An Ocean Held Me
Triple A Records (AAA)
Auckland 8-piece Mice on Stilts refer to their music as “doom-folk”; their term – and it’ll be getting them a few column inches, watch as one or two writers mention it without stating that it was there in front of them in the press release.
I see a tagline or a made-up sub-genre and it usually makes my toes curl – but it also gets the CD in the stereo and in the case of this band’s debut album/EP (it’s only five tracks, but at nearly 35 minutes I’m going to consider it an album) I’m pleased I gave it a go. Opener, Syds Socks has a bit of a brood to it, you don’t quite get the full impact of all of the players, but the small hint of sax at the start is nice and the viola line that threads with the guitar through the ocean-swaying toms is a strong start; good mood. It’s all lifted up a gear on Binocular Bath, a strong vocal too – dramatic pop music that feels more like post-goth to me than any “doom-folk” but maybe they’re the same thing in the end. It makes me think of the gentle opening passages in a long Godspeed You! Black Emperor piece if turned into an actual song.
A Moss Ocean has a shanty feel to it before Vulnerable Vader provides the album’s gentlest moment at least to start with – and always with a hint of that Nick Cave-like sinister compulsion lurking in and around the spaces of viola; the saxophone moving the sound ever so slightly toward the prog of Van der Graaf Generator and then a total wigout moment that segues to the album’s closing track, the longest song, the 12 minutes of Tuatara Lawn.
I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd I like best these days – that’s the post-Syd/pre-Dark Side Floyd, and in that comparison I could see Mice on Stilts working well to provide soundtracks for film or collaborating to score live theatre.
There’s a lot going on in this album – and its buried down deep inside the songs. A subtlety given the announcement of an 8-piece could instantly startle or frighten. Mice on Stilts are taking their time to hoon a sound, to craft it. And so far I like what I hear.