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MICE ON STILTS

Crossover Prog • New Zealand


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Mice On Stilts biography
Catharsis, the bloom of emotion, is the harbored hope for MICE ON STILTS as a sound, as symbol and a family. Life and its heaviness is not ignored in the ideology and creativity of MICE ON STILTS. Making sense of it all is the essence of what we are doing. As band members we find sound the most powerful means of expression through our instruments, and strive for a creative experience that invites others to share in what we've found to be life giving.

Reaching for the corners of musical ideas, MICE ON STILTS collects sound in diversity, hosted by seven very different and unconventional musical talents. From lush sound-scapes to crushing walls of sound, the collision of the internal experience is exposed; raw, vulnerable and with all effort, real. MICE ON STILTS has worked relentlessly for two years, culturing and conveying its compositions to a wide and well loved audience.

MICE ON STILTS started as an escape from an end for singer/writer Ben MORLEY. A dream for a different reality than one overwhelmed by the coarseness of life was seeded in Ben's mind. From a bedside passion project, it's flourished into a seven piece orchestration. MICE ON STILTS has seen members join this dream, a musical identity, and with each new contribution these songs have taken on water, and taken to the road across New Zealand.

AN OCEAN HELD ME is the first studio release from MICE ON STILTS. Adopting the DIY values of Aotearoa, this work has been refined, combed and fostered into an art that we believe in. Risking it all, the lyrical narrative built from the consequences and longings of love and the musical symbolism balanced on the edge of intensity and vacancy, which we hope will bring listeners into a beautiful listening reflection.

We're taking braver steps with each challenge. Honing in our desire to take this to the world, this wild and beautiful live show is going to dangerous places, wherever and to whoever wants to take part.

Aroha Nui

Biography provided by artist and used with permission

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Ocean Held MeOcean Held Me
CD Baby 2014
Vinyl$26.76
An Ocean Held Me by Mice on Stilts (2013-12-13)An Ocean Held Me by Mice on Stilts (2013-12-13)
CD Baby
Audio CD$54.40
An Ocean Held Me by CD BabyAn Ocean Held Me by CD Baby
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Audio CD$61.06
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MICE ON STILTS discography


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MICE ON STILTS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.03 | 83 ratings
Hope for a Mourning
2016

MICE ON STILTS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MICE ON STILTS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MICE ON STILTS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MICE ON STILTS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.09 | 72 ratings
An Ocean Held Me
2013

MICE ON STILTS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hope for a Mourning by MICE ON STILTS album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 83 ratings

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Hope for a Mourning
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars From gorgeous New Zealand, we have a new album from Mice on Stilts, a progressive crossover artist that caught the community's attention with 2014's rather engaging debut 'An Ocean Held Me' and kept us wondering if another gem would be in the cards. Two years later, this sophomore release continues from where they had left off, a mercurial and original take on the crossover style that does not mean that it's the 'poppiest' of genres within the prog spectrum but rather wishes to incorporate a certain sense of accessibility. Ben Morley's has quite a singular flair when it comes to forging his own musical persona, a heady combination of various influences that defy the norm. Firstly, he possesses a voice that is just made for melancholic and heartfelt music, with a definitive yearning for emotional release and lyrical expression. At times, I was reminded of a modern-day Jim Morrison in terms of delivery though not necessarily tone. The musicians he chooses are closer to jazz and chamber, with lots of woodwinds, cellos and violas, way closer to Penguin Caf' Orchestra than your archetypal neo-prog line-up. The heavy use of piano and choir is another lucid clue into the Morley musical psyche, a deliciously intense universe of artistic seduction that deserves to be further noticed by the prog community. This is a major talent, proggers!

The tracks are impressively astute canvases on life, from the sweeping opener 'Kandallah', a piece that really sets the melancholic mood with reflective piano dispositions from the talented Brendan Zwaan and a soaring vocal delivery from Ben Morley, anointed with clever pastoral meanderings and a delicate sense of orchestral structure, swelled by a wall of sound effects that seek to blur the senses.

