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Step Right Up: Nadia Reid

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I find song-writing to be quite an unconscious thing at times.”

—Nadia Reid

Words: Mark Carry

Nadia Reid scribble Credit Meek Zuiderwyk

Preservation’ is the formidable sophomore full-length release – and follow-up to the dazzling song-writing debut ‘Listen To Formation Look For The Signs’ – from New Zealand singer-songwriter Nadia Reid. The album’s immaculate batch of songs offers a profound take on life and an overarching theme of self-acceptance as Reid describes the songs as “a confession to my future and past self.”

Armed (once again) with the production skills of Ben Edwards in Sitting Room studios and long-term guitarist Sam Taylor, the compelling torch-lit songs possess the same intensity of Sharon Van Etten’s songbook and the beautifully layered folk gems of This Is The Kit or local native Tiny Ruins. ‘Preservation’ marks one of this year’s most captivating voices where a hypnotic spell is cast at each and every turn.

Nadia Reid sit Credit Meek Zuiderwyk WEB

Interview with Nadia Reid.

Please take me back to the making of the latest sophomore album ‘Preservation’ and particularly the recording sessions themselves? I wonder did you have a slightly different perspective this time around, on the back of touring extensively and having your debut under your belt?

Nadia Reid: It was business as usual really. I started making it before really starting the big tours so it was pretty much the exact way we made the first record, there’s nothing too much too different; same band and same producer.

In terms of the lyrics and song-writing, I presume a considerable amount of the songs were written while you were travelling and on tour? And did you feel the songs gradually come to you over a period of time or was it more a case once you finally got to sit still after the commotion of touring?

NR: I find travelling and being on the road an inspiring time and it allows you to really examine your life. But I think in terms of where the writing comes, I think that comes when I get back to where I’m living and I have that calm that allows me the space to write.  But everything feeds into everything else; I wouldn’t have much to write about if I wasn’t doing crazy things around the world.

I can imagine you and the producer Ben Edwards have a close chemistry between one another, especially this whole studio space where you record and this whole dynamic must be interesting and a fertile source for making new music?

NR: Well, I have only ever worked with Ben so he’s all I really know. I think that environments and the sort of trust that exists between him and I is really important to me and also between the band and I; we all have a relationship or a connection which happens after years of playing together. Ben has been working with me from the very, very beginning – seven or so years ago now – and it’s hard to just buy that connection. You just never know how it’s going to go and I think with the producer and artist connection, you need to have that kind of trust and understanding and patience and so I am lucky.

Prior to the recording sessions, would you have detailed conversations with the producer and band in terms of what you want to achieve and map certain points out prior to the sessions themselves?

NR: Well a lot of it happened during the few days of recording. I mean the band was familiar with the songs and some of the songs Ben heard for the first time when we arrived at the studio. A lot of people would maybe take time with pre-production or whatever but we just had this thing where we went with it and what was recorded was what happened in the studio. I know not everyone works like that but it keeps things organic and not too rigid.

Being from New Zealand and the whole rich lineage of great bands, I wonder for you growing up ad things, you must have been surrounded by a lot of great bands from New Zealand?

NR: I have a lot of friends that make incredible music so I’m in such good company at home. Some of the bands tour overseas and some of them aren’t because it’s a hard thing to undertake because you must have the right level of support for it to really work. So there is so much that doesn’t leave New Zealand. The New Zealand band Tiny Ruins; she’s a good friend of mine and there’s so much great music being made in this country.

You have toured already quite extensively with ‘Preservation’, you probably have some new songs forming at this stage?

NR: We’re already starting to think about album #3 and I think by the time a record actually makes it out to the world, in a way you’re moving past it faster than the people who are listening to it. We’re all really excited about it and I’m just as excited – if not more excited – than the last one.

Would you notice the songs change or transform in a way as you’re playing live and especially after doing a lot of shows with the same core material?

NR: Absolutely and it’s really hard to put into words what that is. It’s really quite special and to be able to play them for years and years and to have these new meanings or have their meanings become apparent to me, I find song-writing to be quite an unconscious thing at times. I think you have to change it up to keep things interesting: things are changing all the time; life changes and we change and our feelings change.

What albums have you been enjoying a lot these past couple of months?

NR: I’m loving a band called Hiss Golden Messenger and a guy called Andy Shauf.

‘Preservation’ is out now on Basin Rock.

Nadia Reid plays the following Irish shows, beginning in Galway tonight:

10.08.17    Galway    IE    Roisin Dubh   (Tickets)
12.08.17    Bangor (Co. Down)    N. IE    Open House Festival   (Tickets)
13.08.17    Kilkenny    IE    AKA Fringe Festival   (Tix: via Rollercoaster Records)

For the full list of Nadia’s tour dates visit HERE.

https://www.nadiareid.com/

 

 

Written by admin

August 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

Don’t Look Back: 2013

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‘Don’t Look Back’ is a retrospective of sorts, looking back on the year that was — 2013 — and reminiscing on some of the cherished memories from the year. Having had the great fortune of crossing paths with many wonderful musicians, artists and all-round music enthusiasts these past twelve months, we would like to share with you a snapshot of the year from the perspective of some of these wonderful people. 

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Adrian-Crowley

ADRIAN CROWLEY (Dublin, Ireland)

Across a rich body of work (comprising six solo albums culminating with 2012’s magnificent ‘I See Three Birds Flying’), the Irish singer-songwriter’s peerless baritone immerses you into a deeply contemplative listening experience. The prose and storytelling of the master poet’s songs heightens all that surrounds you. This December marked the long-awaited release of the collaboration between Crowley and James Yorkston, ‘My Yoke Is Heavy-The Songs of Daniel Johnston’ released on the Glasgow-based independent label, Chemikal Underground.

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Forgive in advance, if you will what is sure to be a rambling and disjointed part reflection of the year gone by.
When I cast my mind on 2013, scenes like this spring to mind:
I’m in Amsterdam Central Station… or Amsterdam Centraal.
Before heading to the platform for Gare Du Nord, Paris, I decide I need to take care of some business.
There are plywood partitions everywhere, the sound of drills and circular saws fill the air and workmen are milling around in hi-vis jackets and jack boots. It’s freezing as it is January and icy blasts pervade the corridors and hallways of the station. I follow temporary signs. It soon becomes clear that all elevator service has been suspended because of the works so I find a stairs and haul myself up with all my things ( A hard case containing my guitar, a faltering wheelie case and a small rucksack that feels like it is filled with hard back bibles). The stairs bring me to a platform and there at the other end of it I see a *massive* WC sign. Huge black Roman letters on a white plastic board background. I put 50 c in the slot and as I’m squeezing through the turnstile I notice an old vagrant madwoman has commandeered the toilet attendant’s booth. I hang back for a moment, all my things slung around my person, bags and instruments. Then she squalks and barks at me and with a twisted painted index finger, she waves me by screeching something that rhymes with ‘men’.
I walk into the Heern area there are no cubicles just a sad row of improvised urinals and no wash hand basins. I head for the ladies area instead as they have cubicles in there. The unkempt toilet attendant turns into a typhoon of fury and screams that the cubicles are for women only. I try and wedge all my things through the narrow door all the while yelling back to her asking how she expects a gentleman to take care of business. A petite girl with a head scarf and long grey coat timidly holds the door open for me, quiet as a mouse.
Later as the Eurostar pulls away bound for Gare du Nord I sit back in my seat with my things stowed and tucked away. I reach for my headphones and wonder if it’ll be snowing in Paris.

I may have fallen asleep to the strains of Seti The First or Colleen and I may have dreamed of the furious toilet attendant starting to slowly rotate and gather her dark tendrils from every corner of the train station causing scaffolding to shudder and papers to fly about in a vortex as she transforms into a typhoon or a tropical revolving storm and disappears down a dark tunnel leaving shards and splinters in her wake and decimated suitcases.

2013 has seen me travel alone across Europe, station to station, in a sometimes delirious state.
It’s been a dream though. And at the same time it’s funny how things are reduced to basic things, like time keeping, eating, sleeping etc. All these things take on extra weight and magnitude.
There is a sense of the epic with otherwise innocuous things. Things that you would take for granted if you weren’t a voyager. It’s in this state of transit and transition that music shows another side to me.
And books too when I can manage to read. I must say that my affliction of a sometimes crippling motion sickness precludes me from reading on trains. It’s something that is always there. Gets worse at night and especially if I lie on my left side. Then I am spun around in a vertiginous whorl and wake in a panic. But music soothes.
And after a concert when I wearily trundle down a hotel corridor relishing the thought of my waiting room I sling my things across the floor and armchair and turn on the television. Hungry for some stimulation of drama /plot / humour English language/ …an antidote to the adrenaline that comes to me each night. A distraction. My records and CDs in boxes stacked on the sideboard. Again I think of myself as a lone traveling salesman / preacher from the last century selling bibles in some erratic trajectory across the map. I don’t know why. There must be a parallel somewhere.
And many is the time, be it in Zwolle or Copenhagen, Zarautz or Barcelona….I’ve found myself flicking on my laptop and searching for unwatched and new episodes of my new favourite series.
And it has been that the only way I could fall asleep was to the sound of a zombie apocalypse as The Walkers (The Walking Dead) invade the compound of the last survivors on Earth somewhere in the former middle America.

I remember one evening back in Dublin I was meeting a friend for a pint on Wellington Quay and we got talking about Breaking Bad and I was telling her who my favourite characters were and why Hank was my hero and how I had seen every episode including the finale…when the barman suddenly materialised at our table (only two seconds previous he had been behind the bar unloading glasses from the steam washer).
And there he stood in silent fury shaking his head slowly and making a zip gesture across his lips and then pointing his finger in my face. My friend Julie looked on in utter surprise. Then he spoke.
‘I can’t believe you are actually talking about Breaking Bad when it’s clear that most people in this room may not have finished Season 5 yet. You’re barred’.

This year I found myself queueing for a ticket in the lobby of The Lighthouse Cinema, or The Screen or The IFI..
I think my favourite film of this year was ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’. Oh my golly gosh.
Casey Affleck is amazing. One of my favourite ever actors.
I went to Oblivion with my son. We love science fiction and he is at the age now where if we go to the cinema together it doesn’t have to be some CGI of an annoying remake of a talking cat. It was pretty slick but still I think ‘Moon’ by Duncan Jones towers high…my favourite science fiction since Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky.

I haven’t seen ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ yet. Maybe I’ll go next week.
Oh there was another film I loved but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called.
It was a new American independent shot in black and white and involved a girl going to Paris for the weekend. What the hell was it called again? It had half her name in the title…

This Summer was good for reading. I went away for a few weeks to France and go through a few novels and short stories. ‘Cathedral’ by Raymond Carver. ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs…. ‘Shall We Gather At The River’ by Irish writer, Peter Murphy…
‘Kafka On The Shore’ by Haruki Murikami..‘True Tales Of American Life’ – edited by Paul Auster..
I have ‘Lights Out In Wonderland’ by DBC Pierre in my pocket at the moment.
And I bought a book of poetry at a reading in Ranelagh a couple of months ago. It’s beautiful.
It’s by Patrick Chapman and is called ‘A Promiscuity Of Spines’.

