(Field Hymns, 2015)
What happens when the other quarter of your being, the one that’s not tiger, catches up to the fraction that is? I mean, did you ever think of that? There you are, prowling along through neon jungles, hiding in pastel underbrush, just waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on some four-legged slice of blueberry pie before it can scurry into its hollow under the candy cane log, and it happens – you realize that your hands and forearms are human hands and forearms, and your ears, receiving and interpreting the constellations of musical stimuli that constantly pipe through the atmosphere of this weird place, are human ears. (Is that 25 percent? I was trying to be accurate.) Then you realize – it hits you in the solar plexus like a pillowcase full of Ponos (or maybe in the head with an ammunition bandolier full of Hohners – random John Popper reference!) that you’re going to need some extra stealth if you’re going to be dining on sweet blueberry guts anytime soon. Those hands’ll really slow you down. (Not to mention the ears – we humans can’t hear for anything.)
But I digress, because we’re not here to talk about my fictional experiences while listening to the new Three Fourths Tigers (there it is!) release on Field Hymns, no matter how awesome and weird they are (and yes, the fictional experiences described above are entirely autobiographical), we’re here to talk about Three Fourths Tigers itself. Or himself. Because Three Fourths Tigers is actually a man, a well-named man if I do say so myself, Ryan Mulhall of Worcester, Massachusetts, and also of recording projects Looks Realistic and Ryan Kayhart. (Pop quiz: Pronounce “Worcester.” Prizes will be smiley face emojis emailed to the address of your choice.) The Field Hymns page calls his style “emotional synth,” and I’m not one to disagree with the good folks at Field Hymns. Indoor Voice is jam packed with burbly clusters and taffy-stretched tone, synthesizers roiling through landscapes like magic mist and causing new and interesting flora and fauna to spring forth from the earth in a neon glaze of demonstrative glory. Hey, just like the story of Genesis in the Bible! I wonder if Three Fourths Tigers also created over six literal days. I’ll have to ask him.
In truth, Indoor Voice plays like the soundtrack to Earth of the future, the post-first-contact, post-terraforming, post-ESP-evolution Earth where human beings no longer look human (to our eyes), so we drop the “human” and simply refer to them as “beings.” It’s utopian, can’t you feel it? If you’re listening to Indoor Voice you do. Tell me tracks like “Pentifloral” and “Visitor Sphere” aren’t future-weird in all the right ways, and I’ll smack you again with those Ponos. Because in this future world, music is all around, and you won’t even need Ponos, and Neil Young will be so long dead, and there won’t even be any money to give him royalties anyway. It’s for the best – fortunately, the confines of Earth no longer bind us, and we’re able to treat visitors from other planets, like those arriving in “Other Landings,” with the dignity and respect they deserve, not with a tense military show of force. You’ve seen Mars Attacks! right? Yeah, not like that.
“Ensphynx” ends the album by promising a mystifying element, one inherent in its clever title, turning “sphynx” (or, er, “sphinx” I guess) into a verb. It’s a reminder that the world now is crazy and weird, and there’s a veil separating us past humans from the future we’re almost certain to populate at some point. Obviously, the ability to continue to populate depends on most of us kicking the bucket and the rest reconfiguring our biological wavelengths to changing climatic conditions, but hey, I’m game for that. It’ll be fun! And if we get super-elegant and timeless synthesizer music to help us in our transformations, it’s even better. So I guess we owe Ryan Mulhall a debt of gratitude for showing us the path to a brighter tomorrow. And who knows – it may even be Indoor Voice that kicks off the evolutionary process! Mulhall, this tape’s more important than you’ve ever dreamed…
RIYL: Grapefruit, Portopia 81, Black Unicorn