Sick of street preachers and false prophets, Hazel Motes, the protagonist of Flannery O'Conner's novel Wise Blood, decides to start his own religion: The Church Without Christ. Chris Laufman -- a.k.a. Wise Blood -- may be devoutly Catholic, but when it comes to his music, he shares Motes' audacity.
"I basically want to become the best as soon as possible," he told Pitchfork, who featured him as a "Rising Artist" at the end of August. As he told me via phone from the Bronx, where he'll spend the next two months, "I want to rival Kanye, popularity-wise."
Born in Mississippi, 22-year-old Laufman has lived all over, but has made his long-term home with his grandfather in Point Breeze, in a house built by his great-grandfather. He experimented early on with a broken-down guitar, but more recently with his computer. Pitchfork pounced on his dreamy, balmy, unexpectedly soulful sample-based music after a few tracks wound up on its sister site, Altered Zones (www.alteredzones.com).
On paper, Wise Blood is reminiscent of another local mash-up artist and Pitchfork fave, but Wise Blood is less party and more Panda Bear -- OK to dance to, but better for driving around on the hottest day of the summer. Call it "The Mashup Without Girl Talk." He's often motivated by what he sees as a deficit of inspiring music: "I would think, 'I want to listen to a certain kind of sound, and I can't think of anyone who makes the kind of sound that I would want to hear.'"
Wise Blood has yet to play Pittsburgh -- or anywhere, really. His debut was just last week at Vassar College. After playing New York's CMJ Fest in October, he'll return to Pittsburgh. "I want to play in interesting locations or, like, outside," he says. "Eventually I want to play somewhere in the Carnegie museum."
So far, Wise Blood seems to rival Kanye mainly in bravado. But love it or hate it, once an artist is deemed "rising" by a site as trendsetting as Pitchfork, all bets are off.
"I have an idea of what I want to do, I want to do something great, and I feel like the time is right for it," Laufman says, addressing those who would accuse him of over-confidence. "I just feel like if being the best isn't your goal in making music, thesn it's just boring. I don't care if you're making music if you have no ambition."
To download Wise Blood's free EP, entitled +, visit www.myspace.com/hazemotes.