Dolphine – Paradise of Bachelors (2023)

Table of Contents
Album Narrative Acknowledgements

Album Narrative

Photo by Indigo Sparke.
Photo by Indigo Sparke.
Photo by Jesse DeFrancesco.

Photo by Jesse DeFrancesco.
Photo by Vanessa Haddad.
Photo by Jesse DeFrancesco.
Photo by Jesse DeFrancesco.

Mega Bog is the fluid musical moniker of songwriter Erin Elizabeth Birgy, a Pacific Northwestern rodeo child with an unmistakable laugh, who was allegedly cursed upon conception. She has spent the last ten years channeling, capturing, and releasing her unique bouquet of fragrant, sci-fi pop experiments with a handful of bicoastal collaborators. Mega Bog has visited a significant portion of the Western world, frequently looping the USA and Europe to sing in tiny art spaces and haunted historical theaters alike. The live concerts are known for their emotional unpredictability. Onstage, Erin’s current mood is amplified, for better or for worse; she is an honest and unflinching performer.

The title of Mega Bog’s newest album Dolphine—her fifth, and first for Paradise of Bachelors—is inspired by a myth that suggests that, as humankind evolved from sea creatures, some individuals chose not to leave the water and walk the earth, but rather to stay in the ocean and explore the darkness as dolphins. (The extra ‘e’ was added to take the word out of the everyday, translating it into a potential futuristic dialect.)Dolphineis an album for the swimming human shadow obscured by waves. The songwriting was inspired by Erin’s own swim through a myriad of overwhelming emotions, including the ongoing mourning following the death of her childhood horse companion Rose, her navigation of the feelings and physicality of two abortions, and the hapless and shattering social, political, and environmental turmoil on the planet known as Earth.

In October of 2016, Erin took her dark sketches to the Outlier Inn studio in Woodridge, NY, with a passionate crew of deeply bonded musicians. Together, they arranged and executed these eleven dizzy pop songs, live, over a tight seven days. In addition to Birgy (vocals, guitar, piano), the lineup included Meg Duffy (guitar), Matt Bachmann (bass), Derek Baron (drums), James Krivchenia (engineering, percussion, effects), Aaron Otheim (synthesizers, piano), and Ash Rickli (guitar and vocals). Later, Will Murdoch (clarinet, synthesizers) and Zach Burba (synthesizers, bass) offered their own atmospheric overdubs from their home on the West Coast. Over the next year, Erin added to the tapestry with vocal contributions by Nick Hakim and Kalen Remy Walther, upright bass by Benjamin Murphy, textural guitar by Austin Jackson, and saxophone by Jeff Tobias, until she had successfully excavated each cold mystery with proper care and wonder. The completed sound is thick and inviting. Bellowing, breathless vocals, mystical lyrics with the presence of poetry and the intuitive logic of dreams, and promiscuous, sometimes dissonant chord structures swirl together, coalescing into hazy and hypnotic fantasies.

The songs ofDolphineare ablaze with jealousy, anger, and sadness as well as the powerful glow that comes from attempting to hold those feelings with care. Inspired by the poetry of Alice Notley, the novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, and the art of Ian Cheng, Birgy spins her manic web of emotions into beautiful, abstract future poems. With each lurid image—a stupid scorpion, an abdomen of small snakes, another picture of milk, foxes bloating up Eastern expressway shoulders—Erin dunks listeners deep into her subconscious, and it’s up to us to surface, buoyant, and paddle through.

On album opener “For the Old World,”anguished affection and confusion bloom over lounge-music genre perversions, both ethereal and belligerent. On “Diary of a Rose,”Erin steps through her losses and growths to a continuous groove that crescendoes into melodic chaos and revelation. “Truth in the Wild”(the title is taken from a quote by Ian Cheng) speaks surreal and lonely images over soft percussion, classical guitars, and clarinet, pointing to influences like Joni Mitchell’s jazz period and Laurie Anderson’s 1989 record Strange Angels. “Untitled (with ‘C’)”was written for Philando Castile the day after his murder, and “Fwee Again” works through all ofDolphine’s devotions instrumentally.

