FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Gia Margaret

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I think I didn’t know it then but I needed to realize – and realize now – that I’m not only a vocalist.”

—Gia Margaret

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Released last month, the utterly beguiling “Mia Gargaret” reveals an achingly beautiful set of largely instrumental works from the gifted talents of Chicago artist Gia Margaret. These delicate ambient song cycles cast an undeniable power; slowly emanating from the ethereal bliss of synthesizer, piano and acoustic guitar: shimmering out to seas of splendor.

The opening two tracks invites the listener deep into the realm of reverie and inner-reflection. Apathy’s gentle flourishes of synthesizer arpeggios forges the soothing textures and warm radiance (in which this entire record is beautifully submerged in). Fragile piano tapestries are wonderfully woven together, as some field recordings fade in gradually towards its majestic close.

The immensity of “body” is nothing short of staggering: an examination of the human condition across a distillation of two sumptuous minutes. A spoken word essay is narrated beneath otherworldly soundscapes of reflective synthesizer loops. The sheer emotional depth unleashed by this heartfelt gem inside its intricate array of masterful production and sonic wizardry hits you profoundly.

Hypnotic vocal lines are fused with immersive electronic beats on the introspective bliss of “barely there” before poignant, soul-stirring piano lament “no sleep no dream” seeps into the ether of forgotten dreams.

“3 movements” is a divine solo piano exploration that navigates the human heart and soul of all natural things.

To create something truly uplifting from the depths of darkness lies the true power of Margaret’s song-craft. Let the healing power of music flood your mind’s eye.

‘Mia Gargaret’ is out now in Dalliance Recordings.

https://giamargaret.net/

https://giamargaret.bandcamp.com/

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Interview with Gia Margaret.

Congratulations on your achingly beautiful new full length release. First of all, can you please take me back to the period of time in which this collection of songs were written and recorded? This sonic departure was prompted by illness and having lost your voice (which I hope you are doing well now) but I feel the healing power of music is very much translated to the listener’s experience of this record.

Gia Margaret: Thank you so much. I still can’t believe it exists? I wrote this record mostly during the second half of 2019. It was a transitional time for me in so many ways. I was full of so much uncertainty both personally and professionally. To top it off I felt robbed of my own joy with the inability to use my voice. That’s amazing you can feel a healing power. I wouldn’t say I felt completely healed while making it but definitely soothed me at the time. Maybe I was searching for something healing? I’m glad it feels that way anyhow.



The sonic palette of synthesizer, piano and acoustic guitar creates a divine sound world of lo-fi ambient gems with such an array of soothing textures and warm, inviting timbres. Can you discuss your studio set-up and your compositional approach for this album? 

GM: My studio set-up is very…humble. I have my computer, Logic and a simple interface. Most of the synth driven songs were recorded right at my desk shortly after they were written. I have a pretty basic synthesizer (Korg Minilogue), a few little Yamaha reface keyboards and a casio SK1. (I think I used those the most!) The acoustic piano was recorded at my friend Scott’s studio, which I am lucky to have access to. And the acoustic guitar was plugged in direct. Nothing fancy. I would say 90 percent of this record was made right in my living room. As far as compositional approach:  I think I wanted the songs to be structured but I didn’t want to commit myself to any sonic palette.  I can’t say I really had an approach or ever do. I like to treat every song differently and I make whatever resources that are available work for me.



The opening two tracks ‘Apathy’ and ‘Body’ serves the cornerstone of this captivating record. I’d love for you to recount your memories of witnessing these songs unfold and the layers of the tracks themselves. For instance, the deeply moving spoken word element embedded in ‘Body’ forges such a poignant and moving sonic exploration. Can you shed some light on these found sounds, so to speak?


GM
: I wrote both “Apathy” and “Body” in the same evening. They always felt like good friends thereafter. I have to be completely honest, I don’t remember making them that much. Sometimes I will hit record and play until something sticks. I do know I wrote them last September and that whenever I like something I’ve made I will listen over and over again. I have a memory of heading to my friend’s place on the train and having “Body” on a loop. I think I knew then that it was special to me and it would go on the record. These songs flowed out of me effortlessly. I had been listening to a few of Alan Watts’ lectures that week and I think originally I plugged in his lecture there as a placeholder. Eventually it all felt too fitting to remove in the long run. It was a happy accident and I’m lucky that his son Mark gave me permission to use the lecture in exchange for allowing him to use the song in a documentary for his Dad. That was probably one of the best emails I’ve ever received. I was sort of a philosophy/Alan Watts nut in college and during my 20s.

I get the impression the necessity of music (and music-making as a process) was an important therapeutic outlet during this period of time. Despite the fact your voice – in terms of the traditional singer-songwriter format – is barely found on the album, the alluring aspect of this music is just how these songs very much have a voice and lyrical quality to them. Were you surprised by the results? In terms of the music-making process, I’m sure you have uncovered new pathways of your own special song-craft?

GM: I’m still surprised at the results. Like I said earlier, but maybe I didn’t emphasize, is that I don’t remember making some of it. I was in that much of a fog at the time. I think I didn’t know it then but I needed to realize – and realize now – that I’m not only a vocalist. While singing is such a big part of me and I am getting stronger, none of it would be the same without the taste I’ve acquired and without producing my own music. It’s been nice to realize I can express myself in other ways. I went to school for music composition and dropped out. I think for a long time I felt I could never release instrumental music or be apart of that world because I wasn’t technically trained enough/ couldn’t survive a rigorous program. I hope to continue to make ambient music and it would be nice to someday make a piano record.

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‘3 Movements’ is a stunningly beautiful solo piano tour-de-force and I love the placing of this piece towards the end. Was piano the first instrument you played as a child? Can you talk me through the movements of this piece of music?

GM: Piano was my first instrument and I started to play when I was about 6 after begging my parents for a few years. I don’t have a piano anymore but there’s truly nothing like sitting at a real piano. It’s my first love. I originally wrote this piece of music for Mark Kozelek’s new spoken world album. He asked for 3 movements so I wrote 3 movements. Lots of looping piano and layering over top. I don’t think there was much rhyme or reason. Mark gave me a few simple directions and I tried to make something he could use. It was an honor to be asked to do this because I’ve spent a good portion of life listening to his music. I was almost embarrassed to ask him if I could use this on my record but I became attached after I had already given it to him. Since he edited some of it to fit around his spoken word we agreed that we could both use the music on each of our projects. He was very cool about it! Thanks Mark!



