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Mirah



The Pacific Northwest's Mirah (full name Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn) has been a well-kept regional secret for a number of years. That's begun to change though, thanks to two excellent albums on Olympia's K Records, both of which she has recorded with production assistance from the great Phil Elvrum of Microphones, on whose albums Mirah has often sung.

In 2000, Mirah issued a sixteen-song debut album, You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This, which wrapped up a dazzlingly wide range of sounds and emotions into one very coherent, compelling, and seductive aesthetic vision. Sometimes it's just her cool, often childlike voice and nothing more than an understated guitar or even just muted snare drum; other times her ray-of-moonlight vocals are complemented by a number of instruments (most of which she plays), including distorted bass, antique organs, ukelele, violins, and junky percussion. The feeling here is one of navigation. Mirah's voice is a snaky silver river in the moonlight, narrowing to squeeze between obstacles, eddying into pools, moving fast, moving slow. There's a kind of deceptive simplicity to both the music and the lyrical content that upon closer listening yields to reveal a provocative and sensual complexity.

When Mirah issued her Cold, Cold Water EP at the beginning of 2002, it stirred expectations that her sophomore release might surpass her strong debut -- the track "Cold, Cold Water" is especially remarkable, setting up anappealing tension between Mirah's cooing little girl voice and Elvrum's sweeping, grandiose orchestration, full of crashing cymbals, pounding tympani, sky-grazing strings, and a convincing approximation of hoof thunder, recalling the dusty drama of an old Morricone soundtrack.

That incredible song leads off Mirah's second LP, Advisory Committee, which also features the EP tracks "Make It Hot" and "Apples in the Trees," both of which are closer to the sparse indie folk of her debut (the EP is still worth picking up, for an acoustic version of "Cold, Cold Water" and a collection of eight "snippets" isolating different sounds featured in "Cold, Cold Water). There are still some understated, pensive portions of Advisory Committee, but there are just as many arresting moments of brilliantly arranged orchestral might uncommon to today's indie rock. This give-and-take between bedroom introspection and operatic grandeur makes nearly every song a revelation. Between this album and the last two sensational Microphones releases, Elvrum is quickly carving out a niche as a sort of lo-fi (or lower-fi) Dave Fridmann. Mirah has elevated her vocal prowess as well, playing off the dynamic arrangements with grace, wit, and charisma. A tremendous effort.