This Summer I went to The Galway Film Fleadh. There was the world premiere of an Irish directed feature film called Love Eternal. As I took my seat in The Town Hall..(with my folks and sister) I remembered this was where I saw my first ever film in the cinema. Directed by Brendan Muldowney and starring Pollyanna Mackintosh among others it prominently features a song of mine The Wishing Seat. At the risk of giving too much away, the songs occurs at the climax of the film. It’s uncanny how well the song fits. When the producer Conor Barry first approached me with the request to use the song, he gave me viewing copy to see what I thought. Like I said, it was uncanny how it fitted. I think that was my cinematic experience of the year when the opening chords of my song filled the cinema, accompanied by the beautiful cinematography. It’s still touring the festivals of the world and won’t be out for a while. It’s a fine, fine film.

2013 is also the year I rediscovered Blixa Bargeld. And the album he released last spring with Teho Teardo has got to be my favourite album of 2013.

Which lead me to discover for the first time a beautiful duet he recorded with Meret Becker called Stella Maris.
I asked two friends of mine in Cologne (Rita and Sabine) to teach me German.

Oh and this year I saw the Northern Lights for the first time in my life.
But that is another story.

Oh and how can I not mention:

playing with Emma and Vince from Geese to a full house Upstairs at The Grand Theatre in Groningen in January at Eurosonic…

seeing Kris Kristofferson play at Oosterpoort (also in Groningen ) in September while playing Take Root Festival…

Seeing Kevin Barry’s short film ‘Breakfast Wine’ at The Galway Film Fleadh – a gem.

The dream trip to Iceland with ‘Young Hearts Run Free’. A totally moving week and an honour to be invited and to share the adventure with such beautiful people. My heart is a flutter thinking about it.

Catching up with old friends in Reykjavik.

Fresh in my mind is the wonderful (three date travelling festival ) Stille Nacht which I joined in on in December…(a favourite of mine was the show in Lelystad – great atmosphere.)

Seeing Marissa Nadler play in Copenhagen while on tour there.

Crossing the bridge between Copenhagen and Malmo.

Sharing the bill with Efterklang, William Tyler, broeder Dieleman…in The Netherlands..

playing The Kevin Barry Room (not the same Kevin Barry as mentioned above!) in The National Concert Hall in Dublin with two cellists, Kevin Murphy and Mary Barnecutt … and a Steinway Grand Piano.

Playing my first concert in shorts and sunglasses (during a July heatwave) at The Iveagh Gardens, Dublin (opening for Beach House). My guitar pedals nearly melted.

Playing a very memorable show in Barcelona after the ceiling collapsed shortly before I was due to go onstage. No injuries…the show went on in an adjacent room. I still have a piece of plaster as a souvenir.

Recording with Seti The First. A mighty band.

Seeing Katie Kim play several times.

Playing in an old cinema in Zarautz, the Basque Country.

Touring, touring and more touring.

Starting a new album in November…(going to finish it soon)

Going to ‘The House Presents’ monthly club in North Strand, Dublin.

Releasing ‘My Yoke Is Heavy’ on Chemikal Underground.

Working on the ‘Age Of Not Believing’ project in London with Ben Eshmade, Harry Escott and loads and loads of others (album coming out soon).

Playing in the very beautiful Triskel Christchurch in Cork in November.
A very special place.

Oh and did I mention I saw the Northern Lights…?

—Adrian Crowley

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‘My Yoke Is Heavy: The Songs of Daniel Johnston’ by Adrian Crowley and James Yorkston is available now on Chemikal Underground.

http://www.chemikal.co.uk/artists/adrian-crowley
http://www.chemikal.co.uk

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goat

MR. STONEGOAT, GOAT (Korpilombolo, Sweden)

Hailing from Korpilombolo in Northern Sweden, Goat are responsible for some of the most transcendental rock ‘n’ roll creations for quite some time. The band’s universally-acclaimed debut record ‘World Music’ (released last year on Rocket Recordings) sees a spectrum of sounds and styles that are effortlessly combined: from psychedelia, afro beat, African, funk and soul to disco, rock, garage, blues. This December marked the release of the double-album ‘Live Ballroom Ritual’  which captures Goat’s live performance at Camden’s Electric Ballroom in London. 

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This year I haven’t read a book or seen a film. I never keep track with new releases of music. I have been listening to a lot of Beach Boys this year. There is just to much going on in popular culture. For me it’s always been like that. I have to shut off. Otherwise I can’t make music. And I haven’t seen a show either. Just fragments of bands playing at the festivals we’ve been playing on. No, that is not true. I loved seeing Holy Wave every night while we where touring in the US in march. Fantastic band. For the rock-group Goat it has been an interesting year for sure, learning how to play live and doing it on big stages. But more than that it has been like any other year. The commune has had it’s problems with tourism which has forced us to keep a low profile with our origin from now on. Other than that many children have been born and we have celebrated and rejoiced as normal. 2014 I look forward to play and travel with the Goat band some more and also finishing of our next album. I’m also gonna have my seventh child and I will become 25 in January, so I’m gonna have a couple of good reasons to party next year. What I wish more is that the world 2014 comes a little bit closer to acknowledge that individualism is our enemy, spirituality is our guide, and togetherness is happiness. We are all one. There is no boundaries. Peace out!

—Mr. Stonegoat

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‘Goat – Live Ballroom Ritual’ double album is available now on Rocket Recordings.

http://goatsweden.blogspot.ie
http://rocketrecordings.blogspot.ie

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laurelhalo

Cian Ó Cíobháin, An Taobh Tuathail (Galway, Ireland)

Cian Ó Cíobháin is the presenter of An Taobh Tuathail, a music show dedicated to promoting the very best in independent music. Cian’s show is broadcasted on RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta on weeknights from 9 to 11pm, Monday to Friday. Cian also compiles a series of compilations which are made available for free download, at present the An Taobh Tuathail series is at volume 6. Additionally, Cian DJ’s at 110th Street, Galway, with Cyril Briscoe.

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In 2013 I LOVED…
LPs by My Bloody Valentine, Jessy Lanza, Laurel Halo, Oneohtrix Point Never & Chequerboard; surprise LP of the year was from These New Puritans, well worth spending time marinating in it; spending a magical break with my truelove in south Kerry last May, that lovely time of year as summer is slowly getting into her groove; successfully having laser eye surgery in mid-summer after a serious injury which resulted in six months of corneal pain made a huge change — for the positive — to my mood and sense of wellbeing; Thurston Moore live in Róisín Dubh, Galway accompanied by John Fahy simply confirmed that the former Sonic Youth frontman might still be the coolest man on the planet; continuing to meet great new people in clubs and at after-hours sessions; The Great Heatwave of July 2013; resurrecting old club night The Hive (a club for music lovers, by music lovers); being in Croke Park for Kerry V Dublin, possibly the greatest game of football I ever saw in the stadium, the superlative display from both teams numbed the pain of defeat; wonderful nights playing records in the Blue Note, Galway with my good friend Cyril Briscoe to people who truly know how to get down; genuinely amazing & unexpected fun DJ-ing at weddings in Co. Down and Co. Mayo (with a Funktion1 soundsystem), a whole new experience for me, I’m already taking bookings for weddings in 2014; the last season of ‘Breaking Bad’ was the most perfectly written season of TV I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing; having only made two pods/mixes during the first ten months of the year, I hit a November purple-patch with 4 new expressions of my musical interests VIA mixes & pods for The Hive, 110th Street, ATT & Shock; immersing myself in the books of Carl Sagan, what a wonderful & wondrous human being he was, indeed I read a great number of books this year … aside from immersing myself in music, reading is my sanctuary; those wonderful and inspiring mails I get from listeners of my show, from the most personal to the most flippant, I love each and every one of you, keep them coming, they are my Ready Brek during these dark winter mornings.

—Cian Ó Cíobháin

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‘An Taobh Tuathail VOL 6’, compiled by Cian Ó Cíobháin, can be downloaded for free HERE.

http://www.rte.ie/rnag/an-taobh-tuathail/

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Moonface

Siobhán Kane, Young Hearts Run Free (Dublin, Ireland)

Siobhán Kane runs Dublin-based collective Young Hearts Run Free, which (since 2008) organizes music and literary events in unusual spaces across Dublin, in aid of the Simon Community. The next event being organized by Young Hearts will be a very special concert at Dublin’s Christ Church on New Year’s Eve. The gala concert comprises an extensive lineup featuring the wonderful talents of Moonface (Jagjaguwar) and Alasdair Roberts (Drag City). Siobhán Kane’s journalistic and literary talents can be seen in many musical and cultural sections of the press, and has written in the past for The Wire, Thumped, The Irish Times and The Quietus. 

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In a way, looking back on the year feels like remembering light, as it has been a year full of unexpected, heartening experiences.

One of my favourite things this year has been some of the experiences running Young Hearts Run Free. I have been doing it since 2008, and it has been a real labour of love. I have about three jobs that are quite time-consuming, and didn’t realise that Young Hearts was also going to take up so much time, but it is worth it. It kind of places everything out of a fuzzy focus, and distills so much of what I love about living in Dublin; particularly people’s open-heartedness, and sense of adventure, which is good, as I am always thinking of unusual venues, and odd ideas to carry out.

This year saw some real highlights of the project so far; Andy Irvine singing The Blacksmith (among other things) in the House of the Dead on Ushers Island, providing a very emotional evening for many of us, or our pub skip around the city with an intimate, willing audience with musicians like Alasdair Roberts, and Lisa O’Neill, or taking the project to Iceland Airwaves, with Dónal Lunny, Adrian Crowley, Katie Kim, The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock, and Conor O’Brien.

That whole experience in Reykjavik now resembles a misty dream I feel I had once. I felt like my teenage self had burst through the pages of my novel as an adult and made it happen. We raised a good amount for Konukot, the homeless women’s shelter there, and had two brilliant showcases; one in Lucky Records, and the second in the Volcano Museum. Before the musicians had gone to Iceland, they had been in touch with each other about potentially collaborating on some songs together, and they eventually landed on Cúnla, A Pair of Brown Eyes, and On Raglan Road.

It’s hard to describe the feeling when those collaborations eventually happened live, and the tender excitement and enthusiasm shown by each musician was humbling, and the experience rejuvenated my fatigued self, because it reminded me of partly why I wanted to set up Young Hearts in the first place, in the hope that some kind of magic might happen. I couldn’t have imagined going with a better group of people, we had so much fun, and even now, writing about it, reminds me of how lucky I am to know such lovely, generous people, who have become friends.

We are now getting ready for our New Year’s Eve concert in Christ Church Cathedral, which to be honest, doesn’t really seem real. From the days of doing crazy events in the basement space of Clarendon House to this, has been an unexpectedly emotional journey, and at times severely anxiety-inducing, but ultimately it has meant so much, not least because of the money we raise for the Simon Community, but how it raises hearts, and brings out some really great people, and that has been something of an anchor in really difficult times the last few years.

It also reminds me of one of my favourite records of the year, because we are bringing over Moonface/Spencer Krug to play, who has always been an intriguing musician, whether when playing as part of Wolf Parade, or Sunset Rubdown, or his collaborations with Dan Bejar, I am always interested! And I really fell in love with his new record on Jagjaguwar, Julia with Blue Jeans On – it is possibly my favourite record of the whole year; elegant, epic, and emotional music – just his voice and the piano, everything is stripped right back to reveal something so true – anguish, pain, and love, it’s all there.

