Patricia Wolf: See-Through: Black Vinyl LP

See-Through: Black Vinyl LP

Patricia Wolf

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  • Release Date 13 May 2022
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Vinyl LP

Following her debut album, I’ll Look for You in Others (Past Inside the Present), earlier this year, Patricia Wolf joins Spain’s Balmat label with See-Through, her second album. See Through finds the Portland, Oregon musician and field recordist continuing to develop her signature style of ambient, balancing radiant soundscaping with a carefully expressive sensibility. But the new album is also marked by an important difference. Where I’ll Look for You in Others was largely written in response to the death of a loved one, See-Through represents a kind of rebirth.

“After a long period of grief, I had been hoping to find my way to a place of lightness, peace, playfulness, curiosity, and sensuality again,” Wolf says. “What I was surprised and pleased to find is that for the most part, I had.”

She wrote and recorded many of the album’s songs quickly, in preparation for an August 2021 broadcast on the online radio platform 9128 Live. Excited for the opportunity to play live after more than a year of the pandemic, Wolf decided to write all new material for the event, working with a lean setup of Octatrack, Roland Synth Plus 10, Make Noise 0-Coast, and Novation Summit. (In fact, Wolf was the first sound designer invited to create patches for the Summit.) She also picked up an acoustic guitar that her brother had loaned her. “I decided to take the surrealist approach of ‘pure psychic automatism’ to see what poured out of me,” she recalls. “Woodland Encounter,” “Under a Glass Bell,” “The Grotto,” “The Mechanical Age,” “The Flaneur,” and “Psychic Sweeping” are all products of those sessions; the through line holding them together is their exploratory spirit and clarity of vision.

Other songs, like “A Conversation With My Innocence,” “Recalibration,” and “Psychic Sweeping,” wrestle with the traumas of the preceding year. Though they may linger on the heaviness of loss, Wolf says, “What I discovered is that a stronger archetype had grown inside me to steer my emotions and thoughts to a better place.” Likewise, “Wistfulness” and “Upward Swimming Fish”—her first experiments with VST synthesizers—balance the bittersweet embrace of melancholy with the freedom to choose happiness.

“Pacific Coast Highway,” the album’s lone song with drums, might at first seem like an outlier. But it also signals Wolf’s interest in finding a fusion between the introspection of ambient and the togetherness of beat-oriented music. “Experiencing loss and isolation is what drove me into gentler territories of sound,” she says, “but I want to start making more beat-oriented music. After an extended period of loss and isolation, I’m ready to experience more joyous and social things.”

Listeners with keen ears might recognize the album’s closing song, “Springtime in Croatia”: A different mix of the song originally appeared on the 2021 digital compilation secondnature & friends Vol. II, from the Seattle label secondnature. This marks its first appearance on vinyl, however, and its spiritual home is undoubtedly here, at the close of See-Through. As the bookending answer to the opening “Woodland Encounter”—another song in which field recordings play a crucial role—it closes the circle of an album that is itself keyed to the steadily turning cycles of life.