Gauzy Psyche-folk More Effective Than Highway Hypnosis
Calling all transcendentalists – if anyone needs something to listen to while skimming through Walden, Murals has graciously provided a 15 track patchwork of pastoral perfection. A Louisville-based trio that has been recording and touring together for over a decade, Murals is Jacob Weaver (lead vocal, guitar), Rob Monsma (drummer, vocals) and Evan Blum (bass). After releasing debut LP On A Passing Cloud, (funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign), Murals’ recent effort Violet City Lantern is their first release under Fire Talk Records, a charmingly curated mosaic of chamber pop and cavernous psyche-folk woven with Droste-esque delivery and dreamy shoe gaze, which is unsurprising considering Jacob Weaver grew up with parents who taught choral music.
Violet City Lantern conjures at times the dream pop jangle of Real Estate or Poor Moon, the curious tones of Jacco Gardner or Here We Go Magic and inevitably, Pet Sounds – but Murals directs Violet City Lantern in a way that doesn’t feel like a carbon copy or mash-up of genre contemporaries – this band has a knack for utilizing sound placement covered in their own fingerprint. Fire Talk describes the LP as “an ever present body of slow churning psychedelic folk that wouldn’t be so surprising in your hippie dad’s record collection or buried deep in the crates of your headiest record store.” As an album named after the Kentucky tours that have patrons ambling through Mammoth cave by lantern light recreating the experiences of the first visitors in the 1800s, Violet City Lantern is an exploratory, twinkling effort.
If there’s any indication of what the album will be like, the listener is left little in doubt with “Rain Intro,” just over a minute of tinkling rain and subtle thunder, the soundscape equivalent to a sweet hello and the harbinger of the mystical journey yet to unfold. Second and title track “Violet City Lantern” is synchronized and effortless, playing like a stream idly catching the light in a deserted brook that may have been there since the beginning of time. Each layer works together and merits its own special place in the song, the last leg boasting a dissonant burst before seamlessly disappearing into “Smoke Follows Beauty.”
“Smoke Follows Beauty” swirls about with an easy melody, melting Weavers’ baritone with an atmospheric sweetness; a delicate track that’s jaunty and calm, full of tinkling that conjures the sound of an alarm in a dream, heard in the the moment before it takes shape as something calling you back to consciousness. “White Wheel” begins with a similar cadence, disoriented with a dab of Tim Presley-worthy guitar that rambles in a way only Brian Wilson could appreciate before toppling into a shimmering final minute that’s vibrant and a just a little desensitizing.
“I Live Here” carries the torch of a quicker, sharper track that maintains the moony fuzz with all the potential to translate into a take-hold experience during a live performance. “The Swimmer” is reminiscent of early Animal Collective, all jewel bright tones and a focus on a clean convalescence of sound, long enough to showcase the vibrancy of the track without creating an abundance of atmosphere at the cost of aesthetic happiness. “Warm Country Magic” is aptly titled, a glowing and comforting track that seems to be the channeled sound of sunlight streaming through the window in late afternoon.
Murals has a charming command of just how to layer and entwine sounds together in a way that is fluid and fragrant. Violet City Lantern is a slow yet playful batch of sun dappled bedroom psyche, the ideal salve to spread over sorrow.