The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers: The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia (Bu Hanan Records, 2005)
As a music lover, I usually have my ear to the ground in the music world, hearing about new artists and new CD’s well before they hit the stores. And, after years of listening to indie music, I generally have a decent idea of who is making music and how good their music is. So, when a young “unknown” artist like Perry Wright releases a CD of artistic integrity, grace, depth and creativity, I can’t help but feel a little duped. WHO IS THIS GUY? And how in the world did he just release, seemingly out of nowhere, a CD in The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia that any musical veteran would be proud to slap their name on?
Well, it turns out that The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia has experienced players that give it the kind of credibility and poise that the CD just reeks with. Former Sixpence None the Richer drummer Dale Baker (one of the under-rated drummers in music today, actually) lends his talents to the project, while James McAlister of Ester Drang also plays on the CD. Along with a host of other assorted musicians, The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia also impressively features the mastering job of studio wizard Chris Colbert. Together, this crowd of musicians call themselves The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, but in the end, it is the musical vision of Wright that shines on this release. Even with the impressive production and complex instrumentation of The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia, Wright’s moody songs and plaintive voice take centre stage, and it is clear that this project is fueled by this young NC man’s creative energy.
The sound of the music can be lazily described as the rock-apocalyptic vibe of Ok Computer-era Radiohead supporting songs written in a similar style as David Bazan of Pedro the Lion (while not being limited to these influences). The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia opens with the a solitary acoustic guitar and the fractured, brooding vocals of Wright during the opening strains of “The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia (Hutchison Effect)”, before exploding into a cathartic rock song. Crisp drumming and distorted guitars blaze through the song, only to let up for a few moments to allow a cheeky drum machine and elegant strings to bubble up to the surface of the song. All the while, Wright ably handles the vocals, never over-singing or over-straining his Zach Gresham-like voice. “Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens” feature a simple drum machine beat, strummed acoustic guitars, strings, and keyboard sounds that flow over Wright’s terse songwriting. The song is a perfect example of the kind of poise that is rarely heard on a CD so early in an artist’s career.
“Rotation of Crops” follows, with its heart-wrenching lyrics “Roughly as big as my fist, it would break to see you again. Aren’t we tired of this?” and simple musical elements of picked acoustic guitars, simple beat, and keyboard and string accents. The song builds methodically to a volcanic climax featuring crunchy guitars and distorted vocals. The oddly titled “Archaeopteryx” instantly lays down an atmosphere of desolation with its random down-tempo electronic beats and bassline, odd keyboard arrangements, and weary vocals. Sounding almost like a Kid A or Vespertine outtake, the song oozes with a dark experimental approach that only gives weight to the poignant lyrics. The danceable “Ammunition for a Bolt Action Heart” follows, with its almost disco beat, prominent strings, catchy melody, skilled guitar work and subtle electronic samples. Yet, despite the campy groove, the song conveys a world-weariness through the forlorn melody and seething vocals from Wright. On “Above the Waves (Pluripotency)”, the band returns to a slower take on glitchy electronic music, this time supported by gentle piano strains. The song quivers with tension, releasing for a few brief moments of eerie sounds, only to return to the melancholy mood of the song’s earlier moments.
Wright again impresses on what starts out as a simple folk but catchy song, “Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep”. The song gently flows with acoustic guitars, gorgeous drones, and subtle piano lines, before crashing through with a full rock ensemble for the song’s climax. “Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep” then slowly fades as the drones make a glorious reappearance for 30 seconds until the song fades away. The epic “The Slow Decay of Some Radio Afterglows” employs 7 minutes of a solitary acoustic guitar, moping lead and background vocals, and a plodding drum beat at the song’s core moments. Gentle brushed percussion and warm-sounding sliding electric guitars cradle “Disposable Drummers in Disposable Bands”, a lament seemingly about lost life and vision. The equally gentle yet ghostly folk song “Ontothanatological” follows, giving away to the radio-ready “Raise Up You Celestial Choirs”. On this well-written straight forward rock song, Wright exhorts the listener: “Raise up, you disconsolate. You’re always giving up your faulty faith”, as the song builds to the glorious chorus: “You will be lifted up into the glorious heights, into a gracious night…”. The combination of the accessible melody and excellent lyrics renders this song as one of the best songs about faith I’ve heard in quite some time. The song is a wonderful expression of hope, and the sequencing of the songs on The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia builds perfectly to this moment of triumph. Finally, Wright shows his love for Starflyer 59 by entitling his denouement “The Sad Lives of Hollywood Lovers” (a title that Starflyer 59 originally had selected for the CD they eventually titled The Fashion Focus). The song sounds nothing like a Starflyer 59 track, though, as strummed acoustic guitars, exquisite strings, and lush keyboard sounds stream around Wright’s distinct voice. A heavily distorted drum beat and dramatic string arrangement marks the song’s emotional highpoint, and the song gracefully comes to an end.
The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers have created a tour de force of depth…and after listening to The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia repeatedly, I cannot help but herald Wright as a true phenom. Wright’s carefully chosen and moving lyrics are wrapped in first-rate song melodies which in turn are spared no expense with the creative kind of production techniques rarely heard on independent releases. After word gets out about The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia, people will no longer be asking who in the world Perry Wright and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers are…the CD is that convincing, and THAT good, Highly recommended.