With “It’s Never Enough,” the Portland, Oregon, band Mordecai takes songs that feel like they should be conventional pop and package them in such a ways as to make the listening experience something of a musical “Twilight Zone,” a place where things which should seem familiar instead feel strange, even uncomfortable. The opening number, “Control,” is paradoxically both a blast of indie rock vitality and off-kilter electro-pop dissonance. “Try Again” leans more into the band’s electronic roots, with Andrew Endres’ strong, clear vocals playing counterpoint to the sounds of machines. This is true throughout the album, particularly on “Nothing,” where lyrics such as “there’s nothing more to say/you don’t want me/and I can’t change/there’s nothing more/to say” — lines that would not feel unfamiliar in a commercial pop album — resonate with humanity in the electronic context. Conversely, Kate Kilbourne’s violin often gives the music a surreal element. On “Hanging On,” for example, she creates an eerie sound that makes the song’s edges seem as if they’re fraying into the ether, creating a sense of disintegration. That sense of disintegration is what drives a lot of the album’s momentum, especially when the odd stasis of “Calm Down” gives way to the emotional dissolution of “Perfect.” This song, which features drums by Grant Pierce, feels like a rock song on mescaline, the duality of masculinity and heartbreak diluted down to a plaintive cry. It’s an affecting song, but not one that evokes much sympathy for the persona, the desire to be “a perfect person” being doomed from the outset. The song itself knows that, though. The knowledge colors every note, and continues to do so as the album progresses. Indeed, with “Price” and “Shell,” the album begins to cast both musical and lyrical lights on the disintegration of both love and ego that permeates the album, and about the time Kilbourne’s vocals are added to the mix, creating a sense of harmony, the listener might begin to believe that this might all end well. But this isn’t that album, and by the time the album winds down to “Follow” and finally “Alone,” the severity of the wounds underscoring the album are laid bare: “Your secrets are written all over your face/whatever made you leave your hiding place.” It’s dark, and it’s heartbreaking, and it all seems so familiar that you could swear you’ve been here before, even if you don’t recognize a single thing.
(Victor D. Infante, Telegram & Gazette)
Veiled in the sonic shroud of avant-pop’s murky soundscapes, Portland, Oregon experimental Duo Mordecai are forging an incendiary path. Comprised of vocalist Andrew Alexander Endres and violinist Kate Kilbourne the band came together in early 2016, conspiring darkly sweet, beat-driven bangers that fold in R&B swagger, electro mysticism, and pop sensibility.
Armed with a new album, the band’s textured compositions utilize steady bass-and-drum against an unlikely violin/effects tandem to create bizarre-yet-catchy progressions, as heard on songs like “Price.” The dynamism of Mordecai’s quiver of songs vacillates between the suave, the bleak, the pleading and the rapturous, usually within one track, endearing dark-pop progenitors and new-jack popsters alike.
Mordecai completed its first tour of the West Coast of the United States in 2016, and is releasing its debut full-length in August 2017 followed by a full European Tour.
Ryan Prado (Portland Mercury/Vortex Magazine)
“I really wanted to assemble a band and create some really cool pop and rock arrangements,” Endres says. To achieve Mordecai’s bigger sound, Endres (who plays lap steel and bass) recruited local musicians Kate Kilbourne on violin and synths and Nick Quiller on drums. “We set out to accomplish a really fat, huge-sounding pop record with really amazing, hard-hitting drums and bass,” he says.
What also hits hard on this record are the lyrics. Like any true artist should, Endres and the members of Mordecai have learned to not only overcome hardships but also utilize them as inspiration. While on tour last winter all of their gear was stolen, leaving Endres with little more than a bass guitar to work with. This restriction ended up shaping the tone for what their record has become, with Endres’ lyrics exploring darker subject matter such as desperation and emotional trauma.
“I hoped to create songs that conveyed my emotions when experiencing moments like these,” Endres says. He describes the song “Control” as being about society’s desensitization towards the capitalistic reality so prevalent today.
In the end, Endres will be the first to tell you that he’s quite fortunate just to make music. “I’ve done some cool things in my life,” he says, reflecting on his journey so far. And with the release of a debut album, along with a tour this fall venturing overseas and across Europe, there’s a lot for Endres and Mordecai to look forward to. Let’s just hope they don’t lose any more gear in the process.
Blending complex and emotional beats with deep, introspective lyrics, the Portland-based band Mordecai has created a strong debut album, “It’s Never Enough.”
The duo of multi-instrumentalist Andrew Alexander Endres and violinist Kate Kilbourne create an experimental electronic soundscape that combines rhythm and blues beats, and pop and electronic dance music melodies with pop-punk vocals.
