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Weyes Blood and the Dark Juices

The Outside Room

[Not Not Fun; 2011]

By ; July 7, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

“She sounds just like Nico!” will probably be many listeners’ first thought when Natalie Mering starts singing on “Storms That Breed,” the opening track to The Outside Room, her latest LP under the Weyes Blood moniker. It’s not just her teutonic singing voice; the track’s haunting organ backdrop recalls Nico’s harmonium on the avant-garde classic The Marble Index, while Mering’s folk-tinged songs sound like melancholy variations on Chelsea Girl’s sing-along melodies.

That said, Mering is hardly derivative; in fact, what makes The Outside Room such a gloomy joy to listen to is the sense that she’s really come into her own as an artist. Her latest LP doesn’t abandon the avant-garde, “new weird America” sounds Mering has spent years honing as both a bassist in Jackie-O Motherfucker and as a solo artist (formerly known as Weyes Bluhd). Instead, it takes the guitar-strummed lo-fi experimentalism from her 2007 solo debut Strange Chalices of Seeing and cleans it up, giving it a little more structure and a lot more atmosphere. The Outside Room’s cover image doesn’t lie; the songs on this album are simple, weird, and vast, as though Mering recorded them in the middle of a barren Dali landscape.

“Dream Song” features not-quite-synced vocal work and a quietly droning keyboard that gives the track’s otherwise psychedelic guitar work an otherworldly air. Somewhere in the background, junkyard drums rattle and clank. Indeed, the song is like a dream in which otherwise ordinary elements from real life congeal imperfectly to form something beautiful and ethereal; there’s something very strange – almost sinister – about tracks like “Dream Song,” but it’s difficult to put your finger on what. I catch several strong whiffs of Inca Ore when I listen to this album, specifically in the way it plays with depth and setting. I get the impression that Birthday of Bless You, for instance, was recorded next to a mental hospital or a haunted playground; where, exactly, could the undulating (and again, psych-influenced) organ solo towards the end of “Candyboy” been produced? Maybe deep within a forest on Mars or on a decaying raft floating in the middle of an empty acid-washed ocean.

“Romneydale” is the album’s strongest song. Opening with wind chimes and some kind of plodding noise—footsteps? Dripping water? There’s too much reverb to tell for sure — it soon gives way to an unexpectedly accessible acoustic guitar and accompanying tambourine. The track highlights The Outside Room’s main draw — Mering’s voice, deep and heartbreaking, and yet, in spite of its mournful timbre, almost angelic. “You’re all wrapped up in your new costume,” Mering laments. It’s difficult to make out all the lyrics here, but it’s clear that she’s sad and perseverant; eerie as the track (and the entire album) may be, “Romneydale” remains viscerally relatable. Anyone who’s had their heart broken has felt like this song sounds, and it’s this empathy, this assurance that Mering understands your pain even while she’s lost in her own, that gives The Outside Room its spiritual power.


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