This is a fascinating collaborative effort from the Sun Kil Moon stable of main-man Mark Kozelek and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy LaValle the brains behind the American progressive instrumentalists "The Album Leaf. Kozelek releases a fair quantity of music but last years Sun Kil Moon album "Among the Leaves" seemed to be treading water and dryly mocking his previous work. The team-up took place on September 11, 2011, when Kozelek reached out to Lavalle to collaborate on a song together. That request resulted in this full blown album. LaValle's succeeds in pushing MK into new if sparse electronica which has done him good in terms of a creative resurgence, although some will berate the absence of acoustic beauty on this album. "Perils from the Sea" released on the Caldo Verde label is a proper musical partnership with Kozelek's songs soundtracked to LaValle's electronic landscapes. It is a contradictory album with a doggedly downbeat feel but full of tracks which see Kozelek's descriptive lyrics pushing the music forward not least helped throughout by the fact that he is firmly stuck in "storytelling mode".
It is an long album (77 minutes) which requires staying power and persistance. The shortest song on the album clocks in at over 5 minutes and in total some six tracks extend over the seven minute mark. Despite this the album does broadly work within tightly defined confines and dotted throughout are some very fine songs. Let us start with one of the standouts the opening track "What happened to my brother". The synth blips give way to a sparse melody and a plaintive Kozelek lyric that descends into darkness describing fully how his brother "used to sit and talk for days/now he lays there in a haze/'till some tiny little nothing/triggers psychotic eruption". Similarly "1936" is a sort of moody Postal Service track but one that is engaging and compelling all the same. The best song here is the lovely "Caroline" not least because of the presence of a guitar and a aching melody. Unfortunately tracks like "By the time that he awoke" interminably drag and the sombre synth arrangement is a taste that you will either acquire or despise with a passion. There are already acoustic versions of the sumptuous "You missed my heart" on the web and in comparison the meandering plodder here does not sound right. It is too cold and reverberates slightly out of tune which is a real shame bearing in mind the available concert versions. The accusation of ultimate indulgence could also be applied to the albums concluding track "Somehow the Wonder of Life Prevails" which goes on for an age. Yet this is vintage Kozelek at his heartbreaking best. It draws you back time and time again slowly revealing delicate verses which are ghostly in their haunting impact. It is in this reviewers humble opinion Kozelek's greatest song since "Lost Verses" underpinned by LaValle's mesmerising synth loops and pulsating beats giving it a hypnotic cinematic quality. It also has the best opening line in a song for years "I had a high school friend/ who liked to hunt muskrats and rabbits/and he liked to draw/ and he liked to listen to Ian Gillian and Black Sabbath".
It is certain that "Perils From the Sea" will do nothing whatsoever to enhance either Kozelek's of LaValle's minority interest status as music outsiders. It is album that sometimes lacks in colour but which makes up for it in raw emotion and depth. If you do not know already Kozelek's music this is definitely NOT the place to start since newcomers would be advised to head to the warmer pastures of the brilliant "Ghosts of the Great Highway". Alternatively if you have an acquaintance with previous works of both these powerful songwriters listen to it on the web and it will richly reward.
I have enjoyed an on-off relationship with the music of Mark Kozelek for more than 20 years; initially via his inaugural appearance under the guise of The Red House Painters. However, it is a long time since I have felt any genuine sense of excitement about the prospect of a new release. Nevertheless, as a fan of The Album Leaf, the idea of that band's mainstay, Jimmy Lavelle, teaming up with Kozelek certainly whetted the appetite. And, boy, what an album they have made. I don't think Kozelek has put together such a consistant;y strong set of lyrics in a career spanning the best part of three decades - for these are not just songs, but short stories that even masters of the form (think of the radio collections compiled by the likes of writers such as Paul Auster) would be proud of. Lavelle sympathetically underpins throughout with undemonstrative electronic and keyboard work, and appears to have breathed new life into the singer in the process. I would have liked the vocals even louder in the mix (and a lyric sheet with the cd), as Kozlek does have a tendency to murmur and slur, but once you have got the plot of each tale, it is impossible not to get drawn in. One or two could have done with closer editing, but ultimately the flaws are minor for a record that absolutely brims over with compassion, humanity and optimism. Intimate, intense, intelligent and a real contender for album of the year.
