Review: Bob Drake – l’Isola dei Lupi (Morphius, Oct 4)

No one, and I mean no one, writes vocal harmonies quite like Bob Drake. The first track on his new LP l’Isola dei Lupi, “Isola dei Lupi,” is almost entirely composed of his own layered singing, with exquisitely crafted chords introducing tension and dissonance that is resolved almost immediately. This impatience is what makes Drake’s music so unique and special. Across his now ten albums, songs longer than five minutes are extreme rarities; Drake chooses instead to focus his songwriting on a miniature scale, often developing an impossible amount of elements within songs that end before you even knew they started. l’Isola dei Lupi goes a much more folk-oriented route than the maximalist glam-pop of Arx Pilosa, with the angular, space-filled guitar lines and wistful piano being more reminiscent of his earlier albums. Its more reserved approach prevents it from being as immediate as some of my favorite records of Drake’s, mainly Medallion Animal Carpet, but I have no doubt that his unparalleled attention to detail and meticulous songwriting/production process will reveal countless idiosyncrasies upon further listens. “Ycnarr’s Rock Collection Pleached Path to the Cliff” is one of his best songs ever, a bombastic prog number condensed by a junkyard crusher into a two-and-a-half minute powerhouse of evolving melodies, and penultimate centerpiece “The Ascension of Greyfoot Badger” gives me the same gleeful catharsis as “I Wish It Had Been a Dream.” As always, even when l’Isola dei Lupi is at its most serious it’s still a ton of fun, and there is something here for pretty much everyone.