In These Murky Waters — In These Murky Waters
(Apollon Records AP025, 2019, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-07-29
I don’t know exactly when it started, but there is a trend in music for adding the sound of vinyl cracking and popping into the background of music, or even the type of distortion that comes from old analog tape. I find this trend very annoying, and it shows up in several places on the self-titled debut of In These Murky Waters. I get that the intent is to create a soundscape, to evoke a mood, but it still bugs me. But on to other matters… The instrumental half of this Swedish duo is Mattias Olsson, who is likely known to many for his involvement with Änglagård, White Willow, Kaukasus, Necromonkey, Galasphere 347, Pixie Ninja, and more. Here, he is credited with Optigan, Mellotron, Chamberlin, and Orchestron, all analog tape-replay instruments. He is joined by singer Ewik Rodell, who also wrote the lyrics. There are other sounds present that don’t seem to be covered by those credits, but I guess I’ll take them at their word and assume that all the percussion was produced using those instruments, along with the guitar and sound effects. There are times when reliance on these instruments lends an air of fetishistic artificiality to the music, but for the most part it presents an artistic vision that is consistent, but has enough variety to maintain interest. Rodell’s voice is very nice, warm, pleasant, and emotive, equally effective on both quiet, breathy passages and more forceful parts. There are times when she reminds me of Happy Rhodes, and other times of Linda Thompson, but she is all around a great singer, and the lyrics are quite good as well. Olsson’s parts play almost like a demonstration album exploring all the capabilities of his vintage instruments. You will occasionally hear the classic familiar sounds of Mellotron flutes or strings, but you’re just as likely to hear harps, brass, piano, organ, guitar, woodwinds, marimba, a whole array of percussion, and sound effects like a buzzing fly. The circus-band backing of “Carnival” is of particular note, with a warped funhouse-mirror interpretation of the familiar style. On the whole, In These Murky Waters is a fascinating journey, well worth exploring on both artistic and technical levels, which comes down to the songwriting in the end. These are really good songs, and would have worked equally well even without the reliance on uncommon instrumentation.
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