Review of Mussee Mecanique's album Hold This Ghost released through Souterrain Transmissions
Portland five-piece Musee Mecanique are something of an unknown quantity outside of their hometown, yet having spent the best part of three years constructing their debut album, 'Hold This Ghost', their ardent striving for perfection is a unique entity for this day and age's market-driven rush release ethos that gives scant regard for quality. Not that they're entirely new to this game of course; singer, guitarist and songwriter in chief Sean Ogilvie cut his teeth in esteemed post-rock outfit Tristeza alongside the likes of The Album Leaf's Jimmy LaValle and Stephen Swesey, more recently renowned for his work with electronic experimentalists Languis. It is here though that Ogilvie's main objectives are undoubtedly channelled, and in fellow songwriter and instrumentalist Micah Rabwin has found the perfect foil for his melancholy, yet instinctively subtle musings.
Indeed its been an intensive, occasionally arduous mission to get both a label to release 'Hold This Ghost' and some form of licensing deal so listeners on this side of the Atlantic get a taste of what makes Ogilvie and Rabwin - to name but two of the five members that make up Musee Mecanique - potentially one of the most dynamic songwriting duo's to emerge this past decade. While there'll no doubt be arguments as to whether they can add the word "prolific" to their ungainly list of self-descriptive nouns, they've sacrificed filler (for the most part anyway) in order to ensure their first record leaves its own indelible mark on music's saturated landscape.
While comparisons with the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel and Bright Eyes were perhaps always going to occur, there's a certain panache both in the winsome vocal delivery and semi-acoustic laments of both 'Like Home' and 'The Propellors' that make it difficult to get past those Conor Oberst similarities for too long. However, scratch beyond the surface and there are some powerful vignettes here that recall the hippyish whimsy of early Donovan ('Two Friends Like Us') and the darker, lovelorn sentimentality of Cheval Sombre ('The Things That I Know'), Ogilvie's moving riposte to a former lover "She wraps her letters up with fingernails, and reads them only to herself" being particularly cutting.
At times, 'Hold This Ghost' does tend to drift into formulaic waters, the forgettable 'Under Glass' and alt-country standard-lite 'Fits And Starts' proving mawkish in the extreme. However, the orchestral tones of 'Sleeping In Our Clothes' and dainty fairground ride of 'Our Changing Skins' bring 'Hold This Ghost' to a comfortably vigorous finale that promises to bear an even riper selection of exotic fruits in the future. A warm welcome it is then.