Elephant Micah - Where In Our Woods - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Elephant Micah - Where In Our Woods

by Rob Taylor Rating:6.5 Release Date:2015-01-26

Elephant Micah is Joseph O’Connell’s long running project. Where in Our Woods is his latest album, and takes as its subject matter the ruminant thoughts of growing up in Southern Indiana, obviously a part of the world contemplating the impact of progress upon its largely obsolete culture. O’Connor is a trained folklorist, and brings to the narrative a lot of folkloric imagery, designed to transport the listener into O’Connell’s world.

The musical arrangements are sparse, with voice, nylon guitar, pump-organ, flute and kick-drum; and the occasional harmonic backing of Will Oldham, Joseph’s friend and collaborator. 'By the Canal', for those familiar with the work of Joey Burns and Calexico, starts with a kind of Mexicano strumming, but the momentum shifts to near stasis as the narrative unfolds.

The story of a canal, a tree, and a stranger staring at a horse with a gilded horn "like a painted unicorn", sketches a slightly allegorical picture of rural life. But then, the same can be said for the whole album, where the imagery is slightly obtuse. The music is gentle, often just the plucking of a guitar, the gentle rumbling of the kick-drum, the funereal but warmish chords of the pump-organ.

Which is not to say the musical accompaniment is ordinary, but it is an exercise in minimalism, where the instrumentation plays second fiddle to the telling of the story. The only track which shows any variance is ‘Light Side’, where O’Connell sounds like Solid Air-era John Martyn, and the music contains more layering, and is rhythmically more dense.

I would hazard a guess that fans of Mark Kozalek and Will Oldham would appreciate the musical subtlety, and storytelling focus.

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