Wraetlic is the new album project from master of melancholia, Alex Smoke. Three years since his "Lux" LP, what depths of the self does Smoke have to yet explore?
After an extended hiatus, Alex Smoke returns to offer what is being heralded as his most haunted work to date. "Wraetlic", coming from the Anglo Saxon for Wraith-like emerges under a pretense of what he is calling himself "his pain of existence, the heartache of failed relationships with the hollow mundane modern pressure to find success". As an explanation for his music, it makes dreary expectation. However, in reality, "Wraetlic" although self searching feels far more exploratory than depressed.
The press sheet for "Wraetlic" discusses more of the circumstances that the album was written in than the music itself, and although it does give context to the LP, it also creates an expectation. Remove "Wraetlic" from the personal circumstances of Alex Smoke and you find yourself confronted with a more reflective, optimistic body of work.
The opening track "Anothering" is the epitome of techno, electronica infused with soul, emotion and industrial grit. Arpeggiated synth work lays the bed to Smoke's own heart felt yearnings which theme across the LP. The divide between pain and pleasure is exposed as a fine thread. Teetering over the threshold gazing into heartache, Smoke is never far from destruction but maintains a foothold just inside of ecstacy.
In a not dissimilar fashion, "Rats" and "The Dearth" feel less like the exponents of a descent to destruction than a defiant climb from the depths of self pity. Like much good soul music, personal pain is the source of release, not emotional claustrophobia. Groove and functionality create the foundation for liberation, not oppression. So much of music is interpretation. Though a cliche, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, so maybe the same can be said of pain? Undoubtedly genuine, Smoke's sentiment need not be depressing.
"Wraetlic" is Convex Industries' most audacious endeavor to date, that much is agreeable. As a listening experience it takes you on a long and winding road through the inner self of Alex Smoke, the real world personal realities are maybe less important when the music is so pronounced.
Remixes from Jon Convex and dBridge do give some relief to what is by the end of 11 tracks a demanding listen. In the case of Jon Convex, a no messing around 4/4 rework of "Scunner". From dBridge, what else? Crunchy percussion and distorted pounding bass at 170 BPM. Also in the offering is and SCB edit of "Rats" which is a thunderous floor pumper worthy of any discerning techno dance floor.
"Wraetlic" is recommended listening with the proviso that you allow the music to tell it's own story outside of what you may be lead to believe.
Wraetlic Track listing
4. There Without
7. Hymn To The Departed
8. The Dearth
9. Better The Devil
11. The Watchful Eye
12. Scunner [Jon Convex's Deconstructed Mix]
13. Better The Devil [DBridge's Advocate Mix]
14. Rats [SCB Edit]