Elephant Micah

The Untied States of Elephant Micah

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A second album of sorts, Untied States of Elephant Micah is, as sole band figure Joe O'Connell puts it in the liner notes, a compilation of not-really-intended-for-release songs that "were taking up too much space in my brain." A drastically limited release -- something like 32 copies total -- meant that this would always be one for the fans straight-up, and it functions as that through and through; it's an enjoyable peek into Elephant Micah's take on things for those already interested. It's a generous one as well, clocking in at just under an hour for 15 songs. O'Connell's strength lies in how he uses what had often become ends in themselves -- specifically, the tropes of lo-fi recording as familiarized in the '90s -- and applying them to his own reflective, often beautiful songs. Here, given the get-something-down-on-tape nature of many of the recordings, it's all the more noticeable, starting with the opening piano/vocal/tape hiss of "Vet Sounds." The murky, steady, rhythmic roil of "%%%%%%%%%%%," and the contrast between calm guitar and brusque, cheap drum machine punches on "Unairconditioned Instrumental," both provide further examples of lo-fi's engaging warmth in the right hands. Untied States isn't just a set of rough demos, though, as the carefully constructed instrumental melancholy of "Rides Away Again," or the banjo-led "Two TV Sets" show. A song like "Grace of St. Christopher," with its full band arrangement provided by O'Connell in a series of overdubs, demonstrates his own ability to self-arrange quite nicely. "Ohio Arch" is perhaps the album's core, appearing in two different takes, a stately, mournful version and a more laid-back, almost bluesy ramble; both are effective in their own ways. Three separate guest musicians appear on cuts taken from live dates (drummer Russ McDaniel gets a fun nod with the note that he "cheers for EM even while on-stage with EM").

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