Darkly whimsical multi-instrumentalist Erin Elizabeth Birgy has been excavating art-pop gems as Mega Bog for her devoted coterie of fans for nearly a decade. On Dolphine, Mega Bog’s fifth album and first for Paradise of Bachelors, Birgy has created a collection of eleven ethereally shimmering oddities comprising an oracular guide into a hazy aquatic underworld of surreal curiosities.
The experimental Pacific Northwesterner and her slew of bicoastal collaborators made the album at the Outlier Inn studio in Woodridge, NY, recorded live over seven days in October of 2016 by Big Thief’s James Krivchenia, followed by overdubs and numerous additions over the next year. According to a press release, the sci-fi inspired album draws its meaning from the myth that suggests that, as humankind evolved from sea creatures, some individuals chose not to leave the water and walk the earth, but rather to stay in the ocean and explore the darkness as dolphins.
Birgy does successfully convey that underwater feel on Dolphine, especially in the title track, with its gentle arpeggiating tones and pure vocals echoing across majestic chords, accentuated by rising descant harmonies throughout the song. Another track in which Birgy beckons from the sub-surface murkiness is the ASMR-esque “Left Door,” a song that twinkles and swirls amicably while Birgy whispers about dirty diapers and crying like a spider in the sun, emblematic of Dolphine’s playfully inscrutable lyrics.
Birgy’s songs are filled with thickly layered allusions scattered across the album’s 36.5 minutes: the poetry of Alice Notley, the novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, and the art of Ian Cheng are all mentioned. Birgy was also inspired by her own experiences and emotions surrounding the death of her childhood horse Rose and going through two abortions, resulting in an album of unmistakably emotionally-charged tracks. The live show is apparently similar in character, praised for its emotional honesty and unpredictability.
Along with water, Dolphine also evokes dreams. Both music videos for the album, “For the Old World” and “Truth in the Wild,” play off dream imagery. The music video for album opener “For the Old World,” with its ripping strings and free-jazz inflections, depicts “a dreaming human’s bubble of thought.” The music video for “Truth in the Wild” features visuals inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci-fi spectacles and sounds inspired by Birgy’s “first moments of solitude in [her] adult life” during a summer of youthful nomadic east coast van living, brought to life by touches of classical guitar and clarinet.
Frenetically crescendoing lead single “Diary of a Rose,” seemingly a nod to her late childhood horse, and alluding to a similarly-titled Ursula K. Le Guin work, sets the tone for Birgy’s emotion-laden expressions. Another album standout is instrumental track “Fwee Again,” which is beautiful and cinematic before careening around corners and growing increasingly chaotic to the end.
Dolphine is not simply dabbling or mashing up a few popular genres in an attempt at cross-promotion in an era of streaming. Mega Bog surveys the musical landscape across decades, interweaving styles and influences deftly. In spite of its stylistic breadth, Dolphine is a relatively effortless listen. It isn’t jarring or grating. It is unpredictable, challenging, interesting and honest, and ultimately a very satisfying addition to Mega Bog’s discography.
Photo credit: Jesse DeFrancesco