At certain moments in time, there is vast pleasure in the seeming frivolity of art. It is a necessary escape, an important release and a valuable form of expression in the midst of chaos.
In times like these you come to know art, especially music, as a sanctuary. You appreciate it more; you bask in the playfulness; and you the delight in the importance it can take on.
Moh Lhean is particularly successful at hitting this mood, right at the sweet spot, transporting you to a new plane instantly. It is WHY?’s sixth album, after a four year chunk of time away from the project and goes back to the start as the first fully home-recorded album since their debut.
WHY? have always mined depths much deeper than most of the their contemporaries and Moh Lhean is no exception. Like a classic WHY? track itself the record builds, adding less usual elements as it goes, referring to itself at every stage. The tone feels simultaneously fresh and familiar, resulting in a finely balanced feeling of familiarity with pops of excitement.
The moment the album opens with "This Ole King” the questioning tone of Yoni Wolf’s vocal cascades, with trademark slow, low chants and gradual build to multi-vocal layers. And that calming, comforting beauty of Wolf’s voice has become no-less magical over the years, and neither have the words he wraps his voice around.
But even in the opener you can sense moments of change – with playful sound and samples peering through the background and the use of textures, timing and timbre used in new ways. “Easy” continues in this vein, pairing the recognisable and the innovative – creating new tension in the tracks.
“One Missisippi” is the warm beating heart at the dead centre of this record, singing out “Stop throwing shadow on shadow and let it all go…”. It’s a great and glorious flash of colour nailed to a mast. While “George Washington” is a cool glass of water – a pure joy and moment of uplift with classic WHY? wordsmithery thrown in as it goes and goes, singing “A new love blooms on the long notes of old horns.”
Coming in at just over half an hour this is a very compact experience, but is not one that feels lacking. For all its snappiness it still feels comprehensive, with pleasing weight. And although complex in its conception and bursting with energy it still manages to be a very calming experience – holding a peace at the centre.
Listening to this record is completely blissful way to spend half an hour – and like much of WHY?’s work before feels like it has been carefully sewn together as an experience rather than a just collection of songs. It’s a thought-out piece of work; a collection of collaborating and competing daubs of colour across a blank canvas; a flock of sounds moving together as one, for one simple reason alone: to bring you joy.