Mice On Stilts
Hope For A Mourning
15th April 2016 – Self-released
03. The Hours
04. And We Saw His Needs Through The Casket
06. Hope For A Mourning
Seven-limbed Kiwi progressive rock band Mice On Stilts released their debut EP An Ocean Held Me just over two years ago, to the delight of this very publication. In the interim they’ve been working on new material, and lo and behold, a new full length album looms, titled Hope For A Mourning.
Continuing exactly where their debut left off, it weaves tapestries of gloomy melancholy and dark despondent melodies. Self-described as ‘doom folk’, Hope For A Mourning shines with a great many facets of composition, with sublime instrumentation progressing artfully onward from An Ocean Held Me. Simple acoustic sections sprinkled with pianos contrast with more complex parts that make use of multiple vocal tracks and a diverse array of instruments. Songs like “Orca” tend towards the off-kilter, with some pretty spooky vocal arrangements pairing with the brass arrangements to feel like a ghostly jazz orchestra slowly soundtracking the end of the world. Benjamin Morley’s spectral vocals grow more harrowing and grainy throughout as he’s joined by a ten-piece choir to add even more depth to the song.
There’s a stark emotional quality to Hope For A Mourning; one that feels very personal. Morley has an excellent grasp on creating simple, yet memorable melodies that send chills down the listener’s arms while they wallow in bleakness, much like Steven Wilson is able to do: the smoky, jazzy piano and brass piece “And We Saw His Needs Through The Casket” comes very close to a soaring triumphant melody, but diverts itself back to the cold, apathetic dirt – yet it’s spectacularly grandiose too, thanks to a dark brooding piano and guitars that join the spectral choral arrangements return along with to give it a truly grand quality as well.
The album’s highlight comes in the monolithic “Funeral”, an eleven minute masterpiece, which along with “YHWH” is a perfect distillations of what Mice On Stilts are about; a mix of introspective emotion, ear-tickling technical skill, and equal parts light and dark.
Hope For A Mourning is a dreary, jazzy, complicated listen. It’s chock full of interesting musicianship and takes more than a couple listens to wrap your head around, but the end result is very rewarding. The vocals are wrought with a heavy-heartedness and the instrumental passages create a rapturous darkness. Mice On Stilts are a band to watch out for, and Hope For A Mourning truly an excellent album.