FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Hidden Highways

Fractured Air 28: Don’t You Forget (A Mixtape by Hidden Highways)

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Hidden Highways comprise the songwriting duo of Tim V. Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan, who have released a self-titled EP (2012) and debut full-length “Old Hearts Reborn” (2013) to date (both via Irish-based independent label Out On A Limb Records). Hidden Highways’ recorded output shows a keen devotion to the age-old traditions inherent in the art of the folk song: it is one of purity, emotion and timelessness. Smyth and McGowan make the kind of sparsely arranged and heartfelt folk laments which recall such artists as Sibylle Baier, Elliott Smith or Marissa Nadler, while their vocal harmonies convey the spirit of Hazlewood and Sinatra. Interestingly, the pair have also shown a deep love for the cover song (Townes Van Zandt, Jeff Alexander and Jackson C Frank have been covered to date) in both recorded and live situations. Both Smyth and McGowan are also members of the Dublin-based musical collective Sunday School Sessions, who have an Irish tour this November (dates HERE); while this December Hidden Highways will support Printer Clips (dates HERE).

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Fractured Air 28: Don’t You Forget (A Mixtape by Hidden Highways)

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-28-dont-you-forget-a-mixtape-by-hidden-highways/

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Tracklisting:

01. El Ciego Melquiades ‘El Gato Negro’ [Arhoolie]
02. Ry Cooder ‘I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine’ [Warner Bros.]
03. Micah P. Hinson ‘Don’t You (Part 1 & 2)’ [Sketchbook]
04. The Cairo Gang ‘Shivers’ [Empty Cellar]
05. Jolie Holland ‘On And On’ [Anti-]
06. Jim Campilongo Electric Trio ‘Pepper’ [Blue Hen]
07. Mojave 3 ‘Love Songs On The Radio’ [4AD]
08. Grant Lee Buffalo ‘Lady Godiva And Me’ [Slash]
09. Richard Hawley ‘Don’t Get Hung Up In Your Soul’ [Mute]
10. Baden Powell ‘Das Rosas’ [Elenco]
11. Big Star ‘Kangaroo’ [Stax]
12. Bob Dylan ‘Most Of The Time’ [Columbia]
13. Yo La Tengo ‘Take Care’ [Matador]
14. Mary Margaret O’Hara ‘Dear Darling’ [Virgin]
15. Tindersticks ‘City Sickness’ [This Way Up]
16. OP8 ‘Sand’ [Thirsty Ear / V2]
17. Dirty Three ‘1000 Miles’ [Bella Union / Touch And Go]
18. John Martyn ‘Small Hours’ [Island]
19. Alpha ‘Sometime Later’ [Virgin, Melankolic]
20. Bernadette Greevy ‘Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen’ [Naxos]

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

 


 

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“Old Hearts Reborn” is available now on Out On A Limb Records.

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https://www.facebook.com/HiddenHighways
http://hiddenhighways.bandcamp.com
http://www.outonalimbrecords.com

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Written by admin

October 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Central And Remote: Hidden Highways

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Interview with Hidden Highways.

“The cymbals flash, the drums they crash
The trumpets rise the song
The brass beton plucks it’s diamonds
From a glittering wall of almost dawn
The crystal chords they slash the wind
In humble majesty
And the velvet voices all shall join
The singing”

—Townes Van Zandt, “The Velvet Voices”

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry

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This Autumn marked the hugely anticipated arrival of “Old Hearts Reborn”, the debut album from Irish duo Hidden Highways. Comprising the hugely talented pairing of Carol Anne McGowan and Tim V. Smith, Hidden Highways create wondrously timeless folk songs, the kind of earthy, dust-filled music from some forgotten past recalling such folk luminaries as Mark Fry, F.J. McArnold or Jackson C. Frank at the turn of the seventies. Of course, perceived stylistic influences can only vaguely point towards a faithful – and accurate – picture of any band. For Hidden Highways – like the aforementioned folk musicians – one indispensable component of the band’s artistry is the huge importance it places on the value of time itself. Patience, as they say, is a virtue, and everything written by the pen of Hidden Highways revels in this simple fact. Nothing ever feels rushed, overcomplicated, compromised. Everything has its place, and yet that magical spark of spontaneity can always be felt close at heart. Like a silent witness, the listener never loses the warm intimacy of sharing the same space as Hidden Highways as they weave their impeccable artistry before our ears.

