Fact: I don’t listen to enough new music. Especially after starting graduate school, it’s like… five free minutes? Either cry, or stuff whatever flavor of Cheez Its I’ve got rustling around my jacket pocket as I dream of sleep. However, working at The Advocate has its advantages.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had a really great excuse to plug into Mortal Thing’s debut album, “On Nature.” Just released a few days ago, to say that I’m blown away would be a criminal understatement. The solo project of Corvallis musician Brian Blythe – who you may know from the absolutely wicked local rock outfit Bury the Moon (RIP) – is from start to finish a masterpiece of listener engagement. I don’t use the term “masterpiece” lightly, but this record will literally reach in your chest and grab you by the brain, the spirit, the heart… whatever you’ve got. Not in the “Kali Ma!!!” Indiana Jones way, but in the sense that your first listen is going to feel like the record has been with you for years; an old friend that’s never pissed you off, not even once.
I realize that in a proper review one is supposed to point out individual tracks and praise their standout glory, but let’s not go there for once. Protocol shouldn’t trump common sense, and mine is telling me that there’s no real reason to look at this as anything but a singular piece of art. You know, a “record.” Remember those? As you travel from one end of the sonic journey to the other, you’ll be treated to an expansive environment that invites you to crawl up inside and become a part of it. If you ever enjoyed climbing inside the clothing racks at the store when you were little, disappearing into that surrealistic world for a short bit… it’s like that. Not monotonous, but monolithic.
There are a number of truly standout compositional events that help keep things fresh as you progress through the track list, such as the wonderful spoken word opening on “Multitudes,” or the seamless transition between moments that pang of Sonic Youth, and those that feel almost like an homage to Subtle. There was even an odd, fleeting dash of The Mars Volta in there on a few occasions. These moments often coincide with the peppering of brilliant guest musicians throughout the whole she-bang. Though a few of them have scattered to the wind at this point, the roster includes some recognizable past and present local heavyweights like Mishko, Landon Wordswell, Wldmnd, and Jorge Bañuelos. Blythe’s sister, Megan Williams, also makes her presence known in the form of the record’s horn sections.
Crafting something that is simultaneously familiar and surprising is not an easy thing to pull off, but Mortal Thing does it. This is the fresh, contemporary cross-genre ear / brain candy you’ve been waiting for. You can find out more about Mortal Thing and get your copy of “On Nature” via http://mortalthing.com/. I can all but guarantee it’ll be the best $10 you spend on music for a good long while.
By Johnny Beaver