Mutual Benefit – Thunder Follows The Light

Jordan Lee, the only constant member in Mutual Benefit, has again pulled together a variety of musicians to make what is the most intimate record of his career. Creating intricate, emotive soundscapes; Lee has used a multitude of instrumentation and sound recordings for an intensely deep listen, which takes time to fully appreciate each intricate detail.

The idea for the album began one night in rural New England: “There was a huge storm, so we decided to sit on the patio and listen,” described Lee. The LP then followed in similar form, with the listener required to be patient in order to pick up on each subtle, beautiful piece of orchestral instrumentation and ambient sound.

Following 2016’s Skip A Sinking Stone and 2013’s Love’s Crushing Diamond, this LP was largely recorded by the band between Brooklyn and Boston and again mixed by Brian Deck.

Lee’s highly collaborative approach again features with violinist Jake Falby, guitarist Mike Clifford, percussionist Dillon Zahne again involved, along with newbies vocalist Johanne Swanson (Yohuna), drummer Felix Walworth (Told Slant) ad saxophonist Gabriel Birnbaum (Wilder Maker). This revolving door approach has yielded fresh ideas with each release, with album opener ‘Written in Lighting’ giving Lee the chance to showcase his tender falsetto.

‘Storm Cellar Heart’ then relies heavily on piano and saxophone before ‘New History’ is more of a folk number with its with harmonica and slide guitar. The early single is claimed to be a rejection of unjust historical revisionism: “People in power benefit greatly from a general lack of historic memory in the US,” said Lee.

‘Shedding Skin’, meanwhile, glides along and even features subtle wildlife soundscapes. One of the album highlights though is ‘Come To Pass’, which perfectly strikes the balance between minimalist and powerful, as a delicate chord progression ushers the listen along. ‘Waves, Breaking’ is slightly more chaotic, whilst ‘No Dominion’ is one of the record’s simpler numbers yet most powerful, as a melancholic piano line accompanies the delicate vocal delivery.

‘Mountain Shadow’ brings more positively to proceedings as Lee slightly enters into Americana territory before ‘Nightingale’ and ‘Thunder Follows’ finish off a record which sees Lee witnessing renewal in the aftermath of the storm.

As an overall listening experience, Thunder Follows The Light is a delicately, calming 40 minutes of beautifully crafted ambient works that are perfect for autumn saunters in the park or when you require some medicine for the soul.

Paul Hill