Mood Rings – VPI Harmony album review

VPI Harmony, the whisper-y and effervescent new album from the genre-less Mood Rings is a great addition to the ephemerist movement. It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly where this influx of ambience-drowning bands began, but the growth itself has produced some great records and even more misused noise. Being successful as an ephemerist is all about finding the structure in the ocean.

For Mood Rings, ephemera was not always the mode, and it wasn’t until their first proper album that they turned down the buzzed over post-punk and waded into the stereophonic abyss. And given the fact that this has been a particularly great year for ephemerists, with Kurt Vile making his listeners go missing inside their iTunes libraries with Wakin On A Pretty Daze and My Bloody Valentine, arguably the greatest ephemerists of all time, returning with the wonderfully disembodied m b v, it should most definitely not be taken lightly that Mood Rings are carving out their own space in a crowded spotlight. It’s not easy to make ephemera compelling.

VPI Harmony is a consistently compelling record, built on small melodies that drift into each other and whispering vocals that lead you in circles. It’s also a good entry point for those trying to understand all these other, more complex ephemerists. Songs like “Pathos y Lagrimas” might take you double-digit listens to parse, but nothing ever gets too dense. This is ephemera lite.

The odd thing about ephemera is that it involves both control and restraint, you have to make sure all the moving parts are under control before you can know when its time to let them go rogue. More importantly, you can never let listener see the strings. It needs to be an environment rather than an arrangement, structured improv rather than scripted comedy. It’s because of this that VPI Harmony’s weakest moments are the more tightened ones, like the riff-y “Hollow Dye”, which sounds like a lower-fi Smith Westerns B-side. Even with that said, the song is still serviceable and doesn’t take things too far off track.

The album closes with a hypnotic back-burner called, “Charles Mansion”, and features just about every different kind of sound Mood Rings is capable of throwing at you. It’s almost like a commentary on the whole experience, pushing ephemera to its limits. Is it earnest or satirical? I’m not sure this album is interested in answering those kinds of questions, but as long as ephemerists keep making music that’s this easy to escape to, there’s no reason to even ask.

By Tom Noonan

Tom is a writer from Philadelphia working on his Creative Writing degree at Princeton. He probably would forget the words if he sang the National Anthem in a public place.

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