The music of Mute Choir is, above all else, about freedom. Freedom to live your life however you choose, and freedom to follow your creative vision wherever it leads. But in order to understand freedom, one must sometimes experience its opposite. Mute Choir’s debut album Behind the Bars is partly about that as well, and the clash between those two forces is palpable within the music—a distinctive blend of untamed electro-rock and introspective balladry with an eye on the ever-elusive goal of making dance music with a message.
That message is in large measure the story of how the group’s figurehead Sam Arion has reached this place. Born in Iran and raised in both the overcrowded suburbs and isolated rural areas of Toronto, he escaped to the city at age 18. The album’s first single “The Pedestrian” encompasses Arion’s evolution as a songwriter since then, discarding traditional pop and rock lyrics for deeper concepts of self-discovery.
Throughout Behind the Bars, Arion brilliantly weaves together many musical threads, from the deft dynamics and time changes of radio-ready tracks such as “Behind The Bars” and “MineField,” to the hypnotizing synths on “Us/Them” and particularly the epic, seven-minute “Election Season” with its multiple sections. The fact that Arion was able to accomplish all of this ostensibly on his own speaks volumes about his drive and devotion to his muse.
As a snapshot of the human condition from its least photogenic angle, Mute Choir’s Behind the Bars is a timely reminder that the only thing that ever holds us back from doing what we want to do is ourselves.
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