Mark Lesseraux – ee pea EP

Mark Lesseraux - ee pea EP

Less than six months after he furnished an album with some of the most deliciously eclectic treatments of old T. Rex and Bruce Springsteen tunes, songwriter Mark Lesseraux returns with a succinct EP of original material.  Culled from paraphernalia that goes as far back as 2009, this five-track set largely sidesteps the acoustic debonair cool of Get Your Back Up Off the Wall in favor of a sound that elicits the wily atmospheres of the Shins and Flaming Lips.  Synthesizer harmonies fade in and out of the ether, drumbeats build into hypnotic layers, and vocal melodies threaten to go unhinged as they soar upward.  It’s a palpable contrast from Lesseraux’s last release, but it’s also an unequivocal triumph, underscoring the fact that this Brooklyn musician is just as adroit with his own songs as he is Madonna’s or Brian Eno’s.

The album commences with “Noah’s Ark,” a playful and lighthearted amalgam of handclaps, finger snaps, and luminous synthesizer textures.  Other critics have pointed out Lesseraux’s eccentric wordplay on past efforts, and the opening track is no exception: “Black and white balloons in mulatto rooms / hovering over brides and grooms.”  Up next is “The Last Dance,” which deftly juxtaposes the raucous with the lethargic.  Verses are practically rapped in a spoken-song cadence while a taut bass line and more handclaps groove along underneath, but the chorus imparts a calming presence belied by its lyrics: “My body lies over the ocean / I felt the earth move beneath my feet.”

The remaining three cuts are all equally noteworthy.  “One Hand Clapping” fuses downtrodden synth pop à la Depeche Mode with an assortment of crisp percussion timbres.  The darkly humorous tune also features austere lyrics sung in a wispy tenor by Lesseraux (“The sound of one hand clapping / the deaf are leading the blind”).  By contrast, “Do the Deconstruct” is a jaunty pop tune propelled by acoustic guitar and fleeting wordless vocals that almost sound like they were copped from a Beach Boys record.

As inviting as all of these tunes are, none of them come close to matching the transcendent beauty of “The Sleeping Operator,” the EP’s closing track and also a surreal slowburner.  “Spastic companions embrace by the sea / with their heads turned gently to morning,” sings Lesseraux over chiming mallet percussion and guitar strums.  An assuaging ambience quickly sets in, glowing gently as the music draws to a close nearly five minutes later.  The song is on par with Lesseraux’s best work as a member of The Citizens, the neo-psychedelic group he’s fronted since 2004.

What Mark Lesseraux’s got planned after this is up for speculation, though it’s dubious it’ll disappoint.  Though only amounting to nineteen minutes worth of music, the ee pea EP makes a convincing argument that the indie pop aficionado has more ambitious plans in the works.  While we wait for that release, there’s plenty here on which to contentedly chew.