Dragging an Ox Through Water | Panic Sentry | PDX-007 (May 20th, 2014)
Songwriter, artist, radical thinker and noisemaker Brian Mumford has been recording as Dragging an Ox Through Water for almost 10 years. His recordings and performances have always been alternatingly heart-wrenchingly beautiful and mind-bendingly challenging—his gentle voice and soft, finger-style guitar locked in dialogue with squeals of noise and distortion from an impressive army of hand-built electronics.
Panic Sentry is simultaneously his most stripped down and most ambitious record to date, peeling away many of his trademark layers of white noise, analog distortion, and chaos. What emerges are nine fragile and masterfully crafted songs — each one a ship-in-a-bottle, perpetually in danger, but never foundering in an ocean of noise.
Mumford is joined on this album by long-time collaborators Tara Jane O’Neil and Mary Sutton. Party Damage's CD and digital release complements a vinyl co-release on Mississippi Records and Eggy Records.
Portland author Patrick DeWitt was kind enough to contribute a brief essay for the compact disc edition of Panic Sentry which we would feel foolish to not reproduce here:
I was introduced to Brian Mumford after taking part in a show at Mississippi records in Portland, Oregon. I’d made it through my reading without bursting into flames and was going to celebrate this fact at the bar across the street when shop owner Eric Issacson caught my arm and told me to stick around for a band called Dragging an Ox Through Water. Eric doesn’t throw that sort of instructive around carelessly, so I stayed, thirsty as I was. Brian took the floor amid a pile of wires and candles and weird metal shit and began to play, and I was instantly transfixed. I thought, What is this? Who is this person? How did I not know about this already? The last question is the one that always presents itself to me when I locate something truly rare and beautiful, which these songs most certainly were and are. Brian’s set illuminated the room that night.
There’s something unnameable about what he does, something which language doesn’t lend itself to, or my language doesn’t, so I won’t speak too specifically about the work other than to say that it’s become fundamental in my life, something which I find by turns harrowing and joyous. This is not mood music; it isn’t static. It is a living thing, and so it does what it wants to do. But then sometimes, too, it does what I want it to do, or need it to. There’s a mystery afoot, here, but it strikes me as foolish to try and pursue answers, and so I won’t, I’ll just keep listening, and be happy and thankful DAOTW has found its way to me: Wires and candles and weird metal shit. To say nothing of the songs themselves, which, who can say where they come from. Toppled from a cloud, I wouldn’t wonder.
- Patrick DeWitt, May 2014, Portland, OR