The splendid 8 minute 'Orca' is a different fish altogether (oops), the acoustic guitar taking the spotlight as Ben navigates the aching whitecaps of his tempestuous soul, Rob Sanders' slick drumming pushing the wavy brass section into an aquatic frenzy. There is a tremendous mid-section that first seeks out ambient paradigms, only to let the sax brave the seas and let the shrill synthesizer scour the sprays. A truly magnificent opus that has cinematographic tendencies as well as immense depth and sonic boom.

'The Hours' is short and sombre, 'a moment on my own' delivered in that fatigued, pillow-infected voice that is sleepy but despondently insistent, wholly minimalist at first with the piano and acoustic guitar in tow. That Jim Morrison impression shines through once again, a door into the past and I see it as rather unmistakable.

The next trio of songs form the core of this amazing piece of work, a trilogy of essence and creative genius, starting off with the 'And We Saw His Needs'', again the piano being the orchestra conductor, decorating the lush arrangement, along with some sensational trumpet work from guest Guy Harrison. When the celestial choir work kicks in, the proverbial jaw has hit the floor, as both Catherine Walker and Esther Tetlow elevate this to unforeseen heights! The resonant Zwaan piano is sheer brilliance, crystalline pearls of reverence and despair, furthered by the persevering choir. The very calm 'YHWH' keeps the agony ongoing, perhaps more soporific and psychedelia- induced at first. The guitars come clanging in rather brutally, slashing and slicing through the clamorous veil of sound, hinting somehow at those 90s bands that specialized in Gothic doom (Swans, Lycia, Black Tape for A Blue Girl, Love Spirals Downwards, His Name is Alive etc'). Again, sheer brilliance! The title track serves as a reversal of mood, very sinewy and obscurely swerving in ambiance, a slick vocal duet between Morley and one of the ladies, spurred on by thrilling brass and jazzy drumming. The agony and the ecstasy is plainly heard and ably expressed as the ethereal mood rolls forward like some grayish cemetery mist, momentarily chilling the senses.

All this impressive music is nothing compared to the magnificence of the incredible 11 minute epic 'Funeral', a fittingly somber reptile of a track full of sorrow and regret, nearly on the threshold of surrender. Ben offers up a heartfelt expanse of emotions that pulls at all the heartstrings, cello, violins and viola in tow. There is a definite Swans feel here, loads of dramatic interface, bellowing brass and furious drumming that swell ultimately into a rather obvious and expected apotheosis, with all musicians involved up to the hilt. A masterpiece of progressive rock music. Amen.

Hard act to follow such genius but so is the butterfly morphing from the caterpillar, as 'Monarch' sets the sun down on another stellar production from a musician that is truly carving out new territories. The song feels like a finale, a bittersweet and yet tender au revoir. This is the perfect lights-out, candles-lit, glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in the goblet type of recording, definitely nocturnal and perhaps even autumn-esque. Truth is the quality is so great that anytime, anywhere and anyway will work fine.

The cover art is once again a winner, deeply melancholic and childlike in its pure sensibility, as if designed to be a prog pastel coloring book. There is no doubt that Steve Wilson is a genial producer, composer and musician but the prog world needs to make some room for Ben Morley and his Mice on Stilts.

5 Courageous Bereavements

 Hope for a Mourning by MICE ON STILTS album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 83 ratings

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Hope for a Mourning
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by shaunch

5 stars I have decided to write a short review to support the work of NZ band Mice on Stilts. I love prog and have realised that I am not in the best place in the world to experience my passion, except from a distance. Well, I have to say these guys should open the ears of many a Kiwi and should be a must listen for all you prog lovers out there!

This is a step up in my opinion. I enjoyed their approach in their first effort and in particular Tuatara lawn which has a much more of a full sound and compliments the bare bones that they often display, similar to Tim Bowness. The selection of songs here displays much of this approach which I enjoy greatly. As an Englishman living in NZ I still enjoy my old pastimes such as the Football. My team Everton have just lost at Wembley so I normally turn to reflective, gloomy music to cheer me up. I tend to pick out a couple of Stevens being either Wilson or Hogarth. In this case I read a review for Mice on Stilts here and decide to give it a go. Well I was rewarded with exactly the experience I was looking for and more. The sound is rich, minimal at times, different but in a good way with their use of instruments, such as brass, and has the rare ability to make the hairs stand up on my neck and create emotion similar to the voice of Hogarth. This was most apparent in the tracks "Kallandah", "YHWH","Funeral" and the title track where the music hits new heights and reminded me of the catchy sounds of early Coldplay without staying in that safe territory for too long before moving into more Steven Wilson like sounds found in his most recent material, mixed with a little NoMan.