What are your earliest musical memories? What was your musical upbringing like living in Chicago? At which point do you remember wanting to embark on your own solo path?


GM
: Earliest musical memories involve my mother exposing me to music. And while no one in my family is really musical, I owe my love for music to her.  She had a big record collection and always had a new cassette to discover in the car. Some names that come to mind include Genesis, Enya, R.E.M., and Sinéad O’Connor. My dad showed me Sade by accident when it came on his favorite smooth jazz radio station, haha. (so I’ll give him some credit too because I spent ages 11–14 listening to “Lovers Rock” pretty religiously) I feel like they didn’t know what do to with a creative kid like myself, but they supported me in the ways that they could. I took piano lessons and I started making up my own songs at a young age. As far as knowing when I wanted to embark on my own path, I think that happened when I dropped out of music school to focus more on songwriting. I was in a few projects and spent many years backing other musical projects. I spent a few years producing for other people as well. I think I didn’t fully embark until a few years ago when I made my first record and decided to fully focus on myself. I’ve never felt worthy of anyone listening to my music but somehow people are out there listening and I’m grateful.

What music have you been enjoying lately?

GM: Lately I’ve been listening to and revisiting Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s “Keyboard Fantasies”, as much Mehdi Hassan as I can find, and Ivy’s “Long Distance”.

‘Mia Gargaret’ is out now in Dalliance Recordings.

https://giamargaret.net/

https://giamargaret.bandcamp.com/

 

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July 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm

Mixtape: Fractured Air – July 2020

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July’s mix features the majestic “Wondrous Love” by folk legend Shirley Collins who recently announced details of new album (and follow up to 2016’s “Lodestar”), “Heart’s Ease”, which is due for release via Domino on 24th July. It’s first single is the timeless gem “Wondrous Love”, as Domino state: “its tune comes from an 18th Century English ballad about the infamous sea captain William Kidd, who was hanged for piracy in 1701. Collins first heard the hymn at a Sacred Harp Convention in Alabama (Collins and Alan Lomax recorded it on their field recording trip in 1959). Shirley has decided to sing it now, she said , “because songs are stored in my memory for a great many years, and suddenly it seems the right time to bring them out again.”

Independent music treasure and visionary artist Julianna Barwick returns this month with the magnificent “Healing Is A Miracle”, her Ninja Tune debut after remarkable releases for numerous indie labels over the last decade including Asthmatic Kitty, Dead Oceans, RVNG Intl’s FRKWYS series and Gregory Euclide’s THESIS label. New York-based Barwick’s fourth full length once again finds the gifted composer meld her church choir singing background during her rural Louisiana upbringing with her deeply innate gift for building expansive, immersive and wholly transformative sound worlds. “Healing Is A Miracle” finds Barwick collaborate with special guests and  fellow music visionaries Mary Lattimore, Jónsi and Nosaj Thing.

Fresh from the release of  The Soft Pink Truth (Drew Daniel)’s fantastic “Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?”, M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel announced the hugely anticipated return of beloved electronic pioneers Matmos this month with the celebrated duo’s mightily ambitious and intriguing “The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises In Group Form” (Thrill Jockey). Featuring a dazzling array of contributions from 99 musicians (Daniel Lopatin, Marisa Anderson, Yo La Tengo, David Grubbs, Jennifer Walshe, So Percussion to name just a few), where the sole instruction was to “play anything that they wanted, but the tempo of any rhythmic material had to be set at 99 beats per minute”, the results are bound to yield some of the most rewarding music of 2020.

Back in June came one of this year’s true gems, “Arrow”, by Los Angeles-based artist Sarah Lipstate via her Noveller guise. Like fellow contemporary guitar luminaries such as William Tyler or Aidan Baker, Noveller’s electric guitar compositions constantly evolve, expand and inspire, creating an enthralling, near-symphonic, free-flowing body of work in the process. “Arrow” is released via Ba Da Bing Records and is yet another wholly unique and breathtakingly original opus from one of independent music’s most gifted artists.

Other new releases in July’s mix come from: the special Numero Group compilation on Dale Warren’s fascinating 24 Carat Black project; Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson’s breathtaking collaborative album “Emanate” on FatCat’s ever-dependable 130701 imprint; Ricardo Donoso’s glorious “Content” full-length for Denovali; the legendary Jon Hassell returns with the eagerly anticipated “Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two)” – out 24th July on Ndeya records – so far unveiled are the magnificent pair of tracks “Fearless” and “Unknown Wish”; the sublime post-punk-infused debut self-titled EP by Sydney-based Loose Fit heralds a hugely exciting and intriguing opening chapter for this special band (FatCat); Ceaselessly innovative indie greats Dirty Projectors continue their glorious ongoing series of 5 E.P. releases scheduled for 2020 with this month’s “Flight Tower” (Domino), this time with Felicia Douglass at the helm.

