Wise Blood‘s DNA is difficult to unravel. The Pittsburgh noise-pop collagist (aka Chris Laufman) composes – or perhaps compiles – simple pop songs by piecing together samples with his own vocals. In the age of the sample, Wise Blood’s songs stand out because these little ghosts in the machine have souls.
His self-released ‘+’ plays out like a spliced four-track tape. With five songs in less than ten minutes, a melody lodges itself in your brain just as the next song starts, like a half-remembered dream. The samples are juxtaposed for effect, but the sum is always greater than the parts: “B.i.g. E.g.o.” is mostly built on a 2Pac interview, the drums from “When the Levee Breaks,” and Laufman’s airy falsetto.
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“Here Comes the Sun” and “Mi + Amore” foreshadow the lo-fi blues of last year’s double A-side “Solo (‘4’ Claire)”/”Rot My Brain.” An additional two songs (and four minutes) in his catalog finds Wise Blood moving from gutter-bound 8 bar blues to sweeping atmospherics and gospel samples.
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On These Wings, out digitally tomorrow on Dovecote Records, Wise Blood sharpens the edges while continuing to craft pop that eats itself. Like that iconic break from “When the Levee Breaks,” drums serve as a heartbeat, albeit with pneumatic precision, throughout the EP. The samples are warm and bluesy, from increasingly disparate sources.
Wise Blood’s vocals are a bit twisted and higher in the mix this time (thankfully), with lyrics that are equal parts hip hop swagger, Delta bluesman, and Satanic/revival preacher – the only combination that could result in “But baby I’m no man / I’ve got to confess / I’ll probably kill you / just to try on your dress” on “The Lion.” On “Loud Mouths,” he combines jazzy piano melody, the skittering hi-hats of CREEP’s “Days,” and bits of church choirs and R&B singers into a haunting mix.
Earlier this year, I saw Wise Blood open for Esben and the Witch, and I walked away impressed. Laufman’s visceral energy sets him apart from his bedroom contemporaries. For someone who wants to “take over pop music,” it’s a good start.