A picture may be worth a thousand words, but leave it up to the Skygreen Leopards to bang out an EP out of it. Jehovah Surrender, a six-song romper-stomper, was inspired after the band glimpsed some ancient instruments tucked away in a shed, and these songs attempt to channel whatever those instruments might have once said into a fierce organic sound. To get into their mindset, imagine every jangly crunch of their guitars calling up the splintering of trees, and that their high notes sound like avian screeches, their every low a guttural growl. If Fitzcarraldo ever gets around to building the opera house in the Peruvian jungle, they’d be the opening act.
Supposedly a document of “the changing of seasons in a world of whippoorwill moans” (says the SL website), the songs don’t replicate anything you’d associate with autumn, winter, spring, or summer. Instead, each one’s like an auricular Rorschach test. In “Apparition of Suns (The Ferryman’s Long Arms)”, I see the Flaming Lips, whose hum-speak ways are impersonated perfectly here. “Julie-Anne, Patron of Thieves” is a Kinksy character piece, slanted and impious. And both “Play for the Spring” and “I Was a Thief” begin with a wall of mysterious rumbling noise, worthy of an ambient Eno record. Of all the evocative images the Skygreen Leopards’ music may bring up, you can also picture a musical zoo, the greatest attraction being Glenn Donaldson and his chameleon voice, whose near-incomprehensibility hides well behind any sound he and Donovan Quinn produce, at home with any band they exhibit.
Ultimately, though, Jehovah Surrender is perhaps too ethereal and ghostly; it doesn’t haunt me after I click on that X button on iTunes. I recognize that I like each song, though I couldn’t tell you why if we ran into each other on the street, other than the fact that they remind me of other bands I enjoy and why I like them. That’s the slippery slope of nature’s music, isn’t it? Easy to appreciate what you have when you’re in the wild, and even easier to forget once you’re back in civilization. So while Jehovah Surrender isn’t the sylvan enchantress that it should be, enjoy it for what it is, while it lasts, and you might get some perspective on the rest of your musical world. With a little luck, it’ll recalibrate the senses.
// Notes from the Road
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