REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Beautifully crafted debut from Mutual Benefit that at times conjures Mercury Rev at their finest

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

After several years cutting his teeth running his own label to release his friend's songs, Jordan Lee steps out into a blaze of autumn sunlight as Mutual Benefit


Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond (OUT 13TH JANUARY)

'Love's Crushing Diamond' opens with the ramshackle orchestra warm-up of
'Strong River', a breeze rattling its way through shuffling percussion and swooning strings before ceding the floor to a plaintive vocal that summons a sweeter and less lovelorn
Josh T Pearson or
The Antlers' Peter Silberman. It's a beautifully languid scene setter as frontman Jordan Lee, backed in all that follows by a shifting group of collaborators, shakes himself down for the task in hand (
“I clear my mind of joy and sorrow... the river only knows to carry on”).
'Golden Wake' takes the insistent beat of Mercury Rev's
'Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp' to underpin another tale of sweet optimism and defiance and it's an all too fitting reference point as there's a distinct debt owing to that band's 1997 opus
'Deserter’s Songs' across the album's seven tracks. Whether it's Lee's Jonathan Donahue-aping vocals or the generally Fridmann-esque atmospherics of orchestral comfort throughout,
'Love's Crushing Diamond' plays out a visual landscape of sepia-toned autumn sunsets much in the way that splendid album did fifteen years or so ago. Which isn't to say there's not some more contemporary sonic bedfellows hinted at herein. The delicate banjo and fragile over-enunciation of words in
'Advanced Falconry' that teeters on the brink of being over cloying but remains affecting
(“I won't forget the way she flies”) is pure
Avi Buffalo, whilst the simple beat and intonation of
'That Light That's Blinding' somehow brings to mind a more organic
Youth Lagoon albeit with the added flourish of interwoven male and female vocals. Then of course there’s the aforementioned
The Antlers; first album
‘Hospice’ in particular chiming with this album’s intimate outlook. None of which should in any way diminish Lee's considerable accomplishment with  
'Love's Crushing Diamond' for whilst those references may be conspicuous at times, an overall impression of painstaking and beautiful craft pervades and demands your ear’s attention.
"Let's Play"/ Statue Of A Man is a fine case in point, its slow alt-country crescendo building off a joyful refrain of
"there's always love..." whilst later on
'Strong Swimmer' the gentle sway of the banjo's arpeggio and crooning vocals with a reprise of the lyrics of
‘Strong River’ draws the album to a close in much the way it opened; blissfully drifting on that breeze. Lovely stuff.
8/10 Image courtesy of Danny Dorsa