Wolf Eyes fans talk about the first time they heard the Detroit-based noise pioneers the same way New Yorkers talk about 9/11. Where were you when you first heard Wolf Eyes? When that shit hit the fan? When the avant-garde experimentalism of niche twentieth-century composers and obscure sound artists was suddenly manifested in a cool band that signed to Sub Pop and made noise the new punk rock? When post-rock took a sudden back seat for many hipsters, who tossed their “Blur are shite” Mogwai t-shirts in the hamper and pulled on a fresh new Hospital Productions tee? For many self-labeled “audio rebels,” the dawn of Wolf Eyes was their Beatlemania, a life-changing turning point on their obscure timelines.
After a prolific two decades of some 300 releases under their belt, Wolf Eyes has continued to morph and warp and fuck it up as casual music journalism has attempted to pinpoint their fast-paced evolution with as many microgenres as they can ideate—all which are countered by Wolf Eyes member John Olson’s own inventions, such as “trip metal” or “psycho jazz.”
Now, in a year plagued by bad news, disappointment, and global disparity, Wolf Eyes reemerges with a new digital-only single, “Love is for Everyone.” Composed by Nate Young and performed by Wolf Eyes, the two tracks within echo a similar aesthetic akin to 2018’s TWO CIVILIZED CENTERS, where signature harsh noise assaults have been backseated for more exploratory occupations of audible space. The mood is more creative than destructive and overall otherworldly inviting.
The exceptionally unique tidbit about this single is that it was composed for fashion designer Balenciaga’s 2020 ad campaign and subsequently has produced probably the coolest fashion ad since Harmony Korine’s “Act da Fool” short film for Proenza Schouler. The internet hiccuped a few micro-quips at the collaboration, but no real controversy arose. High fashion being considered an art in its own right has a complicated history of criticism due to the fact it is a high-priced commodity (that you wear) and only enjoyed by an elite upper class. But so is most collectible art, as well as rare, out-of-print records. An even more complicated argument then emerges in the digital era of cheap streaming services, where artists beg for their work to stop being under-valued: are we hypocritical when art is properly valued and therefore, at times, unattainable to all? When Matthew Barney releases film in small batches so reels will be treated as art pieces/small sculptures instead of mass-produced media; when musicians release limited editions, Japanese B-sides, or Record Store Day exclusives; when no-name painters still try to pull a grand out of you on Etsy; we’re all participating in what we think our art is distinct from.
Henry Rollins once wrote in praise of noise for LA Weekly, “This is what punk rock should have done but it got let into the club, found a comfortable chair and ordered a drink.” But alternatively, Pissed Jeans singer Matt Korvette once joked on Twitter, “Why is it that at any experimental/noise/improv show, the audience visibly grooves the hardest when a structured rhythm appears in the din. Isn’t that specifically what you came to not see?” That is to say, even weirdos like a hook. But let’s face it, even if uncompromising and financially unambitious, noise is still for sale, like all other art. And there is no reason to inhibit creation, collaboration, and new shit in the name of self-righteousness or some Biblically-inspired sense of principle and artistic martyrdom. I’d still love to see Fashionably Loud return with C. Spencer Yeh in the orchestra pit of a runway. But I’m also a nihilist.