Review: Ian Hawgood And Friends – Wolven (A Modern Interpretation)

With Wolven, Ian Hawgood highlights the co-dependent nature of exorcising ideas. The album is an expansion of his album Wolfskin from 2009 – a record centred on childhood dreams and nightmares, and the first ever release on the wonderful Hibernate label – and finally brings the concept of that record into fuller form; a vaster, blossoming fruition of Hawgood’s initial conceptual seed, and a delightful chancing upon the apt conditions to bring his creative colours vibrantly forth. After all, the initiation of an idea is not an album in itself, and Wolven proves that environment (by which I refer to time, place, state of mind etc) is an essential factor in materialising the music that paints the thoughts of its creator.

In this instance, it took four years away and the involvement of several of Hawgood’s musical acquaintances. I’ve never listened to Wolfskin, but the idea of childhood dreams and nightmares is nonetheless potent here: synthesisers drift and blur as woozy misrememberings, beautiful major keys resound as romanticised colour-saturated nostalgia, chords fade up and dissipate like old thoughts arriving in unexpected flashback surges. Hawgood’s palette is predominantly electronic but nonetheless warm and undoubtedly human in its source, moving with the paradoxical mixture of innate grace and faltered steps the comprises organic movement.

Such traits are also present in the contributions of his collaborators (y0t0, Pillowdiver, Spheruleus, Dag Rosenqvist, Hakobune), whose re-interpretive pieces are neatly weaved in Hawgood’s own compositions. Creative threads are left loose at the end of one track to be picked up at the beginning of the other, and Wolven cross-fades between contributors unnoticed – individual textures fizz and mutate into new forms as if evolution dictated that they would do so, gradually tipping between tracks without even the suggestion of a transitional seam. The collaborators are thoughtful in their handling of Hawgood’s creative baton, their pieces fall beautifully within Wolven’s landscape while pouring in their unique signature simultaneously – as such, Pillowdiver’s agitated haze of flickering negative space opens out inevitably into y0t0’s waterfall of childhood conversation and harmonic cascade, and Hawgood’s stuck loops of kaleidoscope colour (embraced by Aaron Martin’s gorgeous strands of cello) peel away to unveil Hakobune’s wind tunnel of drones.

For disc two, Hawgood hands over Wolven to bvdub, who re-interprets Wolfskin in the form of three extended pieces. They act as a meditative cleansing after disc one’s bustling passage of memory, drifting back into a clean canvas of present tense; levitating strings rotate and overlap gradually, with chords cycling through a constant dissipation and reshaping, carrying soft chimes of guitar and trails of softly uttered choral harmony. It feels like the alleviation of Wolfskin’s concept – a musical representation of Hawgood letting go of his idea, with bvdub assigned as the spiritual guide charged with passing this concept into a glistening, expansive afterlife.