Some of my other favourite records of the year come from Alasdair Roberts, with his A Wonder Working Stone (Drag City) and his recent collaboration with the poet Robin Robertson Hirta Songs (Stone Tape Recordings) – both are very different, but they  harness an unusual tone of storytelling, it is so singular, and with Hirta Songs, the two singular artists totally transport you into a different world filled with sea imagery and sad farewells.

In a slightly different sense, this could also be said of Adrian Crowley and James Yorkston’s record – a loveletter to Daniel Johnston’s work – My Yoke is Heavy (Chemikal Underground) – this came as quite a late gem in the year, and has kept me quietly moving company ever since; sad and brilliant.

It does seem like so many of my favourite records tend to be sad ones – so I need to jazz this up a little by hurtling through some other, more rather upbeat compositions. I was very excited by Beyoncé’s record, and am enjoying that at the moment, Fuck Buttons’ Slow Focus is excellent, as was Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light – he is such an exceptional musician, and his work on the saxophone is so subtle, and fascinating, and when experienced live honestly provides goosebumps – as for him, the work is almost an athletic endeavour as well as creative. I loved Villagers {Awayland} – particularly songs like My Lighthouse and The Waves, and Julia Holter’s dreamy Loud City Song, and Laurel Halo’s Chance of Rain.

There have been so many good records this year, like John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts, and Pusha T’s My Name is My Name – he is just so good, and I have always been a fan of his from his Clipse days. M.I.A.’s Matangi has some mind-bending production, as does Jon Hopkins’ Immunity, and the atmosphere on Forest Swords’ Engravings is slow-burning and immersive – off-kilter brilliance. And I am also now thinking about El-P’s and Killer Mike’s collaboration Run the Jewel’s because I have always been slightly obsessed with El-Producto, and think him a wonder, and was a willing lemming for most Def Jux releases – as I was for Rawkus – it’s nice when you have a fidelity to a label, I still check in with Stones Throw, but there are so many great independent labels trying to make wonderful things happen – I am a devotee of Light in the Attic Records in particular, they bear witness on so much good unheralded or out of print work, as well as underrated and unusual artists. Goodness, if I start writing about record labels I won’t stop.

Bill Callahan’s Dream River is one of my favourite records of the year. I used to have quite a fractious relationship with some of Callahan’s earlier work, but I genuinely love it now, there is so much poetry in it, and his voice just knocks me over into a swoon. His new record is pared back beauty, and his imagery is so evocative, he always returns back to the idea that though acute ecstacy can be achieved, you must always fall back to earth, but need to continue to pursue true happiness, continue getting back up. The record possesses a calm that I have really responded to. He has recently said that he knows what his next record is going to be, and it is going to be his “best yet”, so I am giddy in anticipation. The National’s Trouble Will Find Me has also kept me good company, with its interesting lyrics, and Matt Berninger’s yearning, crumpled vocal that captures such true feeling. Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavelle’s Perils from the Sea is a great meeting of minds, as Lavelle’s subtle electronica is a perfect foil for Kozelek’s heavy load, and Deerhunter’s Monomania was all delightfully creaky dream pop bric-a-brac. I thought Arcade Fire’s Reflektor contained a strange joy, and then there were people that came back that I had missed, such as Paddy McAloon – one of my favourite ever musicians, and I really enjoyed Prefab Sprout’s Crimson/Red – it’s so much about love, maybe, and McAloon does it so elegantly, cleverly, and always from the heart. I also liked Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow’s Harvest a lot, and Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven, Low’s Invisible Way, Charles Bradley’s Victim of Love, and it was nice to have Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds go away from Grinderman work and towards Push the Sky Away – I just really liked the luscious composition and erudite lyrics. The same could be said of David Bowie’s The Next Day, I was so glad that he just popped up with such understated elegance.

There are so many other great records, but this is getting too long and this is without writing about the books I have lived with, concerts gone to, and films and television watched, so I will whittle down as best I can to a semblance of other things from the past year.

Music and books are probably the things I love most, so it’s hard to go back on the year, but I just got round to reading Grant Morrison’s excellent Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero,and Eimear McBride’s surreal and gripping A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. Morrissey’s Autobiography was a delight, as was Tracey Thorn’s Bedsit Disco Queen, it was so well-written and revealing, and she zaps you right into the period, the politics, and the cultural references. In a weird way, her book, and Morrissey’s, greatly complemented each other, although Morrissey’s book often made me laugh out loud, he has such a gift with language, that I was often quite dazzled by it. I always have some John McGahern on the go, and am re-reading some of his earlier short stories at the moment in the collection Nightlines. I am also reading Lockout by Padraig Yeates – it has been so inspiring, all this work around the Lockout, and so topical. Alex Ferguson’s autobiography was illuminating and David Peace’s Red or Dead was an epic achievement. I also re-read Mary Robinson’s autobiography Everybody Matters, as she is a great beacon, and there are so many other things! I also liked the children’s book Heap House, by Edward Carey, it is so funny and imaginative. and James Salter’s All That Is, and also the really sad, but completely engaging Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital, about the five years Woody spent as a patient at the Greystone Park State Hospital – it’s really moving, and I read the reissued Stoner by John Williams, which just floored me – it made perfect sense that John McGahern did the introduction to it – there is a definite sympathy between those two writers, somewhere – perhaps in the examination of a quiet tragedy, which are almost always the worst.

Concert-wise it is so hard to write highlights, because there have been so many, but some that come to mind would be The National in the Marquee in Cork, The Walkmen at La Maroquinerie, Paris, and The Walkmen at the End of the Road festival in Dorset, and there they dedicated a song “to the late, great Seamus Heaney” as he had passed away only a few days before, little did I know that would be the last time I saw The Walkmen together – live – as a band (for now, hopefully). One of my other highlights was seeing Grizzly Bear in Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Iveagh Gardens is very special to me, and I never thought I would see one of my favourite bands there – it was very magical, very surreal, and very moving. There were a few lovely evenings there, including the dreamy Beach House, but really all my heart was full of for so long was Grizzly Bear in Iveagh, they spin a magic that is hard to describe, it transports and means so much (to me).

Dan Deacon in Whelans in the earlier part of the year was just brilliant but he always somehow lifts, no matter what is going on in your life, he radiates so much warmth and fun and love, also Winged Victory for the Sullen at the National Concert Hall was genuinely beautiful, Angel Olsen in Whelans was another highlight, just her and her guitar, she was mesmerising, and kind of resembled a lovely cat singing, and then Thee Oh Sees in Whelans were another highlight, they make you feel like you are 14 and you are going to take on the world and win. That was how I felt also with Konono No.1 in Whelans. Looking back there were so many great concerts, how lucky I was to have gone to so many; Public Enemy in the Button Factory, Egyptian Lover in the Sugar Club was hilarious and great, Why? in Whelans, Colleen in the Unitarian Church supported by Seti the First was shimmering, subtle beauty, Immortal Technique in the Sugar Club was raw, indignant and great, Chromatics/Glass Candy in the Village. Lee Fields in the Sugar Club was one of the best things I have ever been to, experiencing Ennio Morricone at IMMA was a really special thing, and The Music Tapes in the Workmans Club were so charming, and had a little game for the audience to play at the end. I really loved Low in Whelans, and the day after Tame Impala in the Olympia – I felt quite delirious about those two days. Also, Charles Bradley in The Sugar Club was fizzing with energy, and he had a costume change or two, which I admired, and I also enjoyed Villagers Christmas homecoming with Stargaze in Vicar Street.

There were many other things too, like experiencing comics such as Reggie Watts, Stewart Lee, Eddie Pepitone and David O’Doherty, and recently I got to see Harry Shearer in London do a Christmas revue of sorts, with his wife and several guests, and on the same trip, I caught Dan Bejar at Bush Hall doing a solo set, it was around the release of his latest EP, but he also revisited so much of his work from Destroyer’s Rubies, Kaputt and other records – it was such a delight to experience – particularly as he said he won’t be playing again until 2015. My memory is quite scattered at present, and I am sure that I will have forgotten experiences that have made my year, but I know it means that there have been lots – I look to mainly experiences shared with people, such as festivals like Primavera, or End of the Road, or Iceland Airwaves – I think of the feeling of being glad to be alive when David Byrne and St. Vincent performed on the Friday night at End of the Road, or when Belle & Sebastian took to the stage at the very same festival, or when John Grant and Conor O’Brien duetted on Glacier at Wiltons Music Hall in London, or feeling devastated in Croke Park with my Dad when Mayo lost the All-Ireland (again), but happy for Dublin to win, if someone else had to. On the other end of the spectrum, there are all those things you might experience alone sometimes – and for me, this year, it has been cackling at Louis CK on his perfect show Louie, or anything Larry David has done or will ever do, or being freaked out by the most violent bits of Homeland, revisiting one of my favourite shows Northern Exposure, feeling genuinely bereft when Breaking Bad finished, being immersed in Eileen Gray’s show at IMMA, and just all those simple times spent reading, walking by the sea and cycling – those things are great things to look back on with fondness in 2013, and all the cosy times spent with family and friends.

Lastly, all the films that have come out this year – there have been so many good ones – I really loved Philomena, and Good Vibrations, and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine elicited an astonishing performance by Cate Blanchett, Before Midnight was charming and sad and true, and hopeful (hopefully), and made me want to take off for Greece, Blue is the Warmest Colour was so affecting, and I got to see the Coen Brother’s new film Inside Llewyn Davis, which is beautiful and has such an odd atmosphere, and the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me – was good, and sad (a common theme!), and another interesting music documentary Beware of Mr Baker – about drummer Ginger Baker was excellent, though he is quite scary, and The Selfish Giant was lovely.

It’s strange to look back on the year, I know I will have forgotten so much, but it is a great exercise, because it reminds me of all that is good in the world, when things are so often difficult. The arts, like Laurie Lee once wrote (although it was about love) are like “the oil that plumps us up, dilates the eyes, puts a glow on the skin, lifts us free from the weight of time”. I hope that 2014 provides more of the same, where we can all live in the “private grip” of such beauty and inspiration. It helps us to understand ourselves more.

Siobhán Kane

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Young Hearts Run Free present: Moonface, Alasdair Roberts, Dónal Lunny (and more) at Christ Church, Dublin, this New Year’s Eve. Doors 8pm, tickets in aid of the Simon Community.

http://youngheartsrunfree.ie

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Benoît Pioulard (Seattle, USA)

Benoît Pioulard is the alias for Seattle-based composer Thomas Meluch, who has to date released a string of formidable albums on Chicago-based independent label Kranky, culminating with this year’s stunning ‘Hymnal’. A very special compilation ‘Hymnal Remixes’ will be available on 21 January 2014, featuring remixes by Brambles, Fieldhead, Loscil, The Remote Viewer and many more. Pre-orders can be made now (including exclusive immediate download of 5 tracks) HERE.

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My favorites of the year:

Book : ‘Tenth of December’ by George Saunders
Film : ‘Leviathan’
Album : ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ by Boards of Canada

—Thomas Meluch

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‘Hymnal’ by Benoît Pioulard is available now on Kranky.

http://pioulard.com
http://www.kranky.net

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marylattimore

MARY LATTIMORE (North Carolina, USA)

Mary Lattimore is a Philadelphia-based harpist whose name has become synonymous in independent music circles as both a gifted solo composer as well as a versatile and accomplished collaborator. ‘The Withdrawing Room’ is the debut solo album by Mary Lattimore, released earlier this year on Desire Path Recordings. Limited to three hundred copies on black vinyl, the album draws from drone, ambient, folk and world music traditions. Lattimore’s harp compositions can be compared with Julianna Barwick’s choral-based harmonies, where both artists loop their chosen instrument to magnificent effect. Mary Lattimore has collaborated with a vast array of musicians to date, including Thurston Moore, Ed Askew, and Sharon Van Etten.