“I want to be there tonight” sing Tim V. Smith and Carol Anne McGowan on the album’s glorious opener “Empire Of Old”, the beautifully sparse setting provides the perfect backdrop for the magical chemistry between McGowan and Smith’s harmonies to set sail on their dusk-bound voyage. The finger-picking acoustic guitar is offset against the wonderfully restrained and crisp production (reminiscent of David Pajo’s self-titled 2005 LP or “Slightly Sorry” by P.G. Six) while the song could fit on Ryan Adams’ own solo debut “Heartbreaker”. “The Western Line” sees a shift in vocal duties, this time McGowan takes the lead (while Smith’s voice enters later) and serves a timely reminder of McGowan’s own gorgeous solo work “Songs From The Cellar”, the seven-track collection comprising live recordings made in a 500-year-old German wine cellar (and subsequently issued by UK label Apollolaan Recordings in 2010). The song magically distills some bygone time, while the subtle addition of a banjo and an extra guitar expands on the minimal arrangements. “I won’t take the devil’s deal / Just to board that wagon wheel” sings McGowan on the song’s chorus – where a slow-tempo harmony joins the fold – echoing the gothic folk tales of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
“The world began with a waltz / That’s how it’s going to end” sings Tim V. Smith on the opening to the dreamlike, steel guitar-aided “The World Began With a Waltz”. At this point, as well as the gorgeous pedal steel playing provided by Sean Harrod, there is also the first introduction of George Guilfoyle on double bass (the latter recalling M. Ward’s classic 2003 LP “Transfiguration Of Vincent” where Ward’s darkly intimate songs of loss and grief are played against a similarly forlorn – yet always intimately warm – sonic backdrop). To conclude side A, we are treated to the snow-swept ballad of “Do I Want” (the slide guitar recalling Ry Cooder’s timeless score for Wenders’ “Paris Texas”) and the McGowan-sung “Won’t be Goin’ Home” highlights the immensely talented lyricism on display throughout the album.

Side B begins with the breathtaking cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “The Velvet Voices” and – in similar fashion to last year’s glorious re-interpretation of Jeff Alexander’s “Come Wander With Me” – highlights the impressive depth of McGowan and Smith’s talents. The raw power of the song’s aching delivery recalls Alan Sparhawk and Low’s tendency for deconstruction in a stripped-back approach to making music. Townes Van Zandt would surely be impressed. The album’s title-track is next and – at four-and-a-half minutes in duration – is the album’s longest song and it’s carefully-played slow strum echoes the earlier “The World Began With a Waltz”. The song’s opening imagery of shaded rooftops recalls the earliest photographic rooftops taken by Daguerre at the turn of the nineteenth century and the song is yet another fine example of the band’s keen focus on the power of subtleties, where the song unfolds magnificently to it’s warmly intimate conclusion (recalling Damon Gough’s irresistible debut magnum opus “The Hour Of Bewilderbeast”). The magnificent “Wild Woe” follows next where a heavenly arrangement (banjo, guitars, violin and double bass) backs McGowan’s angelic voice, creating the kind of spine-tingling, ethereal music that never fails to stop you cold in your tracks. The song could soundtrack some future doomed tale by Cormac McCarthy or a redemptive narrative of John Hillcoat’s.
“My watch has stopped an hour ago / Guess it’s time to go back to sea” sings Smith on the album’s penultimate track “Time to go Back to Sea”, where the song’s central character must return to sea and give up on his hopes – and possibly dreams – in the process. One of the many album highlights is provided by the moment when McGowan adds harmony to sing “hold me up in your shining arms”. The vocal work is  (like everywhere on the album) deeply immersive and proves truly moving in the process. The album’s closing track is the divine “Next Time Round”, where McGowan and Smith’s heavenly vocals are joined by reverberated and swirling sounds of an electric guitar while plaintive piano notes delicately sound in the background like some old, faded Henry Mancini film score (“Touch Of Evil”, perhaps). The resulting song is staggering in both it’s delivery and scope, and is Hidden Highways at their most beautiful.

“It’s the end of the road / It’s the end of the line” sings Carol Anne McGowan on “Won’t be Goin’ Home”, echoing themes of underlying regret and disappointment which form a recurring motif for the seemingly exiled and lost characters across “Old Hearts Reborn”. The glorious “Old Hearts Reborn” is the first waltz by Hidden Highways, and, as the sailboat sails forth on it’s maiden voyage into the dusk under a starry sky, we await in quiet wonder for the band’s many future returns ashore.

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Interview with Tim V. Smith & Carol Anne McGowan.

From the opening acoustic picking of “Empire Of Old” to the haunting closer “Next Time Round”, “Old Hearts Reborn” is a stunning achievement and a majestic album. You must both be so proud of it. Since it’s release in September you have been promoting the album, how has that been for you?

