“Hymns” represents the sophomore release for Minneapolis’ own Myrrh, a trio whom, though youthful, have made quite an impression through not only their very unique sound, but the even more genuinely special approach that they take towards composing their music instrumentally. Just two years ago, Myrrh stumbled into Minnesota’s primary humble urban center that lay in their large portion of the American Central Plains with their debut self-titled tape — an eight-track, entirely untitled opus that paid equal homage to their psychedelic yet bleak sound and their surrounding wilds, though the imagery evoked more of a Southwestern vision than a Northern one. This year, that demo tape caught enough interest that the project was also able to find their first vinyl LP release through the local Soft Abuse label whom have, over their nearly decade-old history, focused on experimental, indie, and eclectic folk rock from artists such as Ov, Wooden Wand, Horrid Red, and Julian Lynch. Now, Lighten Up Sounds have picked up the reigns and offered up a tape that matches much of the aesthetic of that initial demo tape, right down to the format and the untitled tracks.
As mentioned, this is an all-around unique work that has been built from the ground up by starting with an unconventional lineup of instrumentation including viola, lap steel, percussion and minimal electronics. Everything about this says Americana-influenced folk, and indeed there is a very real, if not overwhelming element of that to the music of Myrrh, but it takes on a crushing, lo-fi, doom rock appeal that is all but unheard of until this project came into being. With the inclusion of Brute Heart’s Jackie Beckey on viola, there is an assurance that within this tape breathes a level of melody that is at times hypnotic, beautiful and subdued, and other times fervently unleashed, animistic, and tribal if not outright shamanistic. While their spirit comes through mightily with the slowly evolving A-side, the true essence of Myrrh doesn’t manifest until the first track on Side B which features a spacy, reverb-destroyed guitar solo on top of a repetitive knuckle-gnawing, suspensefully drawn-out rhythmic jam. In some strange contract, the music of Myrrh reminds me of a lo-fi, down-tempo and folk-oriented Souvenir’s Young America matched with the uncompromising attitude of the likes of Jackie Perez-Gratz (Grayceon, Giant Squid).
The band title, Myrrh, hints at a number of different subtle levels to the ideology / inspiration behind the project, whom seem to prefer to keep their specific intentions under personal veils. Myrrh, the resin, has of course had many spiritually important symbolic positions throughout history, from being one of the three gifts delivered to the newborn Jesus from the Three Kings to its usage both in ancient Egyptian embalming and Neopagan ritual magic. Its seemingly endless occurrence in religious practice gives the ancient resin an archaic sense of necessity — an important commodity amongst the spiritually aware. Of course, its most widely-known attribute is its intoxicating fragrance, and perhaps when combined with its inevitable sense of ritual, it is the perfect organic symbol to accompany the wyrd natural beauty and psychedellically enhanced music of the band, especially in consideration of the album title, “Hymns”. Regardless of what motivations lie behind their music, this is one of the most impressively original experimental releases of the year for me. Genuinely emotionally-stimulating through all of its down-tuned, grungey glory. This was unexpectedly brilliant, though not without marginal performance flaws, and all I can hope for from future releases is an attempt at giving life to their secretive world through titled tracks.