Fractured Air – July 20 Mix

01. Flying Lotus“Fire Is Coming” (feat. David Lynch) (Warp)
02. INVŌKER“Batumi” (Azzur)
03. T. Gowdy“Up CTRL” (Constellation)
04. Darkstar“Wolf” (John Talabot’s Materia Dub) (Warp)
05. Ital Tek“Open Heart” (Planet Mu)
06. Rival Consoles“Vibrations on a String” (Erased Tapes)
07. Matmos“No Concept” (Thrill Jockey)
08. Ricardo Donoso“Forking Path” (Denovali)
09. Oneohtrix Point Never“Good Time” (Good Time OST, Warp)
10. Spiritualized“Spread Your Wings” (Fat Possum/Sony Music)
11. Noveller“Pre-fabled” (Ba Da Bing)
12. Spectrum“All Night Long” (Sony Music)
13. Television Personalities“Diary Of A Young Man” (Fire Records)
14. Charlie Megira & The Modern Dance Club“The Valley Of Tears” (Numero Group)
15. Loose Fit“Pull the Lever” (FatCat)
16. Protomartyr“Michigan Hammers” (Domino)
17. Girl Band“Ereignis” (Rough Trade)
18. Dirty Projectors“Self Design” (Domino)
19. Nightmares On Wax“Me And You” (Warp)
20. 24 Carat Black & LaRhonda LeGette“I Need A Change” (Numero Group)
21. Takashi Kokubo – “回廊の音楽” (Glossy Mistakes)
22. Jon Hassell“Fearless” (Ndeya)
23. Ka Baird“Imagination” (RVNG Intl)
24. Angel Bat Dawid“Transition East” (International Anthem)
25. Becca Mancari“I’m Sorry” (Captured Tracks)
26. The Beatles “Yes It Is” (Apple)
27. Roy Harper“One for All” (Science Friction)
28. Shirley Collins“Wondrous Love” (Domino)
29. PJ Harvey“Prayer” (The Virtues OST, Invada)
30. Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson“Procession” (130701)
31. The Transcendence Orchestra“Overview Effect” (Editions Mego)
32. Owen Pallett  – “Paragon Of Order” (w/ London Contemporary Orchestra) (Domino)
33. Max Richter“All Human Beings (Voiceless Mix) Pt. 3” (Decca/Universal)
34. Julianna Barwick“Healing Is A Miracle” (Ninja Tune)
35. Brigid Mae Power “Head Above The Water” (Fire Records)
36. Rebecca Foon“New World Reprise” (Constellation)
37. Arthur Russell“In Love With You For The Last Time” (Audika)

Chosen One: Rebecca Foon

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“It is wild looking back at songs like that with a certain sense of bewilderment of how it came out of me, almost like they were created from some transcendental state – a space where the conscious and subconscious meet.” —Rebecca Foon

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The renowned Canadian-born composer Rebecca Foon released “Waxing Moon” this February via Constellation Records, her first eponymous album, after a string of widely acclaimed albums under her Saltland guise. Best known as a cellist and frequent contributor to many of the most influential and celebrated groups in the thriving Canadian independent scene (Montreal, to be precise, where Foon is based), Foon has been a founding member of Esmerine, and a key contributor to the world-renowned Set Fire To Flames and A Silver Mt. Zion. Foon is also the co-founder of Pathway To Paris, a nonprofit organization set up in 2014, dedicated to turning the Paris Agreement into reality through finding and offering innovative and ambitious solutions for combating global climate change.

What’s immediately apparent on listening to “Waxing Moon” is the predominant use of the piano here, and when combined with Foon’s hauntingly beautiful and soul-stirring lyrics, the startling effect is akin to listening to the works of Liz Harris’s Grouper, Cécile Schott’s Colleen or Alicia Merz’s Birds Of Passage, such is the divine spell it can’t fail but impress deep into the heart’s core. It’s what music is truly made for, as it feels like a communion-like dialogue occurs between composer and listener alone, both sharing that same intangible, indefinable timeline, that sensory-heightened, shared and sacred space.

While the album most predominantly features piano, Foon still performs cello across the album, often layered over the piano and vocal lines. Indeed, this slow, time-honoured practice of layering tracks one-by-one certainly feeds into establishing the tone and mood for the album: there isn’t a single note that isn’t anything but perfect and yet the album never feels as though it’s overly polished or bathed in too strong a light; rather, it feels as though it could have been struck in one rapid, inspiration-fueled take such is the sense of the present moment distilled throughout. They are songs from a room which have been suspended in time indefinitely.

“Waxing Moon” is framed beautifully by a pair of instrumental piano compositions – “New World” and it’s “Reprise” counterpart – the former introducing us to Foon’s truly singular realm of divine, immersive artistry (much like Lubomyr Melnyk’s “Pockets Of Light”, as the piano keys pulsate and reverberate like a true force of nature) while the latter is all about the spaces between notes, as they intertwine with the memory of each and every other distant note of Waxing Moon’s ten staggering compositions, as they endlessly permeate, weave, and navigate the stratosphere of Foon’s unique realm.

“Pour” has the direct immediacy that hits the marrow of the bone as Foon sings, mantra-like:

“I want to dive
Into your heart
And feel it pulse
To the depths of my core
Expanding like wings
Into something greater”

The repetitive, hypnotic electric guitar lines echo Set Fire To Flames or “Moon Pix”-era Cat Power, while the vocal delivery (like all of Foon’s songbook) could be sung a cappella and the effect would be no less earth-shattering or dripping with poignancy and urgency. How the lyrics slowly reveal themselves across bars, lines and verses (think Bill Callahan’s “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle”) is a thing of real beauty, it feels like one’s heartbeat is slowing to the particular beat of Waxing Moon’s own sonic universe, for we are suspended in a new timeline now as we continue to orbit the sun of Foon’s universe.
Later, electric guitars are also used to hypnotic effect on the glorious, PJ Harvey-infused track “Wide Open Eyes”, an acute sense of yearning to be free is offset against the backdrop of frenzied guitar and cello lines as they enter a cathartic dialogue with one another. “Wanting so much / To be free / From the heartbreak / Of this world” sings Foon on the outro as the deepest of one’s most innermost realisations rise to the surface, all the while an unrelenting guitar strum and drumbeat pulsate and reverberate as though from some distant, faraway shore.

“Give me your hand / And I’ll take you / To the ocean of love” sings Foon on the majestic “Ocean Song”, a song dripping in so much soul-baring honesty and poetic lyricism, it could score only the most touching of moments in fiction, think Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” or Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood”. It’s hauntingly beautiful lyrics (“The child between us / Melted me / Helping me believe / In almost anything”) could be penned by the folk greats such as Vashti Bunyan or Shirley Collins, while, once more, the sense of both the finite and the infinite lie side by side here, creating (and holding) an unrelenting tension throughout.

Elsewhere, both the album’s title-track and “Vessels” (the latter finds Foon sharing vocal duties with Patrick Watson) effortlessly journey to even greater depths of emotion, as they reflect our own deepest regrets and innermost fears in the process. Waxing Moon’s title-track is predominantly piano and voice (while ghostly traces of reverberating notes hang in the air magnificently) which once more only serves to highlight the sheer power and mastery Foon possesses as both a songwriter and composer. As Foon sings: “This beautiful waxing moon” repeatedly on the song’s outro one feels a celestial, godlike light being emitted far and wide, slowly lightening the most far-reaching bands of darkness and pain.

Witnessing “Vessels” for the first time is – like everything across Waxing Moon’s orbit – a soul-stirring experience: how lines of cello and voice (alternating between Foon and Watson as if in private dialogue through dreamlike reverie) beat in unison is a thing of such true beauty, it recalls Arthur Russell or Robert Wyatt at their most poignant and beautiful. “The future seems / So half written” sings Watson as Foon continues: “Can we Foresee / Vessels of love / Boundless love”. The alternating chorus lines between Foon and Watson (as cello lines fill the same sacred spaces) is one of the countless moments of epiphany found on “Waxing Moon”.

Lyrically, the magnificent “Waxing Moon” powerfully (and quietly) reveals its central themes to be that of the dual co-existence of both the temporary and the permanent, the finite and the infinite. One can’t help feel one’s own very small, limited place in a world so vast, unrelenting and unforgiving. And yet, importantly, a sense of true hope co-exists here: there is the (real not imagined) hope that this very place one occupies (as finite or temporary as it is) is indeed one to be valued, one to be truly appreciated and cherished closed to heart always. It’s the true testament of Waxing Moon’s staggering beauty that such an affirming feeling can be arrived upon, through mere notes or chords of sheet music, words on a piece of paper. But such is the true artistry and divine spirit of the composer, by entering other realms of Foon’s making we can set foot to earth once more with hopes revived, faded dreams rekindled and spirits reawakened. “Waxing Moon” is an album which continues to profoundly touch and inspire long after the last tides of the moon have ebbed and flowed.

“Waxing Moon” by Rebecca Foon is out now on Constellation Records.

https://www.rebeccafoon.com/
http://cstrecords.com/

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Interview with Rebecca Foon.

Congratulations, Rebecca, on the magnificent “Waxing Moon”, it’s such a singularly unique and truly moving listening experience, with so much fragile beauty throughout. Even from your two previous Saltland albums, this new album seems more intimate and personal, with more of a focus on the piano with your vocals too. I’d love to know what the starting points were for you in the making and genesis of “Waxing Moon”?

Rebecca Foon: Oh thank you so much, I am so happy to hear it speaks to you. This definitely is the most raw and intimate album I have ever made. I wanted to challenge my foundation of composing, and decided to write most of the songs from the piano, which I have never done before. This carved out a different type of space for me to sing and write lyrics to. The lyrics are definitely the most personal words I have ever put to music, and touch on intimate moments in my life, while linking them to the current state of our world, the sadness and heartbreak around us, while also trying to offer a sense of hope.

I love how the instrumental piano piece “New World” guides us into the universe of “Waxing Moon” (while it’s reprise is the fitting farewell to the journey), the compositions are reminiscent of Peter Broderick or Lubomyr Melnyk in their beauty and timelessness. It must be really liberating to have piano-based compositions such as this, especially when you’re principally known as a composer with regards to the cello instrument?

RF: Aw thank you, yes I truly fell in love with playing the piano while making this album, and it has been so deeply fulfilling to immerse myself in this new approach to creating, as well as being able to add cello to my own piano compositions. This has been a whole new way of composing for me, truly taking me out of my comfort zone.

Would you have been taught the cello or piano first, when growing up? Which piano composers and cellists would you mostly admire or influenced you the most in your formative years I wonder?

RF: I grew up studying classical cello, and only recently started playing the piano, however have always loved improvising on the piano ever since I was young. Philip Glass, Eric Satie, Arvo Pärt, Pablo Casals, Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich are all composers and musicians that have deeply inspired me over the years.

I love how there’s always that sense of dichotomy at the heart of your music, a sense of both the micro and macro, permanent and temporal, the self and the universe… The really breathtaking part of “Waxing Moon” is the quiet realisation that one feels on listening to it is arriving at that sense of feeling our own place in the universe around us.
I guess it must stem not only from your technical skills, lyricism and sensitivities with arrangements and collaboration and so on but also your love and passion for nature and the natural world too?

RF: I am so glad you feel this from the album, this truly is what the heart of the album is all about. Over the last few years I have been doing a lot of climate change and conservation work, and the environmental reality we find ourselves in is always on my mind. The waxing moon is when the illumination of the moon expands over time. I chose this title because it seems more than ever humanity needs to become more enlightened and recognize how deeply interconnected we are in order to carve out a sustainable path for ourselves. So in essence the album speaks to some of my own personal heartbreak over the last few years as well as my sense of wonder from being alive together and connects these emotions to the current state of our world, while also offering a sense of hope for our collective future.

The lyrics and songwriting in your music is always so transcendental, there’s that sense of dreamlike reverie and heightened atmosphere there. Even if the recordings were done with just voice alone the affect would be no less moving. I’d love to know how you approach songwriting, for instance with songs such as “Ocean Song” and “Dreams to be Born”, would you have the piece of music written first, prior to adding voice or can it be the other way round? Is it difficult to “let go” once songs like these are finished?

RF: I usually write the lyrics to my songs separately from the music and then put them together in a second phase – one I have a foundation of the chords and some lyrics on paper. But sometimes I am blessed with songs just pouring out of me, and I have no control over it. “Ocean Song” and “Dreams to be Born” are examples of this. It also happened with “Light of Mercy” on the last Saltland album. It feels almost like it just comes from an open channel. “Ocean Song” is the most intimate and deeply personal song I have ever written. It is wild looking back at songs like that with a certain sense of bewilderment of how it came out of me, almost like they were created from some transcendental state – a space where the conscious and subconscious meet.

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“Vessels” is another sonic gem on “Waxing Moon”. That repeated “Vessels of love / Boundless love” in the chorus is so beautiful. I wonder did you write the song with the knowledge that it would be sung in a collaborative way? It must have been a great experience having Patrick Watson sing and add his voice to “Vessels”? It must have been very special hearing the finished recording back for the first time?

RF: It is funny I actually had no idea Patrick was going to sing on “Vessels”. Patrick is a very dear friend, and he came by the studio to hang out and listen. I played him that track just after I had added the vocals, and he asked Jace and I (Jace was recording and co-produced the album) if he could go into the vocal booth and try something. And so Jace set up a mic, I showed him the lyrics, and he just started playing around with vocal melodies in the vocal booth. I had no idea what was going to come of the takes, but in the mix it organically fit so incredibly together, and then we had the idea to mix it so we each sang certain lyrics separately – and the repeated “Vessels of love / Boundless love” together. Patrick truly has an incredible ability to create stunning melodies, and his falsetto voice works so beautifully in the song, it truly was a magical experience creating this together.

I also love the more guitar-based tracks, such as “Pour” and “Wide Open Eyes”, they both add another dimension to the album in their immediacy and directness, and are powerful parts to “Waxing Moon” and its trajectory, I love how they almost act as counterpoints to the piano-based compositions. I’d love for you to talk about how these songs were born?

RF: I wrote “Pour” on the piano, but it just didn’t seem to work, I couldn’t get a good take of the vocals, and it wasn’t capturing the emotions I was trying to convey. So I asked Jace if he could try the piano part on electric guitar, and it totally solved the problem, and I could finally sing on it. After writing and recording “Pour”, I wanted to have one other song on the album that was driving with electric guitar and drums. So Jace and I worked on ideas together in the studio and Richard Reed Parry (another close friend who would come by and hang out during the sessions) came in and wrote a bass line, which became “Wide Open Eyes”. I think this song might actually be my favorite song on the album, it was so fun for me to sing on this song, and record all the counter vocal melodies.

Collaboration is of course something that naturally you’ve done so much over the years, whether when having other musicians on your own albums (and indeed to the many groups you’ve been closely associated with or founding members of). I love how such musicians add their own fingerprint to your albums, for instance Warren Ellis on “A Common Truth” or Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld on “I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us”, or here with Richard Reed Parry, for example. It must be a really rewarding part of the making of an album having such musicians and composers contribute to your albums?

RF: Yes absolutely, I feel so blessed to have such incredible friends who are also incredibly inspiring musicians. The Saltland records and “Waxing Moon” are such personal records for me, and everyone that has played on them have been an enormous part of my life in different ways, and I am so grateful. I absolutely loved playing cello to Warren’s violin on the song “Magnolia” on “A Common Truth” and also writing those instrumental songs on that album together. I absolutely love playing with Colin and adore his epic swirling circular saxophone tonalities on the first Saltland Album. Sarah and I have known each other since I was a teenager, and we are involved in multiple projects together, at this point she feels like a sister, and playing with her feels like an extension of myself. It was also so wonderful to have Sophie Trudeau play on “Waxing Moon”, as we hadn’t played together since our time in Mt. Zion.

It must be incredibly enriching and a source of much pride to be part of Esmerine and also having contributed so much to so many other groups, such as A Silver Mt. Zion and Set Fire To Flames also, especially as their songbooks and discographies are such treasured and revered music for so many independent music fans, they’re very much up their with the likes of Rachel’s, Dirty Three and Godspeed You! Black Emperor in terms of their influence and importance.
I’d love to gain an insight into what the writing process was like for Set Fire To Flames? Listening to both “Sings Reign Rebuilder” and “Telegraphs In Negative / Mouths Trapped In Static” over the years, the mystery and wonder only grows as time goes by. It feels like it’s the entire ensemble improvising and finding their path organically while sharing the same room, in that magical, timeless way. Would pieces have been rehearsed beforehand or did you all have separate ideas prior to recording them? I’m sure you have treasured memories of live shows together in Montreal around this time too?

RF: Yes those albums truly shaped me as a musician, I was so young then when we recorded them, and it is how I met so many incredible musicians in Montreal that then led me to playing in A Silver Mt. Zion and forming Esmerine with Bruce. Those Set Fire to Flames albums came from a deep desire to improvise together in spaces that deeply moved us, only to discover what could come out of our time together, delirious from fatigue from hours and hours of recording and committed to a love to create together. Some of us were just getting to know each other through that time, and so many musical projects evolved from those new found relationships. Set Fire to Flames holds a very special place in my heart and I am so grateful to Dave for his vision in it all and asking me to be a part of it as it truly shaped the trajectory of my music life to date.

Being in Montreal and part of such a thriving independent music scene (as well as being part of the Constellation Records family, of course) where there’s such always such an amazing spirit of community there must be a constant source for much inspiration?

RF: It definitely has profoundly shaped me as a musician, and has allowed me to collaborate with so many incredible musicians over the years, that has also led me to working with musicians from around the world and co-founding the Non-profit Pathway to Paris with Jesse Paris Smith.

I could not be more grateful to be part of the music scene here and all the touring I have been fortunate to be a part of (especially now thinking back during these wild times).

Your taste of music is always so special and wide-reaching. I wonder what albums have you been listening to the most lately?

RF: I have been listening to a lot of quiet, introspective music lately like Nils Frahm, Nick Drake, Arthur Russell, Lhasa de Sela as well as Simon Diaz and Alice Coltrane.


“Waxing Moon” by Rebecca Foon is out now on Constellation Records.

https://www.rebeccafoon.com/
http://cstrecords.com/

Written by admin

July 14, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Guest Mixtape: Peter Broderick “Shelled Up With Shel”

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Presented here is a guest mix by the renowned U.S.-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick, dedicated to the poems, songs and writings of American writer Shel Silverstein (1930 – 1999). During 2020, Broderick has himself published his first book of children’s writing, with the self-published “Bob & Stuff”, illustrated entirely by Broderick also. This year has also marked the release of the second volume of Broderick’s covers of the legendary Arthur Russell with the live record “Peter Broderick & Friends Play More Arthur Russell”, culled from various performances across the UK and Ireland in 2019.

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Peter Broderick – “Shelled Up With Shel MIX”

01. A Light In The Attic
02. A Front Row Seat To Hear Ole Johnny Sing
03. Have Another Espresso
04. Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too
05. Dirty Ol’ Me
06. Broken Down Mama
07. Plastic (excerpt)
08. Squishy Touch
09. Thumbsucker
10. Someone Ate The Baby
11. It Does Not Pay To Be Hip
12. The Floobie Doobie Doo
13. Time
14. Boa Constrictor
15. Backward Bill
16. You’re Always Welcome At Our House
17. So Good To So Bad
18. 26 Second Song

All tracks by Shel Silverstein.

 

 

It started when I recorded some new tunes last summer and shared them with some close friends and family. One dear friend (shout out to Mr. Daniel O’Sullivan!) told me my songs reminded him of Shel Silverstein. Shel Silverstein! I grew up reading the poems of Shel Silverstein! And now I read them sometimes with my step-son!

I don’t think Shel Silverstein made it quite as big over here in Europe, but in America, around my generation, you’d have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t know who Shel Silverstein is. I remember thinking as a kid, He sure does like like a weirdo, when seeing his strange portraits on the backs of his books. I always thought he looked kind of scary, and definitely very mysterious.

And at some point, several months ago, I got curious and started looking him up online. Who IS this guy, anyway?. And I was fascinated by what I read. Born in 1930, he was drafted into the army, where he got a job making cartoons! Cartoons in the army! And shortly after that he was making cartoons for Playboy magazine. How on Earth did this guy end up making all these children’s books?

My curiosity rocket-launched when I discovered that this guy, the same Shel Silverstein, wrote many hit songs for many different singers (including ‘A Boy Named Sue’, made famous by Johnny Cash), and released a handful of solo records of his own. So I tracked down one of these solo records on the internet, and then I got another, and another, and another, and then I couldn’t stop until I had acquired them all.

The first thing you’ll notice upon hearing Shel Silverstein on record is that the guy is an absolutely maniac! I suppose it’s not hugely surprising that his own music career never really took off. But it’s quite remarkable that he did as much as he did, and personally, I just adore him. So unique, so strange, so himself . . . just being his wild self. It sounds like he can’t help it! The man seems to have made many musician friends throughout his life, and by all accounts that I’ve been able to find, he was an incredible friend to have. Full of life, and hyper creative.

I must confess, there are some aspects of Shel’s humor which are a bit hard for me to swallow, especially considering how sensitive today’s culture is in regards to political correctness. But I must also confess, that I am not deterred by these sometimes off-putting gags. I find so much to love in Shel’s thrilling, wild spirit. Some folks may find him a bit too abrasive, but I’m really grateful for the bravery and integrity of this demented, shouting, loveable monster.

This mix sounds a bit lo-fi because it was recorded directly from my turntable into my laptop, with less-than-ideal equipment. But I hope it might let enough of Shel’s essence to shine through and just make you stop for a second and go, Wait, what?!?!?

—Peter Broderick, 2020

https://peterbroderickmusic.bandcamp.com/
https://www.peterbroderick.net/

Written by admin

July 6, 2020 at 11:54 am

Chosen One: Brigid Mae Power

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“Its hard for me to be interested in music unless it goes deep into a feeling.”

—Brigid Mae Power

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The first week of June marked the eagerly anticipated new full length from the London-based, Irish songwriter Brigid Mae Power. The sublime “Head Above The Water” is the first record for Power on Fire Records after a pair of widely acclaimed albums for U.S. independent Tompkins Square (2016’s self titled LP and 2018’s “The Two Worlds”).

“Head Above The Water” was recorded in Glasgow’s fabled analogue studio The Green Door with Alasdair Roberts co-producing alongside Power and Peter Broderick. Unsurprisingly, with two such revered fellow songwriters as Broderick and Roberts involved, one can discern the sensitivity here to allow Power’s own voice take center stage. The production is beautifully crisp with an impressively wide sonic palette, while also giving Power’s own imitable vocals the space it requires, letting the myriad nuances and endless subtleties take hold of the listener in the process.

The album’s players include Roberts’ own band (Hamilton Beck, Stevie Jones, Liam Chapman; Peter Broderick and Brían Mac Gloinn (Ye Vagabonds), where arrangements are beautifully and subtly varied across the album’s ten compositions (from the piano-led ballads of both title track and “Wearing Red That Eve” to the folk gems such as “I Was Named After You” and the Joni Mitchell-infused “Wedding Of A Friend”), recalling the spirit of Bert Jansch or Planxty, where no single note is superfluous but rather is considered both instinctively and sensitively to highlight Power’s own singularly unique and soul-stirring songs. The use of pedal steel guitar with upright bass and drums provides the captivating rhythm section throughout. Similarly, Mac Gloinn’s impeccably understated contributions (bazouki, violin, fiddle) provide for another set of textures here, giving the wider palette a more Irish-based context, which helps give Power’s songs a delicate link to such Irish treasures as Planxty or Van Morrison before her.

Album opener (and lead single) “On A City Night” provides a beautifully immediate and irresistibly lush introduction to Power’s latest opus. “City lights or country skies at night / Which do you prefer? / He said to me with a smile / And eyes so pure” Power sings in the opening verse, introducing the recurring theme of motherhood throughout the album, where a sense of bright hope and vulnerability often occupy the same planes as that of one’s own innermost feelings of doubt, fears and worries. A sense of fully embracing new beginnings and brighter horizons – while overcoming self-doubts and embracing change often provide a running thread too, as Power sings: “I can’t quite believe / How easy it’s been for you / To let go of everything / You previously knew”.

The heart-stopping piano-led ballad “Wearing Red That Eve” is a hugely affecting ballad which finds Power reflecting on an old memory of a time spent in New York which, while simmering to the surface of her mind powerfully reflects finding one’s own voice and inner strength amidst adversity. The striking use of colour and imagery has also been an intriguing part to Power’s songbook (“From those mountains I draw something deep / Their warm colours and their rough peaks / In my mind I climb them under a burning sun”), something Power’s own artwork (an established visual artist in her own right) equally manages to evoke with much purity and vibrancy.

Equally moving is “I Was Named After You” which, like all of Power’s divine songs, could be sung a cappella and the affect would be no less monumental. The lyrics are stripped back and pared down to only its essential core, revealing a lament of true vulnerability and utter transcendence. The song is more akin to listening to the most cathartic or cleansing of songs, as the intricately layered arrangement expands and flourishes (flurries of flute, fiddle and guitars offset Power’s honest, thought-laden questions) emanating a song of remarkable power where strength and vulnerability are one.

Tempos shift on the pulsating “We Weren’t Sure”, beginning with an acoustic strum and meditative vocal, the composition gradually builds to its fearsome outro of congas, percussion and drums, forming a rhythmic delight after Power affirms: “I’ve come out knowing / That I’m Sure / I’m completely sure”, producing another magical moment of empowerment.

“I Had To Keep My Circle Small”, with it’s pulsating strum and breathtaking harmonies (supplied by Broderick here) is one of the many treasured moments across “Head Above The Water”. “I needed you to favour me / I needed you to favour me / That is not a bad thing at all” sings Power while the arrangement’s glorious harmonies and many feather-light nuances are reminiscent of “Automatic For The People”-era R.E.M. or the songbooks of Nick Drake or Bill Callahan. The song builds to a soul-shattering climax, where layers of voice and sound combine and reverberate, reaffirming Power’s private realizations.

After the fittingly-included cover of Planxty’s “The Blacksmith” (a song, which, together with “As I Roved Out” have been memorably covered by Power live over the years), comes the spellbinding title-track and album closer, where – like so much of Power’s cherished songbook – it feels like we’re bearing silent witness to Power’s innermost musings all on our very own. The song finds Power reminisce about a memory of a lost soul from a distant past, whose faded dreams and lifetime regrets – with a “pain that can’t be helped” – come to the fore. While Power notes his losses and past pains, she also sings: “His sense of what matters is really strong” before touchingly leaving us with the sincerest of wishes: “I wish you luck with your losses from before”.

Once more, the specific and the universal merge wholly as one as Power’s songs – like they always so effortlessly do – traverse both the real (and imagined) and ascend into a near-spiritual realm. For Power’s music, like all the great songwriters of bygone times, truly exists outside of time.

“Head Above The Water” is out now on Fire Records.

https://brigidmaepower.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowermusic/

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Interview with Brigid Mae Power.

Congratulations on your enthralling new solo album “Head Above Water”, an album that feels truly like a culmination, where all points in your musical path leads you to this engrossing destination. Firstly, please talk me through the recording sessions that took place in the analogue studio The Green Door in Glasgow and introduce to me your band for these sessions? Did you have most of the songs fleshed out at this point (lyrically and musically) prior to recording?

BMP: Thank you! It was such an enjoyable experience to record the album and in these lockdown days I’d give anything to be able to go and play live with those musicians again! The band that played on the record live are Peter Broderick (drums + violin, backing vocals), Alasdair (electric guitar, piano, violin, backing vocals), Brían MacGloinn (bouzouki, fiddle, vocals), Stevie Jones (double bass), Liam Chapman (percussion) and myself (guitars, vocals, piano). Then a few overdubs were added after which involved Hamilton Belk on pedal steel, Peter on synths/random sounds and myself playing mellotron organ, piano… I think I’ve remembered everything there!

I had all the songs ready to go lyrically and structurally. I had sent on some demo recordings and chords to the guys and kind of just basically said have a go at playing along with them. When we got to Glasgow, we had a very short rehearsal the day before, just a couple of hours, and then the next day we just got to it! We just figured things out pretty quickly. I like to get the recording process done as quick as possible, and I kinda like what comes out of musicians when they’re on the spot… I like to do things in 2-3 takes max usually.

The wonderful Alasdair Roberts co-produced the album (alongside you and Peter) and also plays on the record. I’d love for you to describe the colours and insights Alasdair brought to the process of making “Head Above Water”?

BMP: Well the main thing that really sticks out for me with what Alasdair brought to the process is with the song ‘Wearing Red That Eve’. He had the idea to take the guitar out completely and just have me singing, with him playing the piano. He had the idea to have me singing without playing an instrument at the same time so I would have a different quality of singing I guess, being able to focus totally just on that.

He really opened up that song entirely into something different… something more jazzy, I’m not even sure how to describe! But I love what he did.

Alasdair also was really helpful at arranging the lineup of musicians for the live recording, giving ideas of who would play what and when, in a very open way. He also lended such a varied musical energy to the songs, one might presume he is totally traditional or more of a folk player but he is very versatile!

What I immediately love is the widened sonic palette on display throughout these songs and the adventurous new sonic terrain that is fearlessly tapped into. I feel the duo of “We Weren’t Sure” and “I Had To Keep My Circle Small” serve the empowering and utterly captivating moments of part B. Again, the rich instrumentation and daring arrangements serve the ideal backdrop to your immense vocals. In terms of witnessing these songs develop from the solitary writing process to capturing these songs live to tape; this must have been quite a special experience to be part of?

BMP: Yes, it was really great to hear how they turned out. It always takes me some time to be able to listen back and hear something with a clear listening slate if you get me but I was really happy with how those both turned out. ‘I Had To Keep My Circle Small’ was maybe the trickiest out of all the songs to do… we tried another version entirely in the studio but it sounded too cheesy ha. It was a struggle to get the right vibe for that song.

‘We Weren’t Sure’ was a LOT of fun to do in the studio. There’s one mellotron overdub but otherwise that song is pretty much sounding exactly how it was when were playing it. It was fun and came out so weird, in a good way.

Album opener “On A City Night” begins with your beloved son’s wide-eyed curiosity and child-like wonder (asking you whether you prefer city lights or country skies at night). I’d love for you to discuss this infinite source of inspiration you draw from this special soul in your life and how his ruminations and world views seep into your own train of thought and mind, so to speak?

BMP: I’m so lucky to have this little boy in my life. Saying that, during quarantine, we naturally drive each other mad 50% of the time. But the other 50% is really magical. I’ve always been a more observant and listening kind of person and I really believe if you really watch and listen to kids they are just incredible. Their look on things is so fresh, they’re very connected to the truth of things. He’s very creative and free. And he’s so optimistic. He’s been my teacher in a way!

So yes, he is really inspiring to me. Life and nature and how things circulate around is inspiring to me and something I always need to bring myself back to. Being in touch with this little force of nature every day is a blessing.

As ever, an undeniable power and resolute spirit permeates throughout these songs; in effect keeping your head above water. The song-craft yields immeasurable emotions and a whirlwind of feelings. Do songs (such as these songs captured on the latest album) come to you quickly could phrases and ideas slowly simmer before the final result is in sight? I wonder do you find the song-writing process for you changing in any way- from perhaps your Tompkins Square debut or back to the “Told You The Truth” mini album?

BMP: My song-writing process has largely stayed the same. It usually starts off with the melody on the instrument first and then humming over that. Then words can kind of come to me for that specific tune, or I have a look in some of my notebooks and see if any of my writing feels like it fits into the melody I’m working on. Sometimes words I’ve written a long time ago will fit into a new melody and vice versa – sometimes I’ll have an old melody that I’ve been working on for years and I’ll write new words.

I guess with this album there are a lot of songs based on memories but that wasn’t intentional. I really don’t think much, to be honest, about how to write or what to write or whether it all fits in with each other. I just trust that it does and if it doesn’t sound right then I’ll not add it to the album… but I kind of work in a mostly thought-less way. I work from feelings and mostly unconsciously. I’m not an “ideas” kind of person… but the phrase “Head Above The Water” was floating around in my head for a while for sure. Sometimes little snippets of phrases will pop up for me and I’ll do my best to remember them!

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Your beautiful cover of Andy Irvine’s folk song “The Blacksmith” is the penultimate track. I love how it fits so perfectly among your own material. Can you discuss your love for this song and can you remember first hearing it?

BMP: Hmm I think the first time I heard it was when someone posted on facebook a youtube video of Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny playing it live. Since then I’ve just loved it and didn’t want to hear other versions because I just loved that one so much! I can get a bit repetitive like that. When I like something I really like something! So I played it over and over. Then someone, I don’t remember who, suggested online that I do it as a cover. So I have been playing it live for a while now, and so, often after I’d play it people would ask me which one of my CDs it was on, and it wasn’t on any, so I promised a few people that I would eventually record it and now I have!

I always wanted to sing with Brían because I sooooo love his singing voice. While he was in Glasgow recording with us I suggested it as a sort of last minute thing to do. We didn’t have much time left but Alasdair arranged a format that we could try sing it in and it worked really well. I’m really glad we had time to give it a go!

Your voice is the magical spell that forever emanates from the songs: a wholly unique and incredible sound. Take me back to your earliest musical memories and the different singers and albums and performances that served inspiration for your own unique singing style?

BMP: Oh thank you, that’s a really nice compliment!

Hmm well, I don’t think about my singing style much at all, I remember just always liking to sing and finding some ways of singing easier to lean into than others. I like to sing a lot of wordless melodies, I think that started originally from imagining an instrumental solo while I’m singing a song, but being the only player I would just sing it myself!

My earliest memory of singing (and there is video footage) is of me singing ‘Itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini’ on top of a table in the family living room when I was like 3. God knows why that song, I think it was on an advert on the time. I remember everyone was laughing because it was funny, but I remember taking it so seriously and really feeling like “this is a big performance right now”. I really loved the limelight when I was little and always sort of knew I would do singing. But shyness overcame me as an older child and I didn’t sing again really until I was an older teenager.

I was deeply moved by the singing of Aretha Franklin. She had a huge impact on me when I was about 16/17. I loved blues singers also like Etta James and for the first few years when I was singing, I was deeply influenced by that style. I couldn’t help though have traditional inflections on my singing and the more I let go and sang naturally as I went into my 20’s I sort of let those traditional inclinations come out more.

Another huge influence for me vocally was Tim Buckley. I had grown up listening to Jeff Buckley (also an influence) but when I heard Tim, wow, I was just floored. I felt like that naturally I liked to sing kinda like that too… like holding out notes for a long time… I just hadn’t heard anyone else do it before I heard him. So then I just let myself naturally sing however felt best.

The presence of piano ballads “Wearing Red That Eve” and the album’s title track creates that striking intimacy and delicate beauty that hits you deeply. Growing up, did you learn the guitar or piano first?

BMP: On that track its actually played by Alasdair Roberts and I am instrument-less which is rare on my songs. But I grew up playing piano first. I taught myself when I was probably around 13/14. I played the accordion growing up, then slowly figured out how to play the trad tunes on the piano. Then I got really into boogie-woogie piano as a teenager, and got obsessed with playing in that style! I really actually for a while wanted to be a serious blues piano player rather than a singer songwriter!

I started playing guitar when I was 21.. I usually play in DADGAD tuning!

Your ability to draw something deep from the well each time when it comes to creating a new batch of songs awakens something deep within (in terms of the listener’s experience). As the composer and writer, are you aware of that special spark as a song comes into life? Needless to say it must be a very intuitive and natural process.

BMP: I think I always like to go deep. I’m sort of like that as a person. I’m not really good at on the surface stuff, talking on the surface etc. I like to get to the root of things very quickly, which is frustrating for some people to be constantly dug at, but I definitely like to dig deep. I don’t really know any other way. Its hard for me to be interested in music unless it goes deep into a feeling.

Sometimes I am aware of the feeling when a song comes to life, but sometimes it takes some time. There’s a lot of doubt for me with songs I’m writing and usually it’ll have to sit with me a few months before I notice that it has a spark that I need to take further.

Lastly, what is the song that surprised you the most (upon hearing the final version)?

BMP: ‘I Was Named After You’ surprised me a lot. It had started out as a sort of tender song with just finger picking guitar in the demo we made. But when we did it in the room it felt like something kind of spooky happened. It has a kinda ethereal energy to me that song. Part of it is about my grandmother Bridget’s spirit so its kinda ghostly anyway, but I was really surprised where that song took off too. It’s probably one of my favourites on the album!

“Head Above The Water” is out now on Fire Records.

https://brigidmaepower.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowermusic/

 

Written by admin

June 23, 2020 at 7:04 pm