Mumbles ~ Maystow Morrow: a story of rustling straw, thistle burrs and fire

We originally planned to wait until October to review this release.  When it first arrived, the pandemic was ebbing, and we were not in the mood for dark music.  But now the horror has returned, along with our appetite for the macabre.  We’re not sure that this is a good thing, but it’s good for Mumbles, whose follow-up to Hinterpest seems tailor-made for heatwaves, wildfires and apocalypses.

Mining European dark folk, Mumbles travels through “a week ov festivities to celebrate the year ov thirteene suns.”  The album is filled with organic sounds that recreate a country faire, albeit with an aura of darkness; the revelers are never quite sure if there’s going to be a sacrifice at the end of the day or if they will be the sacrifice.  Dark gods may visit at any time: plague, pestilence, or beast.  If the future is so uncertain, why not drink mead?  Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the recording is the reminder that while rituals and superstitions change, human nature remains the same.  One need look no further than the belief that “Jesus’ blood will protect us from COVID” or that Tom Hanks drinks the blood of children in order to stay young.  Okay, maybe that last one is less preposterous.

During “Fayn: whispers among the straw,” there’s singing and dancing in the foreground, and wind and whispers in the background.  The sung theme will reappear throughout the album.  The sense of something lurking on the periphery informs much of modern policy, from immigration to the stock market.  And it’s easy to identify modern witches: anyone who fails to meet an arbitrary community standard.  Update: they still can’t fly or float.

How comfortable would we be in Mumbles’ imagined village?  Let’s imagine for a moment that we are able to fit in, with clothes and vernacular suited to the region, and a few missing teeth.  Might we recognize correlations between the people of that time and this?  Would we embrace the simplicity of recalling that most things are beyond our control?

On Thursday and Friday, the storms pick up, while the festivities continue unabated.  Medieval folk were as tuned into the weather as modern folk are tuned into The Weather Channel.  A change in the weather meant a change in fortunes: a crop watered or turned, a home spared or destroyed.  People once believed that weather was caused by human behavior: that sin could produce storm.  Today we laugh at such uneducated beliefs while our habits of consumption accelerate climate change and our rejection of science allows pandemic variants to proliferate.

And so, there is something oddly comforting about Mumbles’ return to medieval times.  The album, which we initially thought would be scary, bears familiar themes.  We hear ourselves in the past, and we ask, with a life expectancy half ours, how did these villagers seem to have more fun than we’re having now?  (Richard Allen)

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