The English Breakfast

The English Breakfast
Shifting Seas

Click to hear: “To_the_Spring

Shifting Seas is a strange, messy, dense collection of indie rock and folk oddities — and one of the most intriguing local releases I’ve heard in years. The English Breakfast brings a lot to the table: unconventional instruments and compositions, lo-fi guitar goodness, art-damaged vocal harmonies, “Zen” Ben Meiklejohn (who plays oboe on a song) and plenty of other weirdness. What they don’t bring is a map.

The prime mover behind this project is Ira Sterling, who sang and played guitars and tossed a bunch of other sounds into the mix when he recorded it at home. Drummer Bill Mead banged on something during most of the 15 songs here, and Evan Chase shows up on mandolin now and again. Meghan Sterling lends lead vocals to the shambling rocker “Lucy” and sings backup on a couple others, but the live band is, Chase aside, a whole different group of players. Go figure.

The two catchiest songs, “To the Spring” and “We’ll Make Good Compost,” start things off, but after that we’re in the weeds. Several numbers (“Hand to Wing,” “The Other Side of the Coin,” “The Processional”) bring to mind the madcap pastiche of The Horror’s early work, minus the metal. Short acoustic interludes (“Ode to Olive,” “Remember the Gingko”) mingle with bursts of static-infused rock (“Better Plan,” “Good Man,” “Elevators”) and experiments like the clattering “Elephants.” The title track might best be described as lo-fi indie prog.

Sterling released an English Breakfast EP eight years ago that’s only slightly less confounding, but that’s been it. He’s apparently planning to cut another EP and another full-length this year in his new recording space. By then, The English Breakfast may have figured itself out. In the meantime, we can listen and wonder.

— Chris Busby

The English Breakfast plays a CD release show on Friday, June 14, at Mayo Street Arts (10 Mayo St., Portland), with The Robin and Rose (featuring members of Phantom Buffalo and The Baltic Sea) and Silent Sam and the Evans, at 7:30 p.m. Tix: $5 (all ages).