There is no chasing WOLFE de MÇHLS. He merely finds you when you least expect it.
The last time I saw him, shrewdly cut braids swinging like a vine from his head, was at House of Blues to watch The Suffers. He operates with a small crew of people, musicians and like minds who are more in tune with cracking jokes and waxing about the ills of the local music scene. The time before that, he was marauding around Alley Kat; our conversation, albeit brief, brought back the random lunchroom chats we had almost a decade prior.
Musically, Houston has few minds quite like the former Ricquo Jones. When attempting to reach him, a San Francisco area code may pop up. Rarely Houston. And if you did get a Houston number and it truly was him, you knew to save it. Where most musicians find their lane and hammer their way through it, WOLFE de MÇHLS went from making sparkling, ‘60s-sequel pop music under one moniker to delivering spoken word over dense instrumentation with another. Ricquo Jones begat Miguel Everett, then finally transitioned into WOLFE de MÇHLS. A five-year excursion through various Soundcloud released tracks finally gave way to a full-length project, with far more lingering consequences.
We’ve sort of been here before when discussing modern R&B. What once was an art form built around sweeping horns, guitars and pianos has now been morphed and contorted into a dark, husk of little emotion. What little thoughts have been given towards R&B have been replaced by flourishes that are more aggressive, more insular and darker. I could tell MÇHLS’ sound was headed for this evolution when I sat in on his creative process one night in his apartment. Everything was dark, a wall with various “I WAS HERE” style mementos was the only colorful piece of art. Everything else was drenched in hues of the occasional red and blue. If he wanted to make a pop album, it wasn’t going to be in here. If he were to make an R&B album cut from the same cloth of nihilism and fleeting nights, this was the perfect outpost.
Naked only lasts for 30 minutes. There’s Brandy samples of “I Wanna Be Down” traced along these bleak, squeezed-out productions where the occasional snare drum gets pushed behind hard piano chords. Whatever light to be found on Naked comes in brief moments. MÇHLS’ curtain here is about love but not in the sweet, self-deprecating sort of way. He wants you to love, he wants you to lust, he wants you to run away. It’s as close to caring he gets without necessarily going all the way in.
“Fall In Love, My Forever” masks the enigmatic producer’s voice through some pretty interesting Autotune and some of Josey Scott’s Doors imitation for “Takeover." By comparison, the darkness WOLFE operates in is much similar to East Atlanta monochromatic singer 6LACK here. If 6LACK is willing to show his actual voice on every track from his FREE 6LACK tape, WOLFE manages to switch his up at every single turn. “Virgin” finds him ducking and hiding behind a drum and vocal interlude fit for a Ginuwine album in the late ‘90s. The shimmer and pop of “Cleopatra” tries to bring MÇHLS out of hiding thanks to arena glam-rock drums and synths. James Brown’s “Introduction to Star Time” tries to breathe a bit among the dance-floor chaos, but WOLFE merely won’t allow it. It’s trance music with the repetition of “shoot for the stars tonight/ are you in the mood?” It’s experimentation at its finest.
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Back in September, I thought I had him pegged. I thought with “Mother Don’t Mind” he would end up crafting something near New Wave but not quite. As if he wanted to embrace the sound but still enjoy carving out this husky, moody-ass R&B. Last year with the Dead In the Bathroom EP, he was toying with the reverb to see how low he could drop his voice to match alongside mid-tempo hip-hop records. The poetry readings were cut out; his diction far closer to a conversation that fades in and out of the background. “Wedding Balloons” wouldn’t be the same as the "Ocean Drive" on an acid trip that was “House of Waves.” Neither is as close to what “Sunset Park” emits.
Producing dark, haunting trap beats for the likes of Maxo Kream and Big K.R.I.T. introduced WOLFE de MÇHLS to those who only thought he made music for the day you burned out of a relationship. All of it was merely a prelude to what Naked turned out to be. In its brevity, it’s an album that cuts to the chase via a melancholy opening and droops deep into the darkness of voicemails; the darkness of missed calls and reaching out without wanting to actually hold onto something.
I think we’ve found WOLFE de MÇHLS. I’m not entirely sure if he wants us to put a single name or style on him, though.
ELSEWHERE IN THE CITY
We’re approaching Christmas-music season, but Coline Creuzot is cranking out retro-soul R&B records about heartbreak. Here I went thinking “Truth Is” was as cutthroat as she could get. Nope, being soothing about walking away may be the more bitter pill to swallow. You could curse that “Dead End” is only available as a TIDAL exclusive but if you’ve gotten a chance to take it in, it’s pretty damn good.