Ash Rickli wrote and sang the airy outlier “Spit in the Eye of the Fire King,” recorded on the porch of the studio with the wind chimes blowing. Between the album’s recording sessions and its release, Ash’s heart stopped unexpectedly during one of his live shows in Athens, Georgia. He was thirty. The tragedy, devastating to the many people who loved him, permeates the album. Ash sings:

I’m never afraid
I was born in the dark

And I’ll die in the light with a tear in my mouth
To extinguish the spark that put light by itself

It’s the one thing I could think to do to help

At the beginning of the sessions, Ash wrote a radio play based on his playful interpretation of Erin’s tarot reading for herself. Titled Avenging Mind, it was intended as a companion piece toDolphine.The recording remains unfinished. The following monologue is an excerpt:

That which is freely given… Energy passing unseen from my inner eye … exacting compassion and careful deliberate movements…There! … That sphere! … Of course it’s not an ordinary time machine; it’s an incubation chamber. One that exists between planes, floating lucidly on the edge of dreams through the spires of Crystal City and beyond to the mountains. I can feel her forming now … “Athene” … Safe from the punishment of endless time and realized in a realm through which all things intersect and seem to dissolve.

Dolphine, too, inhabits that realm of realization.

Acknowledgements

Prismatic avant-pop that balances warbling melodies with unexpected bursts of frenetic energy. ‘Diary of a Rose’ is a lush representation of Birgy’s ability to evoke warmth and nostalgia while keeping her gaze to the future.

– NPR Music

It joins Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising andBig Thief’sUFOFas one of 2019’s left field pop gems, a record created with no detectable consciousness of a wider scene but with a bedroom-wide sense of possibility. Birgy’s songs are tangles, unconcerned with hooks, verses, choruses, while floating melodic ideas are addictive precisely because they don’t repeat but play themselves out then disappear. Part prog, part easy listening, warm and engulfing… a shimmering chiaroscuro [of] fully fledged delicious pop. Dolphine pulls off the trick of making the small scale feel all-encompassing.

– The Wire

Erin Birgy’s fifth album feels like the heartfelt expression of a uniquely weird viewpoint. It flits from groovy jazz to psych-pop to sylvan folk with freaky glee… Even at its most inexplicable, there’s not a moment on Dolphine that feels careless. As her imagination roams, Birgy understands that sometimes irrationality is necessary to make sense of reality.

– Pitchfork

Do you want to find some nice background music, or do you want to blow your mind? If it’s the latter, dive into Dolphine. The water’s warm—if a bit weird. Mega Bog’s Erin Birgy creates avant-rock that’s intimate, surreal, a bit Bridget St John, a bit Cate Le Bon, with hints of Joni, Yoko, and Nico.

– The Sunday Times

8/10. Sonic fantasia from a poetic mind… a whimsical and devastating cosmic journey through loss and healing. It’s part folk-rock fantasy, part avant-pop mind trip, and all gorgeous. With lush sonic layers that are alternately raw and delicate, Dolphine translates as a series of dream worlds where the confessional meets the fantastical, and lost ones live forever.

– Uncut

4 stars. Erin Birgy’s quizzical approach makes for surrealist pop at once comforting and unsettling. Echoes of Stereolab, King Crimson, and Yoko Ono abound.

– The Guardian

4 stars. Erin Elizabeth Birgy is a kind of solitary seer, creating songs as ecosystems, with shimmering, trippy arrangements and a lo-fi mix of loungecore, jazz, and echoey Americana, like Blossom Dearie on steroids.

– MOJO

Somewhere between the mystical landscapes of prog rock and the familiar breeze of easy-listening radio… It sounds something like the ‘energize’ effect onStar Trekas transposed for a jazz band … the music is vast and refined, hinting at chaos but never quite losing control. The band is equally adept at sweeping you away and pulling you in.

– Pitchfork

A lounge track for the lobby of a passenger ship floating through space, Mega Bog’s ‘Truth in the Wild’ toys with the earthly and the cosmic. Frontwoman and multi-instrumentalist Erin Birgy guides listeners on a mystical adventure.

