibes that your ears have likely never encountered before. Grow Towards The Light, the newest Dire Wolves full-length, finds Alexander’s collective at perhaps their strongest and most unified.
Released through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records (also home to Garcia Peoples, Prana Crafter, Kikagaku Moyo, etc) Grow Towards The Light might be one of the finest examples of modern improvisation in rock. The jamming captured here is so free and so hallucinatory, it almost sounds like a slightly different record every time you play it. No matter how many spins I give this album, I always notice something new and I can never predict what’s going to happen next.
Across the record’s six tracks, you’ll find scorching guitars slashing through clouds of soaring, siren-like vocals and rustic shaky percussion. In this way, the album takes on a primal, ritualistic atmosphere, like something you might find on a ’70s cult or commune album, like an LP by Father Yod’s followers or The Farm. While you can never quite tell just how many people are behind each song, you get the feeling that it’s an entire tribe getting in touch with each other through the sounds of their instruments.
This feeling is especially evident in “Every Step is Birth.” The track utilizes dueling reverb-baked guitar and violin, which swerve together through hypnotic drumming, fluttering sax and singer Georgia Carbone’s expressive, wordless vocals. This unique mix of sounds and textures make the listener feel as though they’re traveling simultaneously into the farthest reaches of the cosmos, as well as the innermost sanctuaries of their mind. It’s difficult to achieve this level of both introspection and outer-exploration through music, but by god, Alexander and his crew have indeed landed this accomplishment with ease.
As previously mentioned, the album as a whole feels like a mental and interstellar journey, with the closing track, “Crack in the Cosmic Axis,” bringing the listener to a mind-splitting finale that is akin to the ending sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The entire band locks into a slick, driving groove and weaves a tight, brain-frying jam around it like some sort of Funkadelic-Brainticket super group. The song’s wah-wah guitars, chaotic violin and volatile drumming work together to produce a vibe that feels pretty damn close to a spiritual awakening. After the mystical aura that’s been building up since the start of the record, this is the perfect mood to end on.
Bridging acid rock jams with a transcendent and near-ceremonial ambiance is the Dire Wolves’ specialty, but it has never occurred so beautifully nor so completely until Grow Towards The Light.