He's now back on his own label and, with the help of the innovative Bandstocks project (where fans "invest" in their favourite artists), is poised to release The Bachelor, the first album of a promised two-parter called Battle. Wolf has said that the records' novel funding will allow him and his fans to "conquer the world together and show that independence and self-sufficiency are the two ways forward and out of the mess the industry is in" - a bold mission statement. Whatever the eventual success of that goal, it's clear that Wolf has made his best album yet. Collaborations with Alec Empire and actress Tilda Swinton provide layers of texture, but never once threaten to overshadow the music or distract from the strength of his melodies and almost wistfully romantic lyrics in songs like 'Thickets', 'Theseus' and the title track.
Despite Wolf's past eclecticism, Empire is a rather unlikely sparring partner. Alongside Nic Endo, the Digital Hardcore founder turned making noise into something akin to a religious sacrament with his former band Atari Teenage Riot. Here, on 'Vulture' and 'Battle', the influence of Empire finds Wolf recording the hardest tracks of his career and pulling it off with ease. On Wolf's past albums the combination of folky strings and electronic beats sometimes clashed awkwardly, but here the synthesis is seamless, resulting in a record that's as genuinely genre-defying as it is tuneful and accessible.
It's perhaps over-long and sometimes a bit tricky to pin down, but this seems like petty quibbling when you're faced with songs as good as the piano-led 'Blackdown' or anti-war tract 'Count Of Casualty'. Like the chorus of 'The Libertine' from Wind In The Wires, second single 'Hard Times' reads like a manifesto ("Divided nation, in sedation, overload of information that we have grown up to ignore, mediocrity applauded"). At a time when too much average pop and rock music is not just tolerated but elevated far above its status, it's refreshing to find a popstar whose records more than back up their own grand statements of ambition.