Songs: Ohia – “Hecla & Griper 15th Anniversary Edition” Review

“Wonderful re-issue of seminal indie classic”

Songs: Ohia was the band name Jason Molina used for most of his musical output from 1996 to 2003, when he formed Magnolia Electric Company.  Coming between his first and second albums (S/T and Impala, respectively) in 1998, the Hecla & Griper EP is constantly overshadowed by those two works.

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This 15th Anniversary release was prepared by Molina before his death in March, as the first in a series meant to draw attention to his more obscure releases.

Later in Molina’s Songs: Ohia career, he would reinvent the band to suit the material. Each album would be dramatically different from the one before it. His earlier work, however, is all cut from the same cloth: the slowest possible groove, spare arrangements centered on Molina’s baritone guitar, lyrics that recall the language of ancient Anglo-Celt balladry and a self-eviscerating portrait in first-person that addressed what happens after the fuck-up.

From the start, Molina had images and subjects that he explored through all of his work: ghosts, anthropomorphic creatures, classism, bad love, birds, highway lights and halos.  Hecla & Griper has all of these touchstones in its eight miniature songs (this edition has four added songs, for twelve total).

The first track on Hecla & Griper, “Pass,” lasts sixty-six seconds. In that short time, Molina illustrates a much scarier version of the Muse, specifically the type Neil Young writes about in his autobiography. For Young, the muse is a mystical, positive force that must be honored and followed. Molina writes about his fear of betraying that Muse, and the punishment that would follow. Neil’s muse is New Testament; Molina’s is Old Testament. Pretty good for eight lines of lyrics.

songs ohia heclar and griperSongs: Ohia
Hecla & Griper 15th Anniversary Edition
Bloomington, OH
(Secretly Canadian)
Produced by Daniel Burton

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