I don't write reviews very often as I am not very good at them but this sort of quality music which often falls below the radar needs to be shouted about from the rooftops. I just need to get them to visit the Nelson area in the near future as I miss the live experience and have to spend massive amounts of money to satisfy my prog needs, such as Marillion weekend next year. More of a prog appreciation in NZ might encourage more bands to make the trip this way!

5 out of 5 emotional stars from me.

 Hope for a Mourning by MICE ON STILTS album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 83 ratings

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Hope for a Mourning
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by Gallifrey

5 stars Review originally written for theprogmind.com/ and facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction/

It's been over two years since I first met Mice on Stilts.

I was 17, and it was out at a local festival, a fundraiser for the local primary school, out in the vast expanses of Northland, New Zealand. Being a small local band, gigs that weren't R18 were a rarity for Mice on Stilts in the beginning and this was probably going to be the only opportunity for me to see them live before I turned 18, about six months later. In December 2013 I had heard and reviewed An Ocean Held Me, their near-perfect debut EP, and upon striking up an internet friendship with frontman Ben Morley he insisted I come to see them at any cost. My friend and I got a lift out to the gig with their (now-former) pianist Brendan Zwaan, and the day was one of the most strangely surreal of my life. On that stage, in front of a few hundred people including dozens of children littered on the grass banks, Mice on Stilts played three songs I did not know at the time ? "Khandallah", "Orca" and the monolithic dirge "Funeral". And cliche as this sounds, my life hasn't really been the same since.

In the two years that have come since then, this band has become one of my favourites of all time, and its members some of my closest friends. They almost defined the year 2014 for me, as I saw them numerous times (illegally) by being snuck into venues. On my 18th birthday in late 2014, at a show I still call one of the best I have ever been to, they played "Tuatara Lawn" at my request, and even since then I have continued to love them more and more. To say I am now familiar with those three new songs they played that day, that finally find themselves on a recording in 2016, is an understatement. Seeing the same band live twenty, thirty times does something to your perception of a song, and that is no different with these tunes. I know them almost inside out, as well as more than half of this record, before it was even recorded. Hell, I'm even on this album, which still blows my mind. Hear the choirs on "Khandallah" and "And We Saw His Needs Through the Casket"? That's me there, failing to sing the bass part. This album has almost become an intrinsic part of my being over the last two years, so being in the position to review it makes me feel strangely compromised, and it's actually incredibly difficult to attempt to assess it in an objective fashion. Many of the thoughts I have on this are thoughts from being close to it for two years, which is a unique situation for me.

All of this also demonstrates just how long this album has been in the works. The band performed several tracks from this live at their release party for An Ocean Held Me back in 2013, so it's evident that these aren't all fresh pieces. Even since then ? this album was recorded with an eight-piece lineup, and five members of that ensemble have now departed for various reasons, with three new ones taking their places. This album is being performed live and promoted by almost an entirely different lineup to the one that recorded it. My choir part was recorded back in November of 2014, and the album has been meticulously pieced together since then by their resident producer (who moonlights as a bassist in the band), Tim Burrows, for the past 18 months.

For those who haven't heard An Ocean Held Me, Mice on Stilts sound like the product of piling half a dozen highly trained instrumentalists to arrange songs written by a man with an obsession with Radiohead, Kayo Dot and Swans, and a voice like that of a classic folk singer. Of course, as someone who knows the members, that pretty much sums up their group dynamic perfectly. Benjamin Morley is the heart and soul of the band, with his core vocal melodies shifting between strained and soulful and serene, perfectly complementing the stark dynamics of his backing. And there are some truly wonderful dynamics in there. Consisting of bass, guitar, piano, drums, saxophone, trumpet, viola, synthesiser and ambient noise, the Mice on Stilts collective perfectly balance Ben's songwriting by contributing smooth and pastoral atmospheres at times, and jarring, chaotic, droning and near-metal themes at others. The diversity in timbres is both unique and exciting for a band which at its core is essentially soft-spoken indie rock. Links to Arcade Fire or The Dear Hunter are undeniable in the band's arrangements, but there is an underlying theme of darkness, energy and chaos that one would generally never associate with those artists.

