The Welsh five piece Zefur Wolves have released their debut self titled album “Zefur Wolves”. A glimpse at the cover art gives you an indication of where their heart is, with its Native American totem pole and Indigenous Mexican symbolism. Theirs is a fuzzed up alternative rock sound. The group has been discussed in the same breath as up and coming bands Black Honey and Wolf Alice, all hard rock bands with psychedelic leanings.
The group is fronted by Cian Ciaran, the keyboardist for Super Furry Animals and his partner, Estelle Ios who is the chief singer and songwriter of the group. Cian has stated I’ve been looking to put my own band together for a while, now I’ve finally got the opportunity.” Estelle is also a member of the all girl group Baby Queens. Cian since the SFA hiatus has been busy with two solo albums and working with groups the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Mogwai and Kaiser Chiefs. He is also the label manager for Strangetown Records the record company releasing Zefur Wolves.
The band has had only one public performance playing in 2014 at the Welsh Millennium Center in collaboration with Choreographer Javier De Frutos. They have released two singles from the debut, Too Late and Wake Up.
Ciaran produced the album. He describes it as being crafted in California and made in Wales. The album illustrates the band’s experiences in Northern California on a writing retreat. Zefur Wolves is hoping to emphasize the themes of the importance of spiritual peace, search for adventure and being in sync with nature on the album.
The debut starts off with Fade Out which has a pastoral Native American feel. Ios provides a glossy vocal and the song features a minimal guitar. It is a touching break up song. Sin Fronteras is the following song and means no borders in Spanish. The lyrics are entirely in Spanish. The grubby reverb guitar gives texture to the song. The hypnotic vocals make for a song that grabs your attention.
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Accept What You Feel is a rocker with a driving rhythm. It has a late 90’s ethos and enjoyable chiming guitar. Let Us Be features a grinding guitar with ethereal vocals. The sound actually comes off to me like the band Hole. It is a toe tapping rocker with Psychedelic undertones. Troubled Soul is a slow grinding ballad with a sleepy soundtrack and a pulled around guitar. The song contemplates personal faults and depression. “I could just sit here and rot”. It is a song about ennui.
Santi’s Eclipse has a glichy start with distorted “found” sounds. A minimalist distorted guitar and vocal delivery make for a trippy track. The song harkens to tribal rituals and sweat cabin hallucinations. The percussion comes in at the final third and really sends the song to another level.
“Alhambra” has a nice acoustic guitar intro with a song that reflects heat and light of the desert. Upon hearing the song you instinctively raise your hands to your eyes to shield yourself from the light. There is a large aural feel, with this majestic stand out song.
Your Days are Numbered is an up tempo number with a submerged vocal track. Showcasing electric garage pop, I only wish it was a longer song. Wake Up is one of the singles released from the album, and no it is not a cover of that “Wake Up” of Arcade Fire fame. It is catchy with a nice rhythm and a more classic alternative pop tune. It is the most radio friendly track on the album. Too Late is the other single release from the album. It is balladesque with a trippy and dreamy feel, and is questioning a failed relationship with the love interest stating it is too late to repair the relationship.
Native is a surreal song that reminds me of early Cure. It features an indistinguishable chant in the back vocal. Secret Song is acoustic and heart felt, and has a spirally floating feel.
The final song, This One is for You is a song that unfortunately tipped the scales for me in the wrong direction. The song is long at over eight minutes, but over three of these minutes are just the sounds of crickets in a field. Now I like a good insect/bird noise sample as much as the next person, see Radiohead’s “Giving Up The Ghost” off of “King of Limbs”, but three minutes is a bit self indulgent. My guess is they were trying for an ambient bend or found sound effect. It just seemed endless.
The Zefur Wolves album seems to belabor the point at times, their earnestness can get monotonous. There are bright areas, like the stellar instrumentation, production and Ios has a great voice. Alas, it all comes off a bit mediocre when compared to Wolf Alice and Black Honey. Some parts are good but the whole effort is uneven and I dare say self involved. I expected a little more from a project involving Cian but the disc left me a bit cold. There are flashes of brilliance but my conclusion is better luck next time.