Over the last 8 years or so, I’ve managed to collect dozens of Wilco bootlegs. It’s a practice that’s been questioned numerous times, and one that I finally gave up fairly recently. The shoebox full of CD-Rs that I’ve accumulated over the years vary from tour to tour, but a lot of them would be almost indistinguishable from one another, were it not for the very carefully written labels on each of the paper sleeves. What, you might ask, does this have to do with Wolf Eyes? Not a lot, but something.
Despite former associations with Jim O’Rourke, and the drafting of sound-bending guitar virtuoso Nels Cline, musically Wilco have virtually nothing in common with Wolf Eyes. The Michigan trio’s recorded output, however, does bear a certain resemblance to that stack of bootlegs that currently sits in my room; for the uninitiated, if you’ve heard one, you could’ve easily heard them all. I’m not suggesting that “all noise sounds the same” or even that one Wolf Eyes track or album is indistinguishable from another. However, if you’re not a hardcore devotee, you’d be hard pressed to glean any significant differences between washes of sound on Human Animal and any of the dozens of recordings the band’s released this year. Similarly, Wilco’s January 10th, 2001 rendition of “Shot in the Arm” is surely different from the March 12th, 2001 performance of “Shot in the Arm”, but no one would blame you if you didn’t know why or care either way. But you should still care about Human Animal.
If you’ve got a stack of cassettes and LPs that you acquired from the merch table during Wolf Eyes’ recent visit to Vancouver, you already know this record is one of the best things Wolf Eyes has put out this year or any. If you aren’t drowning in tapes full of aural experimentation, however, this is an excellent place to start. Human Animal finds Wolf Eyes in a slightly more subdued state of mind, but there are still moments of squealing, crashing, and banging that build to create some sublime moments that emerge from the rather wonderful cacophony. If you’re not a Wolf Eyes devotee, chances are you won’t find yourself ready to embark on a quest to fill your iPod with the rest of the band’s vast catalogue, but if you’re only going to put your money on one noise recording this year, this record is a pretty safe bet.