Mole Suit Choir ‎– Phantom Paddle Boat

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normalsrecords

normalsrecords

June 29, 2017
Baltimore’s Liz Downing and Rupert Wondolowski make for an alt-folk/country pairing to rival the Sparkes’ Handsome Family and whose debut album back in 2013, Campfire Spacesuit, was as delightful as it was unexpected. It’s an honour and a privilege, then, to report that their sophomore effort (as we don’t usually say this side of the Pond) is similarly stuffed with off-kilter subject matter, varyingly skewwhiff yet invariably sublime melodies and well-executed harmonies.
This is structured as opposed to scattergun strangeness, though. The trademark quirkiness, while palpable, is kept neatly in check while the staple armoury of guitar/banjo (frequently bowed) augmented by pedal steel and, most deliciously to these ears, by flugelhorn on ‘Strawberry Xanax’ and ‘Amply Coated’, the beautiful if brief coda to this compact and perfectly confectioned album.
Shot through with pedal steel accompaniment, ‘Pills’ at one point has the pair crooning like chemically enhanced cartoon characters soundtracking a Tex Avery short while the noir-sounding ‘Increasingly Virtual Worlds’ finds the male/female vocal intertwine sounding like a cross between down-home Kantner/Slick (imagine had Sunfighter been conceived, written and recorded on a mountain cabin back porch) and a transplanted Richard and Linda Thompson.
The kooky crumbles momentarily on ‘Lonesome Cowboy On The Protein Deprivation Trail’. It’s as near to middle period REM as you’d imagine possible for any person of discernment to tread without getting their credibility burned to a crisp. However while in Stipe and Co.’s case this smacked of major label and stadium tour soul-selling, in these hands it sounds like aural ambrosia.

Without namechecking every single composition – and they are all worthy of mention it must be said - suffice to say they don’t drop a stitch. Not a one. All told it’s a late contender for a place in the personal top 10 albums of 2016. Strange bedfellow with the likes of Sex Swing and Thought Forms, I grant you, but then one of the abiding joys of music is you never know who or what you’re likely to wake up with.

- Ian Fraser, Terrascope Reviews, UK