“Triple Trinities”, Mumford’s brand new album, is epic. The nine songs on the album converse with one another, all of them focused around the single theme of religion, looking for the soft spots to sink their teeth into, to maybe find some answers to all the questions circling above them like vultures. The characters in the songs – preachers, atheists, God Himself, and an Antichrist or two – are three-dimensional and compelling. You might not be able to finish listening to it all in one sitting, all the narrators are so frustratingly human.
Obviously, this is not the first religiously themed record of all time. “Triple Trinities”, fortunately, recognizes this. The songs here can be seen as catalogs, as composites of what preceded it. It preserves the world-ending paranoia of The Thermals’ “The Body, The Blood, The Machine.” Yet it also holds on to the upbeat mythologizing of Page France’s “Hello, Dear Wind.” Most significantly, it recalls the real flesh and blood human tragedy of Leonard Cohen’s best work*, all of its sincere, wide-eyed struggle against the darkness, all of its laughing in the face of that very same darkness.
In the first song, “Communion”, Nate Logsdon’s voice resides right in the middle of the stereo image, framed by instruments. Isolated, but still dominating everything else in the song – a perfect analogy to God. As the record moves forward, the power structure of “Voice > Instruments” is subverted. “Church Song”, “Father in the Sky”, and “Stickbag” – the most sarcastic songs on the album – feature a horn section so powerful, you’d believe they truly could topple the Walls of Jericho.
The Voice / Instrument relationship is thus made equivalent to the Spirit / Body relationship. On “Tear These Mountains Down”, the narrator professes his wish to tell you “we are only bodies, we have no soul.” He then sings that “we’re gonna make a joyful sound, to kill all gods.” And when Kai Tanaka ends the song with an excellent blues guitar solo, you believe him. You really believe him.
Starting with the spark of a chance encounter with Don Mumford, a legendary (yet down on his luck) jazz drummer, the story of Mumford’s is also epic. According to saxophonist Kate Kennedy’s account, before recruiting some of Mumford’s founding members, Mr. Mumford was “holding a conversation with himself in which his long-held conviction that for artists, opportunities are sent from the Creator that enable them to create was being challenged.” With Triple Trinities, Mumford’s has explored Don’s conviction and has also paid homage to creators everywhere – human, supernatural, and everything in between.
*Note: All of Leonard Cohen’s work is Leonard Cohen’s best work.