FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Jagjaguwar

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E2| February mix

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Part Two of our mix series for La Blogothèque. We’ve tried to include something here from as many of our favourite labels as possible. Also included is a short excerpt from an interview we did with the legendary Los Angeles-based folk singer Linda Perhacs (to coincide with the release of her second solo LP “The Soul Of All Natural Things” on Asthmatic Kitty in 2014). February’s mix also comprises a few original scores to films (“Belladonna of Sadness”, “#HORROR”, “Mistress America” and “Mustang”) where each soundtrack certainly conveys a very singular mood and spirit for their respective subjects (and films). While it’s a little foolish to single out a particular song/artist (isn’t that the complete opposite of what a mixtape is supposed to be?) we would like to conclude by mentioning someone very special whom we only recently discovered: Tia Blake (thanks to Josh Rosenthal’s gorgeous book “The Record Store of the Mind”); her sole album was 1971’s “Folksongs And Ballads” (by “Tia Blake and her folk-group”), a most beautiful and precious thing indeed.

fracturedairmix_feb16

 

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E2 | February mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

 english: http://en.blogotheque.net/2016/02/23/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e02-february-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Fire!“She Bid a Meaningless Farewell” (Rune Grammofon)
02. Dawn of Midi“Ijiraq” (Erased Tapes)
03. nonkeen“chasing god through palmyra” (R&S)
04. 1115“The Drowned World I” (Alien Transistor)
05. Julia Holter“Vasquez” (Domino)
06. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “Arthropoda” (Western Vinyl)
07. Cool Maritime“Spring” (Leaving)
08. Linda PerhacsInterview (excerpt) (Fractured Air)
09. Linda Perhacs“Parallelograms” (Kapp/Sunbeam)
10. Jóhann Jóhannsson with Hildur Guðnadóttir & Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe“End of Summer Part 4” (excerpt) (Sonic Pieces)
11. Bob Dylan“Father Of Night” (Columbia)
12. Lubomyr Melnyk “Sunshimmers” (Erased Tapes)
13. Lee Hazlewood“Hands” (MGM, Ace)
14. Masahiko Sato“Valle Incantata” (Belladonna of Sadness OST, Finders Keepers)
15. The Fabulous Luckett Brothers“Help Me to Carry On” (Honest Jon’s)
16. A Hawk And A Hacksaw“Wedding Theme (Ukraine)” (LM Dupli-Cation)
17. Calexico“When Only The Ashes Are Left” (Our Soil, Our Strength)
18. Thomas Köner“Tiento de la Luz 4” (excerpt) (Denovali)
19. Ricardo Donoso“Morning Criminal” (Denovali)
20. EMA“Amnesia Haze (Vox & Guitar Only)” (#HORROR OST, City Slang)
21. Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips“Mistress America” (Mistress America OST, Milan)
22. Alex Smoke“Fair Is Foul” (R&S)
23. Lord RAJA“Footwork” (Ghostly International)
24. Roly Porter“In System” (Tri Angle)
25. Warren Ellis“Mustang” (Mustang OST, Milan)
26. Tia Blake “The Rising of the Moon” (Water)
27. Langley Schools Music Project“Space Oddity” (Bar/None)
28. Qluster“In deinen Händen” (Bureau B)

Compiled by Fractured Air, February 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

 

Mixtape: So Etched In Memory

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soetchedinmemory_sleeve

So Etched In Memory [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/so-etched-in-memory-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Adrian Crowley ‘The Wild Boar’ (excerpt) [Chemikal Underground]
02. Benoît Pioulard ‘So Etched In Memory’ [Kranky]
03. Sam Prekop ‘Invisible’ [Thrill Jockey]
04. The Declining Winter ‘The Declining Winter and the Narrow World’ [Monopsone]
05. Katie Kim ‘Wicked Game’ [Bandcamp]
06. Low ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ [Chairkickers’ Music, Rough Trade]
07. Julianna Barwick ‘The Harbinger’ [Dead Oceans]
08. Bing & Ruth ‘TWTGA’ [RVNG Intl]
09. The White Stripes ‘This Protector’ [Sympathy For The Record Industry]
10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘Multi-Love’ [Jagjaguwar]
11. Jib Kidder ‘World of Machines’ [Domino]
12. Panda Bear ‘Boys Latin’ [Domino]
13. Little Sister ‘Somebody’s Watching You’ [Light In The Attic]
14. The Band ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ [Capitol]
15. Bixy Guidry & Percy Babineaux ‘The Waltz Of The Long Wood’ [Tompkins Square]
16. Kenny Knight ‘All My Memories’ [Paradise Of Bachelors]

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

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.
http://fracturedair.com

 

Chosen One: Sharon Van Etten

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Interview with Sharon Van Etten.

“If you work on anything long enough hopefully you’ll get better and I feel like we’re just growing.”

—Sharon Van Etten

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

sharonvanetten_arewethere

When Jersey-native and New York-based songwriter Sharon Van Etten first announced the arrival of ‘Are We There’, Van Etten’s fourth full-length and follow-up to her 2011 seminal work ‘Tramp’, she had these words to share: “I really hope that when someone puts my record on that they hear me.” Of course, Van Etten’s wishes have clearly been fulfilled. If there’s one thing we can firmly establish by now it is this: Van Etten makes music from the real world; a world of real events and real people with real feelings. Subsequently, steeped in a sometimes harsh reality, Van Etten’s songs are imbued with fears, struggles and (often) much pain. Much like Chan Marshall’s pre ‘The Greatest’ recorded output, Van Etten bravely examines her own life’s immediate surroundings and relationships to share her most innermost confessions and feelings for us all to bear witness. Through Van Etten’s songs we too can find our own deepest feelings long hidden in the shadows of some forgotten, distant dream.

‘Are We There’ is Van Etten’s first self-produced album (The National’s Aaron Dessner produced its predecessor ‘Tramp’) and features a host of wonderful musicians, including: Torres’s Mackenzie Scott on vocals (who toured extensively supporting Van Etten); Heather Woods-Broderick (on strings and vocals); Mary Lattimore (harp) as well as Van Etten’s trusted and formidable rhythm section (Zeke Hutchins on drums and David Hartley on bass). The use of vocal harmonies (Van Etten, Scott and Woods-Broderick) is a pure joy to witness. The resultant musical arrangements are stunningly cohesive and yet genuinely innovative, providing for many moments of challenging and divine musicianship — at times wonderfully dense and strikingly tactile (‘Our Love’ or ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’) — other times remain starkly sparse (‘I Know’) but, importantly, such intricacies of musicianship and arrangements only ever serve the song.

“Everybody needs to feel” sings Van Etten on ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’. It’s a sentiment that best serves the phenomenal and beloved artist that is Sharon Van Etten and ‘Are We There’. It’s another step to becoming your own true self. It’s a destination no one is ever likely to realistically reach but striving for it is proving to be Van Etten (and her sacred songbook)’s true towering achievement.

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For Sharon Van Etten’s upcoming US/European tour dates, click HERE.

‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

http://www.sharonvanetten.com/
http://www.jagjaguwar.com/

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Interview with Sharon Van Etten.

I love how this time around, the new album ‘Are We There’ is self-produced, in contrast to how ‘Tramp’ was made so closely with Aaron Dessner. This must have been a nice change for you to do it all on your own, so to speak?

Sharon Van Etten: Yeah, after touring that album, ‘Tramp’, I finally had a band that we were really comfortable together and I finally was able to bring people into the studio that I trusted – I had never had a band before – I felt finally I had a team to be able to do it myself, you know.

For the songs themselves, as you say, I’m sure each member has a special input into the songs as they’re being made?

SVE: Yeah exactly. I mean from travelling around, they’ve heard me work on them, they’ve heard different parts of like how I started it or how I changed something. I mean they’ve been privy to different points of view of the song, for sure whether it be in my personal life but also in the process.

There’s a lovely parallel between you– especially now when there is several to look back on – and The National. On the new album, you know immediately it’s your music and songs but at the same time there’s lovely new directions too.

SVE: You know I try to just be myself and let things happen. Nothing is intentional you know like sonically; it just takes on its own thing.

I love the production on ‘Are We There’.

SVE: I just felt really comfortable and I think that was a huge part of it. I had to let go and play a lot more than I had on past records and I tried other instruments and I was around people who were excited that I was trying new things. And I feel like the most confident I have ever been, you know just as a person not alone musically and being surrounded by people I’ve been with the last couple of years.

You have a real close-knit band backing you. Each member has their own projects and previous incarnations as well so it’s cool how everything feeds into the next album. So, the music grows just the way the friendships are all growing and you can sense this in the music.

SVE: Definitely. I mean touring isn’t easy and people are giving up their lives to do it or putting their lives on hold because they care about the music. And it’s an emotional thing to do; to leave home and trust these people and you’re like in a van for months at a time, knowing that life is going on without you. So, that’s a good person.

