Album: High Plains of Lev’Myr
Country: United States of America
The High Plains of Lev’Myr is the debut effort from the Texas duo Andrea May Taylor and Garry Brents. In this effort, they offer up not only a more versatile than typical Comfy Synth album, but the first installment of a comprehensive story, released as a downloadable PDF as well.
Comfy Synth is in somewhat of a boom as of late, with not only established artist trying their hand- see previous review of Hermit Knight’s Goblings– but promising new artists as well, delivering powerfully great, albeit shortened (unfortunately), inaugural efforts that not only keep the sub-genre alive, but help it thrive (see the likes of Mushtoons, Deep Gnome, Piddlewink, etc.). One such duo of artists, Andrea May Taylor and Garry Brents who comprise Lev’Myr, that are new to the comfy synth scene, embody that sentiment fully with their first LP High Plains of Lev’Myr. Though it is representative of the Comfy Synth sub-genre in that it is a relatively shortened piece, coming in at just under fifteen minutes, High Plains still packs enough of a punch as a concept album that it merits discussion at length.
From the first, when you purchase Lev’Myr’s album, you are given the chance at total submersion into the duo’s world by way of a downloadable PDF which comprises the written story, that being Andrea May Taylor’s contribution in addition to the conceiving of the overall concept. It is a charming, and actually quite lengthy piece when one puts it in relation to its contemporaries within the genre (or outside for that matter) as those stories are typically relegated to track titles or a brief synopsis on the Bandcamp album page. This submersive experience is resplendent with extra art of the projects logo done by Taylor Aldridge, and the characters within the story, created by Silvanna Massa (the same artist behind Highplains cover art), broken up in a chaptered correspondence with the track listings, much like Jeff Lemire’s concept comic Secret Path with musical accompaniment by the late-great Gordon Downie. The story itself follows the tale of the quaint life of Gwyn the badger and Basil the hedgehog, the duo that shares shade under a magically enlarged mushroom of Lev’Myr’s logo, and a quest to recover Lev’Myr’s (also the name of the township in which the duo lives) golden treasure, which has been stolen by the raptors, the treasure of honey. Setting them on this quest then, is Myka the wizard cat, with Rowan their mighty warrior raccoon, and Fenix the fox with his lute quickly joining the trope as Gwyn and Basil find their way into a misadventure filled with infected cave spiders and iron-working bears. Though this Redwall-esque tale drops off on a bit of a cliffhanger and leaves the reader/listener wanting to know more, it serves as a welcome addition to the music that accompanies it.
The music that accompanies the story of High Plains of Lev’Myr, composed and played by Garry Brents, is a veritable dexterous assemblage of the potential range of Comfy Synth. While there aren’t really any hard and fast rules established for the subgenre, at least none that I know of, Brents is able to make movements throughout the conceptual framework that has been laid out by Taylor’s whimsical storytelling so that it is not only dynamically adaptive to listen to with or without the story, but gives an overall more polished and purposeful sound to the album as a whole potentially setting the stage for a branding of “Lev’Myr style” Comfy Synth, of which time and further releases wil be the determining factors. For instance, there are moments of somberness such as the beginning of Cave Ambush with its subdued organ notes over a slow and determined cello,which then gives way to a militaristic style percussive section that is in and of itself a rarity within the subgenre, that imply a danger to our intrepid heroes. But these moments are a mere counterpoint of variation to the solemnity of separate pieces, such as the following track, Ironworks of the Bears, where it is treated as the culmination of the album, in addition to the summation of its parts-taking each instrument that has thus far been represented on the album and mixing them together in a brighter toned, almost industrious seeming finish. Then you have the upbeat and brightened tempo of the titular opening track that is almost a sort of sedate freneticism that is off set with the fifth track Rain Awakening, that begins with a measured tempo string cutting, laying the groundwork for the guitar to come back and dance about it with the accompaniment of a flute and what sounds like a vibraphone to create an atmosphere that is as busy as the first track, yet without the impulsiveness and freneticism as, there is more instrumentation to play off of. The main thing to know about this album is that it is first and foremost a story, and each track a scene. With it’s own set, lightning and cast of characters, yet it is episodic in its delivery so that there is an outflowing, or progression of action, so the entire album seems of a singular piece which ultimately aids in the telling of the story. The only issue that I take with it, is, like all Comfy Synth, it is short, and leaves me eagerly waiting for the next installment.
Be righteous by listening to Lev’Myr on Bandcamp: