*AR is the “collective pseudonym” of Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton, and “Wolf Notes” is their first abum together.
But *AR is also “an archaic place-name element found in river names. (…) It is thought to mean ‘starting up, springing up, setting in motion’ “.
A further quote from the liner notes explains what this music is about:
It “is inspired by the landscape of Ulpha – a region of spare, rugged beauty in the west uplands of Cumbria, in Northern England. Wolf Notes derives its title from the word ulpha itself, while it is understood to mean ‘the hill frequented by wolves’.”
On a different level, ‘Wolf Tones‘ also refers to overtones that are produced on bowed string instruments when a note matches the natural resonating frequency of the body of the instrument, ‘producing a sustaining sympathetic artificial overtone that amplifies and expands the frequencies of the original note’.
It may be just a coincidence, but I like this description because it also seems to describe the effect of this music resonating with the listener ( – although in performing music wolf tones are generally unwanted).
The music on this album is every bit as delicate as the beautiful letterpressed package is.
And besides that, the music is also every bit as English as you’d expect from reading the description in the liner notes.
In fact you can easily imagine following a mysterious woman’s voice, through landscapes unknown, wondering if the voice may be real or not.
“Wolf Notes“ is divided in five different parts.
The first four are in fact one continuous composition with parts called Inception, Rise, Decline and Rest.
The closing piece is then called Return, and has a different theme but the same mysterious overall feeling.
The minimal background music, thoughtfully crafted by Richard Skelton mainly on multilayered string instruments, slowly unfolds from absolute quiet, and it takes a while until Autum Richardson‘s voice becomes apparent and slowly takes over the melody.
Her voice is beautiful, ethereal but clear, repeating a wordless theme and some variations, until slowly fading back to silence in ‘Rest’.
The landscape of Ulpha, Cumbria must be fascinatingly beautiful indeed!