TVS: Thank you. It’s been great to get out and play the songs all over the country in different venues – most with amplification, some without and just let the songs speak for themselves. We started introducing electric guitar to songs in the live set so that’s probably been the biggest change within the last couple of months.

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What I love most of all is just how many breathtaking moments that are arrived upon across the album and how they reveal themselves so beautifully across repeat listenings. I suppose, on the one hand, it’s like that “less is more” kind of approach where such emotion can be evoked from quite sparse and stripped-back arrangements. But within that set of parameters there’s so much subtle variation to be found, like, for instance, how the double bass – and later the steel guitar – enters for the first time in “The World Began With A Waltz”; the magical moment Carol Anne’s voice singing “it’s the end of the road” opens on the incredible “Won’t Be Goin’ Home” or that magical spark contained in the folk-inspired “Wild Woe”. The list is endless.
What was the writing process like for the album? How did the recording sessions go?

TVS: The writing process was like a correspondence course! We’d drop box demos to each other and we’d add our respective instrumental/vocal parts and return them. The sessions were quite often far apart but we were lucky to be working with Ian McNulty who knew exactly what we were trying to do and was right there with us. We tracked a lot of material live so sometimes we had time to experiment with ideas. Some worked, some didn’t, but we learned a lot. “Next Time Round” was recorded last and on that I think you can hear how comfortable we’d become producing a more generous and darker sound.

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It’s immediately apparent just how much time and consideration went into this album. Like many other debut albums, what often makes them so special is how the songs themselves have often been conceived over a long period of time and stretch back a long time. Are the songs on “Old Hearts Reborn” an amalgamation of a long period of time or were they written specifically in the period leading up to the recording of the album itself?

CAMG: When we decided to make a collaborative album, we wrote most of the songs with that in mind. One or two were older songs but most were written in 18 months before the recording. We put a lot of consideration into what songs what would really fit together as a record. We were still deciding what songs to choose as we recorded over the 12 months it took to finish the album. We left a lot of breathing space between each session. I think that worked in our favor and helped the album come together more organically.

TVS: Mostly they are from the period leading up to the album. There’s a couple that are older. “Next Time Round” was a scrapped demo from three years ago for example but the vast majority were for “Old Hearts” specifically.

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The title “Old Hearts Reborn” is such a wonderful album title. And the photograph on the sleeve is really evocative and captures that sense of nostalgia and mystery that is spread throughout the album’s ten songs. I would love to know where both the album title and sleeve photo originated from?

TVS: The title is from the song “Old Hearts Reborn”. It was Carol Anne’s suggestion to use it as the title-she felt it kinda captured the spirit of the collected songs and I agreed. The photo came from looking for something to inspire cover art. We hadn’t decided on what it would be – photo, painting or text. I saw that picture for sale amongst a load of old discarded snapshots and family photos and it just clicked. Carol Anne thought it was apt too. It’s a tiny picture in actuality-about the size of a passport photo.

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The vocals really are the source of so much magic across Hidden Highways’ songbook. It is as if any one of the songs from the album (or indeed, last year’s E.P.) could be performed with voice alone and it would still hit the listener with just as much impact. I know when we last spoke, you mentioned how you tend to sing live mostly, was this the case for the album “Old Hearts Reborn” too?

TVS: Yes, for the most part – very much so. It really makes a difference to the feel of the recording.

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I love how there’s so much textures you both create in terms of “singing” and how many various vocal deliveries are present across the album: firstly, of course, the use of both vocals as a harmony (“Empire Of Old”), that haunting backing vocal of Carol Anne’s beneath Tim’s lead vocals on “Do I Want”, the double-tracking of Carol Anne’s vocals on “Won’t Be Goin’ Home”. The possibilities with voice alone must be something you both think a lot about and closely consider when making a set of songs?

CAMG: I think we both wanted to explore what we could both bring vocally to the project. It’s great to have another voice to work with, you can really experiment with it and be a little playful. There’s so much you can do with harmony alone, it can really lift a song and give it a certain atmosphere. We wanted to keep the sound mainly about the voices. For me, there’s a lot of inspiration from old folk music where vocals really take centre stage. In particular the harmonies in those three songs are a bit of a nod to old-time harmony laden gospel hymns and vintage choral backing vocals.

TVS: Yes, everything else, to a greater or lesser degree sits behind the voices. Again we are both lucky to be working with Ian McNulty who has a real ear for texture – whether we were using carbon mics, ribbon mics or very classy, high-end condensers.

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How do you both decide on who sings which song and how the vocals are ultimately shared across the album? Are these decisions firmly made on tape or 4-track prior to entering the recording studio? I imagine it must be challenging to capture the precise “take” when recording the vocal tracks in the studio?