I’m sure you see the songs changing over time as you’re touring?

SVE: Yeah, I definitely feel like we grew together and I feel like the songs have changed, you know throughout years now, you know when you think about it when we started playing. Heather [Woods Broderick], Doug [Keith] and I have played together for two years and we’re band members now and that’s just been this year. If you work on anything long enough hopefully you’ll get better and I feel like we’re just growing.

‘Break Me’ is one particular highlight which reminds me of PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ record; it’s really great.

SVE: Aw thanks.

Being involved with every aspect and stage of the music, I wonder is there one particular aspect you like the most?

SVE: Well, I love performing even though it can be very emotional. And that’s something I’m still working on; the actual performance of these songs are really intense. But when I just feel like the band and I just connect and you don’t have to think about it, you know like we’re all in the moment, all the time and that feels really great. But touring life is hard and it’s something I really want to work on because it’s not something I’m comfortable with all the time.

Especially when the tour can be quite extensive, I’m sure you lose the concept of time at some point?

SVE: You definitely do and even though you go to different cities which is really great fun and you meet a lot of great people and perform to different types of audiences and you get to meet up with other bands along the way; it is time travel and when you come home, life goes on without you and the major trade-off is that I’ve missed friends pleasantries, I’ve missed someone’s death, you know there is a lot of things that you miss from not having a real life. But I’m very lucky to be doing what I’m doing and I wouldn’t take it back for the world but there is a trade-off.

Would you have a kind of ritual or routine when on tour, like reading or listening to certain records?

SVE: I try to read, I bring a book or two for the road. Sometimes it is easier and sometimes it’s really hard to try to read. I try to write, I listen to demos, I write lyrics, I listen to Spotify if I’m in a country that I can stream it in. I try to catch up with what’s going on in the real world, you know every day it changes [laughs].

What music are you listening to right now?

SVE: The War On Drugs record of course is on constant rotation and the Torres record is still so beautiful. One thing that I got lucky was that my bandmate Darren Jessee has just finished a new record for his solo project Hotel Lights, it’s a really beautiful record but won’t be out ‘till later this year. I was lucky enough to hear it when it just got mixed. His lyrics are so beautiful and the arrangements are really beautiful. And also, Heather Woods Broderick has a new record that I got to hear also. So another beautiful, sonically incredible record.

You got to work with Stewart Lerman on the new album which must have been a lovely experience for you.

SVE: Yeah, he is so great. I got to meet him doing work on ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and we got along so well that I thought I should reach out to him and get advice from him because I felt so comfortable around him. I was so nervous in those circumstances, I tried to just get advice from him and he ended up wanting to help me with the whole entire album.

 


 

arewethere_web

For Sharon Van Etten’s upcoming US/Australian/European tour dates, click HERE.

‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

http://www.sharonvanetten.com/
http://www.jagjaguwar.com/

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Written by markcarry

February 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Albums & Reissues Of The Year: 2014

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The following is a selection of the albums and re-issues that had the greatest impact on us for a wide range of different reasons. As difficult as it proved to settle on a final (and very concise) selection, we both turned to these special albums most often throughout the year. 2014 has been a year which has produced so many absolutely wonderful and truly special albums, here’s our personal selection of some of these (with a selection of ten albums and five re-issues).

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, All artwork: Craig Carry

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Albums of the year:

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Grouper ‘Ruins’ (Kranky)

‘Ruins’ was made while U.S. musician and artist Liz Harris was on an artist residency (set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois) during 2011 in Portugal’s Aljezur region. The location would provide a striking influence to Harris’s subsequent recordings (recorded in typically minimal fashion: a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano) while the sense of both departure and a new-found freedom flow throughout ‘Ruins’ and its majestic and dreamlike eight tracks. During her Aljezur residency, Harris would embark on daily hikes to the nearest beach where she would encounter the ruins of several old estates and a small village. As Harris has said: “The album is a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love. I left the songs the way they came (microwave beep from when power went out after a storm); I hope that the album bears some resemblance to the place that I was in.”

‘Ruins’ is a stunning achievement which proves all the more astonishing considering the already extensive (and consistently breathtaking) recorded output of Grouper since the mid 00’s. ‘Clearing’ is arguably Harris’s most singularly beautiful song conceived to date. As Harris sings: “What has been done / Can never be undone” over a gorgeously delicate piano line we embark on yet another wholly unique and deeply personal odyssey under the stewardship of Harris’s very heart. Like a silent witness we hold our breath as we remain under Harris’s spell throughout (from the timeless ballad ‘Holding’ to the closing epic drone-heavy tour-de-force ‘Made of Air’). ‘Ruins’ is a quietly breathtaking force of nature: an album made as much by Harris’s own hands as by the moonlight’s illumination in the night sky or the evening sun’s last rays of faded half-light.

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ruins_web

‘Ruins’ is available now on Kranky.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grouper/
http://www.kranky.net/

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Print

Caribou ‘Our Love’ (City Slang/Merge)

One of my most memorable moments of this past year was undoubtedly witnessing Caribou’s storming live set at 2014’s Body & Soul festival. A euphoric feeling ascended into the summer evening skyline as each transcendent beat and luminous pop-laden hook flooded our senses. The majority of 2010’s glorious LP ‘Swim’ was revisited, from the tropicalia-infused ‘Odessa’ to the hypnotic ‘Sun’ and all points in between. Dan Snaith & co’s set further confirmed the legendary status of Caribou; whose innovative and utterly compelling sonic creations (where elements of krautrock, dance, jazz, soul, hip-hop, and electronic soundscapes form one irresistible, mind-blowing sound spectrum) have long served a trusted companion for the independent music collector.

This year marked the highly anticipated fifth Caribou studio album, ‘Our Love’, which, in many ways, nestles beautifully between its predecessor ‘Swim’ and Snaith’s more techno-oriented project of Daphni. Lead single ‘Can’t Do Without You’ is an instant classic with a seamless array of melodic patterns and soulful vocals that evokes the soul-stirring songbook of Al Green as much as it spans the history of the dance floor. Several of the songs were co-written by gifted Canadian composer/violinist Owen Pallett (whose own solo record ‘In Conflict’ has been one of the most original, daring and innovative records of 2014) and Pallett’s distinctive violin-led melodies coalesce effortlessly with Snaith’s visionary dance structures.

Numerous remixes have since seen the light of day (where new perspectives and insights are drawn and re-configured) with the latest example being Carl Craig’s techno mix of ‘Your Love Will Set You Free’. Much in the same way as ‘Swim’, I know (and firmly believe) ‘Our Love’ will remain as vital and significant for many more years and decades to come.

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ourlove_web

‘Our Love’ is available now on City Slang (EU) and Merge (USA).

http://www.caribou.fm

http://cityslang.com
http://www.mergerecords.com

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Sharon Van Etten ‘Are We There’ (Jagjaguwar)

When Jersey-native and New York-based songwriter Sharon Van Etten first announced the arrival of ‘Are We There’, Van Etten’s fourth full-length and follow-up to her 2011 seminal work ‘Tramp’, she had these words to share: “I really hope that when someone puts my record on that they hear me.” Of course, Van Etten’s wishes have clearly been fulfilled. If there’s one thing we can firmly establish by now it is this: Van Etten makes music from the real world; a world of real events and real people with real feelings. Subsequently, steeped in a sometimes harsh reality, Van Etten’s songs are imbued with fears, struggles and (often) much pain. Much like Chan Marshall’s pre ‘The Greatest’ recorded output, Van Etten bravely examines her own life’s immediate surroundings and relationships to share her most innermost confessions and feelings for us all to bear witness. Through Van Etten’s songs we too can find our own deepest feelings long hidden in the shadows of some forgotten, distant dream.

‘Are We There’ is Van Etten’s first self-produced album (The National’s Aaron Dessner produced its predecessor ‘Tramp’) and features a host of wonderful musicians, including: Torres’s Mackenzie Scott on vocals (who toured extensively supporting Van Etten); Heather Woods-Broderick (on strings and vocals); Mary Lattimore (harp) as well as Van Etten’s trusted and formidable rhythm section (Zeke Hutchins on drums and David Hartley on bass). The use of vocal harmonies (Van Etten, Scott and Woods-Broderick) is a pure joy to witness. The resultant musical arrangements are stunningly cohesive and yet genuinely innovative, providing for many moments of challenging and divine musicianship — at times wonderfully dense and strikingly tactile (‘Our Love’ or ‘Every Time The Sun Coms Up’) — other times remain starkly sparse (‘I Know’) but, importantly, such intricacies of musicianship and arrangements only ever serve the song.

“Everybody needs to feel” sings Van Etten on ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’. It’s a sentiment that best serves the phenomenal and beloved artist that is Sharon Van Etten and ‘Are We There’. It’s another step to becoming your own true self. It’s a destination no one is ever likely to realistically reach but striving for it is proving to be Van Etten (and her sacred songbook)’s true towering achievement.

