Of the Cathmawr Yards CD - Hidden Agenda

The Horseís Ha have taken their name from Dylan Thomasí relatively obscure short story, an allegory of plague and the walking dead. Iím uncertain of what this connection might be meant to convey, but it must be strongly felt as the band have gone so far as to name their debut disc for the storyís Welsh graveyard. Formed by Chicago scene mainstays Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater) and James Elkington (The Zincs) in 2002 as something of a bread-and-butter collaboration, and enlisting local Chicago avant jazz players, the band have taken the slow but sure route to their first outing, Of the Cathmawr Yards. Given the combination of interests of the members of The Horseís Ha, the album is pretty much what you might expect: a blending of gentle Americana elements, jazz impressions, and (not infrequently dissonant) chamber pop polishes. And through it all threads an eerie drowsiness (present even when The Horseís Ha slap the reins a bit, on the relatively perky samba rhythm crossed with indie sad-core dynamics of "The Piss Choir," for example). Itís as though Bean and Elkington, playing their vocals against and with each other, are struggling to rouse themselves from a lengthy sleep. Iíd wager that even fans of slow-core will find that this keeps Of Cathmawr Yards at distance initially. Itís not a disc that shouts its merits, but with repeated listen the songs here do get their fingers into you. One of the more notable tracks is "Liberation," where, over a rhythm section equally rootsy and jazzy, Fred Lonberg-Holm meanders down a free-form path with his dissonant cello.

By Michael Meade



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