CAMG: Most of the vocals were decided by demos beforehand.
In the studio we would try out some more ideas, come back to them later and in some cases strip them away again. With the live takes, although at times challenging, can make the decisions easier in that you only have a certain amount of takes to choose from. I find that sometimes overdubbing vocals can become more painstaking as you can to get too wrapped up in the idea of trying to get the perfect take and sometimes you can loose a bit of the spontaneity and feeling that you get when you track live.

TVS: Like Carol Anne says the demos decided a lot and live takes limited our options at times-but that’s not a bad thing. It’s harder for sure – but more rewarding. Obviously being only two people we can’t track every instrument live but getting vocals down and guitar down live was key.

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From a writing perspective, there’s a real sense of longing and regret on the album, together with a sense of passing of time. It’s really so touching too how fragile the characters in the songs seem to be, yet there’s also a real sense of perseverance in there too. Yet there’s a kind of redemptive feel to the album and there’s a real sense of hope there too, very much like those great road trip kind of movies.
What was the framework in mind for the writing of “Old Hearts Reborn”?

TVS: I don’t know that there was a framework of what would work for it-more an acute sense of what wouldn’t work. There was songs and they fit together. There were other songs they didn’t. I can’t quite explain it-it was instinctual I suppose.

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I love the choice of Townes Van Zandt’s “The Velvet Voices” as a song to cover, it really is a stunning version. It reminds me of Low and the power that can come from stripping a song back to its most raw and basic parts. Of course, the Jeff Alexander song “Come Wander With Me” appeared on last year’s self-titled EP which was such a heart-stopping rendition of that special song. I’d love to know why you chose that particular Van Zandt song? It seems like such a perfect fit to the rest of the album. I love too how he wrote those musical references throughout the verses (violin, strings, chimes, drums, trumpets, and so on) and it really suits the atmosphere of “Old Hearts Reborn”. Have there been other songs you’d hope to reinterpret someday?

TVS: Yes, but I think Low beat us to most of them! A demo of The Smiths “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” was knocking around before we decided on “Velvet Voices”. We’ve been doing the Rolling Stones “No Expectations” live a lot over the past couple of months so it’d be nice to record that sometime. We also discussed recording Richard Hawley’s “Don’t get Hung Up In Your Soul” too come to think of it. Covers are very important, it’s how I discovered a lot of music. For example; through Slowdive doing “Some Velvet Morning” I discovered Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra.

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“Next Time Round” is such a fitting and special closing to the album. I love how every part of the song hangs together so perfectly, yet it sounds so spontaneous and “of the moment”. There’s so much emotion and feeling distilled in the song and has such a magical dreamlike quality to it where every musical element – including the vocals – combine together so beautifully. I’d love to know when this song was written and at what stage in the making of the album? It really is such a timeless and moving song.

CAMG: It was a very early demo that happened to get overlooked. We revisited it quite late towards the end of recording the album and I’m very glad we did. I think all of the elements that we had been working with in other songs reached a sort of conclusion in this song. So it ended up being a very fitting closer for the album.

TVS: It was a fragile and forgotten demo that ironically became the biggest sounding song on the album. I’d even gone so far as to delete it – Carol Anne still had the mp3. There’s so much going on in there between reverb/tape feedback, wine glasses, piano, baritone guitar, spanish guitar, autoharp. It was recorded in the last session and we were both pretty wrecked by the time we finished tracking it. It really marked a progression from the first song we recorded.

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What were the albums and music you listened to while recording the album? Were there any particular albums or musicians that influenced the making of the album?

CAMG: I was listening to a lot of M. Ward – there’s a romantic old-time feel that resonates through his music. It has a beautiful warm analogue sound with a lot of layers; twangy acoustics and slide guitar, textured vocals and harmonies.
I’m really drawn to music that references the past but still seems to hang somewhere out of time. Richard Hawley is the perfect example of timeless. I listened a lot to True Loves Gutter in particular, it’s heart wrenching. And of course Gillian Welch & David Rawlings are always a big influence.

TVS: I absorb things really slowly and can’t manage to take in a lot at once. Richard Hawley’s “True Loves Gutter” was a real slow burner. I got stuck in Limerck Junction on the way to a wedding and listened to it on repeat there for hours. The sense of space and how instrumentation is used is just perfection. Also, Damien Jurado and Richard Swift’s collaboration “Other Peoples Songs” was something I returned to a lot. During the later sessions and mixing I got hooked on William Tyler’s “Impossible Truth” album. 

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“Old Hearts Reborn” is available now on Out On A Limb Records. 