Endres wrote the songs as well as played and produced nearly every instrument on the 10-track album that is expected to be released Wednesday, Aug. 30 with a release party at Holocene in Portland. He is backed by Kilbourne on vocals, synths and violin and a friend of the band, Grant Pierce, tracked drums on “Perfect.”
With the opening synths on “Control,” Mordecai presents a vibe that represents the spirit of Portland. The opening synths are mellow and build with the emotion propelled by Endres’ voice.
“I had these songs and melodies and wanted to give expression to them. I’ve primarily been an instrumentalist and I wanted to give myself room to express these ideas using my voice,” Endres said via email. “I wrote all the songs over the last three years. Each of them is from a different time period so they all have different motivations and themes.”
Kilbourne has the perfect complement to Endres’ voice and there is no better example than “Hanging On.” This is one of my favorite tracks because it has pop, punk and emo sound that shifts into a contemporary pop vibe by the end.
The duo has great chemistry and they help one another showcase their talents. They met while studying music and working in the music office at Portland State University, however they began playing together years after graduation.
After touring the west coast last year, the band began tracking the songs for its debut album. “It’s Never Enough” was recorded primarily at Endres’ home studio in addition to Reinhold Music, as well as borrowing a friend’s studio.
While displaying his range as an instrumentalist and a vocalist, Endres makes writing pop hooks sound so easy. The hook on “Try Again” is compelling and heartbreaking at the same time. While the music drives the plot, his lyrics saying that the excuses won’t change a thing are just cutting. His writing boils down these themes to raw elements and the result is: “Please try again, this makes no sense, I can’t trust you to make amends.”
What makes “It’s Never Enough” so good is not just that the songs are ear-wormy, but that they convey these powerful messages in super tight, catchy songs. Tracks like “Alone,” with lyrics about fear-based self-deprecation, make all that torture sound like pleasure in the studio.
Throughout the album, the synth work is complex. There is some intense ambiance happening in the background that at times bubbles to the surface and blends brilliantly with a rhythm or harmony. Songs like “Perfect,” have layers of sound that mash up and shift throughout the track. Even without lyrics, the mood of the sound conveys a strong message.
The beats on this album are one of the standout features. On “Calm Down,” there is an intense, dark sound that starts and is completely transformed by Kilbourne on violin. Her touch is subtle but her playing adds so much texture to the song that it’s hard to not get lost in her melody.
“It’s Never Enough” is an album that draws and blends various styles. The heavy beats and deep bass on “Follow” are in stark contrast to the way a song like “Shell” unfolds; with synths that expand fill the background with a whimsical, tropical sound.
Mordecai creates complex arrangements that give the band a shroud of mystery. With the closing track, “Price,” there is eerie organ effect that creates an undercurrent of uneasiness that intensifies throughout the song.
Following the band’s Aug. 30 album release show at Holocene, Mordecai will leave for a European tour in September including stops in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium.
(The High Note Blog)
Last winter while on tour, Andrew Endres and his band had all of their gear stollen. Instead of letting the major setback get in his way, the Portland-based, jazz-trained multi-instrumentalist and songwriter buckled down and utilized the hardship as inspiration in writing the debut album for his band Mordecai.
Today Vortex Music Magazine premiered the single, “Control,” off that album, It’s Never Enough. The song explores a downtempo, ethereal realm of Endres’ brand of heartfelt pop, and as he explains, touches on the theme of society’s desensitization towards capitalism. In a similar sonic atmospheric of ambient electronics and a slow driving drum beat, Endres processes the ending of a relationship, singing “there’s nothing more to say, you didn’t want me/and I can’t change, there’s nothing more to say,” on their first single, “Nothing.”
On Wednesday, August 30, Mordecai will celebrate the release of It’s Never Enough with a performance at Holocene joined by the new local hip hop sensation AMANI and experimental electronic soul songstress Amenta Abioto. The night will also serve as a tour kickoff for Mordecai who are taking their show across the pond for a run through Europe.
Mordecai is getting ready to embark on a European tour that’ll last through the end of November. That’s some serious traveling! But before they leave town, the Portland pop trio’s celebrating the release of their new album, It’s Never Enough, with a show at Holocene. Founded by Andrew Endres (lap steel/bass) and Kate Kilbourne (violin/synth), with Nick Quiller on drums, the band takes an unconventional path to modern pop/R&B, building a typical beats-and-synth soundscape (with Endres singing his heart out) and periodically incorporating oddly effective melodic lines using lap steel guitar and violin. Add it all up and you get futuristic robo-pop streaked with hints of neo-classical and roots music, like a landlocked (and less shy) Frank Ocean. Bottom line: Mordecai is different, and different is good. See ’em tonight, before they’re gone ’til December.
(Ben Salmon, Portland Mercury)