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Hi from North Carolina, here on my parents’ farm.

Favorite Things of 2013 List

Favorite Records (in no order)
Grouper – The Man Who Died In His Boat
Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
Nils Frahm – Spaces
Daniel Bachman – Jesus I Am A Sinner
Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother
Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
True Widow – Circumambulation
Brent Arnold – Night, Exquisite
I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age In America compilation
Chris Forsyth – Solar Motel
Purling Hiss – Water on Mars
Emerald Web – The Stargate Tapes (Reissue)
Neil Young – Live at the Cellar Door
My Bloody Valentine – MBV
Steve Gunn – Time Off
William Tyler – Impossible Truth
Body/Head – Coming Apart
Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle – Perils From the Sea
Michael Chapman – Wrecked Again (Reissue)
Chance – In Search (Reissue)
William Onyeabor – Who is William Onyeabor? (Reissue)

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Favorite song of 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsoqmFL1vlU

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Favorite new place
Asbury Park, NJ

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Favorite shows of 2013
Body/Head at Union Pool (NYC)
War on Drugs New Year’s Eve at Johnny Brenda’s (Philly)
Cass McCombs at Boot and Saddle (Philly)
Ed Askew Band (Philly and NYC)
Sun Ra Arkestra at Union Transfer (Philly)
Spiritualized at Union Transfer
Julianna Barwick at Mann Music Center (Philly)
Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson at World Cafe (Philly)
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band residency at Ortlieb’s (Philly)
Spacin at the Philly Record Exchange
Animal Collective Halloween at Union Transfer
Belle and Sebastian at Mann Music Center (Philly)
Woods/Parquet Courts at Morgan’s Pier (Philly)

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Favorite performance experiences of 2013
Playing in Grand Central Station (NYC) accompanying 60 dancers wearing visual artist Nick Cave’s Soundsuits twice a day for a week. Was truly an amazing experience.

Playing a few covers with Jeff Zeigler, Sharon Van Etten, and Adam Granduciel (War on Drugs) for a benefit for the Rail Park in Philly. We played a Big Star song, a Lou Reed song, and one of Sharon’s. Sooo much fun with those guys.

Little tour with Jeff Zeigler and Daniel Bachman, sleeping in this beautiful room in the incredible Coward Shoe in Baltimore.

Opening for Jeff Mangum with my great Tall Firs friends Aaron and Dave.

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Favorite Art I Saw in 2013
Mike Kelley at MoMA P.S.1 (NYC)
James Turrell at Guggenheim
Outsider Art exhibit at Philadelphia Museum of Art
Wharton Esherick House in Malvern, PA
Anthony Campuzano: Local Color
Psychedelic poster exhibit at Smith College in Northampton, Mass

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Favorite Day
Greatest birthday this year, thanks to my friends Gary O, Adam, Faryal, Dana and Jan. Yogurt with fruit, the beach, recording with the War on Drugs, tarot reading, Eric Copeland/Kid Millions/J Spaceman show, going down late at night to get close to those towers of light that they project to represent the World Trade Center, with all of the hundreds of white birds spinning and swirling in the light, so unreal. Was a perfect day. 

—Mary Lattimore

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‘The Withdrawing Room’ by Mary Lattimore is available now on Desire Path Recordings.

http://marylattimore.net
http://www.desirepathrecordings.com

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mctaylorphoto-by-Harlan-Campbell

M.C. TAYLOR, HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER (North Carolina, USA)

Hiss Golden Messenger comprises the Durham, North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor and multi-instrumentalist Scott Hirsch, who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Additionally, Terry Lonergan plays drums and percussion and – together with Hirsch and Taylor – combine to form one of the finest rhythm sections around. Hiss Golden Messenger’s four studio albums to date – culminating in 2013’s magnificent ‘Haw’ (available now on the North Carolina-based label Paradise Of Bachelors) – confirm Hiss Golden Messenger’s place to the forefront of the Americana music tradition, like Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo before them.

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Your personal favorite album from the year?

As far as new records, I’d probably say William Tyler’s Impossible Truth. I spent a lot of time on the road with William and heard those songs in various iterations. I think what William is doing — his whole process and aesthetic — is really beautiful and singular, very thoughtful and inspirational. There’s nobody else making music like he is.

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The music you found yourself listening to the most during the year?

Anytime anyone asks me what I’ve been listening to, I suddenly can’t remember. But I just looked at my phone, and was reminded how much I love Steve Gunn’s Time Off . Also, Lal Waterson’s Teach Me to Be a Summer Morning was a gorgeous set of recordings; she later made Bright Phoebus with her brother Mike, which drew on some of this material, and is a pretty foundational album for me. Gal Costa’s India is something I’ve spent a lot of time with lately, as is African Songbird, by Sathima Bea Benjamin. Oh, and the Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas is something I’ve been revisiting. What a great, great album. Anything by Ann Peebles too, I really like her music — Straight From the Heart is the album of hers that I’ve listened to most recently.

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Fondest memories of touring ‘Haw’ in US and EU?

It’s rare for me to not have a good time playing music anywhere, but my 2013 was bookended by some very special shows. In February of 2013, I was honored to take part in a round robin performance with my pals Heather McEntire (of Mount Moriah), Phil Cook (of Megafaun) and Amy Ray (of the Indigo Girls) in my hometown of Durham, North Carolina. Then, at the end of October, I played my last show of the year at the Haw River Ballroom in the rural town of Saxapahaw, NC, with friends The A’s (Amelia and Alexandra from Mountain Man) and Brad and Phil Cook (from Megafaun). The Haw River Ballroom is, in my opinion, among the most beautiful performance venues in the Western Hemisphere, and it was a real gift to play there.

William Tyler and I also toured the UK by train for the second time in May, which presented its own unique set of challenges but is a pretty incredible way to see that part of the world. Our last show of that trip was recorded and is available to hear as London Exodus.

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Most special moments from 2013?

My wife and I had a baby girl, Ione Clare, on July 1st, 2013. Everything about this year was centered around her arrival. Now we’re learning about life with two kids!

I’ve been very lucky to continue to make music with my longtime friend and musical partner Scott Hirsch (who also had a baby girl, Issa, this year). We just completed the recording for the next HGM album, which will come out sometime this fall, and we were so fortunate to involve many of our friends, including Brad and Phil Cook, Terry Lonergan, Matt McCaughan, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Chris Boerner, William Tyler, Matt Douglas and others.

—M.C. Taylor

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‘Haw’ by Hiss Golden Messenger is available now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

http://hissgoldenmessenger.blogspot.ie
http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com

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Sorcha-Richardson

SORCHA RICHARDSON (New York, USA / Dublin, Ireland)

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Sorcha Richardson is a New York-based songwriter. 2013 saw the release of Sorcha Richardson’s latest EP ‘Last Train’ on Paris-based independent label Crosswalk Records. An earlier EP  ‘Sleep Will Set Me Free’ from 2012 (featuring ‘I Heart NYC’ and ‘Birds Of Summer’) would establish recurring themes in Richardson’s songwriting — longing, connection, and a deep sense of place — where the surroundings of New York would have a growing impact on her musical output. To date, Richardson has also collaborated with numerous acts, including New York electronic outfit Colossal Mantis and the hip hop-infused project CON VOS, who release their debut EP ‘Cocoon Bloom’ in January 2014. 

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I rang in 2013 at a New Years party in a cottage in Wicklow. I was home from New York at the time, with a five-week Christmas break from college, so I packed as much music into those winter weeks as I could. By the end of January I had played at Whelan’s Ones To Watch Festival, travelled to London to meet with some music folk, played a sold out show Upstairs in Whelan’s (with a beautiful set from Little Rivers to open the night), travelled to Kaiserslautnern, Germany with my two bandmates, where we stayed in a hotel that had just been renovated from a prison (the hotel rooms kept all of the features of the prison cells), did some German radio promo, played to a packed out venue and then went on a bar crawl with the locals before flying home and going straight to the studio from Dublin airport to finish recording some songs for my EP. While at the studio I received an email from a hip-hop duo in New Jersey, interested in starting an indie-pop group and recording an EP. That was not an email I was expecting to get or a project I thought I’d become involved with, but within three weeks CON VOS was formed and our debut EP was complete.

Music took a bit of a backseat from February to May while I was busy finishing college. I majored in fiction writing and minored in film studies the nature of my degree meant that my final projects consumed a huge amount of creative energy. It feels like I spent every spare minute either reading or writing for those four months. But before I graduated, I skipped out of New York for a few days to visit some friends in LA. Then we drove down to Southern California for Cochaella, a festival I have wanted to visit for years, long before living I had any idea of living in America in my late teens and early twenties. That was one of the most fun weekends of the year.

I graduated college in May and then flew home to Dublin for a string of Irish shows. I played a headline show at The Workman’s Club with the super talented Liza Flume supporting, as well as festival sets at Knockanstockan, Castlepalooza and Indiependence and a really enjoyable show at Roasted Brown Café in Temple Bar with I Have a Tribe and Kinds & Cavaliers.

When I flew back to New York at the end of August, I had no idea what I would do when I arrived. It was the first time I was coming into the city with no plan in place. Since returning, some of the highlights have been moving to Brooklyn, spending a weekend at the Toronto Film Festival, releasing my EP, Last Train via Paris indie label Crosswalk Records, seeing Stevie Wonder play a show in Central Park, seeing Drake and Kanye West play at the Barclay’s center, seeing Laura play in a little church in Borough Hill, introducing CON VOS to the world in the form of Coast and Central Park, two tracks taken from our forthcoming EP, and have a very quintessential Thanksgiving with college friends in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
I’m really looking forward to getting home for Christmas and to be finishing out the year with a gig at Whelan’s on Dec 30th. Sails and Fears, two of my favourite Irish bands of the year, are supporting, so I’m really happy to have them on the bill. I’ve had both bands on repeat since discovering their music. Some other musicians that have soundtracked my year include Daughter, Wilsen, Foals, Jessie Ware, Haim, Lorde, Sampha, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, Kyson, Volcano Choir Polica, FKA Twigs, Villagers, Blood Orange, Winter Aid, Slow Skies, I Have a Tribe, Rae Morris, Lovelier Other, Pale Seas and London Grammar. American Hustle, Behind the Candelabra and Enough Said were all films that I enjoyed a lot and Breaking Bad, VEEP, Modern Family and Friends were most commonly played on TV.

—Sorcha Richardson

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‘Last Train EP’ by Sorcha Richardson is available now on Crosswalk Records.

http://sorcharichardson.com
http://crosswalkrecords.com

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James-Murphy

YVONNE MCGUINNESS (London, UK / Cork, Ireland)

Yvonne McGuinness is an Irish artist who is currently living and working in London. McGuinness’s practice encompasses performance, video, photography and writing. Her work often takes the form of video works, which are sometimes a documentation of a performance or a stand alone film. Recent works such as ‘Procession’ (2012) where she staged a procession on the island of Inis Oírr off the West Coast of Ireland which was documented and made into film. Another recent work the film ‘This is between us’ (2011), was about the artists relationship with her mother. 

