New Music: White Hinterland – ‘Phylactery Factory’

Photo by David Greenwald

I’ve been listening to White Hinterland‘s debut album, the mysterious, foggy wonder Casey Dienel named Phylactery Factory, for months now and it’s only now beginning to reveal its deepest, darkest charms. For all the praise due to Joanna Newsom’s Ys, subtlety is not its strongest suit; Dienel’s debut, on the other hand, spreads Newsom’s squawky muse into an Ellingtonian fantasy.

The Newsom comparison’s a little unfair — Dienel has remarkable vocal control, and her idiosyncratic acrobatics resemble Newsom’s high-wire stumblings only by coincidence. But their ambition is the same, if directed at different angles. Ys is a record of epic, swelling narratives; in Phylactery Factory, the music tells the story. Dienel surrounds herself with, well, herself — counterpointing multi-tracked Dienels appear seemingly (but carefully) at random — and arrangements shuffling briskly with the introspective verve of afternoon jazz.

It’s emotional stuff, with the kind of bittersweet power that Jon Brion’s film scores often attain, but it’s an odd sort of gravity. White Hinterland’s songs are more blue than anything else, but even at their darkest there’s a spark that can’t help but shine through. Buried treasure, perhaps, that’ll more than reward plumbing the depths.

White Hinterland – “Dreaming Of The Plum Trees”: mp3

Related: White Hinterland at The Echo, 3.20.08
Related: The Top 13 Songs of 2008, Halfway


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