Review : Micah P. Hinson - Micah P. Hinson And The Pioneer Saboteurs
NoripcordI had a rather strange introduction to Micah P Hinson. Around late 2006, in my more hedonistic university days, shall we say, I had a night out with some friends which consisted of essentially drinking a lot and taking a bunch of drugs. This continued into the small hours until supplies were diminished around six or seven in the morning. After some unanswered phone calls were made someone pointed out that his housemate had some acid in his room. We then consumed the acid for breakfast, the first six hours or so were a hoot, but then the energy reserves burnt out and that mindset of ‘I want this to be over now’ kicked in. After previously trying this particular type of acid, I knew we had a good ten-twelve hours left of this. Knowing this combined with a defeated mind-set is not always the best move with acid. Me and my friend laid around wishing it away, not freaking out, but whereas the land of the demented and broken was a far away horizon line some hours ago, it was now only a few precarious steps away, and we both knew this. A few hours passed, in warm and ethereal waves, you think it’s passing and then it washes over you again like it’s hit you for the first time. Conversation was sparse and we merely exchanged frazzled and exhausted glances of disillusion. I knew my exam that I had the next day was a goner, which was always playing in the back of my mind. I don’t remember what music we listened to until my friend got up and put on a CD I had never heard. The CD in question was Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress. The rich, resonant voice seeped through the speakers like it was molten lava, the density and warmth of it was like someone throwing a blanket over me. The personal feel that the album exuded was one that stuck with me, in my moment of discontent it was almost as though he was reaching out a hand. His tortured and tormented croons seemed to speak straight to me, and it was at that moment I realised, ‘hey this is going to be okay, just relax’. From that moment on, it wasn’t all roses but i approached and accepted what was going on with a reinvigorated sense of perspective. I wouldn’t go as far to say ‘Micah P Hinson saved me from an acid induced breakdown’ but he certainly leant a helping hand in guiding me back to sanity. That record still to this day is of incredible significance and poignancy to me.
His follow ups, Micah P Hinson and the Opera Circuit and Micah P Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra both had moments that shined, but never quite as bright as his debut. However, Micah P. Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs see the intensity and stark beauty return in full form.
His new LP opens with A Call To Arms a sweeping instrumental that wouldn’t sound of out place on a Dirty Three record. The strings are lush and penetrating, yet retain a subtlety that is ever-present throughout the rest of the album. As the opening vocals of Sweetness sprout, you could instantly think it’s Richard Hawley - that texture sodden croon the drifts and hangs. However, it’s worth pointing out that Hinson is still only in his twenties - his voice exudes a sense of torture and worn-life normally attributed to someone closer to receiving his pension not his driving licence. Seven Horses Seen is an affecting look back at his friend killing himself and serves to highlight the emotively inducing qualities of Hinson’s voice, as it transports you almost physically....full text
BbcAlthough Abilene, Texas’s Micah P Hinson’s fourth ‘proper’ album’ – excluding 2009’s ill-advised covers release – begins with a dolorous chamber music overture and closes with a rather more optimistic instrumental waltz, …Pioneer Saboteurs is far from a string-laden coffee table country record. The seven minutes of white noise that precede its pastoral coda make that clear. They’re hardly necessary, however, given that Hinson’s spent the previous hour auditioning to replace Johnny Cash as the Man in Black.
…Pioneer Saboteurs is a grand requiem for Hinson’s America inspired by Walt Whitman’s 1900 poem Pioneers! O Pioneers. It’s defined by Hinson’s lugubrious, weather-beaten baritone, like a hoarse Lee Hazlewood calling from beyond the grave, and an unusual musical mixture that occupies a desolate ground between Calexico, Tom Waits and, perhaps, Mogwai. It’s full of sepulchral beauty, especially on its central track, The Cross That Stole This Heart Away, in which, against a bleak musical landscape much like a sedated Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Hinson wearily recalls his rescue by an alternative saviour who “gently spoke my fears and trials away”. Dear Ashley is similarly potent: while lyrically it struggles to express any more than “you set me aflame”, Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers)’s aching strings convey “the words I meant to say” far more eloquently than Hinson’s consciously inarticulate speech of the heart.
But such reticence is unusual, with Hinson repeatedly conjuring up often shocking images, of “ropes made for limbs”, of men “impaled on a foreigner’s fence”, of a lover “stuck on the job” while his partner hangs herself, of a preacher who would “rather cock the trigger than live another day”. Some might find all this misery, whether it’s stripped back like Sweetness or as explosive as She’s Building Castles in Her Heart , a little masochistic for their tastes. Those, however, who have followed Hinson’s career since 2004’s debut, The Gospel of Progress, will be relieved by a compelling return to Gothic American themes which repays their early conviction that he is a unique songwriter capable of converting lyrical gloom into musical glory....full text
MusicomhMicah P Hinson has spent his career making a name for himself as the grimmest door-to-door salesman of the modern American gothic aesthetic. His fourth album, the double LP ...And The Pioneer Saboteurs, is a solid case for Hinson's role as America's new downtrodden troubadour, a wandering fish-eyed lens for all that is unsavoury and bleak about his Western landscape, from Abilene to the dusty expanses of small-town shame under big, oily skies.
Musically, Hinson fits the alt-country niche as uncomfortably as Wilco, but it's a close fit, if a bit tight across the shoulders. Hinson's music casts its heavy shadow on a wide vista of musical territory, channelling a cacophony of squalling guitar feedback and lush orchestrations to lend his heavy subject matter an alternating sense of near-whimsy and atonal catastrophe and claustrophobia.
The album's bookend instrumentals, A Call To Arms and The Returning, lend this work a sense of grand, theatrical scale. While the opener is all lush frontier strings, well suited for panning across John Ford landscapes, the closer (a waltz to take us box-stepping drunkenly home) is preceded by nearly eight minutes of electric guitar feedback and white noise.
"Sweetness, take off that dress for me," invites Hinson on Sweetness, "Against all hope and sense of dignity." Seedy and often appalling imagery populates ...And The Pioneer Saboteurs like cockroaches in the walls of a fallen-down and forgotten Texas homestead. Hinson sings of suicidal preachers, spurned lovers, and "ropes made for limbs" with an easy baritone that's grown cracked and old before its time, and often sounds sung into a tin can, a bit like M Ward's....full text
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