————

arewethere_web

‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

http://www.sharonvanetten.com/
http://www.jagjaguwar.com/

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Print

Clark ‘Clark’ (Warp)

‘I Dream Of Wires’ is a documentary based on the phenomenal resurgence of the modular synthesizer; exploring the passions and dreams of people who have dedicated part of their lives to this electronic music machine. The splendid documentary — released earlier this year — features interviews with Ghostly’s Solvent (who co-wrote the film in addition to composing the film score), Carl Craig, Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys) and Warp’s Clark. Reflecting on this particular film now, I feel it is precisely this exploration of passions and dreams that filters into the dazzling music of  UK’s Chris Clark. The unique blend of utterly transcendent electronic creations is forever steeped in a rare beauty, filled with endless moments of divine transcendence.

This year marked the eagerly awaited release of new self-titled full-length (and seventh for Warp), following up 2012’s magical ‘Iradelphic’. The gifted producer’s meticulous touch can be felt throughout, from the cold-cut classic ‘Unfurla’ to the blissful synth-laden ‘The Grit In The Pearl’. Dance music for the here-and-now that breathes life and meaning into music’s endless possibilities.

As Clark has said: “Music is like sculpture. It’s like trying to capture a moment of ultimate momentum, and distill it forever”.

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‘Clark’ is available now on Warp.

http://throttleclark.com/
http://warp.net/

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Hauschka ‘Abandoned City’ (City Slang/Temporary Residence Ltd)

Witnessing Hauschka’s Volker Bertelmann — whether in live setting during his renowned concert performances or in recorded contexts — a certain sense of magic fills the air. Sylvain Chomet’s 2010 animated marvel ‘The Illusionist’ comes to mind, as we are left in wonderment to observe the artist’s vast collection of skills and unlimited wells of talent. Known worldwide as one of the most recognizable 21st Century proponents of what is known as Prepared Piano, Bertelmann has amassed a considerable body of work over the last decade, ceaselessly weaving his own singular path — and on his own terms — to wondrous effect (much like fellow modern composers and restless souls Nils Frahm and Max Richter or such Twentieth Century masters as Eric Satie, John Cage and Steve Reich). Importantly, the album itself draws from research Bertelmann made (after the discovery of a series of photographic prints depicting the subject of abandoned cities) on the number of actual vacated cities in existence (each track title references a particular city). As Bertelmann has said: “I was interested in finding a metaphor for the inner tension I feel when I’m composing music, a state of mind where I’m lonely and happy at the same time.”

‘Abandoned City’ proves a certain milestone in Hauschka’s recorded output to date. An intriguing sense of both adventure and discovery seeps through every pore of the album’s ten compositions. Like all of Hauschka’s art, nothing is as it first seems. As we delve further into this abandoned city Hauschka has built for us we begin to lose all sense of what we initially thought was important in the process. We lose all traces of ourselves for that beautiful instant we are under Bertelmann’s sacred spell and that is what Hauschka’s divine art forever manages to do.

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abandonedcity_web

‘Abandoned City’ is available now on City Slang (EU) and Temporary Residence Ltd (USA).

http://hauschka-net.de/

http://cityslang.com/
http://temporaryresidence.com/

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stevegunn_wayoutweather

Steve Gunn ‘Way Out Weather’ (Paradise Of Bachelors)

The flawless North Carolina-based independent label Paradise of Bachelors has yet again been responsible for a string of modern-day Americana masterpieces, not least the latest tour-de-force from the ever-prolific, Brooklyn-based guitar prodigy and songsmith, Steve Gunn. This year’s ‘Way Out Weather’ feels like a natural culmination where every aspect of Gunn’s deeply-affecting songs — poignant story-telling quality, immaculate instrumentation and intricate musical arrangements — is heightened as the towering eight creations hits you profoundly and stirs your soul. 2013’s ‘Time Off’ was the starting point of Gunn’s song-writing path, having collaborated closely with Kurt Vile, Michael Chapman, Mike Cooper, The Black Twig Pickers and a host of others in recent times.

A timeless feel permeates every corner of the record. The recording sessions took place at Black Dirt Studio in Westtown, New York, featuring a formidable cast of musicians (and Gunn’s long-term collaborators) further adding to the widescreen, cinematic sound to ‘Way Out Weather’s sprawling sonic canvas. Longtime musical brothers and kindred spirits Jason Meagher (bass, drones, engineering), Justin Tripp (bass, guitar, keys, production), and John Truscinski (drums), in addition to newcomers Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, keys: Black Twig Pickers, Pelt); James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro: Freakwater, Jeff Tweedy); Mary Lattimore (harp, keys: Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile); and Jimy SeiTang (synths, electronics: Stygian Stride, Rhyton.)

On the utterly transcendent album closer, ‘Tommy’s Congo’, shades of Sonny Sharrock beautifully surfaces beneath the artefacts of time. The deep groove and rhythm interwoven with this vivid catharsis is nothing short of staggering. The cosmic spirit captured on the closing cut — and each of these sublime recordings — permanently occupies a state of transcendence. As each song-cycle unfolds, the shimmering worlds of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue or the Stones’ ‘Exile On Main St.’ fades into focus. ‘Way Out Weather’ is dotted with captivating moments from the ways of a true master.

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‘Way Out Weather’ is available now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

http://steve-gunn.com/
http://paradiseofbachelors.com/

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman ‘Laghdú’ (Irishmusic.net)

2014 has been a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning works: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration with U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman.

‘Laghdú’ (an Irish word which translates as: a lessening, a decrease, a reduction) is a hugely significant work for many reasons. Most notably, it was Trueman who first introduced Ó Raghallaigh to his beloved ten-string hardanger d’amore fiddle (custom-made in Norway by Salve Håkedal) during September 2000. It is the simple dialogue and deep connection which exists between the pair (both performing identical instruments and identical baroque bows) which is a pure joy to savor. Two traditional pieces are performed by the pair (‘The Jack of Diamonds Three’ and ‘Fead an Iolair’) while the remainder of ‘Laghdú’ comprises original compositions written and arranged by Trueman and Ó Raghallaigh. The dynamic range is nothing short of staggering — from the near-silent to the nigh-on orchestral, at times exploding joyously from their hybrid 10-string fiddles, at times barely there — holding time still in the process. The resultant eleven heavenly tracks occupy both the realms populated by the most ancient forms of traditional music as well as those thrillingly in-between spaces carved out and inhabited in modern neoclassical composition of the most utterly enchanting and truly sacred kind.

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‘Laghdú’ is available now via Irishmusic.net HERE.

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
http://www.manyarrowsmusic.com/
http://irishmusic.net/

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no2_christinavantzou

Christina Vantzou ‘N°2’ (Kranky)

‘N°2’ is the second solo album by the Brussels-based artist and Kansas-born composer Christina Vantzou and, like its predecessor, ‘N°1’, was issued by the formidable Chicago-based independent label Kranky. Written over a period of four years, ‘N°2’ finds Vantzou reunited with Minna Choi — of the San Francisco-based Magik*Magik Orchestra — and regular contributor Adam Wiltzie (A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Stars Of The Lid) who Vantzou effectively began her musical career with when the duo made music as The Dead Texan (Vantzou was keyboardist as well as film-maker, illustrator and animator). A wide sonic palette is used throughout, from the gentle ripple-flow of piano notes on the album’s penultimate track, ‘Vostok’ and prominence of harp on the achingly beautiful ‘VHS’ to the rapturous crescendo of strings of ‘Going Backwards To Recover What Was Left Behind’ where an emotion-filled sadness engulfs every pore. Elsewhere, slowly shifting layers of brass and woodwind drifts majestically in ‘Brain Fog’ before brooding strings come to the fore, resulting in a cathartic release of energy. Layers of angelic voices appear and disappear throughout, forming not only a monumental symphonic movement but also an other-worldly choral work.

Indeed, the most appropriate analogy to imagine while attempting to surmise the sheer magic of ‘N°2’ is the act of making those frame-by-frame animations Vantzou has so patiently and laboriously created in the past: while they are meticulously worked on, over such a long and painfully slow process, the results yielded are both stunningly imperfect and remarkably pure. It’s a characteristic which runs through all of Vantzou’s breathtaking art (from her drawings and sleeve artwork to her dreamlike slow motion film works) which truly heightens all that surrounds you.

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‘N°2’ is available now on Kranky.

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

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Birds Of Passage ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (Denovali)

New Zealand-based composer Alicia Merz has been quietly amassing a soul-stirring collection of albums under her Birds Of Passage moniker over the past five years or so. ‘This Kindly Slumber’ — released by German independent label Denovali Records — is Merz’s third solo full-length album and features Merz’s spellbinding lyricism (at times recalling Mark Linkous or Daniel Johnston in their open honesty and raw emotion). Like Grouper’s Liz Harris, Birds Of Passage’s power emanates from minimal musical arrangements (vocal takes are often first takes) where a sense of both purity and intimacy is conjured by Merz throughout, providing for an unforgettable listening experience. As we delve into the innermost caverns of ‘This Kindly Slumber’s mysterious and complex maze of real and imagined landscapes; the sensation one feels is akin to the finest of Murakami’s fictional prose or the most ancient of children’s nursery rhymes and folklore tales. Interestingly, Merz holds a deep fascination with nursery rhymes since a very young age and ‘Ladybird, Ladybird’ is combined with ‘And All Of Your Dreams’ to powerful effect. Elsewhere, the deeply personal ‘Yesterday’s Stains’ contains an openness and honesty rare in music.

‘This Kindly Slumber’ is a life-affirming journey which finds Merz navigating the darkest of nights while facing her gravest of fears. On the other side of this kindly slumber we realize that even the darkest of shadows lie closest to light: through the sacred and secret songs of Birds Of Passage we learn that in every moment of hopelessness exists hope. For that, we can be eternally grateful.

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‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available now on Denovali.

http://birdsofpassagemusic.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

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Marissa Nadler ‘July’ (Bella Union/Sacred Bones)

‘July’ (which documents Nadler’s life events from one July to the next) is the ever-prolific U.S. songwriter’s latest opus of longing and hope. The album can be read and interpreted autobiographically but, crucially, like all of Nadler’s songbook, songs are masterfully left open to the listener’s interpretation. Interestingly, Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), is at the helm of production duties on ‘July’; providing a first-time collaboration for the pair. Accompanying Nadler is Eyvind Kang (strings), Steve Moore (synths) and Phil Wandscher (Jesse Sykes, Whiskeytown) on lead guitar. However, as is always the case with such a truly unique songwriter, it is Nadler’s breathtaking voice and impeccable lyricism which quietly dominate proceedings. Like such kindred spirits as Missourri songwriter Angel Olsen or British folk legends Vashti Bunyan and Bridget St. John, Nadler’s music captivates the mind (and heart) of each and every listener fortunate enough to cross paths with her. From album opener ‘Drive’ to the forlorn closing piano ballad ‘Nothing In my Heart’, immediacy and directness prevails throughout ‘July’. Transcendental moments abound, from the poetic lyricism to ‘We Are Coming Back’ (“Still I live many miles away / So I can miss you a little everyday”) to the brooding tour-de-force ‘Dead City Emily’ which combines both gut-wrenching honesty (“I was coming apart those days”) and heart-stopping beauty as, ultimately, the prevailing sense of hope outlasts all struggle and inner-conflict (“Oh I saw the light today / Opened up the door”).

As the lyrics of ‘Drive’ return to my mind: “Still remember all the words to every song you ever heard”; I feel those very words reflect the empowering feeling in which the cherished songbook of Marissa Nadler ceaselessly awakens (and continues to re-awaken) in me.

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‘July’ is available now on Bella Union (EU) and Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/

http://bellaunion.com/
http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/

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Reissues of the year:

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The Moles ‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles’ (Fire)

Looking back on 2014, the first sounds which come to my mind is Australian band The Moles and the magical first-time discovery of their music in the form of their first retrospective ‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles’, released via Fire Records. The double-album is packed to the brim with impeccably constructed pop songs, heart-breaking love songs and just about every shade and nuance in between (spanning punk, shoe gaze and indie rock). ‘Flashbacks and Dream Sequences: The Story of The Moles’ contains the band’s two studio albums; debut full-length ‘Untune The Sky’ (originally released in 1991) and follow-up ‘Instinct’ (the latter was heralded by The Sea And Cake’s Archer Prewitt as being “as close to perfection as any Beatles or Beach Boys record and it stands on its own as a classic in my book”) and a whole plethora of b-sides and rarities, culled from various EP’s and singles. Led by Richard Davies (who later would join Eric Mathews and form Cardinal), The Moles were formed in Sydney in the late 80’s and unleashed a resolutely unique songbook which would prove hugely influential on a whole host of diverse bands (The Flaming Lips, The Sea And Cake). The original band line-up consisted of Glenn Fredericks, Richard Davies, Warren Armstrong and Carl Zadra, friends from law school who were fans of Flying Nun, The Fall and The Go Betweens, drawing their name from a reference to ‘Wind In The Willows’ and spy novels (John Le Carré and Graham Greene).

What’s most apparent on this defining release is that the truly unique vision (in both Davies’s songwriting and The Moles’ music) deserves to be known — and embraced — the world over. “It’s always an adventure. There’s an element of a well that never runs dry,” Richard Davies told us earlier in the year, on discussing The Moles. It’s a sentiment which could not be more true for The Moles and their utterly visionary and absolutely essential music.

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‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles’ is available now on Fire Records.

[Richard Davies Facebook Page]
http://www.firerecords.com/

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Lewis ‘L’Amour’ (Light In The Attic)

When Light In The Attic Records reissued the much-fabled, timeless cult-classic ‘L’Amour’ by Lewis (originally released in 1983 on the unknown label R.A.W.) not much was known about the whereabouts of its esteemed author, not least the actual identity of “Lewis”, for that matter. The sense of mystery only deepened when consulting the album’s liner notes: Was Lewis still alive? What has he been doing in the intervening years? What other musical treasures are lying around only awaiting to be discovered written by this elusive figure? Crucially, without even beginning to dig any further into biographical detail (or absence thereof), it’s clear that, on listening to ‘L’Amour’, Lewis created nothing short of a bona-fide masterpiece. Heartbreak is immediately evident from Lewis’s lonesome, brooding, ghostly baritone from album opener ‘Things Just Happen That Way’ (“I took her hand / She took my heart”) while a sparse set-up of whispered voice together with only piano, synthesizer (or an occasional plucked guitar) remains throughout — recalling Waits or Springsteen at their most hushed and introspective best — creating a defining album of heartbreak — and love — in the process.

And what about the biographical gaps? Indeed Lewis was, as it turned out, a pseudonym. Lewis’s true identity has proved to be that of Randall Wulff (as confirmed by famed L.A. photographer Ed Colver, who had shot the über-cool cover-shoot for L’Amour’s album sleeve). However, for the purposes of the Light In The Attic liner notes, the mystery remained unsolved (after a long two-and-a-half year search). That is, until August 2014, when the real-life Randall Wulff was found (read Light In The Attic’s amazing article HERE) — alive and well and still quietly making his own masterful music — in what must have been the year’s most enchanting and heart-warming of stories.

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L’Amour’ is available now on Light In The Attic.

http://lightintheattic.net/artists/691-lewis
http://lightintheattic.net/

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One Of You ‘One Of You’ (Little Axe)

One of the most stunning re-issues of recent times came this year via the Portland, Oregon-based label Little Axe Records (a label founded when Mississippi Records split into two labels in 2011), with it’s issuing of a self-titled LP by One Of You. The author’s name and identity remains anonymous but we do know this startling collection was made by a Czech immigrant to Canada who set up her own Scarab label in the early ‘80’s, releasing music under the pseudonyms One of You and The Triffids. Having fled her homeland in the late sixties to emigrate to Canada for hopes of a better future and life there, One Of You’s music would be imbued with a prevailing sense of loss, regret and much hardships. The music itself, written in both Czech and English, and arranged in typically minimal fashion (synthesizer, guitar, organ) touches upon outsider folk, folk-psych, Eastern European folk and minimalist music traditions. One Of You’s deeply affecting, timeless music yields moments of powerful intensity while a whole spectrum of emotions, images and textures are unleashed beautifully upon the listener all at once.

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‘One Of You’ is available now on Little Axe.

http://littleaxerecords.bandcamp.com/album/one-of-you-s-t
http://www.littleaxerecords.com/

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K. Leimer ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’ (RVNG Intl)

RVNG Intl. is a Brooklyn-based music institution that operates on few but heavily fortified principles, dealing with forward-reaching artists that ceaselessly push the sonic envelope. From visionary luminaries such as Julia Holter, Holly Herndon, Blondes, Maxmillion Dunbar et al, RVNG Intl. has consistently delivered some of the most adventurous, enthralling and breathtaking records this past decade. One of the label’s cornerstones has become the awe-inspiring archival series which has featured (and celebrated) musical pioneers Craig Leon, Ariel Kalma and K. Leimer. The third installment of the archival series — released earlier this year — was Seattle-based sound sculptor, K. Leimer and a vast treasure of ambient voyages entitled ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’. I simply cannot think of a more special musical document to have graced my life this past year than Kerry Leimer’s resolutely unique and deeply human canon of pioneering ambient music.

A glimpse into Leimer’s creative process is touched upon on the compilation’s liner notes: “The loop provided an instant structure – a sort of fatalism – the participation of the tape machine in shaping and extending the music was a key to setting self-deterministic systems in motion and held clear relationship to my interests in fine art.”

‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’ offers the perfect entry point (across an exhaustive double-album and thirty spellbinding tracks) into the beautifully enthralling and ever-revolving world inhabited by the special soul of Mr. Kerry Leimer.

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‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.

http://www.palaceoflights.com/
http://igetrvng.com/

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Fikret Kızılok ‘Anadolu’yum’ (Pharaway Sounds)

Although technically issued at the tail end of 2013, legendary Turkish folk singer Fikret Kızılok (1947-2001)’s exquisite collection of singles from 1971-75 (compiled into a 14-track set entitled ‘Anadolu’yum’ and issued by Pharaway Sounds, a subsidiary label of Light In The Attic Records) proved — like the many equally formidable Pharaway Sounds releases — a true haven for music lovers. Merging genres and fuzing styles almost at will (as evidenced by the immense musical arrangements drawing from such diverse sources as Western influences, India and his own native Turkey), Kızılok’s diverse appetite and deep appreciation for music shines through in every one of this magical compilation’s fourteen tracks. From the heavenly and beautifully forlorn Anatolian folk masterpiece ‘Anadolu’yum (1972&1975)’ to the irresistible sitar-aided ‘Gün Ola Devran Döne’ (1971), Kızılok’s musical path would be dictated by numerous external obstacles of the day (namely, the political unrest of his native Turkey throughout the 1970’s) while a pressure to conform to audience’s expectations (Kızılok was a pop phenomenon in Turkey, regularly charting instant hits) proved immense in the intervening years, while he would become most often associated with his best known love ballads from his considerable 1970’s output.

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‘Anadolu’yum’  is available now on Pharaway Sounds.

http://lightintheattic.net/

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All designs and artwork by Craig Carry: http://craigcarry.net

With very special thanks to all the wonderful musicians and labels for the true gift of their music. And a special thank you to all our readers for reading during the year.

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FracturedAir
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Fractured_Air
Mixcloud: http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/

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Chosen One: Angel Olsen

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Interview with Angel Olsen.

“This was the first time I’ve been writing songs that have space for music to happen. I’m really looking forward to having that happening more often. But it was also finding that right balance of having space for music to happen and still have the lyrics and words be just as important.”

—Angel Olsen

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Gentle chords echo beneath Olsen’s mesmerising voice on ‘Dance Slow Decades’ as the Missouri-born song-writer sings “I thought I had a dream once / Don’t remember what” revealing an intimacy and openness that cuts deep into your bones. The beautiful clean tones of reverb-filled guitar flows like a river finding the sea, all-the-while Olsen’s voice forms ripples in a vast sea of emotion. Olsen’s lyrics evoke the deepest of thoughts from forlorn diary pages. Moments later, the lyric of “I thought I conquered something / And it took me down” transports me to the songbook of Sibylle Baier and her similarly affecting poetic song cycles. Much in the same way as Baier’s ‘Colour Green’ — the German songwriter’s timeless record — Olsen’s latest masterpiece ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ reveals a songwriting master-class of rare poignancy and depth that we have come to know from Olsen’s previous record, 2012’s ‘Halfway Home’. The song’s verse conjures up the heartfelt indie-pop sound of New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo, particularly as Olsen sings “I thought I felt your heart beat / It was just my counting”  where a magical and organic feel permeates throughout. The song’s rise forms one of the album’s joyous climaxes as Olsen sings “I can hear you crying / And I am crying too” with gorgeous shades of Roy Orbison and Bill Callahan. ‘Dance Slow Decades’ is a deeply touching ballad, akin to a close companion, a song you feel you’ve always known. Hope and optimism overcome the depths of despair and darkness as Olsen sings toward the song’s illuminating close: “You might still have it in you / Give yourself the benefit”.

‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ feels like a culmination, following on from the kitchen recorded, lo-fi ‘Strange Cacti’ E.P and debut full-length, songwriting master-class ‘Halfway Home’. Every aspect of Olsen’s sound is heightened on the sophomore-release where a space is embedded within the eclectic batch of compelling songs. ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ can be seen as a band album but importantly Olsen’s deeply affecting song-writing remains as the vital pulse. Drummer Josh Jaeger, playwright and former colleague from Olsen’s cafe job in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and bass player Stewart Bronaugh, Jaeger’s bandmate in garage-pop outfit Lionlimb comprise the ensemble for ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’. It is clear an intuitive process ensued between the members, as Olsen’s illuminating songs were brought to the table, as previously explained by Olsen, the sessions were: “…very much like a band and I feel like I’m merging into this entity that they’re also creating”. The album was recorded in a deconsecrated chapel called Echo Mountain, in Asheville, North Carolina, over ten days in July. Producer John Congleton (St Vincent, Bill Callahan) was at the helm, after mastering in Dallas, the record was finished by the end of July.

The torch-lit ballad ‘Iota’ takes me back to the special solo-performance of Olsen’s life affirming concerts. Alone on stage, armed with a guitar, the songwriter transcends space and time, as the devoted audience becomes beautifully lost in her breathtaking creations. A rhythm section of double-bass and warm percussion (a la Giant Sand or Calexico) serves the heartbeat to this utterly captivating ballad. A sense of longing lies at the heart of Olsen’s endearing voice. The lyrics of the opening verse are sheer poetry:

“If only all our memories were one / We only had to blink and it was done / If all the world could see with in one eye / In perfect colour to the perfect sky”

A delicacy and fragile beauty is interwoven in the song’s rich tapestry, reminiscent of Karen Dalton’s soulful folk-blues. The refrain of “If only we could always stay the same” resonates powerfully, at times I feel the spirit of the central character to Agnès Varda’s ‘Vagabond’ seep into my consciousness that, in turn, forms “the perfect rhythm to the perfect song”. The song’s lyrics examines themes such as place and belonging. As ever, Olsen’s poetic words remain with you, embedded into the depths of your heart and mind: “If only we could grow wiser with each breath”.

The brooding, dark lament ‘White Fire’ — the album’s longest cut — represents ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’s harrowing centerpiece. A tower of song is captured here that epitomizes the sheer power and cascading emotion of Olsen’s singular works. A solo recording of the artist’s whisper-like voice and meandering electric guitar plucked chords brings forth an ethereal dimension to the album’s trajectory. The spirit of Leonard Cohen burns brightly throughout the embers of Olsen’s glowing poetic prose. ‘White Fire’ is the album’s title-track in many ways. The song comes from a dark place as the heart of a lonely hunter unfolds before your eyes: “Everything is tragic / It all just fell apart / But when I look into your eyes / It pieces up my heart”, Olsen sings on the opening verse. The vocal delivery of Olsen is nothing short of staggering as something deeply profound engulfs your every thought. A dream-like odyssey breathes every aching core of ‘White Fires’s poetic lyricism. I feel the song’s chorus serves the very essence (and vital pulse) of the album’s triumphant journey through the heart of darkness:

“If you’ve still got some light in you
Then go before it’s gone
Burn your fire for no witness
It’s the only way it’s done”

Album opener ‘Unfucktheworld’ is a fragile lament — containing Olsen’s guitar and vocals — that serves the perfect prologue to ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’s vital and captivating sonic exploration. Olsen sings “I quit my dreaming / The moment that I found you / I started dancing / Just to be around you” on the first verse that brings to mind fellow luminaries such as Will Oldham and Daniel Johnston. The words sung by Olsen carries a weight that overcomes any obstacle put in your way. The song’s intimacy is striking, such is the hidden pathways the listener is taken on. Later, Olsen’s voice rises as soaring emotion flows amidst the churning guitar chords, “I have to save my life / I need some peace of mind” evokes a helplessness and vivid sense of loss. A moment later, the refrain of “I am the only one now” bears infinite rays of strength and resilience.

‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ is a charged pop-garage anthem, reminiscent of The Breeders. In just over two minutes, trashing guitars and drums swirl amidst Olsen’s infectious vocals, in ways recalling Olsen’s ‘Strange Cacti’ E.P. ‘Hi-Five’ is an irresistible country gem containing Link Wray-esque guitars and shades of ‘Basement Tapes’ era Dylan & The Band. “Are you lonely too?” Olsen asks on the song’s chorus, with the response “So am I” adding humor to proceedings. The fuzz guitar combined with stomping piano creates a timeless rock ‘n’ roll feel (Buddy Holly) steeped in a contemporary country sound. Olsen’s voice is the undying spark throughout “I feel so lonesome I could cry” are the first words sung by Olsen that conjures up both the spirit of Hank Williams and the sounds of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The peerless musicianship of Olsen’s new-found ensemble and sprawling sonic canvas thus formed is laid bare here.

A wall of beguiling sound is released on the cathartic ‘Lights Out’, a breath-taking ballad that evolves into a haven of psych-tinged and reverb-drenched guitar notes (think Real Estate or Ducktails). A momentous feeling is beautifully arrived upon as Olsen’s deeply touching lyrics serve a guiding light to the dark skies; “The things we need the most / They seem to take a little longer” hangs delicately in the air. The song builds into a joyous and uplifting tour-de-force recalling the flying sparks of Low and Dirty Three. Similarly, ‘Stars’ is a glorious rock gem containing Olsen’s irresistible vocals and sublime backdrop of illuminating guitars and Jaeger’s drums. ‘Windows’ is the fitting close to a stunningly beautiful record. Olsen’s voice is falsetto-like that whispers closely to you (think Hope Sandoval). The musical telepathy between Olsen and her trusted ensemble is clearly evident, as a wall of sacred sound (Olsen’s voice is blended effortlessly with a plethora of gorgeous guitar tones) is emitted like rays of sunlight. I feel the spirit of Dylan’s ‘Self Portrait’ drift by as Olsen asks “What’s so wrong with the light?”, a beautiful sense of rejuvenation comes to the fore.

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‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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Interview with Angel Olsen.

I must say congratulations on the new album. It’s really amazing. I’ve been listening to it a lot during the last week.

AO: Thank you.

I was a huge fan of your last album, ‘Halfway Home’, and it’s wonderful to see how the new songs have progressed and how there’s a lovely new direction and also, a lovely range within the songs.

AO: Thank you, yeah, I’m excited to be sharing it with the band now.

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It really feels like a band album, where it combines so well with your songs themselves. I’d love for you to discuss that whole collaboration between you and the musicians themselves?

AO: Well, I met them both a while ago and we started working together in February, or maybe even earlier last year. And then I introduced both old material at first and then newer songs when I started writing them. A lot of the newer material happened to work out with louder sounds. As we got to the studio, a few weeks beforehand we sort of practiced recording and listen back to what we’ve been playing live and think about what kind of guitar sounds would be appropriate and if different songs would lend themselves to drums and certain songs remain solo. We had a bit of time to play and record and really think about what we should add or how we should add to what I’d been writing.

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I can sense that as well. There’s that real flow to the music. As you say about the guitar sounds, I love how there are certain songs, like the album closer ‘Windows’ and ‘Lights Out’, the reverb of the guitar and lovely echo: there’s a lovely build-up to the songs. Musically, there are so many sections going on.

AO: Yeah, I feel there is definitely. This was the first time I’ve been writing songs that have space for music to happen. I’m really looking forward to having that happening more often. But it was also finding that right balance of having space for music to happen and still have the lyrics and words be just as important.

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Exactly. I remember talking with you before, it’s like the songs themselves and like any great song-writer — Bill Callahan, Will Oldham and so on — I love how your words themselves alone…you don’t need music in many ways. One aspect I love about this album is how the lyrics stick with you. For me, you know a Bill Callahan song, you have certain words that would keep on coming back to you in your head but it’s the very same thing that happens for your songs.

AO: That’s cool, I like to hear that.

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I was interested to see that you went into the studio so soon after touring. It sounded pretty much like you were going straight into the studio?

AO: Yeah, so what happened was I had signed with Jagjaguwar and then I had written quite a bit of material at the time so I felt confident that by the summertime we would record. But in the meantime, I was still working with members of the band and we were working on old material. So it was like, we spent the upcoming months working, just trying to figure out how we all feel, just listen to each other and play the songs. In general, we played them live and we played a lot of the new material live, before recording it too, to kind of give it some time to breathe and also we ended up changing the way certain songs sound. After having listened back, it was really cool to be in a studio with them and hear ourselves the way we have been playing live: not critique but we had a better understanding of what we all wanted, we were in a box and we could all talk about it and we could all hear what we were doing and talk about it. That was a really cool experience.

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As you say as well, Angel, it must have been really special to have all the different people’s input, you know how each member brings different things to the table.

AO: Yeah, definitely. And I mean, for the most part, it’s not a band, it’s me writing the lyrics and the structures of the songs but what happened is I’m opening the songs for people to write guitar parts and decide if something should be embellished in a certain way, you know. And I think that that is definitely showing on the album. Also, we recorded a lot of it — not all of it but some of it — live and then added things later, so you have the performance sound to a lot of the songs.

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Yeah, you can definitely hear that, and actually it’s kind of cool, I was reading where you recorded in a chapel — it’s a lovely name — in Echo Mountain.

AO: Yeah, it’s a really cool space. They have a big room — like a cathedral but it’s a church — there’s a big room where all the pews used to be in. It’s used for a live performance, live bands kind of thing. On the sides of that there are these little rooms that used to be prayer rooms and they’re just like tiny closets. I don’t know, we had many options and I felt like, you know, we don’t have a piano live, so we got to use a lot of different organ sounds and different piano sounds that they had to offer there, so that was cool too. The place is really comfortable, it felt like being at someone’s house.

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That sounds lovely. I think it definitely translates into the album too, you know when you’re listening to it, you can certainly hear something magical within the song. Actually, another thing Angel, John Congleton, who produced the album, it must have been lovely to work with him. I didn’t realize he produced some of the Bill Callahan stuff as well.

AO: Yeah, he’s done a lot of different projects. He’s really great. He was very quiet at first and we all kind of talked about him and thought he was like a doctor. He was just very observant at first and really quiet. And then, as the days went on, he started to open up, he was actually really fun to work with. He was very, you know, suggestive without being pushy and it seems like he always told the truth about what something sounded like. So, it was nice to work with someone like that.

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There are certain songs on the album too, like for example ‘White Fire’, it’s the longest song on the album, it really reminds me of Leonard Cohen, it’s a really incredible song.

AO: Thank you. Yeah, that recording, I had recorded that song myself and I was pleased with the way it sounded. I was going to keep the sound of the original but we decided to re-record them in the studio. And, you know, that one, ‘Enemy’ and ‘Unfucktheworld’ are all just me and the guitar. So, it’s kind of nice to have that on the album too.

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Exactly. I love that too, how there’s that kind of an aesthetic and feel to the album. As you say, some of the songs like ‘Hi-Five’ are more charged rock songs but it all fits together so well, it all just works as one, really.

AO: Yeah, well it’s weird to see the songs grow too because I had been performing ‘Stars’ totally differently: it started out like a country song and then it went into kind of almost like a latin reference song, and then it changed completely from that with the group. And then, ‘Hi-Five’ was also just me and a guitar. It’s pretty cool to look at all that information and see how much has changed. At the same time, it should not be like: “Oh well, that shouldn’t have happened” or whatever, or “that was over-done”, you know.

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I remember Calexico would say similar things, you know the way with touring and how the songs live would change and evolve. It must be lovely to witness a song change depending on the space and time.

AO: Yeah, and I mean it’s fun to change things every now and then. And of course as a listener, some people would prefer the thing stays the same and I try not to think things like, totally different keys. Sometimes, you know, it’s nice to change things up.

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Oh, definitely. Another song I love, Angel — well I love all of them — is ‘Dance Slow Decade’. It’s funny it was really getting to me, I was thinking someone came to mind but I couldn’t really think who but I just thought of it today, Yo La Tengo?

AO: Oh, really.

Yeah, it’s lovely, you know that kind of heartfelt indie-pop feel.

AO: I never would have thought of that, that’s really cool. I like that.

But again, I love how your words really stick with you. And I think you said before how writing comes to you in waves, but certainly this song, and others too, you really feel how it flows from you in one time, in one sitting nearly.

AO: Yeah, that one definitely did. Some of them don’t and some of them do.

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And another thing, Angel, Marissa Nadler — who you collaborated with before — she said a cool thing recently. You know, I guess it’s about writing songs in a concentrated period of time, she spoke how she likes to “bottle things up so that there’s a well to drink from.” But it’s a nice analogy and I think there are similarities between you and Marissa?

AO: Yeah, I mean she’s definitely like a sister to me, in a lot of different ways. I feel that her music and mine aren’t going in different directions so that they are very much alike, similar. I remember writing to her in the Fall and just talking to her about how I was writing a lot and she’d been writing a lot and we were working on our upcoming albums. And I was pretty excited to talk about, you know, to be able to have that and share that with someone who understands what it means to go through a period of time like that. Like, you have the opportunity to go to a party or a bar but you’d rather stay home and write, or you’d rather just be alone just in case you want to write something. And I think it sounds really cheesy but sometimes it does work that way.

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It must be like a sacrifice in one way, you know, the act of writing when there’s no set formula.

AO: For me, it either happens that I write a lot at once or that I start something and I finish it a few months later. Or, a few months will go by and I’ll write a song and then a few weeks and I’ll write another song and then, over time, they’ll be edited over and over again. And it’s different things, different kind of exercises and I wouldn’t say it always comes out, you know, I didn’t write all the album in one day but I did write a lot of it right after releasing the first record ‘Halfway Home’.

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That sounds cool. Actually, I love ‘Windows’, it has a really uplifting feel to it. I love how it’s lovely and delicate but I love how there’s that kind of climax in the song.

AO: Yeah, that’s fun to play. Actually, I introduced that to everyone and I thought I didn’t really like the song, you know, because it’s so simple. And I think the best songs are cerebral and well-written and have a lot of lyrics but I learned that that’s not always true. I don’t know, it’s hard to tell what would be something that sticks with you, you know.

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And as you say yourself, Angel, in the course of the next few months, as you’re touring you can see how the songs evolve over the next while.

AO: Yeah, definitely. I’m excited because it’s going to be an intense few months but I feel like it gives us an opportunity to play well and to learn how to play the songs really well.

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I must say, actually, you introduced me to Agnès Varda because you mentioned, in the last interview, the film ‘Vagabond’. It’s amazing.

AO: Yeah, you love it?

Yeah.

AO: What’s your favourite scene in it? My favourite scene is when she’s sitting on the couch with the older woman. You know the part?

Oh, yes.

AO: And she’s having, like a bourbon and scotch or something. And the older woman, her family is coming to visit, her nephew thinks that he’s going to inherit her estate and the old woman whispers in the vagabond’s ears and says he thinks he’s going to have it but he’s not and they start laughing. And it’s like the next day the young girl leaves and never sees them again but she does hear one of the most intimate truths of a family she doesn’t even know. And I thought that was kind of interesting.

It’s really special isn’t it, there’s so much to it, you know. Or even the earlier scenes where she’s just traveling on her own. But I love, like how you say, she crosses paths with so many characters. I love the scene, you know, with a woman, she picks her up and they’re driving but you could sense how they really got on, you know, she really admired her.

AO: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

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And is there any other particular films or books or anything that you’ve been enjoying?

AO: I can never remember names, I’m so terrible about it. An Italian author, she wrote this series. The titles in English are really pretty boring but it’s about these two girls growing up in Italy in the 50’s, they’re constantly trying to like outsmart each other — learning Greek and Latin and becoming the smartest of their classes — and one of them continues to go to college and the other gets married and has kids and they’re still competing to be like, you know more exciting and more intelligent and yet they remain really close friends. It’s a really interesting read, it’s called ‘The Story Of A New Name’. You should check it out. A lot of people think it was written by someone else, by a man, so it’s really interesting. Elena Ferrante is her name. And then, other than that, I’ve been taking a break from reading, I’ve read a bit of Paul Auster’s biography, he wrote a book about his life. It’s kind of unfortunate because right before the tour I got a bunch of books to read and then I left them all there.

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Would you have favourite all-time authors, Angel, you know, people you’d always come back to?

AO: Yeah. I’d say Paul Auster is somebody that I always go back to. I mean it’s pretty simple writing but some of it I really hate but I’m always curious, you know. I feel like his books are written kind of cinematically and I tend to enjoy that. And then also there’s this other author called Carlos Ruiz Zafón and he’s a Spanish author.

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Do you know the author Willy Vlautin?

AO: No, should I check him out?

Yeah, I think you should because he’s in a band as well but his novels are amazing. Like you said earlier, cinematic is one word to describe his work. He has a new one called ‘The Free’. I’d say you’d really enjoy his writing: it’s simple but at the same time it’s so affecting as well.

AO: Right. I like it when people are capable of writing something simply but at the same time it’s very hard, you know. It reaches so many people…I mean, if people are doing it, it’s reaching people, I feel like in a more impactable way.

Oh exactly. I think actually, just as you say that Angel, he said one time how he writes with the thought he hopes that someone who has just finished his or her long day at the factory might read his book in the evening, you know, that kind of way.

AO: Yeah, I must check him out.

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One other thing, Angel, I loved the collaboration with yourself, Will Oldham and Dirty Three, the ‘Solemns’ 12″ release. I loved that. It’s that combination of your voice and Will Oldham’s and then also, obviously, Jim White and Mick Turner. It’s incredible to hear that connection between all the musicians.

AO: Yeah, I’d like to do that again sometime, you know. It’s always a privilege to work with different groups at once on a collaboration. And that one I feel like we were in Australia for a really brief period of time, we only had two days to figure out what we were really going to do in the studio. It was really interesting to see how everyone approached it.

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‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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Angel Olsen performs at Whelans, Dublin, on Friday June 6th, Triskel Christchurch, Cork, on Saturday June 7th and McHughes, Belfast, on Sunday June 8th. For full US and EU tour dates, please see HERE.

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http://angelolsen.com
http://jagjaguwar.com

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Written by admin

March 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

Ten Mile Stereo

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Mick Turner “Don’t Tell The Driver” (Drag City)
The latest work by the ever-prolific Melbourne-based artist and Dirty Three guitarist Mick Turner is a magnificently sprawling affair – comprising an expansive cast of musicians – and is perhaps his most accessible work to date. Equally renowned for his worldwide status as an internationally renowned painter as well as musician, Turner is best known as being one-third member (alongside drummer Jim White and violinist Warren Ellis) of the cult Australian trio Dirty Three. As well as Dirty Three’s considerable output (culminating in last year’s sublime “Toward The Low Sun”), Turner has also released records under the Tren Brothers guise (effectively Turner and White recording as a duo), as well as “solo” works (‘Don’t Tell The Driver’ is Turner’s fourth such record). The record – released by Chicago’s Drag City – is arguably Turner’s most expansive yet, featuring french horn, trumpets, piano, melodica, bass and the vocals (lyrics by Turner) are beautifully sung by Caroline Kennedy McCracken.

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Tim Hecker “Virgins” (Kranky)
One of the year’s most eagerly awaited albums came from the Montreal-based composer and sound artist Tim Hecker. “Virgins”, released by Chicago-based independent label Kranky, is yet another masterful recording by the Canadian musician, producing an album of staggering scope and beauty. Hecker’s work has been described as: “focused on exploring the intersection of noise, dissonance and melody, fostering an approach to songcraft which is both physical and emotive.” One of the finest of todays modern composers, Hecker is here joined by an impressive cast of musicians from the Icelandic-based Bedroom Community label; Valgeir Sigurðsson performs and mixes (alongside Hecker) and Paul Corley takes part in the performing and engineering, while the album was recorded at Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavík (as well as Avast, Seattle and Empac Concert Hall, Troy).

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Moonface “Julia with Blue Jeans On” (Jagjaguwar)
Spencer Krug’s fourth album under the Moonface moniker, “Julia With Blue Jeans On” is a highly personal, quietly affecting and truly moving album which will prove to be one of the year’s most masterful hidden gems. The album’s genesis came from Krug’s time creating 2012’s “Heartbreaking Bravery” – a despair-laden album written after a difficult break-up – while in Helsinki and recording with Finnish band Siinai. During the same period, the highly prolific Krug set off on another creative journey, inspired by “a rediscovery of love and a reconsideration of the Moonface persona he’d created for himself.”

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Laurel Halo “Chance Of Rain” (Hyperdub)
Released at the end of October on the Hyperdub label, “Chance of Rain” is the striking and sublime second album by American electronic musician Laurel Halo (aka Ina Cube) and follow-up to her debut 2012 LP “Quarantine”. The nine tracks which comprise “Chance Of Rain” showcases Halo (who is a classically trained musician)’s wonderful talents as both composer and producer where a breathtaking spectrum of sounds – industrial, electronic, techno, club, house – effortlessly form a cohesive and organic whole, producing a wholly unique and compelling album in the process. An album as striking and engrossing (much due to the breathtaking vocals as well as the distinctive production) as the grimly evocative sleeve cover art (by Halo’s father, the artist Arthur Chartow).

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Wooden Shjips “Back to Land” (Thrill Jockey)
The Ripley Johnson-led psychedelic quartet Wooden Shjips’ follow-up to their 2011 “West” LP is their most immersive and engrossing work yet. Recorded in Portland, Oregon in May 2013 over a period of an 11-day session at Jackpot! Recording Studio, ‘Back To Land’ mark’s the band’s first record to be conceived outside of their native San Francisco. From the opening title-track, a blissful, wonderfully melodic guitar-led song to the stunningly forlorn album closer (recalling Beck’s “Sea Change”), the engrossing soundscapes of Wooden Shjips are a joy to journey through (bands such as Pavement, Sonic Youth, Crazy Horse and Spacemen 3 come to mind). Album art (with multiple circular die-cuts) by Oliver Hibert (and layout by the wonderful Sheila Sachs) ensures the vinyl edition is a must have.

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Ghost Maps The Ocean From The River “S/T” (Casino Gravity)
Released on November 15th, Ghost Maps The Ocean From The River’s self-titled debut album comprises the new musical chapter in Jeff Martin (Halfset)’s hugely impressive career to date. The album features legendary multi-instrumentalist and indie-giant John McEntire (Tortoise/The Sea and Cake) as well as a special contribution by the immensely gifted pianist Tony Crow, long-term player in the legendary Kurt Wagner-led Nashville-based collective Lambchop. From the opening gorgeous minute-long piano and violin “Intro”, we are treated to a stunning meandering journey across oceans of heavenly sounds and unknown beauty. Current personal highlight is the majestic instrumental opus “If I knew Where I Was I’d Be There”, a piece that could belong on Lambchop’s Double LP “Aw C’mon / No You C’mon” or Efterklang’s “Piramida”.

