words by Eric Engelbart
Mike Wexler’s new album, Dispossession, was released last week on Mexican Summer records. With Dispossession, Wexler establishes himself as an auteur, an artist who has crafted a specific niche for himself while defying a simple description or categorization. Dispossession is like freak-folk meets freeform jazz, with the aesthetic appeal of Radiohead and a lyrical style that can only be described as what you’d expect from Devendra Banhart’s pretentious older brother.
Dispossession was recorded as an improvisational piece at first, with a diverse array of instrumentation added subsequent to the initial recording. The resulting album is organized chaos, a structured yet rambling collection of expansive compositions. The pieces seem to have a mind of their own, as the album features frequent key changes and tempo changes, all while somehow managing to remain a cohesive whole.
Dispossession is at once archaic and cutting edge. Album opener “Pariah”, which features brushed drums, angelic sounding organs, and Wexler playing jazz guitar, sets the tone for what’s to come. On “Pariah”, Wexler’s lyrics have an air of ethereality: “The angel moaned/ and slept for centuries/ as in a lucid dream,” and when combined with Wexler’s arrangements, they create a unique and rewarding experience.
“Glyph”, the album’s shortest track, is the closest thing to a mix-tape entry that can be found on Dispossession. It’s a spare, haunting piece featuring only Wexler’s romantic finger picked guitar, a speckling of piano notes, and shrill meandering strings. In the song, Wexler sings of new possibilities as windows of opportunity: “Open a road to the isle unknown/ Open a road to the vanquished field/ Open the lid of the eye unknown.” Though Wexler’s messages are shrouded in calculated mystery, at their heart they contain a message of conquering fear in the interest of hope.
Mike Wexler’s Dispossession is a challenging listen, akin to forcing yourself to sit down and read a thousand-page novel. For the casual listener, it’s good background music for a camping trip or a rainy summer night.