Published April 7, 2015
‘Theatrics’ is Puzzle Muteson’s second album on the Bedroom Community imprint. He is still elusively hushed in style; his Antony-like vocals still quiver delicately along with his sparse, fingerpicked guitars. There’s a lot of talk about existence on the album, coded into personal, poetic phrases like “Don’t take me now” and “I fell off that float, for me this done.” “I used to think that the day would never come/that my life would depend on morning sun,” calls to mind images of Iceland’s long winters, or perhaps the singer’s UK home on the Isle of Wight. Darker lyrical turns like “His teeth will tear you up/your home and half your hands,” are offset by brighter moments, like the resonant “Bells”: “I am a bird/now I own the sky”.
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The fingerprints of producer-arranger duo Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly are all over the collaborative elements on this album, from the repetition of gentle electronics on “We Are, We Own” to background static and a bit of distortion; from the pure tones of glockenspiel to the piano in “City Teeth” and “Belly”—sometimes delicate and ethereal and then suddenly aggressively low and accented. Additional orchestrated elements are an essential dramatic element for the album, like the snare drum that conjures images of marching, war, triumph, and perseverance.
For an album titled ‘Theatrics’, there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to Puzzle Muteson’s latest. Okay, there are literal bells, but no vocal pyrotechnics, no blazing solos. But that’s not saying there isn’t a theatrical flow. After “True Faith” and “Chair” finish the album with a kind of cinematic drama, you may realize that all along you’ve been listening to a song cycle. This kind of theatre transforms an album into an emotional journey, a meditation on light and darkness, on life being taken and life being worth living.
Puzzle Muteson on Bandcamp: www.bandcamp.com/puzzlemuteson