Marah in the Mainsail • Thaumatrope
33-RPM 140g LP
Thaumatrope (now there’s an album title!) is the debut full-length release from Marah in the Mainsail, a self-described cinematic alt-folk quintet from Minneapolis. It was released in late 2015 on Last Triumph, the world’s first certified B Corp record label. (Incidentally, a thaumatrope is an optical toy that was popular in the 19th Century. A disk with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one due to persistence of vision. When held in the correct manner, the cover of the CD is a thaumatrope when twirled in one’s hands.)
After an unexpected trombone and distorted guitar introduction, side one of the album kicks off with Traveling Man, a song that to me has a hint of the old west.
The next track, Your Ghost, has lead singer Austin Durry, and keyboard player and vocalist, Cassandra Sabol, playing tag with with singing duties in call-and-response fashion. It’s an arrangement that works well, the former’s growling voice being a counterpoint to the latter’s smoother, higher register.
Side two starts with another Austin and Cassandra duet, See No Evil, which segues nicely into the toe-tapping Graveyard. Drowned (which for some reason is called Holy Water on the CD version of Thaumatrope), Willow Tree and Your Work Isn’t Done round out the album.
As far as sound quality goes, it’s pretty good. Not an audiophile spectacular by any stretch, but well produced nonetheless. The vinyl, weighing in at 140 grams, is thick and flat, with quiet surfaces. The only gripes I have are these: there are no liner notes (lyrics, credits, etc.) even though the CD has a booklet, and the paper inner sleeve is, like all plain paper inner sleeves, awful. My solution to plain paper inner sleeves is after carefully taking the record out of it (I just ripped it off to minimize static build up), throw it away and put the record in an antistatic sleeve.
Summing up, sonically and especially musically, Thaumatrope earns itself a warm recommendation from me. That it comes from a record label that’s trying to make the world a better place is icing on the cake!