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Musician Michael Bird, the core member of the band mrmoth, announces the band’s first album since 2003’s Unto the Waste Land. The new album, Desire, features nine songs, written and produced exclusively by Bird. It is Bird’s most autobiographical music to date and also marks a departure musically from the band’s past work.
“While I was away from mrmoth as a concern, I had spent a couple years playing in a punk band as a rhythm guitarist. I’d found myself gravitating back toward more purely electronic music in response, out of a need for balance I think. I was only playing guitar in that band so it followed that escape meant more often than not that I’d be programming beats and writing lyrics for fun. When my relationship with that band concluded, the next logical step was to turn those experiments into proper music. The first couple of things I worked on after the conclusion of that band were largely unfinished ideas from that period, which is where the ‘White Fragility’ single came from.”
“I was also being hugely influenced by what were then a new generation of really unique and experimental electronic acts, like HEALTH, Gazelle Twin, I Speak Machine, Fuck Buttons, Blanck Mass and Gesaffelstein. I was so jealous of the way in which those acts were redefining the assumptions about what beat driven electronic music was obligated to do. I wanted to use that same license in the context of mrmoth. While I am still decidedly a traditional song writer, I wanted to see what I could do in pushing the electronic arrangements.”
“Paradoxically, the outcome was that I really reconnected with the piano, which if anything, seemed to step up and take the place the guitars used to occupy. There’s still quite a bit of guitar on this record, but it isn’t really the point the way it has been on the past records. Playing guitar in the punk band left me without the feeling that I had anything to prove as a guitarist. And the last thing I wanted to do afterward was play guitar, anyway.”
“The ideas on this record have their origins in a long range of years. Since Waste Land, I intentionally took time off from the band as a concern. I always knew I’d return to it, but I had other things that monopolized my attention. My fine art education had lead me to a career as a college professor, with all the professional and artistic demands that go with that. There just wasn’t that much time left on balance to work on music. A couple years becomes five becomes 10 and before you know it, you question whether or not anyone knows or cares that you once made music as your primary concern.”
A series of digital reissues of the band’s 2000s-era back catalog were well-received and Bird was confident that perhaps there would be a reason to re-approach the subject.
“People would email me from time to time, asking where they might find ‘Everybody Wants to Fuck’ and I was convinced that maybe it was time to let the streaming world use the catalog as it would. It was just sitting on my hard drives otherwise, so why not? Anyway, there was enough motion on all that, with next to no promotion, so I was conscious that I probably still had as much of an audience as I ever had so I decided to gradually test the waters with a few singles.”
Those singles make up a solid run of the album’s first half. “I was very much easing into this. I had to see if it was worthwhile for myself, to see if I had anything to say, or the means to say it. I used the covers we released as singles to work on technical concerns. But by the time I had released ‘Call On Your Stars’ as a single, I knew full well that there was an album in the offing and I began tooling away at an ever-evolving set of demos until the thing properly took form.”
With two years of labor built into them, this is the most polished and confident mrmoth album in the catalog, and strangely also the shortest.
“It’s funny because there’s more lyrics and more music in this record than the back catalog, but it’s about a third shorter. I was working hard toward a concise record that delivered the goods and bounced out. I was thinking very hard about techno pop records of the 80s, where atmosphere and experimentation were explored within the constraints of pop singles. With the previous work, any exploration was really pushed to the front, even ahead of the songs at times. But if I’m trying to reconnect with an audience, it occurred to me that I ought not put a bunch of obstacles in the way.”
Exploring a running theme of a life in the midst of redefinition, these songs speak candidly about that process. While not a concept album, it’s not difficult to see a common thread in the collection.
“When it came right down to it, if I was going to write lyrics again, I needed them to be closer to myself, without the old style of mythologizing I used to employ. So these songs are more decidedly in my own voice and less obfuscated.”
Does that mean that the ether album series is dead?
“I wouldn’t say that.”
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