November 16, 2017

The Innocence Mission - The Snow on Pi Day EP


This snow on Pi Day was not called for at all

We’ll make today’s, laid in our arms
universe of sky and the deep, deep streets,
perfect and clean

I wish I was starting over
A sign is a sign and the patterns of science
cannot be, be always right

After a smooth, decade-long shift from prog-indie beginnings in ’89 to acoustic folk heroes by 2000 (as Karen Peris’ vocals morphed from unbelievably powerful Kate Bush-isms to an expressive, ethereal fragility that can produce tears faster than slicing a bag of Spanish onions), The Innocence Mission made a more subtle shift, just after Befriended (2003) and We Walked in Song (2007), which both straddled the fence between acoustic singer-songwriter and the indie-folk meld of Glow (1995), to a more spare approach starting with 2009’s Street Map EP that seems more expansive, at times darn near ‘psychedelic’ in the lyric word-painting, emphasis on mood over obvious hooks (particularly the tasteful piano filigrees) and frequent instrumentals.

Given the band’s reputation, well-known religious beliefs and the earnest, near-Amish influence of their Lancaster, PA roots, the likelihood hallucinogens were involved is less than zero (close to negative infinity).  Perhaps every year without original drummer Steve Brown (who left in 1998) affords a continued drift from pop song structures, but one almost senses a pantheistic ‘sum total of all things’ approach as Karen, chief songwriter, tackles complex emotions, combining the “beautiful sadness” (in this regard, don’t miss her wonderful Violet solo disc), a central aspect of humanity, with a generosity of spirit, the group’s most salient quality, that is quite unique in music (only mid-period Van Morrison comes close.)

And, thus, now we get this short, sweet little EP, with four tunes sharing a winter theme, just in time for snow to hit in some parts of the country (speaking of “Snow”, a re-make of that tune from 1999’s Birds of My Neighborhood is included, floating in an air of contemplation, contrasting nicely with the desperate intensity of the original).  Above all the title track, quoted above, is an absolute must-have, with a throwback vocal delivery that recalls the Birds era, but painted atop the more recent piano/acoustic guitar canvas before a sudden drums entry propels it to an emotional climax.

If the Peris family is willing, between child-rearing and other civic duties, to grace us with any music, regardless of size, then we can only feel blessed.  And blessed we’ve certainly been for nearly three decades …

(Lancaster, PA - 2017)

Band website:  The Innocence Mission 
Fan site, incl. rare downloads:  IMDiscogs