Mordecai is an avant-pop group from Portland, Ore. “It’s Never Enough” is their first full-length release. The 10-song album will be available Aug. 30,2017. Mordecai makes moody, atmospheric pop that is heavy on texture.
The Sound of Mordecai
The first song, “Control,” is a haunting tune. The beginning sounds as though Eastern woodwinds are playing the same notes repeatedly, but that could be an effect of singer Alexander Andrew Endres’ lap steel. The sound is not unlike that of a distressed and lonely bird. Approximately 25 seconds into the song, percussion thumps in lightly. The soundscape sounds wide open, and the almost ambient pop seeks to fill the space. Near the end, the song breaks down to just vocals and claps. The motif at the beginning returns to bring “Control” to its logical conclusion.
The lyrics reveal a problematic interpersonal relationship. The angst and disappointment are there. The performers–Endres is joined by violinist Kate Kilbourne–sound quite young, and they should be applauded for taking risks with their vocals and instrumentation. In addition, “Control” like others on the album, are cutting-edge. However, there is an element, perhaps a tense keyboard line that will remind listeners of a certain age of mid-1990s Depeche Mode. Which isn’t a bad thing.
It is easy to overlook the vocals as part of Mordecai’s vast soundscape. But in each song, the vocals take on different intensities and textures. Sometimes the vocals are of the earnest, boy band variety, and listeners can picture a literal heart on a sleeve. And, just beneath that forthright style is the tiniest of waterfalls–notes that sound as if they are tumbling down the musical scale.
The keyboards here sound like old-school synthesizers. The singer bends words like “you” so that they snap at the end after being stretched in the middle. The topic is modern. The singer intones, ” being alone is the only thing you know is safe.” The vocals pull and push notes like an old vinyl record just before it skips.
Even with its throwback elements (intentional or not), Mordecai is a contemporary band with a contemporary way of communicating with audiences. Here, too, the earnest singing works for the group. The phrasing is broken down and notes seem to shift. All of which is appreciated by listeners. Carrying one note too long makes any singer sound like a performer in a grade school musical.
“It’s Never Enough” is a short release in terms of running time. For just 37 minutes, listeners are cast into a world of hyper-contemporary worldviews about interpersonal relationships. The emotional expression expands over a nuanced soundscape. This is a band for anyone who thinks they have heard all that pop music has to offer, and for those who want to know what “new” music is sounds like in every sense of the word. People of various generation who appreciate ambient soundscapes, meaningful, nuanced lyrics will more than likely become fans of Mordecai. The band will play at the Holocene in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 30, 2017.