On Life, and Another, Mega Bog (the world-inhabiting moniker of song-animator Erin Birgy) tends a succulent garden full of plants that the unwitting passerby might mistakenly perceive as extraterrestrial, but which are in fact very much of this Earth. Departing from the humid Holodeck spider plant nursery of previous record Dolphine (2019), Mega Bog’s new album brings us back to our home planet, into the rarefied air pressure of a dried-up desert valley where its fourteen songs were written and scattered like stones in the landscape. But true to Birgy’s alchemical writing practice, these bright stones simply refuse to blend into their arid environment, each one a precious gem chiseled by the anti-capitalist geologist’s hammer to reveal the impossible, dazzling life that inheres under the dusty exteriors of both the northern Nevada of her youth and the rural New Mexico of the album’s birth.
Cohabiting with Life, and Another’s co-producer, engineer, and percussionist James Krivchenia (Big Thief) in a small cabin near the Rio Grande off of NM State Route 68, Birgy found herself often alone, suspended between their separate touring schedules. In these silent time passages, Birgy experienced a complete loss of self amid the expanse. Frequently thinking about death in the middle of nowhere opened a familiar black hole of troubling projections, and any desire to find freedom or remain positive continued to fold back into self-destructive thought and fear. Strange long days were spent pacing the property with a rake, befriending ants and spiders and struggling with the instinct to poison them if they ventured into the home. Comfort was occasionally found in internet reruns of Frasier and Star Trek Deep Space 9, texts on the ethics of terraforming and space colonization, and Ken Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. Over time, a budding interest in mindfulness, attachment theory, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and rage gave way to new productive brain processes. These creative juices followed Birgy on the road and into subsequent lonely bedrooms as the songs continued to flow. New, northern landscapes, like the woods and rivers outside of Seattle, Washington, provided further inspiration during odd sublets in the area. Dark as everything may actually be, Birgy always manages to stay with trouble and conjure the extraordinary resulting music.
Marina Allen’s music is like that rollercoaster ride you have in your dreams, a moving, hard-to-believe balancing act that crosses tracks, occasionally leaves the rails and invariably flows unapologetically, succinctly and spine-tinglingly to a glorious conclusion.Her voice surfs many musical tangents, hovers and persists, floats and, only when entirely necessary, stings with honesty and aplomb; it morphs from Karen Carpenter’s gentle reverence to Laura Nyro’s soulful grit, moves through the phases like some possessed Dada performance artist before throwing in a melody from Joni at her jazziest or the close harmonies of the lamented Roches when they flipped out with Robert Fripp.
She writes songs that carry notes from other realms, as she dotes at the lake on an acoustic guitar with her feet dangling in the water; these are kitchen table tales about love and fear, the capturing of the wild heart, sketching the breaking of dawn, bringing real life to life.
Her majestic debut album celebrates the magical flicker within, following it till it dims. Her voice is mercurial and wonderfully infectious, her songs are poetry in motion.