Mini Mansions : Self-titled
Out of all the side projects undertaken by members of Queens Of The Stone Age – Them Crooked Vultures (Josh Homme), Eagles Of Death Metal (Homme and Joey Castillo), Sweethead (Troy Van Leeuwen) and The Dead Weather (Dean Fertita) – Michael Shuman’s Mini Mansions is easily the boldest departure from their day job. The psychedelic/dream-pop trio – comprising the QOTSA bassist on lead vocals, guitar and drums, Zach Dawes (bass/keys/vox) and Tyler Parkford (keys/guitar/vox) – derive more inspiration from baroque pop, ‘60s harmonics and psychedelia than the blues-y/garage/sludge-rock evocations of Shuman’s band mates’ side projects.
The LA trio’s self-titled debut album is an ethereal, cinematic journey suffused with a haunting eeriness that seeps through a kaleidoscopic array of contrasting tones and textures. The Room Outside’s gloomy keys and smouldering bass groove enwrap the listener in an atmospheric, wide-screen soundscape, whereby Shuman’s breathy vocals emerge amidst ghostly choral harmonies, deep funk-infused grooves, Gothic undertones and dark chamber-pop. Recorded by engineer Justin Smith (QOTSA, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles Of Death Metal, Arctic Monkeys) at Homme’s Pink Duck Studios, Mini Mansions’ self-produced debut album also benefits from the mixing assistance of Biff Dawes (Tom Waits) and Homme.
Shuman’s love of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour abounds in Mini Mansions’ distinctive fusing of gorgeous pop textures with a spooky, foreboding undercurrent. Crime Of The Season demonstrates Mini Mansions’ indelible pop sensibility, but is followed by an even more idyllic classic-pop offering in Monk. Wünderbars’ slow-downed dream-pop jam possesses a hallucinatory effect while Seven Sons’ sprightly melodic propensity is a trippy cut of psychedelic vintage-pop. One could envisage Mini Mansions ringing out from an obscure theatre in a stark laneway considering they write music that bears more resemblance to the constructs of a soundtrack. Consequently, the journey does contain a few sprawling, dreary segments, but the overall experience is intriguing, thematically and sonically. Mini Mansions’ debut album is a heady, entrancing listen permeating with gloomy mystique and glorious imagination.
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