Hope for a Mourning is not a massively different release from An Ocean Held Me stylistically, but it does manage to shed much of the restraints needed in an EP by taking these songs to the lengths they truly want to reach. "Tuatara Lawn" from the EP is a shoo-in for my favourite song of all time, and foreshadows the sort of dramatic building that is developed on Hope for a Mourning. In my honest opinion nothing here quite reaches the heights of that individual track, but taken as a whole this is equally as good if not better than the EP. "Funeral" is the obvious discussion point of much of this excess, and is truly one of the most harrowing pieces I have heard. I remember this being performed to absolute perfection when Mice on Stilts opened for Yes at the Aotea Centre. You can just imagine the hilarity at Ben introducing it as "a prog rock song" to an audience of aging prog fanatics before moving into an 11-minute monolith of folk, darkness and Swans-ian repetition. The progression from soft-spoken folk to chaotic smashing is something I immediately linked to a song like "Get All You Deserve" by Steven Wilson, but Funeral is much more than that. It's immersing, it's gargantuan, and even though at first Ben's Mark Kozelek-esque vocal wanderings seem a bit vague at the start, the more you listen to it the more every part makes perfect sense, and the explosion in its final minutes has my vote for one of the most otherworldly live experiences on this planet.

This heavy emotional palette is one that occupies a lot of this record, particularly in the second half, but there is a lighter, folkier side to it that many will find enjoyable even without needing to have an emotional episode. "Khandallah", as Ben liked to introduce it at each performance, is "a happy song about happy things". His decision to open the album with it is fascinating and not necessarily one I am completely convinced of because it almost sets the wrong tone for the record, but the sweet smoothness of the uplifting chorus is definitely a fantastic piece of work regardless of where it sits. It's here when Ben shows his talent for pop melodies and being an indie singer, and the rest of the band show their skills at adorning a song with colourful arrangements. None of the parts bar the chords and vocals are written by Ben, with all of the horn and string players floating their parts on and around his core until it sounds complete.

The first three songs on the album carry this same folk tinge, before the album takes a stylistic deviation with "And We Saw His Needs?". "Orca" is essentially a merger of those folk tendencies with some classic progressive rock structuring. It's become a bit of a favourite of mine in recent times (pretty much ever since they stopped playing it live actually), but the combination of the smooth poppy melody, the unusual structuring and the explosive finale is something that encapsulates the Mice on Stilts sound wonderfully. The way the song takes a complete deviation after the first chorus to a different segment and eventually a full-on ambient section before returning for the second chorus is a truly inspired piece of songwriting.

But as nice as the first half of the record is, the second half is when the band truly show their talent. When this album was demoed, the only song I wasn't convinced of was "And We Saw His Needs Through the Casket", but the fully recorded version has totally changed my mind. It acts as a bridge to the album's second half, ending with a two- minute choral section that creates a gorgeously ominous mood that leads into "YHWH" brilliantly. YHWH itself is a fascinating song, and I actually told the band I thought it should open the record, but Ben said he "didn't want to scare people". It's a beast of a track, a mathy, angular dirge of sludge riffs and impossibly tight drum grooves. It's really a testament to the band's diversity that they can shove a song this heavy into their music without ever feeling like it's shoehorned or out of place.

I also must give a brief mention to pianist Brendan Zwaan, since I haven't really talked about him much. He was not with the band for An Ocean Held Me, and has since departed the band with the birth of his son, but his fingerprints are all over Hope for a Mourning. Co-writing in several of the songs, including all of the choral segments, he adds a beautiful classical touch to the ensemble, which mostly consists of jazz musicians. He is also responsible for the absolutely harrowing ending to the album, with the instrumental closing minutes of "Monarch". Coming after Funeral the song finishes the album in the darkest of places, with Zwaan, accompanied by Sam Hennessy on viola and Joseph Jujnovich's vocal wanderings, pulls out a piece of Moonlight-esque beauty to close of the record.

Honestly, I don't have any proper complaints about this record that aren't ones brought about by me having heard these songs a billion times. The only nitpick I can pull out is that I feel many of these songs are much better live than in studio, and the recording doesn't quite capture the full power of a song like "Orca" or "Funeral". The recording is far from poor, but Tim Burrows has opted for a smoother and quite dream pop-sounding production this time around, which works really well in the softer songs, but can leave the heavier ones wanting a bit more punch.

Compositionally though, there's barely a mis-step here. The group perfectly decorate Morley's indie rock croon with sections of jazz, classical, rock, drone, ambient, or The Seer-era Swans smashing when necessary, whilst never losing that melodic and soulful song-base. Hope for a Mourning is a gorgeous and heartfelt piece of music, that perfectly takes in dozens of influences without ever feeling cluttered. A long time coming, but worth it in every way.

 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

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An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars New-Zealand band MICE ON STILTS (MOS hereinafter), formed in 2011, explores a brand of music they describe themselves as cinematic doom folk. "An Ocean Held Me" is their debut album, released through the Kiwi label Triple A Records in 2013.

While MOS isn't a band directly comparable to any other band out there that I'm familiar with at this point, Radiohead is my chosen comparison due to the mood and overall atmosphere on this album. If one describes this band as a unit that replaces Radiohead's massive angst with melancholic and mournful tendencies, and flavors liberally with post rock aesthetics, then you should have a fairly good idea on the general scope of this production. In addition one might mention that the compositions are of a generally more laid back and tranquil nature, and that there's extensive room for the viola, for brittle trumpet details and careful saxophone textures. Still, even if rather different sounding, I still suspect that fans of Radiohead and similar bands will be the key audience for this band, especially those amongst them with a certain affection for post rock aesthetics.

 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

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An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'An Ocean Held Me' - Mice On Stilts (84/100)

Call them Anathema at their most meditative, The Dear Hunter at their most elaborately orchestrated, or even Kayo Dot at their most intimate and accessible. Either way, you wouldn't be far from the truth; Mice on Stilts have struck a golden ratio on their debut between the unique and familiar. They fit snugly into post-00's progressive trends, yet enjoy a clear sense of purpose and personal identity. I apologize if I'm sounding like a bull[&*!#]ting press release- it's altogether rare I hear a new band that truly 'gets it' from the beginning. In barely over half an hour, they've crafted a sombre, subtle and slow-to-grow opus that virtually exudes a cinematic aura others of their kind often only allude to. An Ocean Held Me is a brilliant introduction to an excellent band, and I'm eagerly anticipating the great journey they have ahead of them.

Mice on Stilts fashion themselves as part of the growing chamber rock movement. The fusion of small-scale classical ornamentation within a rock context has been around for ages in the form of artists like Univers Zero and the like, but those acts generally took a far more academic and foreboding approach to their sound. In the case of Mice on Stilts, a strong analog could be drawn between them and iamthemorning, a similarly beautiful and pop-influenced act that have seen fit to demonstrate the excitement and feeling music of this sort can stir in people when done well. Mice on Stilts have a generally darker tone to their sound than iamthemorning, but they're far too infatuated with proper hooks and alt rock leanings to be compared alongside the de facto kings of chamber rock. For what it's worth, I feel like future bands are going to take the example of Mice on Stilts and their yet-small circle of comparatives. There is too much potential here not to be noticed.

At the same time, it's sometimes hard to believe that Mice on Stilts are a young band. Musical talent has no prescribed age set to it, but the arrangements here suggest the maturity of someone, having now already spent years balancing and harnessing these ingredients. Then again, it might just as much be a matter of having the right talent and inspiration gathered in one spot. Mice on Stilts' Third Stream-ish fusion of classical viola and piano with jazzy saxophones and trumpets often overwhelms the notion that Mice on Stilts was originally a singer-songwriter bedroom project of frontman Ben Morley's design. Even so, the fact that these songs were originally devised as simple songs only serves to give added weight to the arrangements. So often, bands of this nature will let the arrangements compensate for the lack of satisfying songwriting. I could imagine An Ocean Held Me performed with a single acoustic guitar and Morley's brooding voice in a dimly lit coffee shop just as much as I could envision the entire band playing in an orchestral concert hall.

