Should the Hadron Collider live up to its billing and cause apocalyptic ruptures in the fabric of spacetime — and we all hope and pray that it will — somehow creating a closed time loop connecting 1983 Greenwich Village and 1971 Laurel Canyon, the resulting musical cross-pollination would probably create a record very much like the Mystery Claws’s Hydaspia.
But not even Kurt Godel could fully explain the amorphous genre crossing and experimentation on display here, in which sweet pastoral harmonies give way to explosions of overdriven dissonance, swirling psychedelic soundscapes collide with honky-tonk waltzes, and bouts of over-caffeinated anxiety peacefully coexist with lazily stoned acoustic sing-alongs. There are tales of revelatory showers in other peoples’ homes, tense nigh hikes, oddly-romantic arson attempts, bank fraud, those damned kids and their parked cars, and all sorts of other strange particles orbiting sweetly in Mystery Claws’ musical accelerator.
Mystery Claws is a Los Angeles-based duo, consisting of Matt Kivel, music critic and co-songwriter for symphonic indie rock band Princeton, and filmmaker/Gentle Hands musician Julia Bembenek. Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa contributed to the recordings.
Largely influenced by the country-folk tradition of Southern California — albeit the frayed edges of that tradition more than its mellow middlebrow — the pair are just as keen to explore unexpected turns of melody and crashes of distortion, paying just as much attention to the sudden eruptions as the steady grooves. “Life Can Be So Long” hearkens back to Bob Dylan’s mid-’70s works, “Knock Upon My Silent Door” brings to mind the image of Patsy Cline being mugged by Thurston Moore, and album closer “Phony Checks” is a propulsive pop tune that owes as much to The Replacements as The Gun Club.
Mystery Claws’ debut, Hydaspia, is the inaugural release from independent label Easter Everywhere, and is available on vinyl and via mp3 downloads. An interest in lepidoptery is encouraged, but not required.
NME: Sleeping Bags, Mystery Claws
Vice Singles Club gives Mystery Claws/Sleeping Bags 7” a 50 out of 50
AudioSuede: New Track Reviews: Los Angeles Edition
Pasta Prima: Sunday Hi-5 to Mystery Claws
I Guess I’m Floating: Mystery Claws “Flashlights”