[MUSIC-BOX FOLK] Micah Rabwin and Sean Ogilvie, the core members of Musee Mecanique, recently acquired a hefty stack of National Geographics dating all the way back to 1934. Inside the weathered pages laden with tales of ambition, science and discovery, these twentysomethings found the story of Lt. Thomas Selfridge, the first person to die in an airplane. And so was born The Propellors, a melancholic synth- and glockenspiel-driven elegy, an ode to the romance of 20th century invention. Using such disjointed narratives and fragmentary time pieces, these peddlers of the past dust off our collective history and give it a loving new sheen.
In a crowded corner of the Red & Black Cafe, Ogilvie's face lights up when he describes the hand-cranked music boxes and animations that inhabit the San Francisco museum from which the band takes its name. Much like the museum's glassed-in mechanical pieces, each of the band's songs embodies its own process and exists in its own world. Ogilvie and Rabwin sing like heartfelt collectors, gracefully constructing heritages around found subjects. But Ogilvie pensively notes that the band encompasses a vintage sound "while still looking to the future." Mirroring his words, Musee Mecanique's songs build on artifact-centric ideas using layers of new and old sounds—Old World instruments such as saw, pedal steel, cello and oboe, for instance, mingle with space-y synth. The band is constantly stumbling upon new sonic gadgetry as part of its perpetual rummaging; not surprisingly, the guys live in close proximity to Goodwill's "bins."
With its eclectically full sound, the ensemble band is now working to translate such measured delicacies onto the stage. Live shows are "liberating in a way," says Rabwin, and "frustrating" in another, adds Ogilvie, who confronts eight keyboards during a performance. Still deep in the studio, mixing with Tucker Maritine (most notable for work with The Decemberists), the band won't release its debut full-length album 'til next fall. Yet the gears are in motion, with a slew of April shows planned and talk of an appetite-whetting EP in the works.
"Often people tell us the music leaves them feeling unsettled...and it is! It is unsettling!" Ogilvie proudly exclaims. Indeed, Musee Mecanique's songs revel in the mysterious, never fully articulating the memories or myths on which they are based. The end result is a collection of beautiful anachronisms, grounded in no particular time. It's atmospheric, music-box folk that unearths only a pinhole view into other worlds—worlds that glow restlessly with an irreconcilable modernity that's, well, perfectly unsettling.