Mercy of the Crane Folk is the sophomore album from Athens, Georgia-based Immaterial Possession, and once again they have brought us a set of mysterious dark-folk songs that are enchantingly out of time. Their displaced gothic sensibilities transport you back in time to a medieval village where they are a wandering troupe of thespians/musicians are putting on a show full of illusion and sorcery that scares and entertains in equal measure.
The band were formed by Cooper Holmes and Madeline Polites who met while living in an artist commune in Atlanta. They now include drummer John Spiegel and Kiran Fernandes on keyboards, clarinets and flutes. Maybe it’s the spirit of a commune that allows the band to write music that does not conform to the obvious and conveys a sense of otherness.
We get the giddy opening of ‘Chain Breaker’, the fairground energy of ‘To The Fete’, the eastern-vibe of ‘Medieval’ and the rambunctious title track which feels like they are losing control and enjoying it. There are major to minor chord shifts, organ swirls, narrative drum lines, bass lines that run in tandem with tunes, the Spanish feel of the guitar lines and percussion tickling at the edges of tracks such as the Morricone-like ‘Current In The Room’ and ‘Birth of Queen Croaker’ which is light-headed and reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’.
The ironic nature of their name demonstrates a love of the surreal coupled with a sense of humour that never loses sight of the power of their sound. These are songs rich in allusion and replete with plenty of sounds that make the brain tingle. I was pleasantly taken back to Kilimanjaro-era Teardrop Explodes and Julian Cope’s first solo album Fried, where the quirky is not kitsch and there is a grown-up English pastoral feel to the tracks which I find especially interesting as the band live in REM and The B-52’s hometown. There must be something in the water there that makes musicians tilt at windmills and produce such quality music.
Immaterial Possession are more velvet than cotton and more quill than ballpoint. They are to melodrama what The Go! Team are to cheer leading, and they feel like a band that Edgar Allen Poe would have joined were he around now and their music is as exciting as Pepper’s Ghost. Mercy of the Crane Folk is full of elan and the many flourishes that permeate their sound are a playful joy. This is melodrama with a knowing wink, like attending a séance while on laughing gas.
Review by Paul F Cook