Mythical Beast Scales

[Not Not Fun; 2009]

Styles: psych, folk, doom
Others: Pocahaunted, Bardo Pond, Espers

Music is cool. Sometimes music is shitty, but music is mostly cool. It is interesting, for example, that the same 12 notes with which European classical composers used to write grand polyphonic chamber tunes for their queen’s dinner parties are also the ones made into chords and clunked out by pop bands. It is interesting that, in the past century or so, the whole world has made an industry, a business, around these 12 notes. It is interesting that this very industry usually cares not about the actual 12 notes or how they’re placed next to each other, but about the people belting them out -- how they look, their persona -- and the group of people who will like them. This all makes music simultaneously cool and shitty.

But remember when music was passed down by ear? Remember the aural folk tradition? Remember when that continued through the years and, slowly but surely, folk became more of an aesthetic decision than anything else? When folk meant acoustic guitars and finger pointing? That was cool, too. When playing and recording in their band Mythical Beast, Corinne Sweeney, Jeremiah Cowlin, and Aaron Hawn may or may not be aware of the sensations I get while listening to their album, but it's the same feeling I get when I’m listening to Joni Mitchell, or Vashti Bunyan, or Sandy Denny, or fucking Neil Young. The feeling is that I’m taking in something purely sincere, that I’m listening to someone take everything they’ve ever listened to, seen, and thought, and spit it back out into the atmosphere in the sparsest and most understated way possible, and that makes it so much bigger than what it started out as.

If you just listen to Scales song-by-song, their aesthetic inclinations are made clear: the band's sparse percussion, the distorted guitars, the liquid tempos, Sweeney’s immaculate, beautiful, quavering voice. The band is often lumped into the new and odd psychedelic tones currently being obsessed over, and rightfully so. The strings are black, charred, bent, and hot throughout the whole album. “Eyes Into Space” exemplifies this sonic template perfectly. The guitar, bass, and voice all grunt and riff simultaneously, only to switch tempo, with battery percussion just watching on like a chaperone. “Fall down into the bleeding ground.” “Crawl into space.” “Child is a naïf.” The words come out in thick droplets, in pulsating and living and thick juice. Cowlin’s guitar rides out its opiate dirge, toeing the line between metal riffs choking in a marijuana haze and crisp, imaginative pop harmonies.

“Live to Live” opens with underwater strings oscillating under the force of the song's liquid-peyote-mountainous disaster. “My knees/ My breath/ All night.” The voice is translucent and ghostly. When the wet opener ends, we see substance. We see acoustic guitars, tambourine, and a gypsy march to the sun, with Sweeney’s vocals forcing me to draw comparisons to Sandy Denny’s voice in “Battle of Evermore” in the most tasteful of ways possible. This very structure, as seemingly loose as it is on paper and in the ear, is torn up and thrown away, and in its place lies a floating mess of consonance with “Chaos Spinner.” Here, we see a synthesizer float from chord to chord in the most drawn-out of fashions, with Sweeney taking her pipes to the edge of their capacity in this song-length cadenza.

Financed by Espers’ Greg Weeks and recorded on a 24-track tape machine manufactured in the 70s, this is a record that both acknowledges what came before and looks far out into the distance. Does it get monotonous with the same sounds on basically every song? Does the middle drag a little bit? Does it require only listening to one song at a time, with the lyric sheet on your lap? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. But the vinyl is transparent, the sound is warm to the point of being hot, and the songs will make you write an album review filled with poor word choice and an eighth-grade sensibility.

1. Cycle/Circle
2. Black Walls
3. River Blindness
4. Live to Live
5. Eyes Into Space
6. Light in the Maze
7. Chaos Spinner
8. Ready for Waste

Most Read