“You might have a better feel for this beat than I do.” This line is spoken by Joseph O’Connel (Elephant Micah) presumably to his band over the sound-check-staggering that begins his latest release, Louder Than Thou. The listener is greeted by a modest song writer, unsure even in his own craft. This modesty is felt as a theme throughout the album. It’s actually quite heavy. It may be better described as the realization of what it is to be a human removed from a greater spiritual existence, possibly a maker of all. Some may name this God/Jesus though any number of maker names that exist on our earth could fit. In Won These Wings, O’connel sings
I fly just like I’m free
But both these wings
I’m up above it all
Here I fall
Heed my call
The individual may soar only spiritually. Though wings may be granted in some way, the ground is very much under foot. There is a felt height at times but always a coming down. The seeker is blind but is …electric upon a lion’s back…
In this six song LP, simplicity is the direction of the stride. A call for new starts, awakenings and a certainty that a peace bringing reunion of sorts may be in our future. It is a relinquishing of control yet also a claiming of it as an offering from an earthly life.
I guess I am not sold on all of the modesty; the songs are too good. The singer references his place as a song writer multiple times. In If I Were A Surfer he sings
If I were a maker
I’d drop this old guitar
Let it lie where it lands
I’d start all over again
I am not sure I believe it. His smooth and rich voice carries purpose even though the lyrics could be deemed meek.
The singing alone is enough for this album to win favor but it goes beyond that. Though rooted firmly in the traditions of American Folk music, elements of experimental music lie within each song. They appear casually and naturally, creating a landscape congruent with the albums larger themes. There may be an airy sounding saxophone crying out wildly like a bird; a feedback dowsed guitar line or an underlying percussive element that feels almost improvised. These chances being taken on Louder Than Thou and executed so well are what make it one of the most captivating records I have heard in a while. I recommend headphone listening with the record on to catch all of the subtle happenings that create a teeming atmosphere. I chose the song Rooster On the Loose because of it’s sparse feel. Structure is a loose concept. The guitar is there but almost left to it’s own voice, the strums sounding mostly open. Silence is used as an instrument and in this, it is both listened to and felt. I identify with the rooster in the song and find that I am less-loosed after listening. Find Louder Than Thou here.