In the 17 minutes it takes for Wise Blood’s These Wings EP to tornado into and out of the atmosphere, it’s possible to piece together Chris Laufman’s premonition of what the future may hold. And it aint a pretty picture.
Beneath the Pittsburgh’s songsmith’s synthesized, ear-grating, scuzz-soul melodies is a deep-seated sense of absolute hopelessness, his own pre-emptive sketch of an inhospitable world that holds no sense or reason. Lyrically, it’s perhaps not quite as obvious as it sounds - Laufman instinctively prefers to get down to more basal matters, honing in on his inability to hold down steady relationships.
Yet step aside from the emo-heavy subject matter of tracks like 'Darlin’ You’re Sweet', a trumpet-parping shuffler that finds Laufman sweetly cooing “I need someone who won’t fade when I go insane and I can’t stand, I know that you can”, and you’ll find a dark, clever off-piste pop collection fused with bleeps, beats and despair. He may be 21, but these songs have been penned with the air of kid who’s seen and heard way too much tragedy in his years.
From the off, huge skyscraping beats punctuate the record’s skyline, turning ‘Penthouse Suite’s ambient keyboard groove into a wonky android-ballad that recalls the burned-out sonic junkyard of Sublte. Less abrasive, but no less affecting, ‘The Lion’ is two minutes of parping brass cobbled over a gyrating rhythm that has Laufman spitting “Baby I ain’t no man, I’ve got to confess, I’d probably kill you just to try on your dress” with all the funk of Prince, only without the high-heels and inflated sex drive.
For all its virtues, what These Wings fails to do is map out just where Laufman goes next. Instead, what it serves up is a taster of its maker's class, crossing borders with more ease than a passport-less traveller going through UK immigration. But with cuts as essential as 'Loud Mouths' - a piano-looping, hip-hop-spitting, beatbox-blasting, body-popping contender for song of the year - it matters not; Laufman proves he's blessed with enough duality and brilliance to appeal to even the most toughened ear canals.
As premonitions go, Chris Laufman can rest assured: the future is very much Wise Blood’s.
8Billy Hamilton's Score