The music that Joey Wright makes as Little Musgrave pulls at the threads of the ballad tradition until it starts to come apart at the seams. Though the ghosts of a more conventional troubadour style can be discerned here, Wright’s highly original songs take in everything from speaker-blowing industrial electronics to the avant songcraft of artists like Scott Walker, Xiu Xiu and Einstürzende Neubauten. On ‘Matches’, Little Musgrave’s debut LP, Wright yokes his disparate influences together into one of the most brilliantly unusual takes on the singer-songwriter form you will hear for some time.
The Brussels-based Wright subverts the listener’s expectations time and again on this LP. Lurching polyrhythms are lacerated by sounds which could have been recorded live in the dentist’s chair - we’re talking drills, saws and high-pitched whines. Throughout the record one finds passages of janking, Stephen Malkmus-style guitar bludgeoned into submission by lurching drum work. On the album’s penultimate track ‘No Rev’ a pretty patchwork of interlocking synth cells is blasted apart by earth-juddering bass and horror movie organ stabs, before final cut ‘Train’ offsets such caustic sounds with plucked strings and table-top percussion loops. It’s a heady brew, but Wright balances the elements expertly here - for all its ambition ‘Matches’ is a remarkably focused listen, full of sly hooks and propulsive grooves rising up from the rubble.
‘Matches’ was conceived and recorded during the first Coronavirus lockdown, and the album bears the imprint of that extraordinary time’s mixture of mundanity and mania. Wright’s free-associative lyrics, which are often delivered in a melodious sprechgesang style, chart a mental state that many of us have come to know all too well in the pandemic - the sense that something huge is happening, but our only options are to process it alone or watch it unfold on-screen. Mind you, some of the points made here would hold outside of pandemic life - the climate catastrophe blurts its way into ‘None Of This Is Necessary’, and the way in which Wright turns everyday phrases into sites of unease has one thinking of Thom Yorke at his most paranoid.
With ‘Matches’, Brussels’ Little Musgrave (Joey Wright) has crafted a record so bracing and original that it outgrows the ‘singer-songwriter’ tag to become something else entirely.
released April 27, 2021
WILD GOOSE CHASE RECORDS
special thanks to NGHE Mediatheque,
Fred Mikardo-Greaves and of course Bárbara C. Branco.