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2013. It was a good one for me. I got out more, I saw more things, I heard more things. I went to Body and Soul for the first time and never wanted to leave. Apart from the the bigger gigs (Jon Hopkins and James LCD Soundsystem my favs) I never wanted to leave the ‘our house’ tent. Every night it rocked with unpretentious hands in the air songs and I haven’t danced liked that since 1999. I try to be an artist but most of the time I lament on not being one but then I see certain shows and I think there’s a place for me and desperately want to make things. Laure Prouvost and her show at the Whitechapel, London was one of those catalyst moments. She’s French, she’s just won the Turner Prize — a bit too prematurely I think — so you’re going to know a lot more about her. She makes films that are funny, odd and brilliant and they stay with you despite their constant shift in register with sound and image. Place and event and all time good community festival and just a really positive weekend was Feile Na Bealtaine in Dingle. This is run by the community which is what we Irish are good at. It was heartfelt and uncommercial and I met some amazing people. Every night there was something great on, one of my best gigs of the year was This Is How We Fly at the St James Chapel, home of Other Voices, get their new album it’s stunning. On a closing note I’m reading ‘The Golden Notebook’ again, by Doris Lessing. She just died, she was a fierce lady, a Nobel Lauriet and she’s off somewhere now with Seamus Heaney, Lou Reed, Nelson Mandela and Peter O’Toole doing the do.

—Yvonne McGuinness

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http://yvonnemcguinness.com

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jon-Hopkins-Immunity

MARY NALLY, DROP EVERYTHING (Galway, Ireland)

Mary Nally is the creative force behind Drop Everything, a free contemporary cultural event which takes place in the picturesque surroundings of Inis Oírr, Galway. Designed to encourage and inspire creative exchange between artists and audience alike, 2013’s programme included No Way Back featuring Frank B, John Daly & Ger Z, Bande Apartment, February & Mars, White Collar Boy — among others — and a live set from Steffi & Virginia on Inis Oírr in July. Drop Everything’s 2014 festival will take place on Inis Oírr, Galway from 23rd to 25th May 2014.

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I’ve been asked for my highlights in everything. Now there’s been quite a few from breaking in the backdoor of the Nicolas Jaar party at some palazzo during the Venice Biennale to having the chats and super lolz with Richard James at Pleasure Principle.

Between 15 festivals, at least 7 significant parties, 5 live shows, a fair few art exhibits, one or two clubnights, a few random mad ones and all else in between… these, in no particular order but sort of chronologically are my top memories, highlights and magic moments from 2013.

1. –Lightshow at my absolute favourite Gallery ever the Hayward, David BatchelorCerith Wyn Evans and Jim Campbell’s pieces were particularly captivating and class in this group show.

2. –Beirut, one of the most interesting places I have ever been. I now am on first name terms with half of the publicans there, enjoyed more than one world class lunch at the restaurant Tawlet and can’t wait to go back and take up smoking and hang with the aul lads in the deadliest fucking record shop on earth.

3. -Dublin City’s most interesting festival (in my opinion) OFFSET, three days of not stop design talk brilliance. Kate Moross won with this line, “If you can’t do it. Learn how.”

4. -A roadtrip to Carrick-On-Shannon to the Phase One festival with the gent that is Cian Ó Cíobháin, the tunes & sandwiches he made us for said roadtrip definitely get a “the highlight of the year” award.

5. –Pleasure Principle in Cornwall. Not one bad set all weekend but TNGHT took the overall gold from me.

6. –Ballymaloe Lit Fest for some random foods, drinks and garden walks.  Alys Fowler is definitely one of my hero’s of the year.  Check out her column in the Guardian and have a go at planting things.

7. -VENICE,  The Venice Biennale, the highlight of my every two years. It needs no introduction and there’s no point in an explanation. It’s just everything. Art overload. Party overload. Prosecco overload. 2013 included moments like James Lavelle giving me his phone number, losing the phone ten minutes later and missing the flight home. Time of my life!

8. – Boris Festival of Writing and Ideas where PJ Harvey was the main draw but Michael Craig-Martin was the main event. What a legend.

9. – Body&Soul Festival, a given. JON HOPKINS was beyond a doubt the superstar of this show, although Mother’s rave in the woods under the stars and the sparkle of a discoball did hit all the magical notes.

10. – Inis Oírr, particularly the sunset on our impromptu party with Steffi & Virginia, a super special one that one will last long after the sun goes down on this year.

11. – John Gerrard’s show and lecture for this years Galway Arts Festival. Mindblowingly good.

12. – Inis Turk, lolled out there with a new crew of keepers, midnight swims and falling stars make for yearly highlights but our charted boat to Inishark to find the 4Bothies Gallery is stand out sensational.

13. – No Way Back – a party myself and my lil friends threw. I can safely say the John Daly/Ger Z combo dropping this track at 5am is the stuff that highlights are made from. But following nights lolz and stories with the bff crew on a rollover in a hotel called The Rio are the extra special moments that really count.

14. -The Electric Picnic gets a shout out, not for it’s messy site but for sets from BjorkThe Knife and the David Byrne/St.Vincent duo. Perfection at its best.

15. -Dinner and a Show with Neil Watkins and Co. Exceptional night at Dublin Fringe.

16. –Leonard Cohen one week and Fleetwood Mac another.

17. -Without a doubt the ultimate highlight of my year has nothing to do with music or lolz or amazing food, mind blowing art or a Rick Owens fashion show. It was October 1st, when a man named Herman Wallace was freed from prison. He spent over 40 years in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit and finally his conviction was overturned. A bitter sweet victory. Know this mans story. A true, true hero.

18. -Watching a Saints game in a bar that is really more like a garage called Little’s People Place in New Orelans is major memorable as is the polar opposite tour of NeueHouse in Manhattan, incredible set up for the creative elite.

19.- October turning to November in Iceland. The Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky as I stepped out of Keflavík Aiport and waited for a bus to Reykjavík. There for Iceland Airwaves and it’s stars were Jon HopkinsSin FangMúm and Omar Souleyman. Also Sóley’s secret gig in her garage and the party we threw in a bar called Dolly with Clareman Daithí.

20. – The last weekend of November spent in a country manor somewhere in Meath surrounded by deadly pals when this tune dropped.

21. – The Dingle Peninsula. There for some Other Voices lolz – Alice Maher talking about life at Banter and scoring a ticket to see John Grant close the show in St James’ are up there in highlight territory… but looking out at the Blaskets on an overcast Monday afternoon and a drive over the Conor Pass seeing the December sun begin to set over Dingle Bay in the rear view mirror is how I’ll remember this trip.

And so it goes 2013. All that’s left now are a few debauched Christmas parties, reading all the newspapers ‘A Year in Pictures’, brandy & baileys with the bffs on Christmas Eve and dancing from 23.59 New Year’s Eve until the sun rises on 2014.

2013, done.
2014, let’s do this.
*update – oh and meeting this lad.

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Drop Everything will take place May 23-25, 2014 at Inis Oírr, Co. Galway, Ireland.

http://www.dropeverything.net

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Lucurecia_Dalt_by_Catalina_Perez_2

LUCRECIA DALT (Berlin, Germany)

Colombian-born and Berlin-based artist Lucrecia Dalt released her latest album — ‘Syzygy’ — this October on Berlin-based independent label Human Ear Music. The album (follow-up to the wonderful ‘Commotus’) confirms Dalt’s status as one of the most intriguing composers making music today. Whereas previous album ‘Commotus’ stemmed from bass-driven compositions, ‘Syzygy’ finds Dalt shifting the sonic palette to a more dreamy, ambient-textured palette (she could not use the bass notes as her apartment was in close proximity to the metro line). Film provides much inspiration for Dalt’s practice as a musician, and cites the film work of John Cassavettes, Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman as influences for ‘Syzygy’. 

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List of favorite things from 2013

I have a top 2 records of the year: Jerusalem in my heart – Mo7it Al-Mo7it and Connan Mockasin – Caramel.
but,
there are random things I enjoyed a lot this 2013 like (just as they appear in my memory):

Mac Demarco – Rock and roll night club (the first song of this album)
the concert that “Don The Tiger” gave at Miscelanea in Barcelona
the concert that “za!” gave at Apolo in Barcelona
the concert that Stephan Mathieu gave at KW in Berlin
Julia Holter performing “try to make yourself a work of art”, Corey (the drummer) suggested once to do an extended version of it, I couldn’t agree more!
Touring with Suuns
I hate absinthe
Touring with Julia Holter
I love German wine
I also love Catalan wine
moving to Berlin
I miss the fruits in Colombia
there’s this track by Holden called ‘Seven Stars’
Playing darts with Jason Grier and Ekkerhard Ehlers.
I love Landjäger
Strangely, I stopped liking coffee this year, but I still like to smell it, prepare it, watching people enjoying a cup of coffee.
Realising that a group of people a la “Savage detectives” of Bolaño, existed in Berlin (and they are friends of mine)
Realising that Gena Rowlands is my favorite actress after seeing ‘Opening Night’ by John Cassavetes (and ‘Gloria’ and ‘A Woman Under The Influence’)
I think I saw ‘Deserto Rosso’ around 8 times this year, it was the movie that guided ‘Syzygy’ along with ‘Daydream’ (pink film from 1964), and ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’
I watched ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ by Herzog on a train.
I realised I love to make music on trains, I can say that I could make an album only on trains but that won’t happen.
Working in the production of a series of podcasts called “the utopia is possible: ICSID Ibiza, 1971” for the Radio Web Macba.
I like this Tirzah – Micachu song, a lot!
Best discoveries: Lauren Fairon, Camino al desván “581”, Krzysztof Komeda – “Alfred Behind Sledge”, Tools you can trust.
Most played song in November: Ween – “I play it off legit”
I’m not a library music geek, but there are two library music records that changed my life: Alessandro Alessandroni – Romance and Drama and Eric Vann – Bass Moods.
I realised that the music I like the most have a sixtisomething Italian touch to it.
I’m happy that the “meridian brothers” exist.
I still haven’t finished ‘Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse.
I started to read ‘The House Of Leaves’ by Mark Z. Danielewski yesterday.
I made “inframince” on the 8th of January of 2013.
I tried to get lost in Barcelona but I couldn’t, it’s easier to get lost in Berlin.
I’m learning German, and trying not to forget Catalan.
I like Mirage Hall and Elli by Dirty Beaches.
Something important: I became a Spanish Citizen in 2013.
I became a better cook, it’s a bit scary because I could see myself being only a cook and…. ok ok, I will keep up with my music, promise!
but, maybe I could just do mixtapes? oh nein.
My dearest (experienced) filmmakers: I wish I was working more in music for films, give me a call.
I liked doing shows on banana scent fog, light engineers always got a shiny eye look when I requested the fog machine.

