Monday, July 8, 2013

Pitstop: Mutual Benefit

If you've ever wished Bibio had more songs like "Lovers' Carvings" or that North Highlands leaned a little harder into their folk influence then Boston's Mutual Benefit should be right up your alley. During his set at Day 2 of this year's FMLY Fest Brooklyn, I was completely and utterly transfixed. It was had to believe so many sounds could come out of one man but that's exactly what Jordan Lee's live set consisted of. Sure he had assistance from violinist Jake Falby to add an extra layer of beautiful ornaments but for the most part Mutual Benefit is all Jordan. A labor of obvious love that radiates from the very music itself.

Whether acoustic or amped up, Mutual Benefit's dreamy folk-infused experimental pop manages to invoke the same sort of awe, unfolds the same soothing blanket of comforting thrall regardless of its presentation. Through a shifting multitude of instruments (guitar, banjo, synth), Jordan Lee's poetic lyricism comes to life among minimal textural landscapes. Their power is in their lack of verbosity and the way they're so incredibly intertwined with the music they're set to. Take "Auburn Epitaphs" and its serpentine stretch; the words so incredibly reliant/compliant with the weaving melody.

Also impressive is the way Mutual Benefit's live set transcends his recordings. Perhaps due to more limited resources of whatever Lee and whoever he rounds up to play with him can carry/touch, the live show unfurls in a remarkably different manner than the recordings. "Desert Island Feeling" goes from a sort of synthy jam to an atmospheric loop of slow shimmering beauty. "The Cowboy's Prayer" becomes an Aaron Copland-recalling percussive ramble.

Of all the sets I saw at FMLY Fest Brooklyn, Mutual Benefit's was perhaps the most enthralling, the most transforming. And listening to his music it's not hard to see why. Jordan Lee crafts dazzling musical moments that border on the magical. They're enjoyable but also affecting. Pleasant and simple but inspiring a complex array of thoughts and feelings. But really it all just comes down to Jordan Lee's ability to blend electronics and folk without losing any heart.

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