I'll start this review like I should start all reviews - with an excerpt from a French blog. Here's my half-assed translation of Ecoute Premiere's review of e.p. hall's Mommy Crow
: "Like their friends in Jookabox, they come from the hinterlands of Indiana. To think that, like Iceland, the Midwest is blessed with music... "
The preternaturally-gifted Bloomington-based backwoodspeople responsible for Mommy Crow
do have the benefit of some book learning: the female lead singer, e.p., whose full name isn't listed on press materials, is pursuing a Ph.D. in social cognition. A primary collaborator for this record Andy Goheen, who isn't quite so circumspect about putting his name out there. This is the group's first full-length, with a demo (dating from 2003) and EP already available.
But while the French reviewer obviously thinks we live in flyover territory, he does get towards a salient point: e.p. hall's work has a rural, mysterious, abandoned farmhouse vibe, inspired by a nature that's as spooky or malevolent as in The Birds
or "The Raven," the crow on the cover of the CD's cardboard packaging both beautiful and threatening in turns.
e.p.'s tense, warbling, cracked and emotive lead vocals are pretty and strangled; she massages every word, evoking bird calls with a caw-like attack or tweeting vibrato. The music is eclectic: organic textures (acoustic guitar, bells, drums) mix with electronics (organ-like drones, more synthetic tweets), sound effects (whistling wind, creaking) and processing (distorted vocals and drums). That mix sometimes works for me, particularly on the standout opening "Emperor's Note," which packs the most dynamic contrast, starting from acoustic guitar and drone before adding drums and guitars, with e.p.'s voice processed to make her sound a bit more unbalanced and desperate than on the rest of the album.
But the album is somewhat sabotaged by some throwaway low-fi fragments (I'm reminded of the first Grampall Jookabox record, which hides moments of brilliance behind swaths of annoying experimentation), and the gothic vibe is compromised by intrusive, broken Casio-esque electronics and digressive intros and conclusions to the more coherent songs.
Sounds like: Tom Waits, Cat Power, early Grampall Jookabox