—Lucrecia Dalt

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‘Syzygy’ by Lucrecia Dalt is available now on Human Ear Music.

http://www.lucreciadalt.com
http://www.humanearmusic.de

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directorsound

NICHOLAS PALMER, DIRECTORSOUND (Dorset, UK)

Directorsound is the moniker for Dorset-based musician Nicholas Palmer. As well as comprising one half of the musical duo The A. Lords (who collaborated with Mark Fry on 2012’s ‘I Lived In Trees’ album), Palmer’s Directorsound project has thus far created a string of gorgeous pastoral folk, jazz and exotica-inspired albums, culminating this year with the release of current studio album ‘I Hunt Alone’ (Second Language) and ‘Other Rivers’, a collection of fourteen previously unreleased Directorsound tracks (available now on Directorsound’s Bandcamp Page). 

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I’ll confess that fairly typically I’ve been largely ignorant of new musical releases this year. From what I have heard though the obvious standout was Áine O’Dwyer’s ‘Anything Bright Or Startling?’, a triumphant studio recorded culmination of the vast talents of its maker. Otherwise it’s been a year of boxsets. So, the 10 disc complete works of Mahler dominated my listening for several months. Then, partly for research for a record I’m due to make next summer I exploited the 50 year expiration of copyright of a whole load of classic Blue Note records by picking up a whole load of reissues for next to nothing. Art Blakey’s ‘Orgy in Rhythm Volume 2’ and Stan Getz’s ‘Cool Velvet’ being the standouts. I also finally completed my purchasing of all of Pharoah Sanders Impulse album’s with the superb ‘Elevation’.

Live highlights included the two-day Gamelanathon festival at the Southbank and catching the Diamond Family Archive a couple of times over the year. A little like watching Crazy Horse fronted by Robert Wyatt in the backroom of a London pub. I also had the great honour of playing the Second Language night at Café Oto on a superb bill with Colleen and Áine O’Dwyer who I had to dauntingly follow.

But mainly it’s been a year of staying in watching far too many films to mention. I had a period where I re-watched the entire filmography of Dario Argento films over successive nights. Only this time I finally bothered with Phenomena and was amazed by what I’d been missing. It could quite possibly have the most gloriously absurd end set-piece of any film I’ve watched in 2013 or indeed any other year. Then the Herzog season at the BFI gave me the wonderful and rare opportunity to see some of his films on the big screen. Worth noting too is John Pilger’s ‘Utopia’, that saw him return to the issues of his 1985 film ‘The Secret Country’ concerning Australia’s historical and contemporary treatment of its indigenous population.

This year’s reading has been somewhat dominated by academic musings and policy documents of which I won’t bore the reader with. But Steinbeck’s ‘East Of Eden’ perfectly accompanied me on a week’s rare unmusical holiday to Kerry at the end of a fine summer. Profound and ambitious family sagas are a wonderful traveling companion it would seem.

—Nicholas Palmer

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‘I Hunt Alone’ by Directorsound is available now on Second Language.

http://directorsound.bandcamp.com
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

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jamesmcvinnie

James McVinnie (London, UK)

James McVinnie is a highly prolific organist and keyboardist who released ‘Cycles’ – an album comprising organ pieces written by his Bedroom Community labelmate Nico Muhly – and also features Nadia Sirota, Chris Thompson and Simon Wall. McVinnie’s musical career to date has been a fascinating one; he was Assistant Organist of Westminster Abbey between 2008 and 2011 and he previously held Organ Scholarships at St Albans Cathedral, and at Clare College, Cambridge. McVinnie has also collaborated with many contemporary musicians – including Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sufjan Stevens, Sam Amidon and Beth Orton – demonstrating his immense musicianship and impressive versatility as a composer. ‘Cycles’ is available now on Icelandic independent label Bedroom Community. 

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One of the highlights of my 2013 was playing in Irene Buckley’s new score for Carl Dreyer’s iconic early film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Dreyer’s direction together with Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s astonishing portrayal of Joan of Arc has given this film cult status and is widely accepted as one of the most outstanding, harrowing and emotionally charged films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, then get on to it. Tragically, two separate fires destroyed two original versions of the film in quick succession soon after it was made, and for decades it was impossible to find an authentic version of what Dreyer had originally intended. In 1981 an employee of a Oslo mental hospital found several film canisters in a closet that were labelled as being The Passion of Joan of Arc. Miraculously, this version was found to be a copy of Dreyer’s original film prior to censorship by the church and state, and so in recent years this film has been in widespread circulation. We don’t know what music would have accompanied this film when it was premiered in 1928. Irene Buckley’s score was commissioned by the Cork International Film Festival and premiered in 2012 and is for organ, electronics and soprano. For me it is hard to imagine this film without this music. Irene’s skill at moulding and melding plainsong-like vocal melodies with ambient soaked electronics, punctuated and coloured by the organ adds another dimension to this harrowing piece of cinema. The bass frequencies of a pipe organ in a large acoustic are largely impossible to recreate successfully using even the best of sound systems. At several points throughout the film, Irene’s score calls for the lowest notes of the organ (made by sending air through pipes which are up to 32 feet in length) to be played simultaneously, creating throbbing, visceral sounds which are felt in the pit of the stomach rather than heard by the ear. We had three wonderful and highly charged showings of the film in Glasgow, Cork and in London’s Union Chapel and we drank buckets of Chablis after each one in order to recover.

Midsummer for me this year, as in previous years, was spent in Iceland. There is something wildly exhilarating about being there during the month of June. With nearly 24 hours of sunshine, everyone buzzes around on cloud nine. [There was a bizarre moment when Nico Muhly and I flew back to England for 48 hours to play at the St John’s May Ball in Cambridge – bizarre because it was suddenly dark at 11pm and people went to bed.] Whilst in Iceland I celebrated the wedding of two dear friends with many other dear friends on Viðey Island and then I got a tiny plane to the North West Fjords to play Bach for a week. I’ve been going to Iceland for years to holiday or to play in various music festivals, but it is wonderful to now be an official part of the diverse and inspiring group of artists at Bedroom Community. You can read about Cycles, my debut release of music by Nico Muhly here and you can buy it here. I’m really pleased with how this recording has turned out, both in terms of its sound but also how the physical CD looks. I returned to Iceland in August via concerts in Sweden to give a concert at the HallgrÍmskirkja, Reykjavik’s landmark church on top of the hill. It houses a spectacular Klais organ which is stunning both to look at and to listen to. Later in the year, in late October Bedroom Community offered an off-venue concert in the same church at the start of the 2013 Iceland Airwaves Festival. For me, this was one of the most memorable concerts of the year. It was wonderful to have played to a huge appreciative capacity crowd, many of whom were lying in the aisles gazing up at the church’s vaulted ceiling, and who would not necessarily have even considered the pipe organ as an instrument worth listening to. I also played a little concert in Kaffibarinn on the Yamaha home organ (think 1980s bossa nova, but expect much more), much of which you can hear on Yule 2013, Bedroom Community’s Christmas special album (get it here). There is a fun little clip of Bedroom Community’s Airwaves contributions here.

December has been busy with the usual round of Christmas carol services and concerts including appearances with various groups including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the choir of St James’s Palace. I’m looking forward to a busy start to 2014 with a couple of weeks of swimming and intensive music-learning in Iceland in preparation for a concert I’m giving in the Royal Festival Hall at London’s Southbank Centre on March 30th. Everyone should come – I’m playing works by Bach and a new piece specially composed for me by Martin Creed, artist and composer. I’m also planning recordings of Bach and another featuring more new music for the organ.

James McVinnie

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‘Cycles’ by James McVinnie is available now on Bedroom Community.

http://www.jamesmcvinnie.co.uk
http://www.bedroomcommunity.net

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Julia Kent by Fionn Reilly 06

JULIA KENT (New York, USA)

Vancouver-born and New York-based cellist Julia Kent released her third full-length solo album, ‘Character’, this year on the Leaf label. Alongside previous solo works ‘Delay’ and ‘Green and Grey’, Julia Kent has produced an immensely innovative and highly distinctive body of work to date. Kent had previously collaborated with numerous bands including Antony and the Johnsons’ ‘I Am A Bird Now’ album, where Kent’s cello playing provides the perfect counterpoint to Antony Hegarty’s distinctive vocals. 2013 saw Julia Kent tour extensively both in the US and Europe promoting her current solo album ‘Character’.

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For me, 2013 was a year filled with glorious music: records by The Necks, Helen Money, Teho Teardo, Lubomyr Melnyk, Lori Goldston, and many other artists were essential accompaniment to what felt like a lot of time spent in transit. Music is always a fascinating travel companion: it can take you on a parallel journey to the actual journey you are undertaking, creating a soundtrack to wherever you might find yourself. Different environments inflect what you are listening to, and vice versa. The records that I loved this year brought their own atmospheres to wherever I listened to them, whether a subway in New York City, a train somewhere in Europe, or an airport in that limbo territory that is unique to airports.

In terms of live shows: this year I had the joy of playing with Teho Teardo live for the first time: He’s a multifaceted composer whose music I have admired for a long time; he has a really special energy and it was wonderful to have the experience of playing with him and his fabulous cellist Martina Bertoni in Ferrara. Also in Italy, over the past year, I have been lucky enough to play in some spectacularly beautiful venues: churches, theatres, palaces, mountain towers and magical gardens. In Italy the venues and the audiences are always special, and I feel fortunate to have the chance to play there often.

This past year I also encountered the amazing pianist and composer Lubomyr Melnyk live for the first time, in a church, at the Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg. His performance was completely transcendent: an incredible flow of music like a waterfall, or some other natural phenomenon. And just last week here in New York I saw an equally transportative concert by Stars of the Lid (also in a church…churches are always such wonderful environments to hear music—but also chilly!).

Jordi Savall’s concert at the White Lights festival at Alice Tully Hall was another high point of the past year. It traced the relationships between various ethnic musics in the Balkan regions and was both conceptually and historically fascinating while, at the same time, immensely moving in a very elemental way. It demonstrated that, however trite it may sound, music is, indeed a universal language; a way of communication that I am very grateful to be able to share. I hope that this new year brings more opportunities to do that…

—Julia Kent

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‘Character’ by Julia Kent is available now on Leaf.

http://www.juliakent.com
http://www.theleaflabel.com

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happy holidays from nyc!

‘Happy Holidays from NYC!’, Julia Kent, December 2013.

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To conclude, we’d like to add our own list of our favourite albums (in no order) from 2013:

Nils Frahm – Spaces (Erased Tapes)
Julia Holter – Loud City Song (Domino)
William Tyler – Impossible Truth (Merge)
Holden – The Inheritors (Border Community)
Colleen – The Weighing Of The Heart (Second Language)
Julia Kent – Character (Leaf)
Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw (Paradise Of Bachelors)
Lucrecia Dalt – Syzygy (Human Ear Music)
The National – Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)
Jon Hopkins – Immunity (Domino)
William Onyeabor – Who is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop)
Laraaji – Celestial Music 1978-2011 (All Saints)
Eden Ahbez – Eden’s Island [Re-Issue] (Righteous/Cherry Red)

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We’d like to give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed their words, shared their wisdom, reflected on their music and — most importantly — given their time over the last twelve months. Most of all, we would like to say a very special thank you to each and every person for reading. We feel really fortunate to be able to do this and we hope to feature many more musicians and albums in the coming year.
Happy New Year.

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Chosen One: Hiss Golden Messenger

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Interview with M.C. Taylor, Hiss Golden Messenger.

“I think I am generally trying to experience a particular feeling when I listen to music, something that makes me feel openhearted and happy, even if the music is in a minor key. Like, happy to be alive and lucky to be experiencing this genuine feeling of emotional fullness that seems so fleeting and elusive. Humans live very emotionally mediated existences and it’s wonderful to experience things that make you want to get up and fly.”

