By Dave Cantor | Published December 2018
Taking its name from a Grateful Dead tune, folks might expect Dire Wolves to amble aimlessly through tie-dyed frivolity. Instead, since 2009, the five-piece band’s been working in the mold of new-millennium freak folksters, invigorating the form with psychedelic intent and the tenants of jazz improvisation.
On Paradisiacal Mind—the Bay Area troupe’s fifth release of 2018—a more concerted focus is put on the improvisational aspects of Dire Wolves’ practice. Last year’s Excursions To Cloudland (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) fully honed in on freedom, Arjun Mendiratta’s violin punctuating the ensemble’s rock backdrop. But there always seemed to be an agreed upon opening gambit. Paradisiacal Mind just sounds like spontaneity.
“Just Live Your Life Behind Your Eyes” opens with Mendiratta’s droning strings, some echoey vocals and what sounds like an occasionally clanking tin can. The next 12 minutes find the ensemble slowly building toward brief sonic summits, only to pull back on the mounting tension and ease into something akin to new age noodling. By the time “In And Out Of Den Garten He Goes” rolls around a few tracks later, Dire Wolves asserts its rock, jazz and improv reduction with ecstatic intent. Again, there’s no proper melody or regular rhythm to grasp, setting Paradisiacal Mind in opposition to Cloudland. But the closing title track conflates the band’s collected influences in a careening 17-minute rock opus, befitting the band’s Bay Area lineage.