Musée Mécanique — From Shores of Sleep

Musée Mécanique — From Shores of Sleep (October 28th, 2014)

USA Flag Musée Mécanique — From Shores of Sleep 
♠•♠   With sonic brethren like Josh Ritter and Sufjan Stevens, the Portland, Oregon folk band Musée Mécanique offers up an instrumental version of its recent LP, the ornate and visionary From the Shores of Sleep.
Nominated album Musée Mécanique — From Shores of Sleep
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States
Album release: October 28th, 2014
Record Label: Tender Loving Empire
Duration:     40:16
01. O, Astoria!      4:24
02. The Lighthouse and the Hourglass      4:00
03. The Open Sea      5:01
04. The Man Who Sleeps      4:14
05. A Wish We Spoke      3:48
06. Castle Walls      4:40
07. The World of Silence      3:44
08. Along the Shore      4:54
09. Cast in the Brine      5:31
by Brice Ezell, Friday, Oct 24, 2014, 10:14 am; Score: 8
♠•♠   With sonic brethren like Josh Ritter and Sufjan Stevens, the Portland, Oregon folk band Musée Mécanique offers up an instrumental version of its recent LP, the ornate and visionary From the Shores of Sleep.
♠•♠   In August, the Portland, Oregon symphonic indie folk band Musée Mécanique released its sophomore LP, the high–minded and ornately arranged From the Shores of Sleep. Musée Mécanique, fronted by the longtime musical partnership of Micah Rabwin and Sean Ogilvie (the latter of Tristeza fame), is a band that manages to both sound very much like a product of its environment and rise above its native scene through meticulous and creative songwriting. Anyone familiar with the evergreen–lined Pacific Northwest will no doubt hear aural similarities to those environs in Musée Mécanique’s music, particularly the through–composed tunes of From the Shores of Sleep. Now, the band is offering listeners to dive even further into the music’s deep arrangements by producing an instrumental version of the LP, which you can stream below.
♠•♠   On the matter of the choice to release From the Shores of Sleep as an instrumental album, Rabwin said this to PopMatters: “All of these songs were conceived with one instrument and a voice. As we went through the process of arranging and recording we realized that the arrangements were as integral to the songs as the lyrics and chords. The instrumental version gives the arrangements their own voice.” ::
♠•♠   Musée Mécanique have produced an album of widescreen orchestral folk–pop, the songs featuring a dense but light sonic pallet with complex arrangements, bucolic passages, electronics, in short, anything that supports their vision.
♠•♠   They are not afraid of detail; these songs have been meticulously composed, each note deliberately placed, each flourish thought through, every sound effect precision planned. They sound at once like the Decemberists, Simon & Garfunkel, Talk Talk, Mercury Rev, Woodpigeon, Olivia Tremor Control, Sufjan Stevens, Grandaddy, Shearwater and a whole host of others. It could be messy or fussy but it flows beautifully, it is restlessly inventive and sounds wonderful. It is a song–cycle of sorts built around the theme of bodies of water which flows through the songs with recurring motifs like characters from interlinked short stories bumping into one another on the page.
♠•♠   Unpicking these songs isn’t simple; there are movements, they don’t lock into a 4/4 beat, a chug and a solo. Let’s try to describe — ‘The Lighthouse and the Hourglass’ it begins with gentle buffeting clouds of steel guitar and acoustic guitar, then vocals, clarinet flickering then cello followed by banjo, a circling around a simple theme, cue percussive thunder, bells then brass turn the sky dark grey until someone seems to be playing a harp with a machete, percussion twinkles, the vocals march onwards, masses of detail flows into the gaps between the notes, and all of this, gently, seductively accessible. There are numerous musical strategies engaged on ‘The Man Who Sleeps’ — it has the feel of woozy post–rock with the mixture of guitars and banks of keyboards, giving clue to the time that Sean Ogilvie spent in Tristeza, they chime and ring like prime American Analog Set but of course things are more complex than that and they are joined by clarinets, oboe and English horn.
