Elizabeth Devlin, Orchid Mantis

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Why don’t more artists play autoharps?

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Michael Brummett | February 6, 2017

Elizabeth Devlin, Orchid Mantis

Background

 

Elizabeth Devlin is a self-produced NYC singer-songwriter, releasing her third full length album, Orchid Mantis, on the 8th. Orchid Mantis is the follow-up to her previously released albums: For Whom the Angels Named, (Fall of 2011),  Ladybug EP, (Winter 2011) and All Are Relative (Winter 2009). Devlin has toured nationally, internationally, and performs regularly around Brooklyn and NYC.

Being featured at The Winter Anti-folk Festival at Sidewalk Café at 9PM EST on Feb. 8th, Orchid Mantis is a story and intimate portrayal of womanhood in the twenty-first-century domestic scene, intermingled with the lights and energy of Metropolis NYC. Here’s what Devlin had to say on her latest work:

“This album focuses on private lives and interpersonal relationships—it speaks to many of the challenges and questions one faces after adolescent life stops and a new life, beyond the chrysalis, begins. We are all developing and growing…up, apart, together…it’s a hodgepodge of alternating expectations and creative processes and it’s exciting! The desire is to grab THIS, record it, keep it…a Polaroid of our collective moments, a diary entry of what our combined lives and creative experiences can be.”

Verdict

Although Orchid Mantis opens with “Middle Car”, you may find “Take My Life” [2:55] to be more accessible as a first listen, melding the vocals of both Devlin and Michael Wookey. The incredible vocal interplay between these two very quickly stuck with me and begged for multiple listens. Instrumentally, the melody constructed by Devlin brought me to an ‘old English’ era.

“Cold Sweat” [3:47] is arguably the most lyrically beautiful song of Orchid Mantis. As you listen, the experience is heightened by following her lyrics:

Three things that I see, three things to touch
three things that I hear, will it be enough?
Tether me to moments when the now escapes my grasp.
Count all the externals while internals detach.

Lead me from the dance floor, lead me to my bed.
Take me from the party, that is what she said.
Keep me in the quiet, lock me in the tallest tower
Wrap me in good intentions, hold me in this dark hour.

Far off float horizons, I will walk the beach
Passing through the forest, keep me in your reach
Feathered friends they fly ‘cross countries, far across the seas
Tie my balloon heart to your wrist, save me from this breeze.

Lead me from the dance floor, lead me to my bed.
Take me from the party, that is what she said.
Keep me in the quiet, lock me in the tallest tower
Wrap me in good intentions, hold me in this dark hour

“For Valerie” [3:19] is a slowly built, careful harmony between Devlin’s autoharp and Emily Hope Prince’s cello. Taking a handful of repeated listens to full capture my own thoughts on the song, I found “For Valerie” to be rather poetic, and living in its own genre. Imagine the instrumental soundscape to be absent — the track instantly transforms into a folk ballad. Yet the addition of the climbing backdrop makes it so much more visceral. Devlin here seems to ascend to the vocal sentiments of James Vincent McMorrow, finding a very unique voice and sound in her efforts.

“How Do You Call Your Lover Boy” [2:10] shows off a different side of Devlin’s vocal talents. Whether it be more grit, or simply a different approach, the impression is one of both passion and confidence.

The sub-sections of tracks detailed here represent some of the most memorable creations on Orchid Mantis. Speaking to a new life and perhaps new direction, the album was Devlin’s first since 2011. Abundantly clear is the thoughtful writing and production throughout — there was no filler, and not a single line that failed to carry its share in weight and significance.

By themselves, “Middle Car”, “A Wedding Song”, “Bonnard & Martha”, and “Delilah” would have made for a rightfully good EP, sitting at a 3 to 3.5 out of 5 in my book. The creatively transcendental nature of the remaining tracks, though, elevate Orchid Mantis to a new dimension of being. “Take My Life”, “Cold Sweat”, “For Valerie”, and “How Do You Call Your Lover Boy” set a different standard for Devlin, and her intrinsically melodic, beneath-the-surface folk sensibilities — they pull the weight in earning Elizabeth Devlin a 4.5/5 on her latest album.

Credits

Throughout the album, Elizabeth had help from a variety of friends and colleagues, as follows:

  • Emily Hope Prince (Cello)
  • Michael Wookey (Wurlitzer, toy piano, pianet, mellotron vibes, pump organ, piano, celesta)
  • Daniel Sanint (Mixed and recorded, Flux Studio NYC)
  • Paul Gold (Mastered, Salt Mastering)
  • Andrew Hoepfner (Hammond organ, grand piano)
  • Elizabeth Devlin (Produced, Written, vocals, autoharp, electric pump organ)

Support

You can find Elizabeth Devlin on Bandcamp, where you can buy Orchid Mantis. To keep up with her news and announcements, Facebook is a good choice, with more personal musings found on Tumblr.

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