—M.C. Taylor

Words & Illustrations: Craig Carry

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“The way to do it is to put as much life into the song as I can. You can either get it to breathe or you can’t.”
(—Levon Helm)

The Band’s Levon Helm’s feelings on music can wholeheartedly be appreciated – and experienced – in the songbook of Hiss Golden Messenger. Much like The Band’s defining records – such as their debut “Music From Big Pink” and subsequent self-titled classic from 1969 – the music of North Carolina-based Hiss Golden Messenger will similarly continue to live and breathe long after the dust has settled for many generations to come.

Hiss Golden Messenger comprises the Durham, North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor and multi-instrumentalist and recordist Scott Hirsch, who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Additionally, Terry Lonergan plays drums and percussion and – together with Hirsch and Taylor – combine to form one of the finest rhythm sections around. The dynamic between the trio recalls, for me, those beautiful Giant Sand records featuring the immense talents of Howe Gelb, Joey Burns and John Convertino. Anything and everything, it seems, is possible. The history of Hiss Golden Messenger can be traced back to the late nineties to another much-acclaimed American band – San Francisco’s The Court & Spark – who featured both M.C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch as well as Alex Stimmel and James Kim. From 1998 onwards, The Court & Spark produced a string of country, folk and rock influenced albums including their classic 2001 LP “Bless You” culminating in their 2006 “Hearts” album on the Absolutely Kosher label. The band stopped the following year – after six albums – with Taylor moving to North Carolina and Hirsch to New York.

Hiss Golden Messenger’s four albums to date – culminating in the most recent “Haw” on the North Carolina-based Paradise Of Bachelors label – can rightly place the band to the forefront of the Americana music tradition. Like Uncle Tupelo before them, and fellow alt country acts such as Portland Oregon’s Richmond Fontaine and Tucson Arizona’s Calexico today, Hiss Golden Messenger’s songbook is not simply one to appreciate but to rather cherish and savor. Much like The Band during the sixties and early seventies, Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger fuses the sounds of a myriad of traditions – ranging from country, soul, rock, jazz and R&B – melding them into a cohesive whole while seeking to return rock ‘n’ roll to its rural and folk roots in the process. Much like Dylan’s The Rolling Thunder Revue, Gelb’s Giant Sand, Tucson’s Calexico or Nashville’s Lambchop – while comprising a clear creative nucleus – the band naturally evolves in numerous directions picking up an array of talented musicians along the way. Hiss Golden Messenger has featured a plethora of wonderful musicians who have contributed to recording sessions, from Nashville’s William Tyler (Lambchop, Silver Jews) to members of such bands as Brightblack Morning Light, Megafun, Pelt and The Black Twig Pickers. The sheer talent and craft of musicianship, together with the magic of spontaneity and composition brings to mind The E Street Band at its finest or Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, such is the breadth and scope of musicianship on display.

This April marked the much-anticipated release of “Haw”, Hiss Golden Messenger’s fourth album and follow-up to their much-loved and widely acclaimed “Poor Moon”. “Haw” is a milestone record, not only for Hiss Golden Messenger and M.C. Taylor, but for music at large. Named after the River Haw (a tributary of the Cape Fear which flows through 110 miles of Piedmont North Carolina), the album is an ambitious, timeless, gothic gem. Interestingly, the title “Haw” can be representative, not only of the Haw River which flows through Taylor’s hometown, but it is also the name for the Siouan tribe that once lived in the river’s valley (who may have also been alternately known as the Saxapahaw or Sissipahaw). History’s last mention of the tribe is the Yamasee War of 1715-17 when they joined the Yamasee against the English colonists. Subsequently, the Haw disappear from the colonial historical record. Over some three hundred years later, the River Haw flows on.

“Haw” draws much inspiration from history, the passage of time, Biblical narratives, and, perhaps most of all, from the land itself. Like the great American poet Charles Wright or photographer Robert Adams, the land is represented in a spiritual manner. The landscape is to be appreciated, cherished, devoted. As Robert Adams has written: “We rely, I think, on landscape photography to make intelligible to us what we already know. It is the fitness of a landscape to one’s experience of life’s condition and possibilities that finally makes a scene important or not.” (from Adams’s essay “Truth And Landscape”). The album also features songs about love, faith, fatherhood, reverie, pain, struggle, hope and redemption. All life’s emotions are distilled into Taylor’s impeccably crafted songs. Indeed, such writers as Steinbeck, McCarthy and Wright can be seen in Taylor’s dark tales – often drawing its narrative from Biblical scenes and characters – creating modern-day parables in the process.

“O Let me be the one I want / O Let me love the one I want” sings M.C. Taylor on album opener “Red Rose Nantahala” over the lush backdrop of soulful southern blues and gothic country. The song provides a perfect introduction to “Haw” as such contrasts of darkness and light and hope and despair are established at Haw’s source, where Taylor’s pleas of “O Lord make me happy” are repeated over Hirsch’s intense, guitar-heavy, visceral playing. Gorgeous strings, brass and gospel backing vocals are added to the many layers of Hiss Golden Messenger’s unique sound on “Sufferer (Love My Conqueror)”, where Taylor sings: “You suffered enough my lonely one” before a heavenly string arrangement fills the air, adding a beautiful sense of hope to its majestic close.

M.C. Taylor’s son Elijah is the subject of the upbeat “I’ve Got a Name for the Newborn Child”, a song written while his wife was expecting their first child. The song is both beautifully direct and played like a lullaby offering faith, reassurance and much love. The song also draws parallels, for me, to Rainer Ptacek’s beautiful song “Rudy With A Flashlight” a song about his own son (a song that would be covered later by Evan Dando’s The Lemonheads). The intricate instrumental treasure “Hat Of Rain” ventures forth next, a stunningly sparse guitar and drum arrangement recalling the immersive instrumentals of Burns and Convertino’s Calexico where a heightened sense of atmosphere is conveyed while aesthetically offering a wonderful linking device to one of the album’s centerpieces, “Devotion.” With a slowed-down tempo, Taylor’s vocals are more fragile here, almost fading in the mix somewhat, echoing the dark lyrics about the workaday life: “The taxman comes, he takes all my wages” sings Taylor, which is reminiscent to me of Springsteen’s “Nebraska”, and “Factory” in particular: “It’s the working, the working, just the working life.” “Come protect my soul” are the opening lyrics to the song, again reinforcing the notion of a Protector or some kind of a guiding light – a theme expressed throughout “Haw”, while also a song full of much contrast, principally between the hope and joy provided by childhood and the worry and fear brought along with the pressures of parenthood.

“I’ll turn my face to the waterside” are the opening lyrics to “The Serpent Is Kind (Compared To Man)”, again referencing the river Haw which is used wonderfully as a linking or framing device across the album, much like Minnesota photographer Alec Soth’s “Sleeping By The Mississippi” where the histories and much-storied river offers the framework for Soth to build his own personal journey. The song is a country gem and lyrically, the song deals with “working the land” like the central character’s father: “He said: “Don’t be afraid when the snake is in your hand / the serpent is kind (compared to man).” Again, sequencing of the album is effortless, as the upbeat, irresistible guitar led “Sweet As John Hurt” follows, a song which directly references the river Haw (“I come from the bottom of the River Haw”) while pedal steel guitars combine to the Hiss Golden Messenger sound to wonderful effect, its stunning arrangement echoes Richmond Fontaine’s classic 2003 “Post To Wire” LP where pristine country-tinged songs wonderfully augment Willy Vlautin’s character-based songs.

My own personal highlight is “Cheerwine Easter”, the kind of song that can (quietly) move mountains. The song’s biblical references extend to include the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. The highlight of the song, for me, is when Taylor quietly sings: “This is the day of reckoning” before Bobby Crow’s meandering two-minute saxophone solo evokes the spirit of Clarence Clemons, the saxophone and piano arrangement is as awe-inspiring as the sounds of Ethiopiques legend Mulatu Astatke. Musicianship of such brilliance is equally apparent on instrumental interlude “Hark Maker (Glory Rag)” where the fiddle playing by Joseph Decosimo is immaculate. The piece is recorded over a field recording featuring the sounds of barking dogs, chirping birds and an enveloping dusk. Darkness is falling and the sun (both the earlier “yellow dawn” and “golden sun” have now faded and receded beneath the horizon). “Busted Note” highlights the scope and range of Terry Lonergan’s drumming prowess, while Taylor is once more backed by the wonderful singing voice of Sonia Turner bringing gospel traditions to the country and soul sonic palette of Hiss Golden Messenger’s sound, recalling Lambchop’s timeless “Nixon” album.

Album closer is the timeless prayer-like ballad “What Shall Be (Shall Be Enough)”, recalling such country and folk singers as Woody Guthrie and Rainer Ptacek, the addition of such a wonderfully sparse song to proceedings reminds me of the additions of “Afraid” (on Nico’s “Desertshore”) or “And You Need Me” by Dave Cousins (on “All Our Own Work” by The Strawbs) where a hidden treasure quietly speaks to the heart of the listener. A new dawn is here as a new sun rises to herald a new day and a new beginning.

“Haw” is an album made to keep the dark away, to remember the important things in life and to value them above all else. It is an album about seeing light through the darkness, songs of perseverance and hope. And that is the true gift M.C. Taylor has given to each and every one of us lucky enough to cross paths with the beautiful “Haw”. May it continue on its beautiful meandering journey forevermore.

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“Haw” is out now on Paradise Of Bachelors. 

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Interview with M.C. Taylor, Hiss Golden Messenger.

Firstly, congratulations on the absolutely magnificent “Haw”, an album of such beauty and hope and as timeless as albums come. My first time seeing you perform live was during your tour in Europe last May on your “Practically Friends” tour alongside your longtime friend and collaborator William Tyler.
It must have been such a joy to travel, tour and perform live together around Europe?

Thank you for the kind words and enthusiasm. William is a good and inspirational friend. He is a hard-working musician with an expansive vision of what music can be. I love him.

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It’s also such a fitting “pairing” as both yourself and William have been responsible for the creation of two utterly majestic records this year – “Haw” and “Impossible Truth” – you had mentioned how you hoped to someday get to record a set of songs with William as a duo. Are there plans to do so at some future stage? (I sincerely hope so).

Well, a duo record would be fun to make. We haven’t talked at any length about doing that. But we did recently record about 75% worth of a record in a group with Phil and Brad Cook (of Megafaun) and Terry Lonergan (of HGM). The material on that one is all covers, stuff like Link Wray, Mickey Newbury, David Wiffen and Don Williams, material we all love. I’m not sure what will come of it, but it was a nice day to spend recording music with good friends.

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You are based in Durham, North Carolina. Of course, the landscape and environment play such a significant part in your songwriting and outlook as a songwriter.
And “Haw” in particular seems to draw a lot from your own homeplace, particular in songs like the beautiful country-tinged gem “Sweet As John Hurt”.
I’d love to gain an insight into what it was like growing up in North Carolina?
Apart from music, what else inspired you growing up, what places/people had the biggest influence on you as songwriter and musician?

Well, I didn’t grow up in North Carolina. I grew up in California, lived for many years in San Francisco, and moved to the North Carolina Piedmont region in 2007. I started exploring American traditional and vernacular music when I was maybe 18 or so. The roots of a lot of that music are Southern, and I felt it was incumbent on me to actually live in the American South to gain a better understanding of a very complex place. All I ever wanted was to play rhythm guitar in a country band.

