Buoyant English multi-experimentalist Patrick Wolf might have felt he ventured too far mainstream with 2007’s The Magic Position, an accessible-by-comparison, romance-wrought fairy tale of the highest theatrical order. Proposed follow-up The Battle was to be a double album chronicling struggles with his own personal demons; the subsequent Part 1 of 2, The Bachelor, marks an indulgent return to some of Wolf’s even more out-there—and wholly original—orchestral tendencies.
Fourteen tracks filter legend, history, sci-fi and modern personal introspection, yet all the pick-and-choosing establishes a sweepingly timeless mood. Add to that all manner of intricately layered strings, keys, percussion and horns, with Wolf masterfully channeling the instrumental tides into crashing swells and rippling pools as the mood strikes. If it seems his methods center around utilizing pretty much everything at his disposal, that’s fairly accurate, as synths, looped digital chants and pulsing electronic asides further fuel the mad-science mash-up.
The guest list includes Atari Teenage Riot’s Alec Empire on careening single “Hard Times” and the urgent, choir-punctuated title track, along with actress Tilda Swinton, who provides a chilling, specter-like “Voice of Hope” on “Oblivion,” “Thickets” and “Theseus.” But Wolf leaves no doubt that it’s his world, one both head-scratching and exhilarating, built on emotion and thriving on fully controlled chaos.