– Cool Hunting

4 stars. Thoroughly captivating… Brilliant, slightly wonky pop songs that weld themselves to a listener’s brain. Birgy is a rare talent who, a decade into her career, might just be due her moment.

– Q

Absurdly good. She blurs the lines between the surreal and the profound in a way that she seems able to do like none other… “Diary of a Rose” is a stunning introduction to the new record, a jazzy/breezy gem with vaguely sinister undertones, teeming with Birgy’s unforgettably peculiar and vivid lyrical phrasing and the kind of deceptively labyrinthine melodies and slithering guitar lines that made the band’s last LP Happy Together such a compelling, unsung masterpiece and one of the best records of the last half-decade.

– Gorilla vs. Bear

Starts off mossy and inviting, but then builds to an impressive tempest of wailing guitars. Spectral, at times suave and smooth, and baroque. She’s not quite like anybody else.

– Brooklyn Vegan

I’m forever dumbfounded by the raw intimacy and alien sophistication of Erin’s work. It’s dream music of the highest order.

– Jessica Pratt

“The weirding way got weirder,” Erin Birgy sings, sounding like Nico at her spookiest, a lovely summation of her beguilingly crooked guitar playing. Fans of Cate Le Bon, look sharp.

– The Guardian

The whole experience is a pristinely surreal excursion.

– Paste Magazine

Rooted in guitar-driven post-punk, [‘Diary of a Rose’] flourishes with synths, squeaks, and feedback, sending it way out into the wilderness and back again.

– Aquarium Drunkard

Birgy’s command over both her arrangements and Dolphine‘s emotional flow meet with some of her best songs, making the album her strongest statement in a history of exceptional work.

– AllMusic

On new album Dolphine, Mega Bog’s music inhabits this strange liminal zone between waking and dreaming life.

– DAZED

4 stars. Another quirky fit for PoB, whose core roster is roots-based and always challenging. Spacey folk songs and giddy tunes cosy up across an album that intrigues then incites. Dolphine guards a secret interior, yet behind its velvet drapes we glimpse something enigmatic.

– RnR

Imagine an adventure game quest with Yoko Ono as your guide, or Laurie Anderson doing her best David Attenborough impression: a deep, joyful abstraction that draws to a pure, human conclusion.

– Pitchfork

Weird and comforting wooze … that unspools like lava-lamp bubbles.

– NPR

A multifaceted meteor of sonic delight orbiting an oceanic planet of playfulness and pain, where the sound of the music fragments in wondrous flame and falls like fire. Pulsating poetry!

– Adrienne Lenker, Big Thief

We’re pretty over the moon about their new album Dolphine … She lilts and deepens her melodies at a whim, accented words and punctuating phrases as the music kicks up into a dusty space-aged twang. Mega Bog is a national treasure.

– Post-Trash

Birgy navigates personal and anthropological trauma on a soundscape that is musically luscious, disruptive, and superbly unsettling. Dolphine takes us to a strange and watery place.

– Loud and Quiet

Evokes a different kind of lush, green fantasia — something about its wobbling saxophone and loosey-goosey guitar suggests a mysterious caper beneath the fronds of a vast weeping willow.

– Bandcamp

Her pensive reverbed whispers create a dreamy landscape that listeners have difficulty escaping. In it, they find tranquility.

– Interview

Swarms with cosmic curiosity. Its disembodied saxophones are straight out of the Black Lodge by way of Bowie’s Blackstar, weaving a jaunty path through an inviting yet disquieting haze.

–Pitchfork

A jazzy experimental rock track – spacious, warm, and eerie, with brass, guitar, and vocal melodies weaving in the ether. Pop aesthetics with an edgy sci-fi sensibility.

– Stereogum

Sci-fi inspired, warm and idiosyncratic Americana-pop.

Tiny Mix Tapes

A soothsaying Laura Marling or a spacey Nico … The song cracks open, allowing backmasked slivers of guitar and wriggling solos to flood out – a new tributary finding its path.

– NPR

They have the power to transform the mundane into jazzy wonderlands. It’s freaky in the best way… like partying under the only willow tree in the desert.

– Pitchfork

Clean and percussive, with undertones of experimental jazz.

– Rookie

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