My father is a guitarist and a singer and has been a big influence on me in terms of the way that music can exist around a house and in a family. I remember the good feeling of being in the house on a Sunday morning when I was a small child and hearing him playing and singing. I recall it more as a feeling than anything else. That was church, for our family, that sort of loose gathering to listen and sing and just be together. I want that for my own family too.

Since I was very young, I’ve been obsessive about music, it’s among the most important things in my life. I feel fortunate to be able to play it and be around it.

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Themes of family, heritage, identity and history are so wonderfully evoked in your songs, creating timeless modern-day parables of near biblical proportions in the process.
I would love if you could talk about your own family tree and roots? Is there an Irish connection there somewhere in fact?

There has been a lot of music in my family. My paternal grandfather was a singer, as is my dad, who also plays guitar. My mom’s father was also a singer; during World War II he was in the service as an entertainer, mainly singing and playing trumpet. My brother is a classical trumpet player and he freelances with a variety of orchestras; he is married to a classical French horn player. My sister is a great singer (both she and my dad sang on Poor Moon). Music has always been interwoven throughout my life. As far as collecting records, though, I think I’m probably in the deepest.

My mother’s side of the family is from Wales, a town called Pontypool on the edge of the South Wales coalfields. We visited there once, it seemed like a hard town. My father’s family is German. No Irish connection as far as I’m aware, though I feel a kinship with Ireland. I love playing there and traveling through there. I’m always a little sad when I leave, and not just because of Ryanair baggage overage fees.

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The title “Haw” must be one of my all-time favourite titles for a record. As you have said before, it can mean a number of things: Named after the river Haw; after a native American tribe that disappeared; and, indeed “haw” as in to laugh. I’m very curious to find out at what stage of the recording of the album did you decided upon the title? (What’s most incredible to me is how such a complex, ambitious and multi-themed album can get distilled into a one-syllable-word and three letters.)

I think the title came after most of the tracks were recorded but I was finishing up some overdubs in the town of Graham, about 30 minutes west of Durham. There is an exit for the Haw River off the highway, and I had already sung about the Haw in “Sweet as John Hurt.” I wanted something simple but evocative (for me, anyways), and it was right there waiting for me. I recall really hoping that nobody else had used it as a record title, which they hadn’t.

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Hiss Golden Messenger’s rhythm section – the truly special triangle of yourself, Scott Hirsch on bass and Terry Lonergan on drums – creates such a magical connection where the spirit of discovery and spark of creativity is always in evidence (for me, it brings to mind the triangle of Gelb, Convertino and Burns on early Giant Sand records where “anything” seems possible).
I would love if you could talk about both Scott Hirsch and Terry Lonergan, how you met and what they bring to the Hiss Golden Messenger sound?

Scott and I have been playing together in bands since we were 18, so just shy of twenty years. We both grew up in Southern California. I met Terry on a whim in 2007 and it’s proven to be a very important relationship; at this point there aren’t many other drummers that I’d want to play with. Terry grew up in New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi, and his drumming is steeped in rhythms of the South, which is important for me to have as the backbone of full-band HGM recordings. As a team, Terry and Scott are really locked in. I’ve always loved rhythm sections that are a team—Carlton and Family Man Barrett, Roger Hawkins and David Hood, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks. Scott and Terry are in that lineage for sure.

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The album is beautifully framed lyrically by the lines “O Lord let me be happy” (Red Rose Nantahala) and “what shall be shall be enough” (on album closer). The album deals with much darkness and pain while ultimately revealing a beautiful sense of hope and “life” – very much like such albums as “On The Beach”, “Nebraska” or “Blood On The Tracks”. Lyrically, how would you describe “Haw”?

Haw was a darker record for me. There is more confusion on Haw than on the previous HGM record, Poor Moon. That’s what I think, anyways—others think differently. Blood on the Tracks is a good reference point, the tone of that record was a topic of conversation a lot while we were working on Haw, particularly the early version before he re-recorded it.

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Such a breathtaking diversity of sounds and song traditions are delved into so effortlessly on Hiss Golden Messenger albums, particularly on “Haw.” From the sublime gospel-tinged “Sufferer (Love My Conqueror)” to the awe-inspiring “Cheerwine Easter” (the 2-minute saxophone solo is reminiscent of the great Mulatu Astatke). Elsewhere, folk, blues, country and soul influences can be heard.
I would love to discover what records had the biggest impact on you growing up?
Was there a particular record that made you want to become a musician?
And, indeed, which albums continue to influence you the most today?

It’s hard to say what albums influenced me the most. I always count Traffic’s Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys as a big record in my life. I recorded it off the radio when I was young and it remains a really important one to me still. Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was huge for me, that’s still an intensely dense and lyrical album. All records by the Byrds and CSN were on pretty heavy rotation in my house growing up. The Band’s Music From Big Pink was huge too, as was Fairport’s Liege & Lief and Full House. Karen Dalton’s In My Own Time is always near the record player, and so is Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. And then all of my friends or peers that are making music, that’s another big inspiration—William, of course, and Megafaun, the Black Twig Pickers and Pelt, Nathan Salsburg, Mount Moriah and a lot more.

I think I am generally trying to experience a particular feeling when I listen to music, something that makes me feel openhearted and happy, even if the music is in a minor key. Like, happy to be alive and lucky to be experiencing this genuine feeling of emotional fullness that seems so fleeting and elusive. Humans live very emotionally mediated existences and it’s wonderful to experience things that make you want to get up and fly.

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In terms of songwriting, your songs are so beautifully written whereby the song’s characters become so real and life-like much in the same way as the great novels do. Writers like Steinbeck, James Welch (particularly “The Death Of Jim Loney”) and Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin (“Lean On Pete”‘s Charley Thompson character, for example) come to mind for me. A stunning use of imagery is also evident in your writing.
I would love to know what process is involved for you in the writing of a song – are they drafted numerous times beforehand, are they sometimes researched, are they written with the resulting “song” in mind?
Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?

Thank you. I love John Steinbeck, although I don’t know Welch or Vlautin and now I’m going to have to check them out. I generally have a couple notebooks full of sketches and notes going at any given time. When it comes time to starting writing songs, I usually go back through my notes and try to discern what thematically is going on in those pages. Some weird emotional highlight reel of my life.

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Which novels and writers do you admire the most?

I don’t know if I can rank them, but some recent reads include Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction (for the second time), Larry McMurtry’s All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers, Charles Wright’s Country Music, the Bible. I have a stack of John Macdonald mysteries that are staring me in the face right now.

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What is next for you, Mike?

Writing and recording, always. Working on coming up with the next HGM record. Also waiting on the birth of our daughter (our second child), which could literally happen at any time.

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HGM_poster_2_craigcarry

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“Haw” is out now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

http://hissgoldenmessenger.blogspot.ie
http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com

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Ten Mile Stereo

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Holden “The Inheritors” (Border Community)
James Holden’s incredible follow-up to his debut LP “The Idiots Are Winning” has been some seven years in the making. Heralded by both Four Tet’s Kieran Hebdon and Caribou/Daphni’s Dan Snaith of late, the album comprises a set of genre-defying tracks and is destined to remain at “classic” status for a long, long time to come.

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Jon Hopkins “Immunity” (Domino)
“Immunity” is the fourth solo album from Jon Hopkins and is destined to catapult the Eno collaborator to international recognition. The final epic title-track features King Creosote (who collaborated with Hopkins on the sublime “Diamond Mine”) and leaves the listener marvel at what Hopkins has created here.

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Lee Noble “Ruiner” (Bathetic)
My first time coming across the wonderful Bathetic label – based in Asheville, NC – was through Angel Olsen’s classic LP “Half Way Home”. Lee Noble’s “Ruiner” is another classic belonging to the label, comprising unique ambient/pop songs recalling Radiohead, Grouper’s Liz Harris and richly evocative ambient textures as found on pioneering labels such as Chicago’s Kranky label.

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Camera Obscura “Desire Lines” (4AD)
Glasgow’s beloved Camera Obscura released yet another classic indie-pop album this year – lead by the singularly beautiful voice of Tracyanne Campbell – ‘Desire Lines’ is the band’s eagerly awaited follow-up to gorgeous “My Maudlin Career” (also on 4AD). As always, Campbell’s songwriting is pitch-perfect, while the song arrangements are sumptuously layered echoing Spector’s wall of sound (pristine production by Tucker Martine). Features guests Paul Brainard (Richmond Fontaine) on pedal steel, Neko Case and Jim James on backing vocals.

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Denseland “Like Likes Like” (m=minimal)
Berlin-based electronic label m=minimal have been quietly releasing an intriguing string of albums over the past year. “Like Likes Like” by Denseland (featuring Hanno Leichtmann, Hannes Strobl and David Moss) is a strangely compelling array of darkly textured, minimal compositions featuring the singular vocals of David Moss.

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Califone “Stitches” (Dead Oceans)
Indie favourites Califone return with the hugely anticipated “Stitches” LP this Autumn on the Dead Oceans label. The title-track has so far been uploaded – a beautifully fragmented and fragile song – as always lead by Tim Rutili’s stunning voice and masterful lyrics. The album was written and recorded across Southern California, Arizona and Texas and is available on 3 September.

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Hiss Golden Messenger “Haw” (Paradise of Bachelors)
‘Haw’ is one of the year’s finest albums and another milestone release in Hiss Golden Messenger’s stellar discography to date. As always, the songwriting by M.C. Taylor (encompassing songs of both struggle and pain as well as songs of joy and hope) is to the forefront while songs effortlessly fuse traditions of folk, blues, soul and gospel. Follow-up to the equally sublime “Poor Moon”, “Haw” is HGM’s fourth album.

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Colin Stetson “New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light” (Constellation)
Part three in the “New History Warfare” series, gifted composer Colin Stetson is fast-becoming independent music’s crowning jewel. Long-known and admired for his astonishing array of collaborative work (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV on the Radio to name only a few), Stetson’s reputation as a solo composer has quickly earned himself the reputation for one of contemporary music’s true leading artists.

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Laurie Spiegel “The Expanding Universe” (Unseen Worlds / Philo)
While we had the great honour of co-presenting Thrill Jockey’s Mountains for their concert in Cork, one of our highlights was listening to Koen Holtkamp talk so fondly about Spiegel’s seminal masterwork “The Expanding Universe”. It’s hard to imagine these recordings were made in 1980 as they sound as fresh and as innovative today. The lovingly expanded reissue from last year is a work of true beauty and confirms “The Expanding Universe” as one of the finest (and most influential) records ever made.

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Julianna Barwick “Nepenthe” (Dead Oceans)
The wait is finally nearly over for Julianna Barwick’s follow-up to her much-celebrated “The Magic Place”, released in 2011 on Asthmatic Kitty. So far, “Pacing” (released as a limited edition 7″) and “One Half” have been made available, whetting the appetite for what will surely be one of the year’s most defining albums. Whereas Barwick’s “The Magic Place” was recorded in her Brooklyn bedroom studio, “Nepenthe” was recorded in Iceland with Alex Somers (Sigur Rós, Jónsi). “One Half” is arguably Barwick’s most beautiful work yet. LP available 20 August.

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