Harm Wülf – Hijrah

3 out of 5

Label: Deathwish

Produced by: Arthur Rizk (tracked, mixed and mastered by)

Most remarks concerning G. Hirsch’s lyrics – whether in Blacklisted, or here, soloing as Harm Wülf – mention the artist’s focus on themes of isolation, and depression. That doesn’t necessarily equate to as single-minded a thread as that may suggest, as such themes can encompass not only endless depths, but flicker to hope; they can be expressed directly, or poetically. And Hirsch does offer that range on ‘Hijrah,’ Harm’s second outing, though tunnel vision also plays a large part: Wülf’s sound is fairly minimal, with cavernously-recorded guitar and somber drum beats, and Hirsch makes various straight-forward statements atop these simple – if effectively moody – compositions. When the artist breaks from that, on the epic buildup of opener ‘Descend, I’ve Been Waiting,’ the stuttering stops and starts of ‘Welcome Home Our Sister,’ or ‘Warm Snow’s relative upbeat strums, it seems to go hand-in-hand with more narratively inclined lyrics, which can be a bit more effective for those of us perhaps not dealing with the same darkness with which Hirsch does.

Hirsch’s gravelly talk-sing is also a mixed blessing: it certainly lends a weight to even the quietest, most sparse moments, but also holds the songs back when the added instrumentation – harmonica, carpenter saw, etc. – might benefit from more variation in the vocals.

Hijrah is striking: the Low-style slocore mapped to the harsh, whispered singing and burbles of distortion are unique to Harm Wülf. However, that quality doesn’t have to equate to it always being appealing, as the sound can still tipple in to tedium.