Jon Mueller: drums, percussion, hammered acoustic guitar, vocals; Nathaniel Heuer: upright bass, vocals; Mark Waldoch: trombone
It is not a surprise that, in the face of the ominous perspectives that today’s world constantly offers, highly sensitive beings are trying to come to grips with a plain thought: life’s endpoint might be waiting around the corner, and we must regard all actions – even the apparently meaningless ones – as equally important bricks in the wall of our long-term aspirations. Jon Mueller has written a concisely exertive manifesto for Death Blues, beyond abstruse hypotheses, affected beliefs, psychic self-destruction – and fear of bad luck, too.
In support of this conception, the six tracks comprised by the album are unequivocally and incisively cathartic, starting from the very instrumentation and compositional makeup. Beginning with the initial calling “Find Yourself”, each piece was conceived as a rather elementary chant, much in the vein of native American rituals (an obvious but effective equivalence to determine the incidence of the spirit/pulse ratio in the listener). All of them convey what the trade could label as “curative vibrations”, reinforcing the theory according to which one should greet every minute of an existence by completely baring their chest in front of whatever happens, and turn everything – positive or negative – into the type of awareness needed to fuel our daily endurance. In that sense the driving title track, the reviving “Acceptance” and the nearly trans-mundane “Iron String” (the latter enriched by Mark Waldoch’s trombone swells) are the chapters favored by this reviewer.
The alignment of percussion and hammered guitar strings works wonders in pushing the aural magnitude towards the high spheres of internal and external resonance; still, the implied values are more relevant than the acoustic apparel. Once again Mueller demonstrates that a thinking musician armed with few sound-generating means is able to trace crucial paths to follow. Overtness of intent and essentiality of the animating principle are not commodities for sale, and their union renders Death Blues an addictive record. Play loud, rejoice, cry, forgive, love, hit, run, swim. Right now. After all, dying is just plunging into the “big vibe”. You have to be equipped.