The Tropics Of Phenomenon


"Late last year Awesome Vistas dropped an inconspicuous LP by Brian Mumford's Dragging An Ox Through Water. Chris Johanson, the Awesome Vistas label boss, has a policy of putting out super plush, limited vinyl with absolutely zero fanfare. Locally, Brian got nothing but enthusiastic press for his first LP, but it seemed like a lot of the rest of the world just didn't notice. It's always hard locating the stellar records these days in the heaps of shit that keep spewing from all corners of the globe. Still, Brian won a #2 most-slept-on release of 2008 for Fader as well as being one of the top six Portland albums of 2008 in the Portland Mercury placing him in league with a bunch of indie rock hotshots including Grouper, Au and a bunch of bands I've never, ever heard. Rewind back to my return to Portland in 2006, Brian was everywhere. He played noise shows, folk shows, punk shows, and at each gig, he managed to hold his own and gain a healthy chunk of converts. His music seems straight out of any and all conceivable American garages. On The Tropics Of Phenomenon you'll catch a lot of junk acoustic coupled with a voice that seem to pull from Arthur Russell's country rock era, but also touches on Mayo Thompson's Corky's Debt to His Father. Many of the accompanying instruments on this album are home-built electronics that Mumford manages to bend to his will. Producing the chirping, sweeping oscillations and noises reminiscent of Nerve Net Noise or Ursula Bogner. I've seen Brian pull off impressive live acrobatics going from almost purely acoustic plunking to bent, ultra rough synth actions without missing a step. It's this confusion of ultra-pop sensibilities while simultaneously grappling with electronic x-factors and turning them musical that inspired me to approach him about working together. In the Ox sound-world, the noise is a musical element and the very driving force of Brian's songs. The guitar can be dropped, the melody lost to hover in the chaotic chirping of electronic creatures that is some how in tune and time with whatever he was doing on guitar. His sets can be all acoustic, or all electronic. Grouper, New Bloods, and Pulse Emitter are all artists he's managed to play with locally and totally OWN the most orthodox crowds. On The Tropics of Phenomenon, Brian demands that the listener meet him on his own grounds and follow the controlled chaos that rests on this aluminum disc."