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http://hiddenhighways.bandcamp.com
http://www.outonalimbrecords.com

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Written by admin

December 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

Ten Mile Stereo

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Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle “Perils From The Sea” (Caldo Verde)
“Perils From The Sea” is yet another hauntingly beautiful collection written by the legendary American songsmith Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon). Here, Kozelek is joined by The Album Leaf’s Jimmy LaValle who provides the music to Kozelek’s words. The musical arrangements are kept wonderfully sparse, where LaValle’s use of electronics, drum beats and swirling synth presets provide the perfect platform for Kozelek’s deeply affecting and moving narrative songs. Some of Kozelek’s finest moments are matched here, like the gorgeous “From The Time That I Awoke”:
“I wrote poetry throughout my teens / And I far exceeded my childhood dreams / Teachers told me I couldn’t write / That I’d never make a living or touch anyone’s life / People told me I couldn’t sing / That I’d never amount to much of anything”

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Forest Swords “Engravings” (Tri Angle)
Forest Swords is the pseudonym for Liverpool producer Matthew Barnes, who releases his hotly anticipated debut album “Engravings” this August on the Tri Angle label. Thus far Forest Swords has released the critically acclaimed debut “Dagger Paths” EP in 2010, and has recently made the tracks “Thor’s Stone” and “The Weight Of Gold” available online, the latter confirming the hype and acclaim is fully merited for this hugely talented artist. “Engravings” will be released on Tri Angle on 26 August 2013.

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Letherette “Letherette” (Ninja Tune)
This year saw the Wolverhampton based electronic duo Letherette – consisting of childhood friends Richard Roberts and Andy Harber – release their self-titled debut album on the pioneering Ninjatune label. The album showcases the talents of the pair while also highlighting the broad range of influences that have seeped into their record collections over the years. According to Roberts, their ultimate aim is “to be in a position where they make great albums playing to great people.” “While Harber has said: ‘We always want to be in touch with what’s good and to make music we’re proud of and never go stale. If that ever happened, in my ears, we’d call it a day.”

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Sarah Neufeld “Hero Brother” (Constellation)
Best known as band-member to Arcade Fire and a founding member of the acclaimed contemporary instrumental ensemble Bell Orchestre, Sarah Neufeld’s breathtaking violin talents can be witnessed in her solo LP “Hero Brother”. Written and composed by Neufeld, the album was mixed and produced by Berlin-based Nils Frahm who also adds harmonium and piano to the album. According to Neufeld, “Hero Brother is a gathering of characters in our collective mythology- the strong and weak; the secrets buried underground, played by one instrument, echoed by my own voice as plaintive companion.”

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Hidden Highways “Old Hearts Reborn” (Out On A Limb)
Hidden Highways’ much-anticipated debut album will be released this September on Limerick-based independent label Out On A Limb Records. Comprising the duo of Carol Anne McGowan and Tim V Smith, Hidden Highways create stunning, immersive folk songs recalling the likes of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. McGowan’s vocals are stunning throughout, her harmonies with Smith recall the spirit of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. Last year the band issued their self-titled EP – proving to be one of the year’s quietly unassuming, hidden treasures – which included a heart-stopping rendition of the Jeff Alexander-penned classic “Come Wander With Me”. “Old Hearts Reborn” will be released on Out On A Limb Records on 13 September 2013.

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Promised Land Sound “Promised Land Sound” (Paradise Of Bachelors)
The self-titled debut album by Promised Land Sound (named after a Chuck Berry jam) is destined to become one of the year’s most talked about albums. The Nashville-based band shot to the attention of many when Jack White (also a Nashville native) released a live 7″ recording of the band on his Third Man Records Label. The band’s hugely impressive sonic palette recalls a wide array of artists including Link Wray, The Band, The Stones, Gene Clark and Gram Parsons. The self titled debut was co-produced by Nashville guitarist (and Lambchop, Hiss Golden Messenger and Silver Jews contributor) William Tyler and Jem Cohen of the Ettes and the Parting Gifts. “Promised Land Sound” will be released by the North Carolina-based label Paradise Of Bachelors on 24 September.

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Erased Tapes V Boxset (Erased Tapes)
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the hugely influential record label Erased Tapes. It is amazing to think that in such a short space of time the label have released some of the finest music of recent times, with recordings by artists such as Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Fittingly, on their anniversary year, the label released “Corollaries”, the new album by legendary pianist Lubomyr Menlnyk, whose pioneering Continous Music has inspired a generation of musicians. The box set features exclusive, previously unreleased recordings made by the label’s incredible roster of artists. What makes it all the more exclusive is the fact that a the compilation won’t become digitally available until the end of the year. A must have for music-lovers everywhere.

