Lhean Into WHY?

Fresh off a collaboration with Serengeti (and my favorite album of last year), Yoni Wolf and the other guys in WHY? are at it again. Their latest release, Moh Lhean, shows a more muted sensibility that still brings the heft and gravitas of Mumps etc. and AlopeciaMoh Lhean moves away from the avant stream of consciousness style that dominated their previous releases for more orchestrated and sung lyrics. The switch allows WHY? to explore topics outside their typical oeuvre with the same critical eye.

The album begins with the one-two punch of “This Ole King” and “Proactive Evolution.” The two tracks balance their differing aesthetics (and the competing tones that ebb and flow throughout Moh Lhean). “This Ole King” is a sweet love-ish song that begins softly and slowly increases its tension while “Proactive Evolution” harkens back to feelings and herky-jerky vocal movements of Mumps etc. But rather than rehash familiar territory, “Proactive Evolution” matches its lyrical density with a narrative control that surpasses anything on WHY?’s previous releases.

It seems Yoni’s time spent making Testarossa with Serengeti helped the musician find new and interesting avenues to explore sonically (other than stalking and writing songs about his fans ala the Golden Ticket EP). Despite these new textures, WHY’s ability to create weird situations undercut by strange instrumental tracks is the strongest it has been. Rather than a collection of songs, Moh Lhean unfurls as a web of interconnected vignettes.

In the middle of this tangle is “One Mississippi.” The track highlights Yoni’s ability to skate down jittering rhythms without losing the beat while simultaneous shifting focus from small to large and back again. “One Mississippi” allows Yoni to flex his writing muscles–showcasing why the MC is able to hold out attention whether he’s waxing poetic about silhouettes or failed relationships.

While Moh Lhean doesn’t have the snarling grit of Mumps etc. or the loveable roughness of Eskimo Snow, the album more than makes up for it with technique. Throughout Moh Lhean, the instrumentals are larger, more present than any other album and the lyrics are more precise and more controlled. In this, their latest release, WHY? shows that they have matured over the past half-decade. It also shows that WHY? refuses to become complacent in a single sound.

The album ends with “The Barely Blur.” Melancholic and slow, “The Barely Blur” (and “The Consequence of Nonaction”) offer a nice volta to end the album. While not the most tension-filled example of WHY?’s work, “The Barely Blur” is a stunning ending to this new chapter of the band’s music. Lush and gripping, the concluding track begs its listeners to flip the album over and start Moh Lhean from the top.

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