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Omar Souleyman “Wenu Wenu” (Ribbon Music)
One of the most surprising albums of the year thus far came courtesy of “Wenu Wenu” (meaning “Where Is She?”) – aided by Kieran Hebdan’s production prowess – via the latest record by Syrian musician Omar Souleyman. Prior to his homeland’s civil war crisis hit, Souleyman crossed the Syrian border into Turkey. Souleyman was formerly a wedding singer in his native Syria, a position – as described in an interview with NPR – as “important for experimenting in different kinds of music. In the region where I’m from, weddings have been really important in mixing different kinds of musical heritage.” Souleyman has released a plethora of material – mainly comprising live recordings of his wedding performances and spanning hundreds of cassette tapes – and his stature only grew when he collaborated with Bjork and subsequently appeared in numerous festivals in both the US and Europe.

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Dean Wareham “Emancipated Hearts” (Sonic Cathedral)
Dean Wareham (ex Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman) released his debut solo record “Emancipated Hearts” via Sonic Cathedral earlier this month. The resultant mini-album (the record contains six tracks) is a treasure of a record, produced by Papercuts’ Jason Quever and features a beautifully fragile and understated set of songs, including five original Wareham compositions (featuring the politically-charged “The Deadliest Day Since The Invasion Began” and “The Ticking Is The Bomb”) plus a cover of “Air” by The Incredible String Band. Also available on gorgeous limited edition orange 10″ vinyl.

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Recondite “Hinterland” (Ghostly International)
Berlin-based producer Recondite’s first album for Ghostly International is the gorgeous “Hinterland”, an album inspired by Recondite’s homeland of Lower Bavaria (indeed, much field recordings spanning various times of the year are included across the album’s ten tracks). Like the poetic tree-lined and light-filled monochromatic landscape photograph depicted on the cover, “Hinterland” proves a lush, near-spiritual listening experience and proves a landmark release for the hugely talented producer. As Recondite has said of “Hinterland”: “I tried to capture the area’s mentality and natural environment within the album. Particularly the moods that behold the emotions of the four seasons, which differ a lot in this region.”

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The Velvet Underground “Loaded” (Cotillion/Atlantic)
“I found a reason to keep living / Oh and the reason, dear, is you / I found a reason to keep singing / Oh and the reason, dear, is you” sings Lou Reed on “I Found A Reason”, taken from The Velvet Underground’s fourth album, “Loaded”, released in 1970 on Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label, Cotillion. The song, like any one from Reed’s considerable output – both as a solo artist and as principal songwriter with The Velvet Underground – confirms Reed as one of the finest and most gifted (and certainly most influential) songwriters of the last fifty years. Despite The Velvet Underground’s modest commercial success during their all-too-brief lifespan – from the late sixties until the early seventies – the band’s influence on new generations of musicians is as strong today as it ever was. Brian Eno’s famous and much-repeated quote (in reference to The Velvet Underground’s beloved, classic 1967 debut “The Velvet Underground And Nico” only selling a mere 30,000 copies) stated: “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

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Step Right Up: Foxygen

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Foxygen is the Los Angeles-based songwriting duo of Sam France (vocals, Olympia, Washington) and Jonathan Rado (guitar, keyboards, NYC). It is incredible to think they are both a mere 22 years-old, considering their masterful songcraft and their uncanny ability to craft a perfect pop song. In January 2013, their full-length album, ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic’ was released on the peerless indie label, Jagjaguwar. A kaleidoscope of Stones, Kinks, Zombies, Bowie, Beatles, and Dylan are etched on Foxygen’s remarkable sunshine-pop oeuvre of sound. 

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

foxygen_craigcarry

The collection of nine indie-pop songs are performed by Sam France, Jonathan Rado and Richard Swift. The album ‘We Are The 21st Century..’ was produced and mixed by Richard Swift at National Freedom. What lies at the heart of Foxygen’s songs is Richard Swift’s singular sense of melody. I was first introduced to Swift upon the release of a double-album of his, entitled ‘The Novelist/Walking Without Effort ‘back in the mid-00’s on the Secretly Canadian label. A certain lyric of Swift comes to mind: “Trying so hard to craft a rhyme with nickels and dimes”. The perfect pop opus, that is ‘The Novelist’ is barely twenty minutes long yet his poetic rhymes and intricate arrangements and production, shines brightly throughout. The instrumentation of mandolins, clarinet and guitars echoes the timeless sounds of Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney and Tom waits. As always, Swift’s melodies are things of beauty that radiates all of the sun’s rays onto your new day. I’d like to think Swift’s role as being the visionary producer, in the vein of George Martin for The Beatles. The musical telepathy between him and Foxygen’s France and Rado is clearly felt along the 21st Century’s compelling sonic journey. Album opener ‘In The Darkness’ is reminiscent of the opening ‘Sgt Pepper’ on The Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper And His Lonely Hearts Club Band’ as France sings “So without further ado we’d like to introduce you to the darkness”. Glorious keyboards, guitar, brass, and 60’s pop laden-hooks flow endlessly beneath ‘In The Darkness”s cosmic and timeless whirlwind of sound. ‘No Destruction’ is next that wonderfully mixes Dylan circa ‘Blonde On Blonde’ and Pavement’s ‘Crooked Rain’. The result is an utterly compelling folk-pop gem. The array of backing harmonies conjures up the sound of Ray Davies and The Kinks. The opening line on verse 2 is perhaps my favourite Foxygen lyric: “I’m talking to my grandma who lost her arms in the war”. A few notes later, France sings “There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore” that could be Malkmus singing of his dislike for The Smashing Pumpkins in ‘Range Life’. The sprawling vocals during the line “Oh but the door of consciousness isn’t open anymore” is an ode to Dylan and sounds somewhere between ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Blonde On Blonde’.

My favourite must be ‘On Blue Mountain’. This song marks the genuine promise for what this young band could become, one or two albums down the line. The song opens with an organ and a seductive slow beat. The cosmic sphere tapped into here is paralleled with ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ by The Flaming Lips. A sonic depth and soulful dimension is penetrated. I love France’s soul-drenched falsetto on the verse, amidst the delicate guitar tones. The song evolves into a gospel indie-rock opus, that is nothing short of spectacular. The backing harmonies share the burning spirit of Jackson 5, and an anthem is born. The tempo slows on the second verse, as France Sings “I was looking through the bible”. The song turns from soul to blues in one fleeting moment. A windswept feel of nostalgia is etched gorgeously across the sonic canvas of ‘San Francisco’. The vocal interchange between Sam France, Jessie Baylin, and Sarah Versprille exudes the magical realm of the songs of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. A mystical charm radiates from the pop ballad that is placed perfectly between The Zombies and The Kinks. The art and beauty of a pop melody, as ever, lies at the heart of Foxygen’s mission as ambassadors of peace and magic.

A short interlude of a raging blues jam (think Link Wray and 70’s Detroit) forms the bridge between part A and B of the album. ‘Shuggie’ follows next. A beautiful, heartfelt soul-pop gem is born. ‘Shuggie’ contains a doo-wop feel and funk rhythm that exhibits the special realm of the lost classic ‘Inspiration Information’ by Shuggie Otis. The immaculate production and layers of instrumentation is a joy to witness. This was released as a single back in 2012, and continues to stop me in my tracks. The sound of The Band, Motown, and Phil Spector are floating in the song’s headspace, as a technicolor of sound is imprinted on your heart and mind. ‘Oh Yeah’ reminds me of Beck’s ‘Modern Guilt’ where a Dangermouse production and crystalline guitar sound comes in waves through the speakers. This song has it all. There are Keith Richards licks of fat guitar tones, T-Rex and Bowie-esque songcraft, and the irresistible soul-funk of Prince. Towards the end, as France shouts “Freak out”, raging guitars and drums conjure up the sound of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.

The title-track is the album’s rock ‘n’ roll anthem, as the vocals of “We are the 21st century/goin’ to kick your ass boy” exudes the raw power of Iggy and the Stooges. The falsetto vocals transports me to Eddie Cochran’s ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’. The closing section evolves into a sublime torchlight gospel refrain. ‘Oh No 2’ is a soulful pop ballad that belongs somewhere between Todd Rundgren’s 70s pop and the soundscapes of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. I cannot wait to hear what Foxygen do next. With ‘We Are The 21st Century…’ there are no borders and the possibilities prove endless.

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‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic’ is out now on Jagjaguwar. 

http://foxygen.bandcamp.com

http://www.jagjaguwar.com

Written by admin

April 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm