A. Wolf & Her Claws at Cedar Cultural Center, 4/21/12

Categories: Gimme Noise
Photo by Ryan Cutler
A. Wolf & Her Claws
With Brute Heart
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis 
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Last March, singer/songwriter Aby Wolf received a 416 Club Commission from the Cedar Cultural Center and the Jerome Foundation, providing incentive and funding to collaborate with local musicians she hadn't worked with before. Teaming up with Joey Van Phillips, Linnea Mohn and Jesse Whitney, the quartet's efforts evolved into A. Wolf & Her Claws, Wolf's self-described "electro-art-pop" project.

Just one short year later, A. Wolf & Her Claws returned to the Cedar Cultural Center with a complement of inventive songs, a deservedly celebrated sound and a self-titled debut album. Those in attendance were treated to a near perfect cycle of songs drawing from a diverse range of musical styles including folk, jazz, hip-hop and dub.

Photo by Ryan Cutler

About a minute or two into opening song "Potion Jar," Wolf was confronted with jarring feedback from her vocal looping equipment. Technical glitches are hardly unique to live performance, but this particular instance warrants mention in light of Wolf's deft handling of the unexpected miscue. In the context of the subsequent set in which every little thing was in place and beautifully in tune, this anomaly bears further significance, revealing the extent to which A. Wolf & Her Claws had come prepared.

Photo by Ryan Cutler

The songs that followed showcased Wolf's mesmerizing and powerful voice. With Van Phillips on drums and vibraphone, Mohn on keyboard and accompanying vocals and Whitney on synthesizer and various electronic programming, the Claws created a lush sonic landscape for Wolf to roam. Gracious at the close of each song, Wolf was appreciative of her collaborator's efforts and grateful for the circumstances that brought the group together last winter.

Photo by Ryan Cutler

The hypnotic and intimate set was followed by a two-song encore. Wolf took the stage alone for the first song, bravely taking on her vocal looping equipment again for a stirring rendition of "Follow the Line." Reunited with the Claws, the group covered Sade's "No Ordinary Love" with the same skillfulness that defined the rest of the evening. While the decision to close the record releasing set with a cover seemed out of place, the performance would have made Sade herself blush.

Critic's Notebook

The Audience: Devoted and enthusiastic, but there was easily room for an additional one or two hundred attendees. The ongoing self-reflection that figures so prominently in almost every discussion of the local scene should have translated into a more robust crowd. A. Wolf & Her Claws would shine in any hometown and the reception for their debut album should have been grander.

Photo by Ryan Cutler

Personal Bias: I first encountered A. Wolf & Her Claws in support of Future Islands at 7th Street Entry six months ago. It was my introduction to the local scene, and a memorable one. With that excellent performance still fresh in my mind, I anticipated more of the same on Saturday. A. Wolf & Her Claws shined in their supporting role last November, and they were in pitch perfect form this weekend. Dues paid, record released and a headlining slot well deserved.

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