Clue To Kalo : One Way, It's Every Way
Mush Records

Press material informs us that One Way, It's Every Way, Mark Mitchell's sophomore Clue to Kalo effort, is both a 'musical palindrome' and a 'celebratory meditation on death.' The palindrome dimension isn't hard to locate—the brief opener “The Younger The Old” (“Where I'll end is the point where I begin”) is mirrored by the closer “The Older The Young”—but why the Adelaide, Australia native should be obsessing about human finitude at such a tender age is less clear. If the thematic material does concern death (enigmatic lyrics like “The math tells the move by design; just fill in your sign” make for an elusive determination), it's belied by the music's sunny, ethereal character.

With no breaks separating the ten songs, the 42-minute album unfolds as a song cycle that conflates classic folk, bedroom electronica, and lo-fi production into an eccentric whole. Mitchell crafts intricate, even psychedelicized arrangements that evoke the baroque stylings of the Brian Wilson-Van Dyke Parks Smile era (heard in “The Older the Young,” for example). At other times, Clue to Kalo traffics in hallucinatory, ‘60s-flavoured electronic folk that recalls Caribou (“Come to Mean a Natural Law”) and the sophisticated pop of The Postal Service (“As Tommy Fixes Fights”); though not Beatlesque per se, Mitchell's album could be imagined as a pastoral expansion of “Tomorrow Never Knows” into full-length form. Despite the dense sound (instrumentation includes sax, accordion, chimes, flutes, recorder, violin, and 'gu-zheung'), the music lightly drifts from one episode to another. Songs often morph through multiple time signatures in a single piece (“Seconds When It's Minutes,” “The Just Is Enough”) and, though striking, the effect diminishes the clarity of a given song's character. Mitchell possesses a breathy voice that's not unpleasant and the intricate vocal counterpoint that appears in many songs impresses too. At the same time, his singing is too one-dimensional; more variety beyond a delicate hush would strengthen the music's emotional dimension.

Yes, One Way, It's Every Way is admirably inventive and accessible, and Mitchell's talent for creating song constructions and arrangements of incredible detail is undeniable. However, the album also lacks something that's equally critical: melodies and hooks that stay with you long after the album is finished. While “As Tommy Fixes Fights” is definitely an artful construction, the likelihood that its melodies will be rattling inside your head hours after hearing it is remote.

September 2005