While Nils Frahm’s “Juno” is not included, the much sought-after vinyl has been reissued (in beautiful turquoise) after the initial pressing sold out. The material (“For” and “Peter”, written for friend and colleague Peter Broderick) is exclusively made with the Juno synthesizer, showcasing Frahm’s incredible talents as one of the most inspiring of contemporary composers.

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Bill Callahan “Dream River” (Drag City)
One of the modern greats, Bill Callahan, releases his new album “Dream River” and eagerly awaited follow-up to his immaculate “Apocalypse” this Autumn, on Drag City. Since dropping his Smog moniker, beginning in 2007 with the release of “Woke On A Whaleheart” Callahan has produced a string of stunning albums, confirming his status as one of the finest artists around. According to Drag City: “Ol’ man Eagle is back, floatin’ Apocalyptically on a Whaleheart down the Dream River. Eight gentle percolations fire the pressure-cooker of life, dialing us into the Callahanian mind- and soul-set. Deep like aqua, soulful like man and animal alike.” “Dream River” will be released by Drag City on 17 September 2013.

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White Hills “In Your Room” (Thrill Jockey)
This year Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey have been releasing a raft of sublime albums (last month alone saw records by New York trio White Hills, kandodo, and the long-awaited re-pressing of Mountains’ debut LP “Mountains Mountains Mountains”) showcasing some of the most exciting bands making music today. “So You Are…So You’ll Be” is White Hills’ seventh studio album and was recorded with Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Swans) at BC Studios where White Hills also recorded 2012’s “Frying On This Rock”. According to Dave W: “Heavy psychedelic music can deliver the thinking mind through a door to the greater universe. I want people to find a space for meditation. We all are constantly barraged and beaten down with a lot of bullshit today. Personally, I find that spaced-out extreme music transports me to a very tranquil place. I hope, more than anything, our music brings others to that place of enlightenment and ecstasy.”

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Rodigon G.A. “The Lost Tapes” (Strut)
Released at the end of May, “The Lost Tapes” comprises the first ever commercially released album of Rodion G.A.’s music. The material has been unheard and unreleased for over thirty years and was issued by London-based label Strut in association with Future Nuggets and Ambassador’s Reception. Rodion Rosca composed and recorded much of the music on a primitive makeshift set-up of early drum machines, Tesla reel to reels, and live instruments. The collection is simply a gleaming treasure and one which every music collector should proudly own.

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Ten Mile Stereo

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Ryan Francesconi & Mirabai Peart ‘Road To Palios’ (Bella Union)
A collaboration between two gifted musicians; Francesconi’s immaculate acoustic guitar playing and his partner Peart’s beautiful violin. Francesconi is also a key member of Joanna Newsom’s band and his own solo LP ‘Parables’ is among the finest albums of recent years. ‘Road to Palios’ is a life-changing journey.


Oliveray ‘Wonders’ (Erased Tapes)
This gem was put out a few years back by Berlin-based label Erased Tapes and continues to reveal more with every single listen. A stunning collaboration between Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick (Olive and Ray are the authors’ middle names) includes two incredible covers, of Tiny Vipers (‘Dreamer’) and Efterklang (‘Harmonics’).


Cheval Sombre ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral)
Cheval Sombre is the pseudonym for New York-based Christopher Porpora, a poet-turned-musician whose debut self-titled lp was released in 2009. Cheval Sombre’s ‘Mad Love’ album was one of the hidden gems of last year. A beautiful and rewarding collection on the Sonic Cathedral label.


Nat Birchall ‘Sacred Dimension’ (Gondwana Records)
Dubbed ‘Spiritual Jazz’, I picked up Birchall’s (a UK-based saxophonist)’Sacred Dimension’ lp somewhat by chance (via the always-trustworthy speakers of Plugd Records). ‘Sacred Dimension’ is an incredible odyssey of an album and provides a moving experience for the listener.


The Great Balloon Race ‘Cardboard’
‘Animals Burning’ is the album-opener from this very talented Cork-based band whose debut album ‘Cardboard’ was released at the end of last year. Ambitious and complex. A Band with a very bright future indeed.

The Dodos ‘No Color’ (Wichita)
I First discovered The Dodos by their ‘Visiter’ Album; a wonderful showcase of the talents of this American duo; Meric Long and Logan Kroeber. Now, on their fourth album – ‘No Color’ (Witchita Records) – the band will soon embark on a European tour supporting Tucson Arizona’s Calexico.


Broadcast ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ OST (Warp)
The stunning soundtrack by Warp’s Broadcast for the equally-stunning second film by British director Peter Strickland. Like all things Warp, the soundtrack should be purchased on vinyl to get the optimum benefit of the amazing sleeve.


