House Show Business
Beyond the bustle of record labels, the internet and live music venues is the soft sound of music coming from a park, an art space or a living room. These are the places an arguably larger percentage of the music populace share their gifts with the world, often to a much more appreciative audience. But what happens when an inhabitant of this DIY landscape finds himself catapulted into recognition by a major music tastemaker? What can be done to reconcile these disparate landscapes?
Jordan Lee is the mastermind behind Mutual Benefit, as well as the tape label/collective kassette klub. He has experienced the “wandering bard” lifestyle firsthand, not just in touring but also in his moves from Columbus to Austin to Boston to St. Louis, where most of Love’s Crushing Diamond was recorded. Lee states he is more accustomed playing smaller donation-based shows, where one passes the hat around. This makes sense, as this music would fill the smaller spaces very nicely, allowing the beauty and intimacy to reach its immediate responders. Probably not so much in a “rock club.”
This record has received some pretty big accolades, particularly from Pitchfork, and yet the album is simply quaint and polite. It is Folk-ish with orchestral overtones, and a lot of the musicians’ “set up” clips and grooving are left on the recordings. This allows the atmosphere to build before we nestle into the soft sounds of these seven songs. There are no singles here, no “standout tracks,” just a half hour of mild poetry and harmonies set to a pleasant backdrop of acoustic guitars, strings, light percussion and the occasional synthesizer. There have been many records like this one over the last ten years, and it is purely subjective what would make this stand out as better from the others. But there is beauty here, and Lee took the time to make it sound as he wanted. That in itself is worth a listen.