Especially given their roots in singer-songwriter tradition, the songs on An Ocean Held Me strike me as a little too reserved and consistently mellow. While it gives the EP as a whole the impression of a Floydian epic, Mice on Stilts stick to a mellow, melancholic wavelength. Whatever dynamic or (albeit restrained) fireworks we hear here are entirely in the court of the chamber arrangements. The mellowed atmosphere and leisurely pacing the songs take gives the album a pleasant consistency (culminating with the beautiful "Tuatara Lawn"- a track that deserves its growing repute), but I wonder now if Mice on Stilts would have struck me even harder with a few further-reaching moments. Their stylistic cousins in The Dear Hunter make for a perfect example as to this style could be enlivened with a few explosives. It's not at all to say that Mice on Stilts would need to lose their mellowness in order to pursue some greater mastery, but I've no doubt that An Ocean Held Me may have benefited from a few surprises along the way.

Mice on Stilts have earned a spot on my radar, and I'm pretty excited to hear where they'll go next, after having scored so deeply with this one. I will note that the album took a few times to grow; the sombre, laid-back tone doesn't rush to grab attention, and it takes some time before some helpful familiarity sets in. There's such beauty in the details and gentle harmonies Mice on Stilts have imbued these songs with, and even stripped of this gorgeous Third Stream instrumentation, we'd still have a strong singer-songwriter collection to enjoy. Keep an eye out for these guys.

 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

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An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Kiwi Prog Rock by this band from Auckland, New Zealand, which emerged in 2012 out of a more atmospheric approach on music by singer/guitarist Benjamin Morley, who had been already working with Prog Metallers Look To Windward.The band featured an original, 7-piece core with Morley surrounded by Aaron Longville on sax/trumpet, Sam Hennessy on viola, Joseph Jujnovich on backing vocals/samples, Rob Sanders on drums, Nick Wright on piano/backing vocals and Sam Nash on bass.After two singles they worked for a number of months on their debut EP ''An ocean held me'', which surfaced on bandcamp at the fall of 2013, offered as a digital download, digipack CD and in vinyl edition.

The sound is pretty hard to be described with accuracy, even if some light Post Rock ambiences, PORCUPINE TREE-like contemporary vibes and strong PINK FLOYD influences become obvious at first listening.Generally Mice On Stilts focus on tight songwriting, compact arrangements and atmospheric soundscapes more than anything else, technique has been left behind and the intense lyricism, the elaborate passages and the occasional heavy explosions appear to be the leading forces of this album.There is a feeling you are transmitted back to mid-70's and to the music of PINK FLOYD circa-''Wish you were here'' and there are a number of reasons for this: the sensitive but expressive vocals of Morley, the laid-back melodies, the light organ/piano backgrounds and the slight psychedelic atmosphere, while the band dares to throw in some strings and saxes in the process, heading for an even deeper and versatile sound.PINK FLOYD copies they are not and the powerful guitar scratches are there to remind you that Mice On Stilts are a band of the millenium.One of the presented tracks, ''Tuatara lawn'', clocks at over 12 minutes, I do not like the overstretched, psychedelic outro at the end, but I do like the rest, which is dramatic, modern Prog Rock with the fascinating, sinister strings and the orchestral depth going along with the beautiful, lyrical parts and the keyboard/piano-driven lines.The guitars are shining in this piece, which the band should use as a guide, over some minimalistic explorations, that are heard throughout the EP.

PINK FLOYD reincarnated?Sort of, but not exactly.Touches of the 70's go on to meet with modern distortions and effects in a well-composed Prog/Art Rock offering, good enough to keep an eye on this band.Warmly recommended, no matter the edition you will choose.

