The Upshot: One of sonic auteur Jaime Fennelly’s best and most brightly colored albums yet, with familiar collaborators plus a Freakwater assist – and from one of the best indie labels on the planet.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Mind Over Mirrors’ Jaime Fennelly wrote this seventh full-length for a full band and also to be performed under a revolving cloth, metal and light sculpture called a zoetrope hung seven feet above the stage. The band is the same one, more or less, that he convened for last year’s Undying Color, that is drummer Jon Mueller and violinist Jim Becker again, but with Janet Beveridge Bean of Freakwater swapped in for Circuit Des Yeux singer Haley Fohr. This time, however, they sound more monolithic and in tune with one another, especially in the longer pieces, puzzle-box intoxicating “Matchstick Grip” and dream-kraut “Vermillion Sands” with wild loops and slashes of violin. Fennelly himself downplays the Indian harmonium that dominated his earlier recordings in favor of the otherworldly precision of a brace of Oberheim synths. This work this time around is in constant motion, antic animation rather than spiritual solace its main flavor.
And yet, the spiritual does enter in, in the blur-edged deliriums of Beveridge Bean’s unearthly vocals, in the overwhelming interlocking profusion of details that coalesce into transporting unities. Working and reworking themes of light and color, Fennelly and his cohorts find a balance between the organic and the mechanical. “Zeitgebers,” for instance, is named after natural (though chemical processes) that regulate time in living organisms, circadian rhythms and such. The cut itself pulses with friction-y mechanical sounds, a boxy rhythmic enclosure that opens into clear natural tones of keyboard, a factory’s repetitive process that churns out glowing living tones.
Late in the album, in “Oculate Beings,” Jim Becker (who has worked in Califone and Iron & Wine) slips a reeling country fiddle into the mix while Mueller wallops the twos and fours. It’s a surprising moment where the Can-like haze of motorik precision clears and a bit of Americana slips in.
It’s hard to say exactly how the visual elements of this multidisciplinary project influenced the music, or vice versa, but undeniable that Bellowing Sun is one of Fennelly’s best and most brightly colored albums yet. Let the great drum spin, let the harmonium roar and the synthesizer dance in an ecstatic mesh of mind and matter and sensation.
DOWNLOAD: “Matchstick Grip,” “Zeitgebers,” “Oculate Beings”