Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mudboy – MUDMUX Volume 1 [DNT]/Mudboy – Hungry Ghosts! These Songs are Doors [Digitalis]

Two releases by Providence’s Mudboy here, the first a 7inch where he “muxes” two preexisting tracks by other artists and the other is a full length which appears to be considered, by many, his opus.
I’ll start by saying that this 7inch is absolutely phenomenal in every way. The music, the art/packaging—all top notch. Now that is out of the way, I can get to the music. Side A is titled “Lil John Carpenter Tribute Song” which is a pretty great name because it describes the song perfectly. Eerie organ/electric piano riffs but with a major groove. The pristinely constructed keyboard parts are offset by trashcan percussion rumblings courtesy of someone called Jeremy Lazy Animal Magnet Harris. If that person is also Lazy Magnet then I saw him play a long time ago, if not then I don’t know who he is. That’s beside the point though. This track is somehow a resurrection of a MIDI file of an Extreme Animals’ song “RockRapPopRocks” that was recorded onto a floppy disk. I’m not familiar with Extreme Animals, but somehow I feel that even if I was I would have no idea how the whole MIDI floppy disk thing translated into this.
This track is amazing. It’s moody and catchy as hell and through the 100 times I’ve probably played it’s never gotten old. Things start with a grouping of keyboard lines and the track just builds through its duration piling on more and more warbly, grooving keys, weird electronic sounds, cut up percussion, the works. Totally brilliant. The flipside is “Come Home”, which is based on a song by a band called DarkDarkDark. Vocals and main accordion are credited to Nona Marie Dark, so I’m guessing this isn’t a “remix” and she recorded her part specifically for this piece. This song is much different than the A-side but just as great. First of all, this appears to be a wonderfully well-written song so credit to Dark for that. She has a beautiful, expressive voice and the loping, smoky accordion is a perfect accompaniment to her voice. Mudboy plays it very minimally to his credit here. He places the vox/accordion front and center and then places little details throughout the track and subtly manipulates the voice and accordion. The track vacillates between folk/pop song structure and extended, almost drone-like passages. It all culminates with Dark’s electronically colored vocals over pulsing electronic loops. Another brilliant piece that, after all the times I’ve listened to it, is always fresh and inspiring and gorgeous. One of the best releases of the year.
Hungry Ghosts! These Songs are Doors kicks off with the title-trackish “Hungry Ghosts! (Intro-Induction)”. It’s a pretty minimal piece with a few looped not-quite-beats and occasional whispery vocals. About halfway through, the track takes a left turn into fuzzier, almost cackling territory, a texture that really drives the rhythm home before another left turn into bells and what sounds like backwards babytalk. This segues into “Swamp Things”, featuring Larkin Grimm which is quite cool. It’s a pretty droney piece with many layers of sustaining organ parts. About five minutes in, a guitar made of light materializes in the ether and Grimm provides a few vocal touches. Mudboy follows this elongated piece with the brief “The Wisher Man”. Beginning with electronic squiggles and reversed percussive sounds, the piece morphs into a lovely bit of organ and chiming bells. “The Last Song” comes next though it’s not the last song actually. A slow walking organ line is augmented with little melodic flourishes until it becomes a big shimmering mass—always changing, always the same. Quite possibly my favorite track here. “Wwhirlpool Wwindow Liight Nightt” marks a shift in tone. Louder and lead by a vaguely Arabian organ line, backed by a drum machine, and with all sorts of reverbed, effected vocals flying in between; it’s the records rock anthem if you wanna talk in relative terms. “The Quiet Song” is cut from the same cloth as many of the other tracks (layers of organ lines) but it stands out because it has a rougher tonality then the smooth, bell-like organ sounds of other tracks. And it has a particularly great final minute. “Shockwave!” continues the overdriven sound, but has almost an industrial-lite vibe; it’s repetitive and driving but still manages to float and before the end of the track things switch white noise and waves breaking. It has me perplexed. “In Which the Sea Hag is Lead Away or We are Lead by Her?” closes the album on a strong note with a great toy keyboard demo-esque part but it sounds legit and mesmerizing cause it’s played on organ. There’s some whistling that pops up occasionally before a man sings “Run away, run far away” and disappears. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes it so, but the piece is very pleasant, distant and a bit ghostly. It reminds me of standing on the beach in the cold.
This is the third time this record has been released, a CDr and an LP on Not Not Fun came before; I’m not sure if this album is that good to warrant so many releases but it’s definitely a cool record. Very nice, very mellow—easy listening, in a great way.
Both DNT and Digitalis did unbelievable jobs with the artwork. MUDMUX Vol. 1 has a foldout 4 pass silkscreen cover by R. Lyon and Kevin Hooyman with a radiant, fitting color scheme and it comes with a very informative insert. The 7inch itself is crystal blue with cool silver/graphite grey labels. Utterly fantastic, and only 5.50 postpaid. Likewise, Digitalis did an incredible job with the Hungry Ghosts! CD and, not that anyone was competing, it visually blows away the NNF LP. The CD comes in a super intricately laser cut sleeve that’s even burned around the edges a little and stuffed with a double-sided insert and CD that fill out the design. Probably the best packaging job I’ve seen on a CD, definitely one of best I’ve come across on any format. And coming from a known CD packaging-disser, that’s a big compliment. Additionally, it’s an enhanced CD with a video by Mudboy that pops when you put it in a computer, if yr into that sort of thing. Mudboy really inspires the best in labels I guess.
Both releases are still in print and available from the labels, the 7inch is limited, though, to a generous 535 copies. Don’t sleep on it.

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