 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

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An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars Mice on Stilts passed through my radar undetected, perhaps due to the fact that their name somehow did not inspire me = I had pet mice when growing up but moved on and was never very impressed with stilts. Poor attempt at humor, I guess but let's face it New Zealand is not exactly a prog hotbed but this only goes to prove that prog globalization is becoming a reality. A full blown world-wide community. My previous unrequited love for the ultra-quirky Split Enz has definitely added to my evaluation. And why, not, as the instrumentation here is just as uniquely original and both sublime vocals /instrumentation.

So guitarist Ben Morley sent me their EP, something I also am generally averse to, being a stickler for full ALBUMS as opposed to songs (MP3s I am really not a fan of). And frankly, once again, I am proven to be a moronic dingbat. Hey, humility only makes you stronger! Truth is that Mice on Stilts offers masterful progressive rock music, definitely original in terms of instrumentation, though there is a flowing Floydian mood that is palpable. With a track entitled "Syd's Socks", what do you expect? But all the focus should be on the lead, harmony, backing and special effect vocals that are exemplary. Honking organ, windswept saxophone and that clanging guitar all combine to shape this brooding opening song. The unshaven voice is tired, frazzled and disconsolate.

A lamenting viola (Sam Hennessy) introduces a piano that expresses the deepest sorrow, the slowly evolving "Binocular Bath" (now that is what I call a prog title!). It's also a fabulous song, a conspicuous dirge of profoundly felt melancholia, swooning vocals, prominent Sam Nash bass, and pulsating 'drumster-isms'. The electric guitar is stormy and aggressive when needed, the melody overpoweringly effective. The lead vocalist (Ben, Is that you?) sounds eerily similar to Airbag's singer Asle Torstrup, who owns a Dave Gilmour slash Robert Smith wail.

The Nick Wright piano introduction to "A Moss Ocean" is so crushingly beautiful, I had a hard time believing my ears! The voice is breathlessly passionate, the classical-tinged orchestrations are very close to Penguin Café Orchestra's Simon Jeffes (a sadly unknown genius), with dense use of viola, saxophone and trumpet to highlight the pain. The overall mood is one of anguished reflection, a style I particularly love as it permeates deep into the soul and takes you somewhere you know well but have never been. This one really kicked me in the pants, I was one step away from crying. The final lyric "She left in a Russian car" only adds to the mystery. Love this stuff!

The loping cinematography of "Vulnerable Vader" is perhaps a tad more straightforward with winks at Radiohead as it veers into slight dissonance, the circumspect saxophone (Aaron Longville) blowing through the blustery clouds (OMG, what a sublime instrument that is, eh?). Tolling guitar chimes, piano rivulets, brooding bass and hefty drum support are all impeccable but it's that damned viola creeping forth that really nails you to the cross. The vocal effects are also exemplary giving backbone to the gritty wail of the deranged sax and the dirty guitar. This quickly veers into Mel Collins meets Bob Fripp delirium as found on "Sailor's Tale"! Tortuous, deranged and damned angry, the gruesome oil of rage is expertly expressed.

Then finish off with the larger-than-life "Tuatara Lawn", an astonishing composition spanning a dozen minutes that expertly encompasses the values of the Mice on Stilts sound, inflicting Dead Can Dance pain, releasing Anathema-like sunny angst and having it then marinate in Pink Floydian symphonics, with the added viola/sax in unison with the delicate piano. The upward vortex of specially effected voice sounds, courtesy of Joseph Jujnovich give the whole that wailing operatic flavor that hits you hard in the gut. Powerful and majestic, densely atmospheric and utterly gorgeous. Morley gives his resonating, echo- laden axe a long, simple and lovely workout, oozing emotion with a profound sentimentality. Music of this caliber should appeal to a wide swath of progressive fans and maybe even be inclined to give some outsiders a further understanding of how meaningful talents create masterful music in relative silence.

Colossal and timeless surprise, I bow in subjugated appreciation. Wow!

