There has always been a disarming eclecticism throughout the works of Yoni Wolf; somewhat of a musical chameleon with each album, the works of Why? always set out to be something completely left-field of what we come to expect from previous albums. It’s a lasting appeal that rightfully needs to be addressed from the outset – expecting Moh Lhean to be anything quite like 2012’s Mumps, Etc. would be to ask said animal-metaphor (a chameleon, if you recall) to remain the exact same colour in a different climate.
Bear in mind this is a musician who’s last EP, Golden Tickets, became a love letter to the very fans that appreciate the eccentricities of Wolf – become itself an incredibly meta work inspired by those who gain inspiration from the songwriter himself. Don’t be too concerned if you’ve just joined us in discovering Why? – some of us are still recalling the deadpan, stream-of-consciousness hip-hop effort Alopecia. So don’t worry about keeping up.
Moh Lhean presents itself as a little more accessible to listeners though; it’s as if it’s a perfect jumping point for newcomers to delve into the stylistic idiosyncrasies that have endeared Wolf for the best part of 12 years. It’s opening track, “This Ole King” serves it’s purpose of enticing the uninitiated into the album, with it’s standard “chilled” electro-indie affair. The beauty of the album once again is how it manages to traverse across a number of genre-centric flourishes but bucks convention by what the initial investment into the song managed to cultivate. “One Mississippi” could easily have transpired to be a hip-hop track but instead remains steadfast in twee territory – very much begging to be considered perpetual cannon with it’s reoccurring stanza.
There is a familiarity throughout the album however that means older fans of Yoni Wolf won’t feel alienated despite the use of the word “accessible” earlier on. It’s not so much accessible in a sense where it’s paint-by-the-numbers indie-electronica; should Yoni Wolf do something that seems par for course would be the most radical move that an artist that continually pushes archetype formulas could undertake. Being, well, “normalized”.
Therein lays the biggest strength in Moh Lhean – it’s the ability to draw in newer listeners and yet remain faithful to those who have followed them from the beginning. Yoni Wolf has a synergy to reach out to his fans, and the call and response has always been an endearing feature throughout the years. It just so happens on this occasion that Yoni would like to invite more people to discover what many of us have appreciate for years; that familiarity doesn’t necessarily have to compromise the absorbing strangeness that each and every Why? album has managed to create.
Moh Lhean is wonderful. But that was to be expected given the prolific oddness of the songwriter throughout the years. I could only hope that it peaks an interest for newer listeners to venture down the rabbit hole that is Yoni Wolf’s exhaustive back catalogue of wonderment.