I will state this outright: Mały Wilk is one of the prettiest albums I’ve heard this year. It’s like an Ólafur Arnalds work, both deeply sentimental and rational, a work that plunges the listener into a musical environment so dense and complete that to think of it as something other than organic is almost impossible. Translated as ‘little wolf’ from Polish, Mały Wilk deploys a small set of minimalist piano melodies that seem to roam and dash amidst a sprawling forest of harmonies that echo into one another – the wolf howls, and the wind answers. Strings make the copses of trees sway as the melody moves past them, embracing the momentum of Romance, the strength of an image of nature in which everything is connected as part of a passionate love of life, a wholesomeness that breaks and confirms reason. This is music for the entire body, not necessarily for it to move, but for it to merge with its surroundings, like the wolf as it sleeps and blissfully dreams of running without end.
Stray Ghost is no stranger to the constant fine-tuning inherent to instrumental music, but it’s perhaps this album what confirms his growth into another of the great composers in this style such as the aforementioned Arnalds, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Greg Haines, and so on. It is very well focused, and every sound has a definite place, forming an ecosystem of ideas that play into a complex mood that is as joyful as it is often mourning in tone, perhaps reflecting the wolf’s flow within a forest that expands as its paws touch the ground, drawn by strings and electronic drones as it swiftly jumps over felled trees and bushes; the only artifice here is that of the animal’s eyes as it makes sense of the rising flora, of the mist and the sun as it opaquely illuminates the road traversed.
The heart of Mały Wilk is, in this sense, wild, wild with expressions of a natural cohesion, of the sentimental value of an innocence that will never be reduced to song, eschewing the sharpness of judgement in favor of its capacity to make sense of what is being perceived. It is in this way, for example, that the core of “I Wish There Were No Clouds” seemingly cites Arvo Pärt’s “In Memoriam Benjamin Britten”, except that it mixes the sadness and longing with a hopeful series of bright drones, making heard the essence of a wish in its utter lack and utter fulfillment in imaginary form. It is a piece that attempts to transcend its limits in conventional expression, dissolving the lines that appear to define feelings, letting all of them into the same flux, the same body, the same mind.
In the end, Mały Wilk belongs in everyone’s hearts, brimming with energy and feelings that do not attempt to overcome one another, opting instead to commune. (David Murrieta)