5 Fellini rats

 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

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An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by lucas
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Hailing from New-Zealand, Mice on Stilts play a music covered in melancholy, where the complex alternative country of 16 Horsepower meets comfortably the space rock of Pink Floyd and the dark atmosphere of King Crimson. The instrumentation is rich, as, besides the usual bass/drums/guitar trio, other instruments abound, like piano, saxophone, viola and to a lesser extent accordion, mouth-organ, trumpet, Rhodes and organ. All these instruments are played slowly, thus being each a brick of of the wall of sadness. A few more luminous moments intersperse the prevailing desolation, such as the enchanting guitar backed by the jolly drums in "Syds Socks", some upbeat piano notes as well as the optimism that soars from Nick Wright's mouth in "Tuatara Lawn", and last but not least the lovely female choirs in "Binocular bath". In line with the lyrics of the closing track ("we are endlessly in torment") and the imploring cry of "Binocular Bath", the music is in the end tormented yet delivered in delicate ambiances, where instruments, staying in harmony despite their abundance, are accompanied by a beautiful pleading voice.
 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

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An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by buddyblueyes

4 stars Great Song Crafting. Bad Band Name.

Some bands throw everything (plus the kitchen sink) into writing a song. Technique for days and days. Countless chord changes over 5/4 polyrhythms. Finger flailing with 130db guitars that can skin you from 50 yards out. Sometimes the mood calls for that motivation. But, sometimes 3 million notes in a song can come across as... well, trite. [sigh] Vacuous.

For those times that emotion, mood, atmosphere and introspection command attention Mice on Stilts provides an overabundance of all those things. The swells of various instruments and well planned dynamics paint a sonic landscape one can willingly lose oneself in for a hefty duration. The lyrics are discerning and the musicians are astute in providing ample, cohesive support to the mood that is strongly consistent (but never dull) throughout the entire album.

The production of the album parallels the gravity of this landscape. Nothing sounds overly compressed, with modern recording tricks or in-the-box computer music. It's modern and hip, but the engineers captured the essence of something old, vintage... respected. The vocals are uncanny, spacey, dreamlike. Full of reverb and mystery. The instruments are balanced and blend masterfully. It's timeless.

There is one possible hesitation with the body of work which demands brief attention. One could find themselves in question of the band's propensity for titling songs and the band name itself. It's a conundrum. One can admire the creative play of dialect, but for so many prog bands, this reviewer always finds it difficult to communicate with musical-minded friends about the prog genre as a whole. With fingers on their smartphones, dialed to Spotify "Who are you listening to?" Eagerly awaiting a response I respond: "Oh, I've just heard this great new band... [pause] I can't remember their name, though. [longer pause with brow scrunched] ...Or the names of any of their songs." Awkward silence. This scene has reoccurred so many times it has given this reviewer hesitation with eclectic band names -- to the point that one could say the glam metal bands of the 80's may have perfected the model for band brand identification. (i.e. Dream The Electric Sleep vs. ...Poison. The Twenty Committee vs. ...White Lion. Days Between Stations vs. ...Ratt.)

That aside, this is a really captivating album of Doom Folk Prog (how's that for genre splicing)! An exemplary and rewarding listen. Give it time when you want to slow things down and escape the demands of this world. You may begin to see that all the demands of the real world are as trite as 3 million notes in one song.

 An Ocean Held Me by MICE ON STILTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.09 | 72 ratings

BUY
An Ocean Held Me
Mice On Stilts Crossover Prog

Review by steve h

5 stars Although this is an EP and a debut I have awarded 'An ocean held me" by mice on stilts 5 stars. As I am often interested in the longer pieces of work, as they often take you on a journey, I played the 12.36 min track; Tuatara lawn as my introduction. I often sit trawling through a variety of new and old acts only to switch off half way through the first track. It was a rare moment to find myself sitting bolt upright with surprise as I heard the piano driven melancholy and following layers of sound make just the right sounds to my ears. I really can't write anything better than "Second life syndrome" as I agree with everything already described, so I won't try.

I hope on the album they are currently putting together they manage to repeat the same atmosphere captured on "Tuatara Lawn" and "a moss ocean" in particular. The references to Hogarth Marillion in terms of atmosphere is correct (and a good thing) alongside other acts such as Airbag and even Gazpacho.

As an Englishman in New Zealand I am looking forward to this NZ act becoming one of the next exciting bands to carry the progressive music flag.

Just turn off the lights, crank up the volume and enjoy the journey

Sweet as.........

Thanks to kev rowland for the artist addition.

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