The Wolfgang Press are the 4AD stable's longest-serving artists, having clocked up an impressive thirteen years on their roster. Along the way, their music has developed from brooding soundscapes to funkier, more swaggering grooves, but while Mark Cox (keyboards) and Andrew Gray (guitar) have allowed various influences to guide them, Michael Allen's deadpan almost-spoken baritone has remained an unwavering factor, as have the stylish Alberto Ricci album covers.
The first Press album, The Burden Of Mules (1983), gained some media interest with its doomy post-punk noise, though the band were to get more interesting with the ensuing trio of EPs, starting out with "Scarecrow" (1984), produced by the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie, and followed by "Water" and "Sweatbox" (1985). "Cut The Tree" was also recorded around this time and surfaced as one of the stand-outs on the 4AD compilation, Lonely Is An Eyesore (1987).
By 1986 the Press were gaining quite a live following, consolidated by a strong second album, Standing Up Straight (1986). This showed the band at their starkest: side one was particularly tormented, with the insistent "Dig A Hole" and the ice-cold drama of "My Life" and "Hammer The Halo".
With Birdwood Cage (1988), the mood changed somewhat, especially on the album's flagship single, "King Of Soul", which showed an absorption in dance/funk styles, and the follow-up, "Kansas", a record that gained much-overdue airplay for the group, partly owing to its memorable video. An unusual reworking of Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not To Come" then preceded the release of Queer (1991), an album inspired by De La Soul's Three Feet High And Rising. Said Allen: 'It seemed such a joyous record. There was a freshness and ease about the way it was made that inspired us to reassess our working process.'
Although atmospheric, Queer was but an incomplete blueprint for the band's strongest release to date, the engaging Funky Little Demons (1995), in which they completed the transition from purveyors of austere commitment to proponents of a more positive musical ideal. This fine record's stand-out cuts included the single "Going South", which remains the closest the group has come to a hit, the self-deprecating "Eleven Years" and the darkly syncopating "Blood Satisfaction".
Funky Little Demons (1995; 4AD). Not all 4AD bands sound the same.The Wolfgang Press manage to incorporate ideas fom hip-hop and dance into their glacial soundscapes.