Singer Aby Wolf has been a staple for some time now in the Twin Cities, often supporting Dessa and Doomtree on stage and in recordings. When you’re surrounded and constantly collaborating amongst those names, it’s only time before your own group ambitions come to fruition (pun intended). A. Wolf called upon Jesse Whitney on synths and Joey Van Phillips on drums, as well as Linnea Mohn to create a new outfit that follows in the long recent history of synth/electro groups to come out of the Twin Cities. Where does A. Wolf & Her Claws fit? How’s it all stack up?
“Potion Jar” is the first taste you get, a fairytale opener that has pings and pangs of chorused droplets surrounding Aby Wolf’s dynamically talented voice. It lays a foundation that clearly separates her from obvious similar local synth-heavy groups like Poliça, Solid Gold or the past Digitata. There’s a bit more of a balance between more traditional music rather than experimenting to the max with song structure. The xylophone and sweeps are lovely, and frame Aby’s voice much as you’d hope and expect from pop.
Effectively the self-titled debut is a balance between the experimental history of the Twin Cities in the past ten years mixed with ambitious indie pop. It isn’t pure electropop, nor is it as experimental as Channy’s project. “Zero to 60,” “Eyes On Me,” and “All This Time” cover the pop spectrum. “Eyes On Me” is a leisure, near psychedelic drift on the open moonlit seas with synth splashes. Meanwhile, “Zero to 60,” the lead single, gives a funk to the Paperboy bike breaks scuff for an addictive sway. Coupled with Joey’s scattered hi-hat snare drumming falling into a jumbled organized rhythm, you’ve get something to grip into for the future. “Rise Anew” plays that balancing act with choruses that will remind the familiar of Aby’s beautiful voice, soaring and echoing up past rafters over an industrial, more experimentally sparse music.
The experimental side is obviously the most ambitious, purely due to who Aby is encircled around and what potential could come of it. “Alice” is the most strange of all, not really having a place right after “Eyes On Me,” but when it tumbles into “Pluto,” it makes more sense. Here you get more tweaking vocally, nearly spoken word and varied in tone to truly showcase Aby’s exceptional range. It’s a personal, unexpected favorite. “All This Time” probably serves as a good point to look forward with more confidence and more restraint. Sometimes, A. Wolf can overwhelm, but here, you get the right balance between dynamic vocals, raw talent, experiment and pop.
You aren’t going to get the sheer, genre-defining sounds that have been bursting, then setting light to the tatters of musical envelopes. You will be getting hints and hidden treasures of what the upcoming blend of genres will sound when pop gets more serious about adopting electronic elements to redefine itself.