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Michael Knight: 'Dumbshow'

Art for Michael Knight's 2008 album, <em>I'm Not Entirely Clear How I Ended Up Like This</em>
Art for Michael Knight's 2008 album, I'm Not Entirely Clear How I Ended Up Like This

I'm Not Entirely Clear How I Ended Up Like This, the latest album from Berlin-based Michael Knight, is a jumble of unexpected twists. For starters, Michael Knight is not a person but rather a large collective of musicians fronted by lead singer Richard Murphy. Then there's the fact that I'm Not Entirely Clear How I Ended Up Like This is a two-disc release, with its second disc featuring instrumental-only versions of all the songs on the first.

The two-disc release is unconventional for a chamber pop album, but it's one that makes sense upon hearing. With rich song arrangements that include vibrant performances on cello, accordion, and trumpet, it's a unique treat to be able to hear tracks stripped of their vocals.

"Coronation Street" is particularly fascinating as an instrumental. The jangly combination of piano, guitar, percussion and mandolin recreate a scene from an Ennio Morricone-scored spaghetti Western. You can almost taste the dirt from a dusty plain.

Among the versions with vocals, "Dumbshow" is a unique track for being lyrically composed entirely of "ahh" sounds instead of actual words, and it also takes on an entirely different personality than a song like "Coronation Street." Instead of recalling a Sergio Leone film, "Dumbshow" and its lush layers of accordion, percussion and piano create a dream-like setting more gumball than gun duel.

It seems that I'm Not Entirely Clear How I Ended Up Like This has hit every spot. Whether a listener prefers to analyze lyrics or be enthralled solely by the instrumentation, Michael Knight's sophomore release is a compelling one.

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Tamara Vallejos