It took a few plays of The Vision of a Dying World’s EP I Will Not Fear What I Don’t Understand for it to grow on me – surprising, I thought, because it came to me so highly recommended. But once this EP started to sink in, its roots grew deep.
Perhaps somewhat strangely, I Will Not Fear reminds me a lot of the city I (currently) live in: Norman, Oklahoma. The EP is little (a short five songs), but substantial, like the semi-small town of Norman, which feels a lot smaller than it is. The EP blends in nicely with its roots and contemporaries of folk and country, but definitely still stands out. There are some decidedly Woody Guthrie-esque (and thus, Bob Dylan-esque) moments, but enough modernity that I could easily imagine it played in one of Norman’s arty coffee shops and hangouts. There’s a certain fuzziness in the recording that might make one think of continually windy weather. And I, too, had to warm up to Norman a little before falling in love with it.
“Do I Have To Stay Here Alone (Big White Clouds)” opens I Will Not Fear with a woody graininess, topped with a little sharpness in lead vocals that balances with full-sounding harmonies that actually sound like big white clouds, if that’s not too big a stretch of the imagination. The even-paced airy choruses blend the pieces together nicely.
“Heart in Seven” is more uptempo, but it doesn’t lose the “down home”/DIY/basement-in-a-prairie-home feel because of its simple instrumentation and echo-y reverb. The excellently-named “And the Truth Shall Let You Be or Brain vs. Heart” is the musical equivalent of a wavy line, with both soaring and dipping moments, pulling you along gently until suddenly you’re there with the band at the end, wishing it wasn’t quite over yet and wondering how you got there.
Of all the others on the EP, the song “Mantra/What Is and What Is Not” is definitely the most epic. It seems to have several movements, one sounding big and orchestral and another that emphasizes Fleet Foxes-like backup vocals.
I Will Not Fear What I Don’t Understand ends with a cover of Cake’s “Mexico,” but in The Vision of a Dying World’s revamping of the song, even a Cake fan might not recognize it.
Hopefully after this metaphor-heavy review, the reader will take a strong liking to The Vision of a Dying World’s EP I Will Not Fear What I Don’t Understand much sooner than I did.