The Maelstrom Cabinet- An Unstable Sun Goddess

Without a doubt, this band fits right in the genre of indie folk. But when you add the tag, freak pop, all the elements beyond that intrinsic folk façade will suddenly decide that it needs to take centre stage and stand out to you. It might just be the twist you are looking for in a musical world where everything in this genre starts to sound all too similar.

the maelstrom cabinet

The duo of songwriter and musician Joseph Ruddleston, & writer / vocalist Brandon Elrod are The Maelstrom Cabinet and have just released their debut album An Unstable Sun Goddess on Bandcamp.

But what did The Maelstrom Cabinet intend for people’s first impressions to be with a name like that? It could’ve been a clue that their distinguished sound will range from the flurry of choral melodies as they bounce off each other in a confined space, to arrangements which have weaker harmonies and can feel a little chaotic and disjointed ­at times – you are dealing with a maelstrom of sound, after all.

They sound like The Middle East, Ben Howard, and City and Colour, with their acoustic instrumentation which line their sweet and breathless vocals. Also James Vincent McMorrow, with their voices rich with vibrato and angst. They also share similarities with Sea Wolf due to the label of freak folk, but without the same rock appreciation embedded in their sound.

The Maelstrom Cabinet’s debut album showcases a diverse collection of songs, one for almost every emotion on the spectrum of melancholia. However as nostalgia and calm is injected into each song, you will be left with a sense of Déjà Vu as you experience varying degrees of sorrow in this abyss of an album – leaving one track, the music will only lead you into another one where the atmosphere is all too familiar.

With vocals that have similar qualities and out of sync harmonies, at times it sounds like the boys are competing against each other. The passive environment makes it seem rather odd that there would be this clash in vocals– I’m referring to Twin Curses and the title track, An Unstable Sun Goddess, which experiments with slightly off beat duets and lacks solid harmonisation.

But all this is done with intent. For those who don’t know (after all I didn’t know), freak folk is defined as : folk which introduces elements of avant-garde music, baroque pop and psychedelic folk, often featuring uncommon sounds, lyrical theme and vocal styles. It suddenly all made sense to me, despite not knowing if I appreciated what they had done to the conventional genre of folk.

It adds a completely different feel and tempo to the song, which I have definitely learnt to appreciate after listening to this album on repeat to write up this review  – their laid back genre suggests letting the voice speak when it feels most natural, rather than sticking to the conventions of singing in complete unison.

The opening track Blackbird, harmonises with a baritone voice to bring out a very powerful contrast. The dulcet tones of different vocals stand alone, yet come together to create a song that washes over you far too soon. The song is quite mellow and doesn’t come to a climax, but it works just fine without one. It’s a track to set the tone for the album, striking the tuning fork for the release and finding that right pitch.

The galactical sounds and unstable harmonies of The Unstable Sun Goddess is actually quite a bitter yet beautifully crafted song, which caresses this tender sense of despair. Strange Bodies is a sombre instrumental– for the first 2 minutes that is.  After this intense and gradual build up, you will be met by a pleasant startle – it could be the discovery of hidden treasure; happiness. It’s only brief, but it is totally worth it – so simplistic and so sweet. I can definitely see this being played in a scene of a movie – any takers for the genre of film I’m thinking of?

And finally Kingbird. I just love songs whose name perfectly illustrates the imagery and depth of feel you will experience – it’s just nice when you are given something to guide your emotions along. The feeling of regeneration as you take flight across the glistening water does wondrous things to the aura you emanate.

The Maeslstrom Cabinet brings you music to help you relax after a long hard day at work. It will deflate you and drain you of everything – leaving all the good stuff behind of course.



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