What can you do with music? Quite a lot, if you ask the gentleman and lady behind Lethe. The duo has been producing adventures in crossover since 2013, creating an alternative style meshing metal, triphop, and general experimental electronics in an ever more peculiar fashion. On The First Corpse On The Moon the two, backed by a veritable army of session musicians, continue to perfect their approach.
Almost all genres of music are represented here somehow. An unacceptably vague term like “technical, complex pop” is the best we can do to fit the whole compact under one umbrella. And then we’d still need to add caveats to cover the fact that it is also, somehow, sometimes and in some sense, metal.
Experimental as it may be, this second album of Lethe’s is not atonal in any way – the music operates firmly within the circles of fourths and fifths like most any album. The sense of weirdness comes from the rapid shifts and admixtures of genres, styles and ideas. Even so, it quickly becomes obvious that this is no random patchwork. There is a sort of method to the madness, and a style specific to the band. Perhaps most obviously: the vocals, part male, but mainly female, keep things together when they threaten to rocket off into Nonsenseville, CA. That does not mean that this recording ever becomes predictable. There may be an overarching cohesiveness, but you will not become bored with, or perhaps even understand, this album.
Right when you think you have the basics down, the surprises roll in. The initial beat of “Teaching Birds How to Fly”, including synthesized hand claps, is followed by trippy and partly cut up beats and distorted guitars, all with rather sweet female vocals. The latter gain depth and edge as they sardonically sing of “lecturing birds on how to fly”, supported by high pitch, male back up vocals. Stuff like this goes on all the time, even if one or two tracks – in particular “With you” – move the listener a bit closer to regular song writing.
The best way to avoid being confused and annoyed here, and rather get the most out of what is in fact an incredibly well constructed piece of music, is to try to avoid bringing any preconceptions with you. Considering the background of the two main musicians involved that may be difficult. Anna Murphy spent years in Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie, as well as a slew of other folk and metal acts. Tor-Helge Skei, or Cernunnos as he’s really called, is the mastermind of Norwegian black metal band Manes, whose 1993 demo Maanes natt remains one of the most unfairly underappreciated recordings of Norway’s golden age of blackness. They’ve also recorded more things since, many of which are great, I hear.
If you go into this expecting straight up metal (or, God forbid, folk) you will probably not be able to “get” whatever there is here to get. If you just relax and follow these two crazy kids where they want to take you, you are in fact very likely to enjoy the trip.
The First Corpse On The Moon is available to discerning members of the public on February 24th 2017 from the label – My Kingdom Music.