A different perspective perhaps from the other reviewers who are obviously long standing admirers of the music of Mark Kozelek in his various guises and Jimmy Lavelle. I came to this album from a recurring source - Uncut sampler of new music which featured 'Somehow the wonder of life prevails'. Despite knowing of Mark Kozelek I have not heard much of his music and know nothing of Jimmy Lavelle. However I think I may have to rectify this after getting this thoroughly enjoyable album. As has already been said these are a series of lyrically rich stories complemented by restrained and simple musical accompaniment. The two sit together really well with the alternating tone and delivery of the vocal heightening the effect of the songs on many occasions. I find the lyrics clever, engrossing and interesting. This ensures that on every play, despite the length of the songs, I am totally absorbed in the storyline ( also still trying to fill in the gaps where the vocal is not particularly clear and would echo the remarks of the previous reviewer in respect of provision of a lyric sheet). The lyrics are so detailed and are fleshed out by reference to down to earth and apparently mundane information (a couple of examples off the top of my head - on 'Gustavo' a phone call from Mexico comes out as 'called me collect from a Tijuana payphone' and the recited list of hotels on Caroline). I enjoy the whole album but 'Gustavo' and 'Somehow the wonder of life prevails' are particular favourites. Having bought recent recordings by artists I have loved for many years it is perhaps indicative of how highly I rate this album as it gets more plays than any of the others.
Not a word I've used about an album in a looooooooong time, but this richly involving collaboration truly merits the word, as Lavalle's subtle, inveigling, electronic tunes blend with MK's laconic growl into a wholly intoxicating 77 minutes: I still haven't picked up on all the lyrics yet, but certain phrases and melodic ticks are already firmly lodged in my brain and I find myself playing the whole thing as many times a day as I can. I heard the last track first of all, on a sampler, the wonder of life prevails, and that immediately convinced me to get the whole album, so you might dip your toe into that astonishing song to see what you think. All in all, though, one of those works that everyone should own. Breathtaking.
i don't really 'do' reviews as music is too subjective and there are already too many opinions spinning around the place, but i felt I had to do a service to other mildly disillusioned Kozelek fans like myself. I've been listening to Mark Kozelek since the early red house painters days and I have to admit I was losing faith. I found his last release 'among the leaves' a bit 'meh.' I feared he was treading water, like so so many other mid-career artists. So perils from the sea hit me like a bolt. It is simply stunning, for me personally it ranks as a career high in a career of highs. The partnership has really injected some inspiration in his delivery. He has surprised us like this before, bowling us over with the brilliant 'Ghosts of the highway' after a run of 'meh' albums, and here he has done it again. I won't pick out highlights or break it down track by track, that is for individuals to decide, suffice to say I can't listen to Gustavo without a tear in my eye, lyrically it is a powerhouse. Unusually 'You missed my heart' has you singing along after the first listen (not a common occurrence in the Kozelek oeuvre.) If you've enjoyed Kozelek before then you will probably love this. If you've never listened to Kozelek before then I am envious as this album is just one great pleasure of many coming your way. Click buy...
Well what turn up, with such a quick follow up after "Among the Leaves" I did not expect such a fresh sopund from Mark Kozeleck. As long time fan since his days with RHP this "project" with Jimmy Lavalle ( with whose work I have to confess I am not familiar) seems to have given Mark a real sense of enthusiasm in his work. This is very good album from start to finish with an excellent blend between the electronic musical sounds of Jimmy Lavalle and the superb vocals of Kozelek. The sound sort of reminds me of Blue Nile and later Matthew Ryan records. If you are a Kozelek or Jimmy Lavalle fan you will love this,if not it may take a few listens, highly recommended though.If you are new to Mark Kozelek start at Ghosts Of The Great Highway
Never heard of either artist until I took a chance on an Amazon recommendation. Glad I did. It's one of the most lyrically inventive albums I've heard in years. Some tracks are too literal and mildly irritating ("Baby In Death Can I Rest Next To Your Grave", "Caroline"), but this is more than compensated for by the quality of others. Stand out tracks for me are "By The Time That I Awoke", "Gustavo", and "You Missed My Heart". "1936" and "Gustavo" are pretty heart-wrenching, but hard to stop listening to. Be sure to listen past the opening bars of the opening track...
After last years `Among the Leaves` and seeing him live, I concluded it was maybe finally time for him to stop touring, settle down and have some kids. Anyway, put all that on hold, Mark, as this is fantastic! A bold new adventure, where LaValle provides novo-digi-ambient musical backdrops for Kozelek's engaging (once again) and melodious stories. And (insanely) rarely a guitar in sight! For me this experiment is a complete success.
A wonderful album, Mark Kozelek is a great storyteller, the songs creating visuals of the characters and Jimmy's soundtrack providing mystical and laid back electro beats are just perfect for turning up loud and sitting back and relaxing. Gustavo is one memorable track
An amazing album from Mark Kozelek. Not the kind of cd I'd put on at a party; more of a quiet and reflecting listen. At times the subject matter sung in the lyrics is difficult but it is executed superbly with help from Jimmy Lavalle of the excellent The Album Leaf.