Graham Reid | | 1 min read
On the idiosyncratic Paradise of Bachelors label (their previous releases reviewed at Elsewhere worth investigating), this fifth album by a very left-field alt.folk American band – fronted by songwriter Erin Birgy who seems to be Mega Bog – denies even that “left-field alt.folk” description.
From the whispery speak-sing and almost childlike opener which slips easily into a Latin mood through the strange cabaret of Butterfly with a steel wool guitar intro to the five minute-plus atmospheric Ameleon at the end (“watch me roll an office chair out the door to the balcony, see the pink of old Madrid . . .”) these 14 songs keep your attention at every unexpected turn and tangent.
While far too many artists adopt a studied eccentricity (“I'm mad, me”), you get a clear impression that Birgy is a naturally unusual poet and songwriter who conceived these very diverse and slightly surreal songs for the excellent band (synths, drums, piano, percussion, effects, saxophone) while in disconcerting isolation in a cabin in New Mexico: that's a chasm of the Rio Grand on the inside of the gatefold CD cover.
Some of this is clever pop (Weight of the Earth on Paper, the early Eighties sound of Crumb Back), some just quirky (Before a Black Tea) and some is very strange folk (Obsidian Lizard which is more opaque than most lyrics you will hear).
Darmock is an ambient instrumental located between Eno-in-space and an American Southwest landscape and at the other end of the spectrum is a blast of industrial strength alt.rock (the instrumental Bull of Heaven).
Not a standard or predictable album by any means . . . but that just means you will probably keep returning to it just the try and decode her lyrics while being pulled in by the often oddly beautiful music which settles nowhere in particular. . . .
But, bewildering though some of this is, Life, And Another does make weirdly appealing sense.
And one song (of warm, whispered slo-mo synth-pop) is entitled Station to Station.
So . . .
You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here.
But it is also available through Southbound Records, Auckland.