Nils Frahm & Anne Müller 7fingers (Erased Tapes)
Collaboration between Berlin-based musicians and friends; Frahm and Müller. Anne Müller’s cello is breath-taking while Frahm’s immaculate attention to detail on production duties are on full display here. Electronica and cello combine to stunning effect.


Birds Of Passage ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ E.P.
Birds of Passage is multi-talented New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Across all her LPs to date (‘Dear And Unfamiliar’, ‘Without The World’, and current ‘Winter Lady’) her music is simply breathtaking. Also, in her stunning back-catalogue is the ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ EP. Mastering duties by Nils Frahm.


Hidden Highways ‘Hidden Highways’ E.P. (Out On A Limb Records)
The stunning debut self-titled E.P. from Tim V. Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan recalls the magic chemistry of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood recordings, while equally reminiscient of the dark folk tales of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The E.P. features the incredible cover of Jeff Alexander’s ‘Come Wander With Me.’ Hidden Highways’ debut album will be released in Spring 2013 and is sure to be one of the albums of the year.

Central And Remote: Hidden Highways

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Interview with Hidden Highways.

He came from the sunset

He came from the sea

He came from my sorrow

And can only love me

‘Come Wander With Me’ (written by Jeff Alexander)

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

timvsmyth_craigcarry

Hidden Highways is the collaboration between two gifted Irish songwriters, Carol Anne McGowan and Tim V. Smyth. Having started to work together in late 2010, last year saw the release of their debut, self-titled E.P. The four songs are utterly beautiful, encompassing intimate folk and sparse country music. Hidden Highways exude a magical force that can’t help but stop you in your tracks. For me, I feel listening to their songs akin to hearing Ryan Adams’ debut solo record ‘Heartbreaker’ or the music of Gillian Welch for the very first time. A hidden dimension is tapped into here; where haunting harmonies soothe your soul and poetic lyrics transport you to an unknown ether.

‘Come Wander With  Me’ is a song Hidden Highways re-interpret beautifully on the E.P. I first heard this haunting song several years ago on a mixtape compiled by the French band Air. As part of the Late Night Tales series, Air were chosen to compile their own compilation of late night ambient sounds for the moonlight hours. The eclectic mix of songs were sequenced immaculately and  Jeff Alexander’s ‘Come Wander With Me’ was track seven, in between Scott Walker’s ‘The Old Man’s Back Again’ and ‘Metal Heart’ by Cat Power. This tragic love song is wonderfully re-imagined by McGowan and Smyth. The voice of actress Bonnie Beecher on the original version is the song’s spark and similarly, Carol Anne’s vocals here are sublime. Dream-like guitar notes and delicate piano chords drift beneath the ethereal vocals and harmonies. The fact that something new is discovered in this cover version of ‘Come Wander With Me’ is a testament to the masterful artistry of Hidden Highways.

The opener ‘In Defence Of Magpies’ is a meditative folk hymn containing a heavenly blend of harmonies from McGowan and Smyth. A song that shares the timeless feel and spirit of Gillian Welch and the bare, open lyrics echoes the great Johnny Cash. I feel pain, love, life and death all at once. The second track is ‘Blues Run The Game’, which is a tender country blues with a wonderful inter-change of vocals reminiscent of Nancy & Lee. The tradition of folk music lies at the heart of Hidden Highways but importantly, they make it their own. As is often said of folk songs – they seem to come from the ground – they are of no fixed time and place. Come wander with Hidden Highways and one feels this magical sense of endless exploration and wonder.

‘Burnt Ships’ is the closing song of the debut E.P. and my personal favourite. A crescendo of slide steel guitar notes and glorious harmonies brings the journey to a fitting close. The instrumentation is pristine. The heartfelt  harmonies take you to new horizons, recalling Harry Dean Stanton’s lone figure carved out of the desolate desert in Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris Texas’. The cinematic close of slide guitar conjures up the sound of vintage Giant Sand and Gram Parsons. A sacred dimension of divine Americana is arrived upon here. I am excited to hear more songs from this incredible act. A debut album is due to be released later in 2013, on the Limerick-based Out On A Limb Record label. Undoubtedly, the forthcoming Hidden Highways release is one to truly savor.

From the sun-warmed lowland

Each night that betides

To the huts of the snowland

A horseman rides

‘Burnt Ships’ (written by Henrik Ibsen)

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carolanne_craigcarry

Interview with Hidden Highways.

Tell me please about the formation of Hidden Highways and how you both met?

Tim V. Smyth: We recorded a song together about two years ago and got it into our heads to do an album. However, when we got down to doing it we weren’t happy with how it turned out. Around about then we both got involved in a country/folk recording session called “The Sunday School Sessions” and it was about then that Hidden Highways really started to take shape and we started recording again and are two thirds of the way there now.

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Your debut self-titled EP is really stunning. The four songs are intimate folk and dark country music that casts a powerful spell on you. Tell me please about these songs and the inspiration behind them.

TVS: “In Defence of Magpies” had been knocking around a while but never really found its feet, so to say, til now. I dunno what to say about it…. Magpies are much maligned! It’s about understanding that even though everyone’s not the same as you, or goes about things the same way, we all want the same things…family, friendship, love, life and so on. Like most situations there’s a more succinct Shakespearean quote -but I can’t think of it now! As for the covers – Carol Anne chose “Blues Run the Game” and I chose “Come Wander” – I really couldn’t think of anyone who’d do it better.

Carol Anne: “Burnt Ships” is actually a reworking of a poem of the same title by Norwegian poet and playwright Henrik Ibsen. I was researching old poems with the intention of reworking them into songs. I liked the dark imagery in the poem so I took a line and created a chorus and melody around it. I guess all the songs have quite dark themes behind them.

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Discuss please your love of harmony and melody. Listening to Hidden Highways brings you back in time, with the duets of Nancy and Lee, Sandy Denny and Dave Cousins, and Gillian Welch among so many others.

CA: I’m a bit obsessed with harmonies and vocal layering. I love the soundscapes you can create with just voice alone. We’re both into stripped back old time country and folk music. We try not to overly adorn the songs with instrumentation or studio effects and we try to keep the two voices the main component in the songs. We tend to track live as often as we can, so that a certain warmth doesn’t get lost in the process.

TVS: Yeah I’m big into Nancy and Lee and we are both big Gillian Welch fans so it’s funny you should mention those in particular. But I also love old Scott Walker stuff, Harry Nilsson and Elliott Smith. I learned a lot listening to Elliott Smith in particular-he didn’t (for the most part) have a big string section behind him and managed to make all those odd chord suspensions and key changes on a beat up old Yamaha. I came late to music so I’ve a lot of catching up to do!

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My favourite song is ‘Burnt Ships’. The heavenly blend of slide guitar and harmonies is for me, the transcendent moment of the E.P. Will these songs be on your forthcoming debut album? Please tell me about this soon-to-be-released debut album?

CA: We’re not sure whether we’ll carry some songs over from the EP to the album yet but the album will contain at least 8-10 new songs. We are in the studio at the moment and hope to have the album completed by late Spring 2013, to be released on Limerick based label Out On A Limb Records. The album will have a little bit more instrumentation but still in keeping with the sparse atmosphere of the EP.

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‘Come Wander With Me’ is a really mesmerizing cover version. It fits very nicely between your own songs. What is it about this song that led you to interpret and rework it?

TVS: I found it on You Tube one day and my blood went cold. Thought it was perfect for Hidden Highways and Carol Anne to cover. It’s kinda scary and compelling like Twin Peaks; might unsettle you but you’re going to watch it right the way through.

CA: Bonnie Beecher recorded the song in 1964 for an episode of The Twilight Zone. Its such a beautiful and haunting song, reminiscent of the minimalist melancholic feel of  “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, of the same era. You cant beat a dark tragic love song.. I wasn’t sure if I could really lend anything new to it, but I think it fitted in well as part of this project.

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Hidden Highways showcase great song-writing. Discuss please the songwriters that inspire you the most? Are there certain records that have had a major effect on you?

TVS: There’s so many! As regards records then I can narrow that down….  Neil Young’s “After The Goldrush”, Mercury Rev’s “Deserter Songs”, Mazzy Star’s “So Tonight That I May See”, Cowboy Junkies “Trinity Sessions”, Beck’s “Seachange”….

CA: As Tim mentioned we’re both big fans of Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. There’s a timeless quality to their songs and a darkly evocative mood to their songwriting. I couldn’t really name a favourite as there are so many beautiful moments on each of their records, particularly their newest one, “The Harrow & the Harvest”.  I love a lot of film scores, old western instrumentals and songs. I’m a big fan of David Lynch and the way he uses music in his films. Twin Peaks soundtrack was the first music I ever bought and still has a strange unsettling hold over me.

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Hidden Highways’ debut self-titled EP is out now on Out On A Limb Records.

http://hiddenhighways.bandcamp.com

http://www.outonalimbrecords.com/artist/hidden-highways

http://www.outonalimbrecords.com

Written by admin

January 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm