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Mega Bog
Life, and Another Zara Hedderman , August 10th, 2021 08:32

Erin Birgy's fifth Mega Bog album opens up worlds within worlds of wry songwriting and rich soundscapes, finds Zara Hedderman

It’s the glorious idiosyncratic performances and avant-pop soundscapes unique to Erin Birgy that utterly envelops the listener on her new Mega Bog album, Life, and Another. Here, her artistry is vibrant and explosive despite being made during a period when Birgy was consumed by morbid thoughts, living in a small cabin in a remote location.

This aspect of the album’s genesis is evident in the overt existential nature of the song titles and lyrical content. There’s a recurring sense of detachment employed in the album’s narrative. Detachment to reality, place, a moment – even detachment from one’s body. On the chorus of ‘Flower’, Birgy sings, “So take me for the music / Take me for a human.” In this line, which allows for varying interpretations, she eliminates boundaries between where she ends and her music takes off. They’re one entity, a true extension of her internal thoughts and essence. Elsewhere, titles like ‘Maybe You Died’ and ‘Beagle in The Cloud’ do well to spur intrigue in the listener before the deal is sealed with the trendous soundscapes that accompany her distinct vernacular.

This, of course, seeps into the stream-of-consciousness air that has always permeated Mega Bog’s music. This sense of spontaneity, compared to Birgy’s previous releases, is all the more apparent on Life, and Another, a record that shapeshifts from ruminative melodies to gargantuan waves of industrial rhythms with ease and boundless sophistication. As with Life, and Another’s predecessor Dolphine (2019), there’s boundless unbridled magic sparking from the arrangements. Some of which, namely ‘Before a Black Tea’, an unpredictable 80s pop-rock number, and ‘Weight of The Earth, On Paper’ bounce along nicely in a similar vein to Dolphine's overarching style, providing somewhat of a through-line within her discography.

For longstanding Mega Bog fans, Life, and Another immediately stands out as one of Birgy’s finest records from start to finish. There’s a maturation to the stylistic choices and general trajectory of the instrumentation. Each listen reveals something more, be it an interesting sonic texture or a lyric that stops you in your tracks. In this regard, it is perhaps the record in Mega Bog’s oeuvre that is most rewarding and inviting. Birgy, along with co-producer and Big Thief percussionist James Krivchenia, brings the listener into a world where there is no straight-forward route to follow, nor can you ever fully settle into the surroundings comfortably. One of the most exciting recurring motifs across the record is the stark chops and changes between (and within) arrangements. This is best executed in the closing section of the tracklist.

Kicking off with the gorgeously wistful guitar melody on instrumental ‘Darmok’, heightened by 10cc ‘I'm Not In Love’-style synth sensibilities, a deeply affecting composition. It’s reflective and tremendously beautiful in its contained production. The celestial tones spill into the intro to ‘Adorable’, on which Birgy briefly returns to deliver the only two lines to be uttered in this spectacular triptych of songs: “Roll me over ‘cause I’m adorable / I’ve never been a human but I’m a good friend.” The highlight of this section, however, is ‘Bull of Heaven’, an invigorating prog-infused arrangement that’s simultaneously ethereal and industrial. Sounding more like something you’d expect to hear in a Black Midi track, the grit of the arrangement is mesmeric. The interplay of chugging guitar and stomping drums scorches for its two-minute duration, as the synth parts gradually present themselves within the composition like a meteor shower. Much like the album's closer, ‘Ameleon’, it’s an addictive piece of music that prematurely ends in such abruptness you’ll feel like you imagined its existence.

Tonally, there’s so much to enjoy on Life, and Another’s perpetually infectious and engaging songs. It is yet another spectacular artistic statement from Erin Birgy.