|Mutual Benefit — Love's Crushing Diamond |
Mutual Benefit — Love's Crushing Diamond
Location: Brooklyn, NYC
Album release: October 7th, 2013
Record Label: Soft Eyes
01. Strong River (3:01)
02. Golden Wake (3:17)
03. Advanced Falconry (5:06)
04. That Light That's Blinding (4:03)
05. "Let's Play" / Statue Of A Man (3:37)
06. C. L. Rosarian (5:41)
07. Strong Swimmer (7:10)
• Sounds / Jordan Lee
• Visuals / Cory Siegler
• Mastering / @ Treehouse by Jake Yuhas
Recorded on the road and at:
• Ohm Recording Facility in Austin, TX
• Temporary Autonomous Zone in St Louis, MO
• Thee Hallowed Sound Dungeon in Boston, MA
• Violin / Jake Falby
• Bass / George Folickman
• Electric Guitar / Marc Merza
• Singing / Virginia de la Pozas + Cory Siegler + Julie Byrne
• Drums / Cameron Potter
• Hand Drums + Percussion / Dillon Zahner
• Sound Hunting / Ali Carter
• Cacophony / Chico Jones + Austin Kalman
• Inspirational Electronics / Stefan Grabowski
•• Appreciation to everyone whom I coerced into collaboration. Roommates in MO, TX, MA for putting up with the inescapable presence of these songs everyday. Marc + Cory who helped every step of the way to make sure these songs had a good physical home. Everyone who assisted us on tour and provided a couch to sleep on and good conversation. Dreamhaus + Whitehaus + Muthership (RIP) for giving mb a space to find its fledgling voice. FMLY for providing near constant inspiration and sonic exploration. And lastly, Ohio friends + family for keeping everything so real
By Ian Cohen; October 25, 2013; Score: 8.4 (Best New Music)
•• Mutual Benefit’s proper debut LP Love’s Crushing Diamond can be described in a number of simple ways: loving, patient, warmhearted, unfailingly hopeful. Pretty much the utmost qualities you’d want out of a human being, right? Those descriptors are certainly less trustworthy when applied to art, as they’re often considered the byproducts of complacency, or at least a warning sign. Whenever a band comes along that people tell you is “necessary,” they’re probably ripping shit up, telling you what to think, espousing conflict against music and listeners that got a little too comfy. Mutual Benefit isn’t revolutionary and Love’s Crushing Diamond is not going to judge you. But in no way is Jordan Lee a complacent songwriter. In fact, throughout this collection of seven gorgeous, baroque-folk songs, he’s dealing in perhaps the most pervasive and difficult internal battle of all: how can you be a loving, patient, warmhearted and unfailingly hopeful person in an environment that makes it far easier to not give a shit ?
•• A good start is to surround yourself with fellow warriors of the meek — Mutual Benefit brings to mind the “collective” format, “Animal” or otherwise, that played a large role in defining the tone of indie rock during the early 2000s. Think of Microphones, Sparklehorse, Danielson Famile, Akron/Family, early Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart, where an open-ended “band” surrounds a central voice seeking to explore the ideas of what “folk” or roots music really means. Mutual Benefit certainly qualifies, though not in the way that equates “folk” with rusticity, an acoustic guitar and rigid verse-chorus structure. Songs invariably rise out of twenty or so seconds of everyone getting situated, tapping out piano riffs, trying to get the percussion in rhythm and determining who’s going to sing. From there on out, there’s often contain one central melody and a clearly elucidated mood that spools throughout, while the arrangements are surprising and intuitive, like everyone involved might be swapping instruments as it goes along.
•• The sound here is proudly analog, though not lo-fi, and Lee’s songs are thick, but not dense. Beginning with his lightly enunciated vocals, soft strands are collected and continuously bundled throughout and nuzzled by reverb without being smothered by it, a big ball of sonic yarn to fall into. Some curious threads peek through to add a shock of color: the banjo lacing Lee’s awestruck infatuation on “Advanced Falconry”, household percussion clacking throughout “‘Let’s Play’/Statue of a Man”, gentle, female harmonies and a steady drum machine tick lending comfort to a wayward drug addict on “That Light That's Blinding” and an indeterminate synthesized instrument playing the glowing riff that explains the title of “Golden Wake."
•• On that particular song, a riverside meditation leads Lee to quitting his job and realizing “we weren’t made to be afraid.” That’s a major part of the plot engine in cubicle revenge fantasy Office Spaceand a motivating thread throughout the majority of chillwave, another genre thought to be a reaction to an increasingly hostile and hopeless time for socioeconomics. But Love’s Crushing Diamond is not folk in the escapist sense either, though it was recorded during a “year of notable absences” in San Diego, Austin and Boston. Many of these songs take place in mundane, unglamorous locales — city trains, mining towns, cornfields, motel rooms. And in Lee's point of view, you need to discover a little space within those places that you can call your own and then invite some people to share it with. Yeah, it does skew kinda hippie, as Lee’s lyrics detail picking roses by the lake and how a river can’t help but keep on keepin’ on. That’s perfectly fine within the scheme of Love’s Crushing Diamond, which always sounds populated in a way that stresses its central themes of getting your own shit together so you’re better prepared to care for someone else.
•• This kind of perspective gives Mutual Benefit an unintended timeliness as well. As much as you want to consider music objectively, without some kind of sociological context, think of it this way: when Sufjan, Animal Collective and freak-folk came about, any afterglow of post-9/11 togetherness had given way to a terribly divisive and dirty presidential election, an escalating, vaguely defined war and a general sense that the country was being bullied into submission from the inside. This sort of music would inevitably be criticized for being apolitical and wimpy, but having seen where all this aggression got us, how could Sung Tongs or Cripple Crow not seem like the solution?
Love’s Crushing Diamond works in a similar way and opens itself up to some of the same criticisms, when being positive is the quickest way to have your sincerity questioned. Lee concedes these points without giving in, and makes the case that kindness is in no way a sign of weakness: Diamond’s seven-minute, closing reverie “Strong Swimmer” acknowledges that it takes an Olympian level of strength to swim against the tide of negativity, but it’s the only choice. During “‘Let’s Play/Statue of a Man,” Lee sings “There’s always love/when you think there’s none to give”, true whether it’s “tattered, strained or torn.” I can’t think of a statement that sounds more necessary. (http://pitchfork.com/)
by Ben Bengtson; Score: 8.0
|Mutual Benefit — Love's Crushing Diamond |