Mumbles ~ Hinterpest: a story of wildflowers, buttonweeds and cattle skulls

mumbles_hinterpest-digitalversion-front(600)Hinterpest is a charming, alluring oddity.  The release arrives from Sweden, but sounds unearthed from the old American west.  It contains a folky, handmade tale that seems tailor-made for harvest festivals, but is released in spring.  Yet spring is only the album’s launching point; and by mixing homemade sound effects into the music ~ wind, fire, birds ~ Mumbles makes it region-free.

The tape is the beginning of an audio collection called The Beast with a Million Heads.  From this title, and the “horror” tag, we intuit a slightly sinister nature.  But the charm is still apparent.  If anything, this is the brand made popular in the Harrow County comic book series: rustic, peasant-centered and unsettling.  Deep secrets lie within these spools: rustlings of wind against the microphone, aggravated cows and frogs.  If the music is entirely pleasant – waltzes and swings, pluckings and plings – it’s only the outer veneer.  In the background, one can hear spinning plates and forlorn hums; in the foreground, desolate bows and roaring streams.  To Mumbles’ credit, the horror is never obvious.  At no point does the music topple into madness, or the field recordings into catastrophe.  Instead, moving methodically through the year, the artist traces a theme of man v. nature, with a hidden, foreboding backdrop.  Even a plucky, even-tempoed track like “Fall; harvest and scythe” has a strange current riding beneath the surface.  And if the snoring cow in “Wheelbarrows; a field of skulls” is in fact a beast of another nature, we’re all in trouble.  Even the violin tiptoes around its bed.

The set’s best track is buried deep in the album, like a body in silt.  “Solstice; woeful, paltry eulogy” conjures images of a sad procession halting before an open grave on a winter’s day.  The choir – if one can call it a choir – makes a mournful attempt at settling the lost soul, but falls short, while the wind continues to howl.  We don’t know what happens next, or if there’s any hope; but there’s still music, which is its own howling against the void.  (Richard Allen)

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