Most records begin at one point and end at another: they chauffeur their listeners from a departure point to a destination, with or without purpose. Mutual Benefit’s The Cowboy’s Prayer EP (2011, re-issued 2014) lacks even a basis of determined linearity. Instead, it is content within its infinite cornfield, where Point A is not so vastly different from Point B… we could all very well be walking in circles. Happily so.
For Mutual Benefit (real name Jordan Lee), folk basslines lay the groundwork for layers upon layers of wishy-washy synth and lofty vocals. Glitchy keys on tracks like “The Cowboy’s Prayer” make our hearts flutter; this two minute, forty-eight second track could simply loop itself and no one would notice. Here’s the recent video for “Auburn Epitaphs,” directed by Dean Bukhart:
An interesting selection of found sounds can be, erm, found on the album: the opening of “Backwards Fireworks” seems to feature a variety of playground instruments (those out-of-tune atrocities built into stiff primary-colored plastic, yes) or something of the like. And yet, despite the source material, it is tastefully and overwhelmingly done.
“Backwards Fireworks” runs seamlessly into “招魂,” the translation of which — we had to look it up — is either the Chinese title for the 2013 American film The Conjuring or a word meaning “evocation.” Pitchfork seems to think it’s the latter, and the track, a bumbling folksy close to soft indie drama, doesn’t exactly conjure images of the horror film. The site also concurs that The Cowboy’s Prayer is a point of musical clarity and focus for Mutual Benefit, who would later make his full-length debut with Love’s Crushing Diamond (2013).
Regardless, Lee and his live show counterparts will be stopping in San Francisco next Monday, October 13, as part of an extensive US tour. If you’re in the area, prepare to be stopping by The Independent that evening: you won’t regret experiencing firsthand “the sound of everything making sense, if just for a second.”
Article by Joanna Jiang