While WHY? fans will certainly encounter familiar sounds on Moh Lhean — Wolf’s sour-sweet croon, deadpan poet’s drawl, and ear for stunningly fluid arrangements with obsessive attention to detail — the album also reveals that a transformation has taken place. The singer’s self-depricating swagger and cynical squint is replaced by a sense of peace in the unknowing; his wry smirk traded in for a holy shrug. This cosmic sense of calm and acceptance woven throughout the album is due in part to Wolf’s circumstances during the writing process: he suffered a severe health scare far from home, but rather than let it drive him to depression, he gained a stronger connection to the living. Album track “Proactive Evolution,” which features mewithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss, even samples Wolf’s doctors — the very voices that helped shape his new outlook.
Movement is a key theme of Moh Lhean — it’s a breakup album without a romantic interest. “Easy” plays like a ward against the old ghost who haunts “January February March,” while “George Washington” finds Wolf on a tiny watercraft, paddling away as that malevolent force stays ashore. “The Water” morphs a moody folk tune into some strange new form of full-band dub, while “Consequence of Nonaction” wavers between a quiet meditation for guitar, clarinet, and voice, and wild, sax-strewn art-funk. Psychedelic album closer “The Barely Blur” — which features Son Lux — explores the nature of existence, focusing on the infinite instead of leaving listeners with the macabre chill of death.
There’s something about the album that’s both ephemeral and distinctive, like something the Wolf Brothers might’ve heard on a praise album in their father’s synagogue as kids, or on some ’60s hippie LP they thrifted in their teens, or, perhaps, on the other side of the records they’ve been making their entire adult lives. While the meaning of the words “Moh Lhean” remain a mystery, they most likely have something to do with letting go, rebirth, coming home to a familiar feeling…or venturing out to discover a new one.
WHY? will head out on tour in Spring 2017 — see below for upcoming dates.
May 31 – Paris (Trabendo)+
June 03 – Lyon (Marché Gare)
June 06 – Birmingham (Hare & Hounds)+
June 07 – Leeds (Belgrave Music Hall)+
June 08 – Glasgow (CCA)+
June 09 – Manchester (Gorilla)+
June 10 – Bristol (Thekla)+
June 12 – Brighton (The Haunt)+
June 13 – London (Village Underground)+
June 14 – Brussels (Botanique Rotonde)+
June 16 – Mannheim (Maifeld Derby Festival)
June 17 – Duisburg (Festival am Hochofen)
June 18 – Hamburg (Ubel & Gefährlich)+
June 20 – Berlin (Festaal Kreuzberg)+
June 21 – Amsterdam (Paradiso)+
+ Tall Tall Trees