Listening to the Dire Wolves is like tapping into a cosmic energy that you’d come to expect from the very best in psychedelic music. The Bay Area band has been around for a while, apparently deep in the underground, not caring too much about the music business and making great jams.
“Grow Towards the Light” is the Bandcamp release from 2019 that I’ve been listening to lately. Over two days, it was recorded in Oakland, California, the Dire Wolves’ fourth official full-length album, along with more than a dozen minor releases, tapes, and bootlegs. The band describes their music as “the higher dimensions of cosmic free rock.” They say, “These are exploratory journeys, transportive trance-based experiments in vertical listening, totally collaborative and often forming spontaneous compositions.”
The theme in this particular album is to express the “interconnectedness of all things,” so we know they are deep into the spiritual aspects of psych music. The songs are all lengthy, improvised jams, mostly instrumentals, with the only vocals being the mystical and ethereal wailing here and there. One member of the band, Jeffrey Alexander, followed the Grateful Dead around for most of the Eighties, so you can undoubtedly hear the San Francisco sound in the record. But the influences go beyond the Dead, including heavy touches of krautrock.
What makes Grow Towards the Light even more impressive is that every note on the album has been improvised. The band has described their process in interviews before, which sounds like they just recorded themselves jamming together. Some tracks, like Every Step is Birth, have darker, eerier sounds, and many tracks, like Every Step, include haunting, primitive vocals. The entire album, which runs for just over 44 minutes, is atmospheric, hypnotic, and, if listened to under certain circumstances, enough to likely induce a trance-like state.
I am assuming Dire Wolves has a cult following, as the vinyl for Grow Towards the Light is sold out, but the reason they’re not better known is probably because they shy away from the mainstream. These songs aren’t fit for the radio, even funkier college stations. And I would guess the band gets together and jams and records it because they love to, and not for any commercial gain.
There’s not a ton of information out there online about Dire Wolves, though The Sleeping Shaman gave a rave review of their 2020 LP Flow and Heady. It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine interviewed them, as well. But I’m here to tell you that if you like this style of improvised free rock, you’ll love this album and almost everything Dire Wolves has released.
Support Dire Wolves by finding them on Bandcamp or their official website and Facebook.
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