Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond

mb-loves-crushing-diamond

Mutual Benefit’s ”Advanced Falconry” is without any doubt one of the most absorbing and heartfelt songs I’ve heard all year. Jordan Lee, the nomadic multi-instrumentalist behind the project, has followed “Advanced Falconry” with Love’s Crushing Diamond, a short album inspired by the “kinetic energy, goodbyes and blurred landscapes of life” – a debut that has turned many heads and have in a short period of time gotten its riveting amount of appraisal. On December 3 the album will see a proper release via Other Music Recording Co, after previously only been available through the band’s Bandcamp Page.

Almost without exception, the seven songs on Love’s Crushing Diamond start with a delicate instrumental part that eases the listener in before revealing their secret. It’s an approach that gives the album a cohesive feel, as if they were seven chapters of the same story, bound together by gentle hints of what comes next. While Jordan Lee’s music may flirt with a broader definition of folk music, the rabbit hole goes far deeper than that. There are elements from psych, ambient and various forms of experimentalism in these seven beautiful, baroque creations. But most importantly, Love’s Crushing Diamond is a collection of some of the warmest and most tender songs that you’re likely to have heard all year.

Contrary to what the album’s title suggests, these songs won’t crush you with its weight. The compositions flow as naturally as breathing – on where banjos, woodwind and violins give them an almost feathery feel. The lyrics of these seven songs are almost conceptual, dealing with self-realization and the acceptance of current conditions to be able to move forward. On opener “Strong River”, Lee sings “the river doesn’t know tomorrow” as an analogy for the impeding clouded journey he is about to embark on towards self-acceptance. On “Golden Wake” the awakening,  or rather the revelation, begins; making him quit his day job, followed by the admission that “We weren’t made to be this way / We weren’t made to be afraid”. The lyrics are full with these slight eternal grasps, deeply rooted in the most fundamental understandings of humanity. Even in the darkest moments, Lee sounds injured but not beaten. Consequently, the lyrics are fairly optimistic, or at least comforting. Nowhere is this more clear than on “Let’s Play/Statue of a Man”, on where he sings “There’s always love / even when you think there’s none to give.” On “Strong Swimmer”, a heartachingly beautiful closer, Jordan Lee haunts back to the beginning; “The river only knows to carry on”, ending on a fair amount of hope.

Jordan Lee has together with a whole army of talented musicians, created one of the most life-affirming, or rather, life-embracing albums of the year. Whether or not you consider it as folk music, Love’s Crushing Diamond takes you on a beautiful melodious journey that never fails to engage or be moving. Musically, the album feels a bit misplaced, more akin in tone to the freak folk era of the early 2000s, a sentiment that certainly gives Love’s Crushing Diamond an almost timeless appeal. And yet it’s one of the few albums of the year that seeks the boundaries of contemporary folk music. The way the album is layered, the use of lo-fi elements and reverb with restrained delicacy – all contributes to an overall sensation that you hearing something you haven’t heard before. At least not in the way it’s being presented here.

The widely acclaimed “Advanced Falconry” may have made it possible for a larger crowd to discover Mutual Benefit, but this is not an album that lives on the merit of one song. This is a proper album that tells a story from start to finish, and should be listen to it as such. This is an album that you cannot afford sleeping on.

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