Despite borrowing its name from a Dylan Thomas story about a plague that renders a village’s inhabitants into zombies, The Horse’s Ha will likely not raise terror levels past yellow. The Chicago duo matches James Elkington of local indie-rockers the Zincs and drummer-guitarist Janet Beveridge Bean of Eleventh Dream Day and Freakwater, two touchstone bands of the Midwestern underground. Together they just released Of the Cathmawr Yards (A Hidden Agenda), a debut album that features lovely woven harmonies, finely textured guitars and a country-folk atmosphere that is both cozy and eerie in a single shot.
Bean and Elkington have played shows as The Horse’s Ha for years; the new album feature some of the city’s finest avant-jazz improvisers like cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Their respective history is responsible for making the songs take unexpected turns, find understated rhythms and delve into midnight moods similar to early Van Morrison.