Mouthus Divisionals

[Ecstatic Peace!; 2009]

Styles: drone, noise
Others: Axolotl, The Skaters, The Dead C

Despite (or perhaps due to) the large amount of material that Brian Sullivan and Nate Nelson have released this decade as Mouthus, there isn’t any single album that would readily define their sound for the uninitiated, although it's likely that each of their followers can point to one as their favorite. If asked to choose, mine would be 2006’s The Long Salt, although critical opinion seems to focus on 2007’s Saw A Halo. One of the few things Mouthus has recorded in an actual studio, Saw a Halo contained all the hallmarks of an outré band attempting to reign in and refine its sound: the vocals were further up in the mix, acoustic guitars were incorporated (and readily detectable), its compositions hewed far closer to typical song structures, and it had a sheen of clarity theretofore unheard of in the band’s catalog. If for some reason you were one of the listeners drawn in by that approach and/or a confusingly high score from some other publication (cough–Pitchfork–cough), then the duo’s latest album Divisionals may not be for you.

Divisionals is made up of four tracks, two on each side of the LP version. This time the pieces are mostly quiet and unsettling dronescapes. Detuned guitars clang slowly and hang in the air like fog. The percussion is subtle and pensive as opposed to the forward propulsion of a song like “Trains Again” from The Long Salt. Parts of the album sound like the leftover scraps of some shoegaze song stripped of everything but a hint of the original guitar melody, with vocals buried somewhere near the bottom of the garbage dump where it sounds like it was recorded.

Herein lies the only real problem with Divisionals: this description is practically fitting for all four songs. Call it consistency of sound or call it lack of development — beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, right? It’s far easier and more appropriate to think of the album in terms of sides of the LP, with each a continuation of the other. It begs to be set up on a loop, like some of the ambient scraps from those Buddha Machines, allowed to play out into infinity.

In the end what we’re left with is another solid — and perhaps, under the right conditions, even great — addition to the Mouthus catalog. I’m often surprised at how well even the duo’s early albums have held up, and I expect that Divisionals will age equally well. There's also the prospect of another release just around the corner, one that may effectively incorporate elements of this release into something even more stunning. And if there's any constant within Mouthus’ work, it’s their continual reevaluation, a chipping away of the unnecessary and accumulation of the essential.

1. The Duration Myth
2. Rotary Sends
3. In The Erase
4. Telescoped Histories

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