The Wounded Beat slots into its title nicely. Everything about this album feels on the precipice of collapse: vocals threaten to descend into inaudible whispers, melodies tread a fine line between fragility and forgettability, ambient layers look set to advance from their modest swirls around the back of the mix to swamp the foreground and drown the songs themselves. The band are cocooned in lyrical nostalgia and pent-up emotion, yet this album is too gentle to provide any catharsis – instead, the listener is invited inwards to feel the warmth of their melancholy flame and watch it flicker gently, fuelled by Mombi’s quiet introspect.
Rhythm is an important aspect, providing the strength of propulsion to prevent the melodies crumbling on their quivering frames. Often this arrives as no more than a deep, on-beat throb from beneath, but occasionally Mombi explore more rich and complex percussive arrangements – particularly in the expansive electro-pound of “The Misunderstanding” and the swaying brush kit beats on “Cascade Cliffs (Looking Down)”. It’s by no coincidence that these are the strongest tracks. Mombi sound purposeful when granted a solid rhythmic base – the vocals, which occasionally meander vacuously without making sufficient contribution, become more assured and form sturdy ties with the melodies that carry them. In contrast, pieces such as the closing “A General Map of Love” drift without clear direction, moving in vague and wispy circles before coming to an abrupt and dissatisfying fade out.
Thankfully, The Wounded Beat is comprised more of the former than the latter, with its weaker moments compensated by the somber beauty that runs through much of this release. Credit is also due to Keith Kenniff (Helios, Goldmund), whose efforts in both the recording and mixing of this album ensure that it comes wrapped in his trademark organic clarity.