♠•♠   The run of songs in the middle of the record have the feel of mid–period Mercury Rev with hushed vocals and a lush backdrop, Alela Diane (amongst others) adding backing vocals to a few tracks that melt into the rich tapestry of the songs. Shearwater are close contemporaries, though MM are more ornate, more formal, they are never still, everything flows, there is always momentum, always leading somewhere; even the bucolic passages like the end of ‘Along the Shore’ are purposeful, not just decorative and the pretty piano introduction to ‘Cast in Brine’ is a precursor to the real heart of the song. Ogilvie and Micah Rabwin have (along with an extensive supporting cast) created a work of beauty and depth. It is orchestral folk–pop at its finest.
♠•♠   Some time ago, while touring the Maritime Northeast of the United States, in a quiet, centuries–old, lichen–covered cemetery in Cape Cod, the members of Musée Mécanique discovered a phrase etched carefully into the final resting place of some unknown soul:
“A ship at port is safe,
but that’s not what ships are built for.” — Grace Hopper
♠•♠   After years of successful exploration on the strong shoulders of the band’s debut record, Hold this Ghost, these simple words continued to inspire and guide the creation and completion of their upcoming sophomore long–player, From Shores Of Sleep. 
♠•♠   Their first album, Hold this Ghost  (Frog Stand Records, US; Souterrain Transmissions, EU) was released in 2008 in the US and 2010 in Europe to great praise and review by Pitchfork, NPR, BBC, Tape Op and many others. The release sent them dashing around the US and Europe thereafter. Written and recorded in their home studio in Portland, Oregon, Hold this Ghost was the first fruits of long–standing collaboration between Sean Ogilvie & Micah Rabwin, the founding members of Musée Mécanique. The album cultivates an intimacy and reverence for nostalgia through the vulnerability of its lyrics and use of a wide range of instruments and sounds, from crackly old garage sale keyboards, to whimsical accordion and glockenspiels, to expressive strings and orchestra. Like the penny arcade machines from the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco (from which the band’s name derives) each song creates a scenic world unto itself; its own colors, landscapes, mechanics, and life.
♠•♠   At its conception, Musée Mécanique’s yet to be released second album, From Shores Of Sleep, was little more than a pile of melodic, rhythmic, and lyrical ideas. Between the trials and tribulations of regular and touring life, the gentlemen of Musée Mécanique began to toil endlessly on a body of work that never wanted to be finished. ♠•♠   There was always a new melody seeking the right instrumentation, an older instrument requiring replacement, an arrangement begging for orchestral notation, a drum part finding a new rhythm or a lyric finding a new melody. They called upon friends to contribute their sounds and ears. Years passed. The band had set itself on a course to make a record that was uniquely Mécanique — one that became less like a traditional album and more like a musical novel or story.
♠•♠   With the help of mixer/masterer Tony Lash (Elliot Smith, Heat Miser, The Dandy Warhols, Loch Lomond, Ramona Falls), the album is finally finished and set to be released in the summer of 2014. Captained by its sounds — frantic rhythms calling from the horizon, rich brass beds swelling with the tides, and layered vocal harmonies filling the air — From Shores Of Sleep is a through–composed, single piece of music full of surprises. The listener is taken on a voyage within a dream, through ten individual songs exploring the balance between realism and idealism, responsibility and adventure–seeking — the dream realm and waking life. From romantic shoreline, across haunted tides, through perilous squall and storm, past coral reefs and up grave river endings, the journey takes us through meticulously composed musical scenes that unfold seamlessly and ultimately leave us somewhere we never expected to be.
♠•♠   Given the difficulty of touring with a full symphony orchestra, preparations for the live performance of From Shores Of Sleep have included a tricky re–envisioning of what is doable onstage. The result is a compelling, multi–instrumental showcase that realizes as closely as possible the reverie and adventure of the album as it was conceived.
♠•♠   Musée Mécanique is: Micah Rabwin, Sean Ogilvie, Matt Berger, Brian Perez, John Whaley, Jeffery Boyd and friends.
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Musée Mécanique — From Shores of Sleep