“Casino Wilderness Period” is an immersive experience that delves into the unexplored realms of musical expression, surpassing the boundaries of a typical album.
In the realm of musical innovation and vocal prowess, Chicago’s visionary singer-songwriter Sacha Mullin stands as a luminary, and his third studio album, “Casino Wilderness Period,” shows his decade-long journey through the avant-garde landscapes of Chicago’s music scene.
Produced by avant-rock genius Todd Rittmann, an alumnus of U.S. Maple, the album transcends genres, reaching the heights of progressive pop by seamlessly weaving together elements of rock, jazz, and introspective songwriting. Mullin’s gymnastic collaborations with left-field ensembles such as Dead Rider, Lovely Little Girls, and Cheer-Accident serve as the fertile ground from which this solo work sprouts, marking a fearless exploration of sound and emotion.
The lead single, “Arranging Flowers,” is a sonic whirlwind, with Mullin’s pleading vocals and Emily Bindiger’s ethereal voice floating atop Rittmann’s propulsive drumming. It unfolds as a poignant exploration of societal norms, existential reflections, and the intricate dance of life’s complexities. The opening lines, “as in the style of arranging flowers,” set the stage for a metaphorical journey. The parallel to flower arrangement offers a delicate artistry, emphasizing the fragility and fleeting nature of life’s attempts. The reference to fake gods and the casino wilderness period creates a bizarre and chaotic world that represents the volatility and randomness of existence. The mention of slot machines and luck conveys a sense of chance and unpredictability, with a wry gesture to the importance of fortune in our lives. Mullin discusses taboo themes, speaking the things we do not intend to say, questioning cultural standards, and understanding the implications of our actions.
// all in all, a hero tends to falter
we learn them, then burn them,
and find that we could all do better
though at odds
from the heights of artificial gods,
ignoring, while scorning
that’s half the cost when one’s indebted to
shy their thorns, but not get cut
this casino wilderness period is strange, g o d – f u c k
(everything is swimming around in my head,
and we’re bound to be found in a bad double-down underground)
we play hit after hit for these slot machine shits
oh what luck!: jesus. //
German media artist Glass Void’s analog glitchy music video perfectly complements the song’s sharp lyrics, which deftly dissect materialism, celebrity adoration, and existentialist ideas against a sensual musical backdrop.
“Telepathy” emerges as a standout track, seamlessly blending Mullin’s R&B flair with Judi Vinar’s elastic jazz improvisations and Annmarie Cullen’s solid support. The song culminates in a bold gospel choir, mourning themes of connection and clarity, creating a deeply emotive and spiritually resonant experience.
The disco-meets-country funereal ballad “Margaret,” which is rife with reflection and longing—a cry for Margaret to return home and the loneliness experienced in her absence—takes listeners on a varied trip throughout the album. The throbbing anguish of “Waves,” demonstrates Sacha Mullin’s talent for nuanced and profound expression of difficult feelings. The refrain “wave after wave” is repeated, giving the song a rhythmic and cyclical character that reflects the ebb and flow of memories and emotions.
Then there’s the cinematic, Carole King-in-space closer “Window Out” which critiques traditional education and societal constructs, emphasizing the need for a deeper connection and the realization that life’s seriousness can lead to overload. Mem Nahadr’s ghostly whistle tones in the latter, alongside a coda quoting Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick’s timeless refrain, “the windows of the world are covered with rain,” add layers of complexity and nostalgia.
For fans of James Blake, David Sylvian, George Michael, King Crimson, and Jeff Buckley, “Casino Wilderness Period” offers a musical tapestry that pays homage to these influences while crafting a sound uniquely Sacha Mullin’s own. His commanding-yet-vulnerable voice defies conventions, writing songs with creative chords and an absolute heart, displaying Mullin’s diverse career—recording Japanese jingles, singing with Dessa, and sharing stages with Lightning Bolt and Mitski.
Dog & Pony Records and Dipterid Records’ partnership, which aims to promote music from the edges, is a suitable tribute to Mullin’s commitment to pushing limits. Listeners can expect not only outstanding music but also an invitation to go on a sonic odyssey led by Mullin’s unique sound and unrelenting inventiveness. “Casino Wilderness Period” is an immersive experience that delves into the unexplored realms of musical expression, surpassing the boundaries of a typical album.
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