Musée Mécanique

From Shores of Sleep

Release Date: 10/24/2014 · Format: CD/LP (+CD) · Catalog-No:

“A ship at port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” (Grace Hopper)

Following their debut, “Hold this Ghost”, whose immediate melodies and lush orchestration garnered significant press and a devoted listenership worldwide, Musée Mécanique returns with the ambitious “From Shores of Sleep”, a through-composed musical voyage that finds its lineage as much in the song-cycles of Robert Schumann as in its Portland, Oregon folk-rock contemporaries. Using water as a central image, Musée Mécanique has crafted a story both surreal and insightful, meticulous and moving, a record about travels and transitions, of restlessness and longing, and the grief that comes from leaving things behind.

“From Shores of Sleep” is a statement twenty years in the making. Songwriters Micah Rabwin and Sean Ogilvie met in their 9th grade English class and have been making music together ever since. Rabwin reflects “We've known each other for 20 years, through burgeoning adolescence, making bad decisions, having children and getting married. We were coming to terms with what it means to grow up.” Over the course of two years, they labored over lyrics both together and separately, referencing Homer’s Odyssey, Dante’s Inferno, Jacques Cousteau, old sailors legends, as well as their own interactions with the ocean and the rivers near Portland. As Ogilvie notes, “There were so many personal struggles and observations from our combined lives that we wanted to fuse into this one small forty-five minute piece of material.” Rich with wordplay, lyrics with double and triple meanings, and references to earlier songs in later songs, the musical journey ultimately parallels the time and emotional toll of making the record; reconciling the writer’s identities as artists with the responsibilities and expectations of adulthood and forming a dialogue between the dreamer and the realist.

Ogilvie’s background in classical composition is apparent throughout “From Shores Of Sleep”, as is his tenure with respected post-rock instrumental band Tristeza. From the upbeat opener “O Astoria” to the arresting choral harmonies of “Castle Walls”, arrangements mirror and interact with the lyrics. Strings, woodwinds and synthesizer sounds appear and re-appear, often playing characters, not unlike Tchaikovsky’s instrumentation in “Peter and The Wolf”. Sirens enter, sung beautifully by Johanna Kunin and Alela Diane. Layered percussion at times resembles the complex rigging of a ship, and elsewhere invokes the steady pulse of ocean waves. The album ends with a quiet meditation on mortality “The Shaker’s Cask”: a pump organ dissolves into a string quintet then makes way for a regal section of woodwind and brass, each change emphasizing the song’s message: all things will pass.

To perform the arrangements live is a daunting task requiring more than a dozen keyboards and an array of acoustic instruments from flugelhorn to lap-steel to musical saw. Nevertheless, having swelled from a duo into a solid five-piece, the band now pulls it off with impressive passion and precision. Musée Mécanique includes drummer/ethnomusicologist Matthew Berger, one-man brass section John Whaley, and skilled multi-instrumentalist Brian Perez. Each player must do several things at once, all the while singing complex harmonies, to succeed in capturing both the technical complexity of From Shores of Sleep, and also its emotional depth and generous spirit.

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1 O, Astoria!
2 The Lighthouse and the Hourglass
3 The Open Sea
4 The Man Who Sleeps
5 A Wish We Spoke
6 Castle Walls
7 The World of Silence
8 Along the Shore
9 Cast in the Brine
10 The Shaker s Cask