Souleye – ‘Wildman’

Posterity is a cruel mistress and legacies aren’t what they used to be. The truly transformational artists, in any medium, are the ones who find a toehold with the public imagination that the years cannot wash away. Instead, these artists only make a deeper and bigger impression over time and they soon accumulate a body of work that casts a shadow over artists to come and expand on the possibilities of the form. Souleye has set himself as a breed apart from his first emergence in the rap/hip hop world. His unique writing skills and positive, outward looking point of view are wholly individual in the genre and are accompanied by willingness for risk taking not shared by his more formulaic counterparts. The eleven songs on Wildman are full of bravery and manifest a variety of musical faces threaded together by a personal philosophy and with unwavering confidence.

The evocatively recorded synths opening “Dream Come True” soon gives way to an insistent percussion track. It ushers us into the first verse and we slide into slinky, yet memorably quirky, groove punctuated with brief melodic lines. There’s a lot going on with this recording, but it still feels like a song with a light touch and Souleye conforms to that presence with his intelligent phrasing and penchant for dramatic understatement in half whispered lines that still convey surprising emotion. The album’s second track features the first guest stars on Wildman. Chantal Kreviazuk and Chachillie add just the right amount of spice to “Classic”, but Souleye’s vocal remains the song’s centerpiece and his thoughtful lyric deserves deeper examination. The soulful counterpoint from Chantal Kreviazuk strikes a thrilling contrast with Souleye’s vocal tone. The title track has a strong percussive drive in its introduction and that continues during the main part of the song. Another guest star makes for a nice juxtaposition as Lynx’s singing is notably soulful in comparison to Souleye’s assertive verbal gymnastics. His vocals are often treated with post-production effects and the title song is no exception, but the album never obscures them to the point of incomprehensibility.

“Follow Your Heart” has a rousing electronic arrangement with bright flourishes accentuating its atmosphere. Souleye’s fleet-footed flow matches the percolating tempo quite well and his ease at negotiating a number of potentially hairy verbal turns is impossible to not admire. “Miles Away” is a harder hitting track with a crisp analog drum sample popping out of the mix through significant passages of the song to give it added impetus. “Pain Body” has a lush musical opening adorned with backing vocals near-chanting in harmony before Souleye takes over again and serves up one of his most personal lyrics on Wildman. His collaboration with wife Alanis Morissette, “Snow Angel”, merited release as the album’s second single. This is most effective duet or near-duet on Wildman and the couple are, perhaps surprisingly, an ideally suited creative partnership for this song. Souleye, with each new album, continues to draw clear distinctions between what he values and those of more typical performers. This is an entertaining release and anyone who gives it a chance will find a lot to admire, but Souleye stands nearly alone in this genre thanks to the idiosyncratic brilliance and honesty about himself and his concerns.

Jason Hillenburg