Louisville’s Twin Limb helpfully selfdescribe as “dream pop”— only in their variation, it’s a dream pop that combines the “pop” of Warhol’s Chelsea Girls with the jagged dream states of Surrealism. Disquieting, emotively loaded, boldly defined yet wide open to interpretation, Twin Limb’s newest, Haplo, out now on Suretone Records, is more like the musical equivalent of the paintings or automatic poetry of the early Surrealists. Its darker elements delivered with a markedly pop ease, Haplo is lustrous and immensely playonrepeatable, though everywhere filled with the pangs and rumbles of an unsettled subconscious.
Twin Limb originally consisted of Lacey Guthrie on accordion and keys and Maryliz Bender on percussion and guitar, with both singing evenly together in harmonies. They had met only once, at a party, before ever playing music together. Nevertheless, they immediately fell into a musical telepathy that you would sooner expect among siblings or lifelong friends. Songwriting came easy between the two, with their minds aligned and their voices joining in a soft symmetry over the drums and accordion. At times mistaken for an odd variety of folk because of the accordion and harmonies, Twin Limb only transformed into their fuller, current sound with the fortuitous addition of their guitarist Kevin Ratterman.
Lacey and Maryliz had come to record at La La Land, Louisville’s wellknown hotbed of musical experimentalism and Ratterman’s studio, where he had made records for headliners like Ray Lamontagne, Andrew Bird, and Jim James and My Morning Jacket. Slightly daunted at first by such a roll call, they were thrilled when Kevin zeroed in and instinctively completed the spacious, oneiric mood that they had so long heard in their heads. With his guitarwork, ghostly array of noises, and prescient production talents filling out that vision, Kevin was happily conscripted as their newest member before the session was even through. Together, a onceearthier sound has turned otherworldly, catching ears in Kentucky and increasingly wider audiences, with an upcoming tour with Jim James as both his opening act and backup band.
Whether in the studio or on stage, Twin Limb always play facing each other, intently and intimately, as if mixing their tones together in a large cauldron at their center. Their instrumentation blends in large billows of melody, in which the listener can hardly distinguish a guitar from percussion or an accordion from a human voice. You hear only, as they would have it, a “giant cosmic organ” enveloping you in a buoyant, lasting, threedimensional sound. Like a thunderstorm on a summer night, a warm euphony is pummeled by distant drumming and periodically shaken by intrusions of strange noises and a nearly unrecognizable guitar. Lacey and Maryliz’s vocals forge ahead into the darkness, with words and courage that somehow rouse you to follow. “Did you know / that there’s a war on / It ebbs and flows. Did you know that you could hear it / if you listen close / When the moon is new it’s hidden / and it’s hard to hold / When the moon is full you see it / it waxes whole.”
Whether they enter by procession as on “Long Shadow” and “Red Sun,” like an incoming steamship on “LUCA” and “Sutro Baths,” or— as with “Sara” and “Blood Orange”— like a rowboat drifting under a starry sky, their every song pulls you into a cavernous world that is partly memory and partly fantasy. True to their Surrealist colors, they prefer their listeners to populate the music with their own meanings. The lyrics tease but never tack down. They impart emotional force but draw few detailed pictures. And for that reason, even first time listeners are forewarned: their hearts might crack open on songs like “Sara” and “Aine” as they uncannily recognize some passage from their own life, with all its ardor and pathos, read into the music as if it were a crystal ball. In its gentle dive into a subconscious realm, Haplo goes in search of those deeper, darker places where we all ultimately connect.