Dragging An Ox Through Water
The Tropics of Phenomenon
(04.2009, Freedom To Spend)
RIYL = Kurt Weisman, Ursula Bogner, complete awesomeness
This...now this is something. Like whoa! My updates have been sparse as of the last couple weeks and are likely to continue to be so for a couple more as I finish out this semester. Oh man, Summer has been a long time coming huh? Well I had to break this little silence, if only momentarily for what is quite possibly the most ridiculously radical (= ridiculous, right Grant?) record I have heard in more than just a little while. Wowza. Seriously, I can’t stop pressing repeat. This is going to sustain me through finals and beyond for certain. So, what/who is it? Dragging An Ox Through Water is the official moniker of Portland resident, Brian Mumford. Apparently, the Awesome Vistas label in Portland snuck The Tropics of Phenomenon out secretly last year to the exasperatedly positive response of the local Portland scene, but with little other adulation to speak of. Now, Pete Swanson (formerly of the mighty Yellow Swans) has seen fit to re-release the album on his label, Freedom To Spend, as a compact disc, and thank goodness for that. My heavens, this is too good for words and my particular case of words are so shot and tired. The first thing you should know about Dragging An Ox Through Water, I suppose, is that he is a sorcerer. You are dealing with magic here. At the core of these little pockets of sorcery lie the most simplistic and beautiful of outsider pop balladry, of bizarre Americana and fragile, freakish folk. All on their lonesome, these gems would shine a country mile in every direction. The core is strong and unique, in the same vein as, say, Joanna Newsom or Neutral Milk Hotel. However, Mr. Mumford is not merely a genius song crafter but cavernous sound engineer. These songs are mortally infused with an electronic pulse that propels them into a realm of ancient, mythical robotics. It colours the album in the most enchantingly peculiar way and lifts Mumford’s simple bedroom string pluckery into a whole 'nother realm. And from what I understand, the whole things is orchestrated by Mumford’s own hands. Heaved atop of his acoustic meandering, Dragging An Ox Through Water feels more like dragging an acoustic guitar through an old-world toy store and then an analog electronics shop and then a mechanical bird aviary and then the fifth dimension. And it is so awesome! If you could only see the grin on my face as I type this. I can’t help it. The Tropics of Phenomenon is so gorgeous and atonal and bizarre and exciting, I can’t contain myself. The oscillating purrs! The noisy chirps! The broken Casios! I have just come to a resolution: a deal with you the readers, as it were. I am going to post this little inept review and leave it up until I’m done with school. This album needs to be at the very top of the Forest Gospel blog posts for at least a couple of weeks. The thing is, why move onto to something else? The Tropics of Phenomenon is something to savor, something to fully and completely indulge. Don’t worry about all the Grizzly Bears and Dirty Projectors and other, similarly hyped nonsense out there in the blogosphere. Sure, those records are all fairly good, but none of those upcoming records match the utterly refreshing pulse that flows through this record. Dragging An Ox Through Water slays that stuff. So, The Tropics of Phenomenon isn’t likely to become the next Pitchfork poster child (they seem to be getting more and more offbase by the minute), but I assure you, if you want to hear some real magic, if you want to hear some real audio sorcery, something truly enchanting and transportative, something that is actually worth your hard earned recession bills - it is most certainly this. I can barely even remember what else has come out this year when I'm listening to this. So, so good. Well, enjoy, and see you in a couple of weeks.