Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Of the Cathmawr Chills

August 19, 2009

I listen to a wide variety of music – really, almost anything but country (cue an involuntary shudder). I’ve got music for different moods and different activities. Of The Cathmawr Yards is the newest album from Horse’s Ha, an indie pop group with folk influence. Their sound is mellow, with a pace that is almost leisurely. Standard rock/pop instrumentation is set off by violin and non-standard vocals that vary from a single, husky female voice to a trio of two women and a man. If I had to describe them, I’d say they’re a varying mix of Fleet Foxes, Rocky Votolato, and The Arcade Fire.

The song “Plumb” is a somewhat simplistic opening, but it captures their style nicely. They make use of contrasting male and female vocals throughout, which is especially appealing with the multi-octave separation. The tone is a little dreamy, something like a folk-influenced lullaby.

Here and there in other parts of the album are bits that will make you smile. “Asleep In A Waterfall” has a bass and percussion intro that’s fun and mischievous; “Left Hand” delivers a solid dose of wit with the lyrics, “Let down by my own left hand / A pox on this man let down by his own left hand.” Additionally, use of trumpet on “Left Hand” gives it some great flavor. When I listened to “Heiress,” it reminded me of Firefly, beloved one-season sci-fi fusion of space, westerns, and competing western and Chinese culture. It has strong emotional appeal and a bevy of instruments coming into play throughout.

Elsewhere in the album, “The Piss Choir” is a standout with a playful intro and strong melody and progression. There is always something going on in the music of Horse’s Ha. It’s rich, full, and captivating; I’m constantly trying to identify the various elements floating in and out of each song. That’s awesome.

In spite of their interesting and nuanced vocals, instrumentals are where Horse’s Ha really shine. The song “Liberation” is an instrumental that makes use of a range of instruments, including guitar, violin, percussion, piano, and trumpet. “Map of Stars” also displays excellent instrumentals. The song has vocals, but they are secondary to some fabulous musicianship that occurs when removing singing from the equation. The song has a great feeling of movement and progression, almost like there’s some Aaron Copland (classical composer) influence to it. Horse’s Ha should do an all-instrumental album, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Of The Cathmawr Yards is a strong album that displays a wide range of musical capabilities and thoughtful writing. More importantly to me, it’s great music for relaxing, which is something I’ve found myself craving while traveling in Beijing. If there was ever a city absolutely guaranteed to make you feel stress, Beijing would definitely be that city. Not only am I enjoying the album, I’ve actually found it a little therapeutic! If you need something similar, be sure to pick up Of The Cathmawr Yards by Horse’s Ha.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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