Amelia’s Magazine | Musée Mécanique – Hold This Ghost – Album Review

musee mecanique low res photo by Xilia Faye

As a child I visited a penny arcade in a forgotten coastal town. A musty smell lingered in the air as I eagerly pushed coin after coin into machines that whirred to obedient life, revealing haunting melodies from off-kilter puppets which seemed perpetually happy despite their peeling paint and knotted limbs. Dead wood creatures that had a story; memories locked in sadness.

Portland five piece Musée Mécanique are no doubt familiar with the legacy of the penny arcade, choosing to name themselves after San Francisco’s eminent house of puppetry delights and musical intrigue. Accordingly, their music is a ride of sweetness and sadness that will at once elate and soothe you.

Debut Hold This Ghost is a postcard of tales from the memory and a triumph of Musée Mécanique’s own aptitude for creating delicately layered music that melds the best quality of guitars, keyboards, glockenspiels, accordions, soft percussion and often most strikingly, frontman Micah Rabwin’s own fine voice.

Each song glides with its own majesty upon a throng of instruments, displayed no better in opening track Like Home, seemingly fading up rather than in with the rising rush of a melodica coming to life. It feels like discovering something for the first time; wiping the dust away to reveal a forgotten delight. In this sense Musée Mécanique are like nothing else in their insistence on distancing themselves from a more contemporary context and harking back to another time.

Casting them as nostalgic just for the sake of it seems unjustified, especially as they prove that it’s not just another time they hanker for but perhaps another place altogether as the galactic battle of synths shooting back and forth over Sleeping in Our Clothes proves. A wistful desire for the past seems at once beautiful and tortured but it’s the other-worldliness of their sound that allows you to slip away from reality for a few quick minutes.

MuseeMirrors (photo by Laura D'Art)

The eerie vibration of the saw turns a story of the Wright Brothers’ first airborne journey into a macabre but undeniably mesmerising waltz soundtrack to a magician’s performance in The Propellors, carrying you safely on sweet vocal harmonies before letting you tumble again into the twilight zone of your own mind.

Hold This Ghost flowed organically from the minds of Rabwin and fellow bandmate/producer/engineer Sean Ogilvie, seemingly unspoiled by overt additional involvement. The participation of Tucker Martine, who’s worked on projects with artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Laura Viers, is revealed in a more obvious folkish bounce to Fits and Starts but for the most part Musée Mécanique stand apart from any notion that they are entrenched in some kind of Portland-esque sound.

Their branch of folk is tinged with a melancholy that owes much to the ethereal sounds of forgotten music locked in arcades. Like the sounds that are the reward of the payment to the belly of these machines, Musée Mécanique’s own melodies are released and allow names, faces and places to spill forth in The Things That I Know, modernised from more mechanical rhythms through their dedication to building a sound around a soft flickering guitar.

In a tale that mirrors the gentle voyeurism of The Virgin Suicides, a girl is followed season from season, seemingly the key to a forlorn romance that haunts Hold This Ghost. Lyrics seldom disappoint but the words of Under Glass capture the essence of Musée Mécanique as we are left wondering ‘Who we are imagining in our chests/Fluttering’; a testament to the group’s graceful manner for allowing their music to capture tales like fluttering butterflies to be admired.

The tales we admire in Hold This Ghost are accompanied perfectly by a striking soundtrack of sometimes surreal, sometimes morose but always enchanting folk infused music. The swells of accordions and tinkling keys mirror the whir of the atmosphere of Musée Mécanique’s namesake museum but it is the band that master the art of transporting your mind to your most surreal and lasting dreams.

Categories ,Laura Viers, ,Like Home, ,Musee Mecanique, ,Sufjan Stevens, ,The Wright Brothers

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