Bob McCully, best known for his work as Women In Tragedy, has been releasing downloads under the Wizard Of moniker for almost a year now. Grave Juice is his fourth Wizard Of record (following Some Are Inside, Worship Tribute Whatever Coma and Drip City) and it represents a giant leap in both quality and style.
Women In Tragedy was always schizophrenic, summed up best by the massive Diane Arbus double album that blew me away last year and the subsequent decision to form a band around the project and release what was essentially a straight-up metal record in Medusa. It’s fair to say McCully is restless, but he’s also relentlessly creative. Drip City, which emerged back in June, was a gloopy electronica record with shades of Juke and it’s a sound McCully cleans up significantly and explores further for Grave Juice.
Right from the off, as ‘Wooden Warrior’ jerks and skips into action, it’s clear that he’s ready to take things up a notch. Vocal cuts and clear, pulse ‘n’ ping beats all betray his listening material of late, which must surely have featured Traxman, DJ Rashad et al, but it’s McCully’s ability to turn his hand to almost anything and succeed that continues to stand out. ‘Aura Adore’, ‘Soul Spoke’ and ‘She Walk Away’ are the EP’s heart-on-sleeve moments, meaning there’s an emotional depth to much of Grave Juice that allows it to speak to the brain as well to the body. The vocal loop on ‘Soul Spoke’ in particular — undercut by a jolting piano motif and the deepest bass on the EP — brings a longing, lonely quality to proceedings that only doubles when McCully pitch-shifts and layers it to close out on a higher plain.
There were hints of a new beat obsession on Diane Arbus, but they were booming leviathans pummelling their way across an album designed to be played as loudly as possible. Here they’ve been sped up, chopped up and hollowed out, leaving brittle, skittering skeletons that don’t so much propel the music as they do crumble around it, reforming as bony spokes and branches on which McCully can drape his sheets of synth and samples. We’re not in Kansas any more…