Monday, March 02, 2009

Bolton's Wanderer

When we last featured this man on here he wasn't keen (quite correctly, self evidently) on the 'Pagan poetry' title, so we just wanted to prove we'd barely scraped the bottom of the specific barrel with that one. Factual, too.


Tricky thing, electropop. There's a lot of it about at the moment, famously, but the vast majority of it gets it wrong. To really work, and this is what Vince Clarke understood and his many youthful female acolytes don't (no, La Roux, shouting squeakily over second hand electroclash beats that vaguely recall some 1980s hit doesn't make you some sort of major synthy achiever) is that you write the song first, then find the keyboard sounds and textures to put over the top.

Pagan Wanderer Lu has the trickiest of both worlds. By his own descriptive powers is he, Andy Regan as he is, damned as 'electronic indie-pop', a definition that to date means 'like The Postal Service'. Except he isn't. He isn't strictly totally electronic either, occasionally taking to the folky guitar if the sentiment is befitting, and the keyboards in question are whatever's lying about rather than whatever Blancmange used, backed by drum machines of varying professionalism, unafraid to sound a bit bedroom-y because you're not listening to the songs to discern how shiny they are but for their warped melodicism, Regan unafraid to play with the tapes or take songs off in other directions mid-flow while remaining almost misdirectingly warm. For the most part, two of the last three songs eschew all electronics and recall the Handsome Family or Iron & Wine. That's partly achieved because PWL's music is as lyrically based as anything else, smart without brazenly waving bookishness about, social and political without touching preachiness or smarminess.

PWL has a new album out. His third but first to get widespread attention, Fight My Battles For Me, a few reworked old favourites from his many CDRs and many new observations, is plunged into an unforgiving market and stands out merely by being itself in a pool of hangers-on and over-reachers. The songs cover xenophobia and the modern approach to the religious, and also an aide memoire against letting ambition/life run away from you or losing it through being online, just writing a set of thoughts on things that weigh heavily personally. The glorious The Memorial Hall, which some of you may recall from our Class Of '07, is here in a version that improves on the ballad first part but not its electro second; 2008 single-of-sorts The Tree Of Knowledge is also here, sounding ever more like a warped anthem, albeit one led down several dark paths by the big boys from school and then locked in a dank back room with several other damaged anthems, most of which go on to get played at once. That it got a number of plays by Radio 1's Wales outlet despite its entire message hingeing on a profanity tells its own very odd story.

Despite the awareness of melodies and the fact that below all the squiggling and odd instruments is a hell of a lot of hooks and approachability we hesitate to call this pop music from the underground or whatever the belittling phrase is because it's too set on its own type of satirical provocation, taking what used to be called folktronica and putting it through the spin cycle. Fight My Battles For Me, despite being essentially most of the best of what Regan has come up with to date, doesn't feel like a culmination or an offloading of the many ideas he's had to date but something to hoist high in the knowledge that there's plenty of scope for all this to be at least matched. From where we sit now, though, this is the work of someone who kind of thinks selling records is a nice idea but isn't going to let it stand in the way of the goal of constructing approachable electronic music from the other direction to everybody else. Wonky pop? They don't understand the half of it. Tremendous.

Obviously PWL has a Myspace, but also a blog and a site on which he's uploading videos for and versions of the whole album.

The easiest way to buy this is directly from his own online shop, and for £15 you can buy both Fight My Battles For Me and a five track EP, The Omega Point. It's from the latter this comes:

Pagan Wanderer Lu - Billy

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