In spite of having emerged from the Brooklyn underground circuit and making folk that is a bit unusual, Mike Wexler’s music has little to do with the weird-folk revival that burst onto the scene a few years ago. On his debut album, “Sun Wheel” (released in 2007), one could already see that he is much more orientated towards British folk and the golden era of progressive rock. That album went by more or less unnoticed, but with his arrival at Mexican Summer - with the much more mature “Dispossession” - this lack of exposure should be remedied.
Although on his first effort Wexler sounded a little like Dan Bejar (Destroyer) recreating the sound of the Canterbury scene, his new work takes a significant step ahead in the construction of his sound. The references are still the same - bringing together bits from a huge spectrum, ranging from Kevin Ayers to Syd Barrett and from Robert Wyatt to Roy Harper - and the fact that much of it was recorded live continues to give the album a certain air of yesteryear. But the inspiration behind his compositions, alongside the detail of their execution, show that this is an album with its own definite personality and weight.
A large part of the charm of Wexler’s music lies in the calming register of his voice, somewhere between the nasal tone of the aforementioned Bejar and the fragility of Nick Drake. Magnetic vocals backed by luxurious instrumentation - in which the mastery of acoustic instruments is combined with a variety of organs, synthesizers, strings, and woodwinds to make an elaborate, highly-charged tapestry. Rather than grabbing your attention with elaborate details or sudden turns, “Dispossession” is an album that slowly pulls you under its control with its ritualistic drive and shamanistic air. Its spell is reinforced by the ghostly air hanging over the seven songs; this, along with the cryptic quality of the lyrics, takes us to a sort of greater reality, awash in psychedelics, which becomes the album’s other main appeal.
The fact that it chooses this constant flow, plays in favour of the spiritual continuum of the album. However, it also implies a certain homogeneity within the tracks. For example, the first three cuts seem to be re-interpretations of a single canvas - seeking to capture all of the nuances of the same almost gloomy light, with detailed variations in the procedures used. In “Pariah”, the album’s opening cut, Wexler sets out the spatial coordinates that will dominate throughout, juxtaposing languid guitars and ceremonious organs. “Spectrum” sounds like the lugubrious flip-side of certain passages from Jim O'Rourke’s “Eureka”, while “Lens” introduces jazz nuances through percussion and delicate piano phrasing. The second part of the album is somewhat more varied. With “The Trace”, for example, he comes closer to the postulates of Linda Perhacs, in a new demonstration of the Brooklynite’s taste for mystical folk. Wexler has the ability to shroud his songs in bewitching evolutions of fantasy. He has a way of singing that invokes the spirits, reinforced – on “Prime” - by the baroque quality of arrangements. This pomposity contrasts with the nakedness and sober introspection of “Glyph”, in which the piano and an undulating cello are the only accompaniment to his acoustic guitar. The album closes splendidly with the weightlessness of “Liminal”, which starts out contemplative but gives way to a torrent of organs possessed by dark forces, putting a majestic end to a truly spiritual ceremony.