moth wranglers is the bi-coastal musical collaborative between ld beghtol (frontman/mastermind of nyc chamberpop ensemble flare, at least one-third of the three terrors, and featured vocalist on the magnetic fields’ “69 love songs”) and chris xefos (ex-king missile, current producer/engineer in sf). the two came together as a phenomenon in 1998, as a means by which beghtol and xefos would explore their mutual love of obscure pop histrionics and arcane instrumentation — and perhaps as a creative way to use up some frequent-flyer miles.
dubbed a “dangerous indie-pop vaudeville troupe” by one pundit, moth wranglers works as a recording compendium of guest musicians and non-musicians alike. the transcontinental duo writes and records music together separately — long distance, transferring ideas through various forms of media and communications — and then fashions and finalizes those ideas in various studios throughout the known world. mothmusic draws on everything from gospel, victorian parlour songs, classic 60s pop, 70s rock and 80s new wave to classical art songs and serialism for inspiration. the sound is something akin to omd covering the carter family — or vice versa. beghtol and xefos share vocal duties, and play everything from ukuleles and guitars to accordions, marxophones, vintage keyboards, autoharps, xylophones and aqualins to whatever else they can lay their hands on…
after the release of their rendition of #13 baby on lifelike records' pixies fuckin’ die! moth wranglers’ debut single took the form of seven inches of vinyl fun. do-si-do and all that… it stars a skewed country-swing tune, “turnabout,” as it’s a-side, which pits beghtol’s best baroque hoe-down yodel against xefos’ jangly acoustic guitar and last-gasp accordion; it’s rounded out by extraterrestrial jordanaires-styled backing vocals and handclaps. guests wranglers on this track are victor krummenacher and jonathan segel (camper van beethoven) on upright bass and fiddle, respectfully. for the b-side, “new mission terrace #47,” xefos intones a text collaged to a wayward friend over an ambient bed of pulsing, oceanic keyboards (courtesy of alison faith levy, the loud family), backwards strings and throbbing blues harp.
moth wranglers first full-length cd, never mind the context, was released by magnetic in october, 2001. encompassing a baker's dozen songs in as many genres: ranging from psychotic hoedowns and bright ’n’ bouncy sing-alogs to psychedelic rockers, gospel-tinged laments and swinging 60s pop tunes full of summer sun and good old-fashioned california dreamin’. armed with a skewed pop sensibility and a slew of weird instruments and toys, moth wranglers on nmtc make a noise one critic calls, “a disconcerting, beautiful dichotomy of sound, dark humor and light-hearted horror.” guest stars included members of camper van beethoven, the magnetic fields, the klezmatics, the posies and thousands more. no turn was left unstoned.
never mind the context - CD (MAG 0017) 2001
never better - CD (MAG 0024) 2004
Also appears on:
Jonathan Segel - Scissors
Victor Krummenacher - Bittersweet