FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Light In the Attic

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

 

Mixtape: Illusions and Dreams

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Illusions and Dreams [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/illusions-and-dreams-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. K. Leimer ‘Allegory’ [Palace Of Lights]
02. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith ‘Careen’ [Western Vinyl]
03. Circuit Des Yeux ‘Lithonia’ [Ba Da Bing!, L&L]
04. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Birting’ [Touch]
05. The Gloaming ‘The Girl Who Broke My Heart’ [Real World]
06. Planxty ‘Time Will Cure Me’ [Polydor/Shanachie]
07. Arthur ‘Sunshine Soldier’ [Light In The Attic]
08. Cem Karaca ‘Bir Of Çeksem’ [Pharaway Sounds]
09. Calexico ‘Woven Birds’ (Cinematic Orchestra Remixico) [City Slang]
10. The Notwist ‘Scoop’ [City Slang]
11. Aphex Twin ‘xmas_EVET10 [120] [thanaton3 mix]’ (excerpt) [Warp]
12. Theo Parrish ‘Tympanic Warfare’ (excerpt) [Sound Signature]
13. Wildbirds & Peacedrums ‘Soft Wind, Soft Death’ [Leaf Label]
14. Disappears ‘OUD’ [Kranky]
15. Mount Eerie ‘This’ [P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.]
16. Dirty Three ‘I Really Should’ve Gone Out Last Night’ [Bella Union/Anchor & Hope]
17. Jonny Greenwood ‘Spooks’ [‘Inherent Vice’ OST/Nonesuch]
18. Richmond Fontaine ‘Valediction’ [El Cortez]

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

 

 

Mixtape: This Uneven Thing [A Fractured Air Mix]

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This Uneven Thing [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/this-uneven-thing-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Antonio Sanchez ‘Get Ready’ [‘Birdman’ OST/Warner Jazz]
02. A Winged Victory For The Sullen ‘ATOMOS I’ [Erased Tapes/Kranky]
03. Ariel Kalma ‘Almora Sunrise’ [RVNG Intl]
04. Alasdair Roberts ‘This Uneven Thing’ [Drag City]
05. Teho Teardo ‘The Outside Force’ [‘Ballyturk’ OST/Specula]
06. Erik K Skodvin ‘Shining, Burning’ [Sonic Pieces]
07. Black to Comm ‘Hands’ [Type]
08. A New Line (Related) ‘The Slow Sound of Your Life’ [Home Assembly Music]
09. Kiasmos ‘Bent’ [Erased Tapes]
10. Thom Yorke ‘Guess Again!’ [Self-Released]
11. Antonio Sanchez ‘Doors and Distance’ [‘Birdman’ OST/Warner Jazz]
12. Charles Mingus ‘Slop’ [Columbia]
13. Mogwai ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ (Nils Frahm Remix) [Rock Action]
14. Peter Broderick ‘Colours of the Night (Satellite)’ (Greg Haines Dub Mix) [Bella Union]
15. Noel Ellis ‘Memories’ [Summer/Light In The Attic]

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.

Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

 

 

Mixtape: Holding Pattern [A Fractured Air Mix]

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Holding Pattern [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/holding-pattern-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Miles Davis ‘Julien Dans L’Ascenseur’ [Fontana]
02. Seán Mac Erlaine ‘Dingle’ [Ergodos]
03. Loscil ‘Holding Pattern’ [Kranky]
04. Klara Lewis ‘Msuic III’ [Peder Mannerfelt produktion]
05. Edvard Graham Lewis ‘Bluebird’ [Editions Mego]
06. Julia Kent ‘Missed’ [Important]
07. Fikret Kızılok ‘Haberin Var Mı?’ [Pharaway Sounds]
08. Sattar ‘Kashki’ [Pharaway Sounds]
09. Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Tõnu Kaljuste ‘Für Lennart In Memoriam’ [ECM]
10. Nico ‘Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams’ [Verve]
11. The Stepkids feat. Krondon & Percee P ‘Legends’ (Remix) [Stones Throw]
12. Homeboy Sandman ‘America, the Beautiful’ [Stones Throw]
13. HTRK ‘Feels like Love’ [Ghostly]
14. William Basinski ‘Melancholia I’ [2062]
15. Lewis ‘Things Just Happen That Way’ [Light In The Attic]
16. Mica Levi ‘Love’ [Milan]
17. The Langley Schools Music Project ‘In My Room’ [Bar/None]
18. Laura Nyro ‘The Wind’ [Columbia]
19. Tom Waits ‘Rainbirds’ [Island]

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.

Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

 

 

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’ is available now on Kranky.

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

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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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‘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.

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‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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

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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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‘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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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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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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Mixtape: I Set My Face To The Hillside [A Fractured Air Mix]

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I Set My Face To The Hillside [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-set-my-face-to-the-hillside-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Alexandre Desplat ‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe, Pt. 1: A Veiled Mist’ [‘Moonrise Kingdom’ OST / ABKCO]
02. Calexico ‘Frontera /Trigger’ (Live) [City Slang / Anti-]
03. Tortoise ‘I Set My Face To The Hillside’ [Thrill Jockey]
04. Igor Stravinsky ‘L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird Suite): Rondo (Corovod)’ [Revised 1945 Version] [CBS]
05. Lambchop ‘The Distance From Her To There’ [City Slang / Merge]
06. Karen Dalton ‘Take Me’ [Light In The Attic]
07. Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou ‘Evening Breeze’ [Buda Musique]
08. Grouper ‘Clearing’ [Kranky]
09. Choir of Downside School, Purley, Emanuel School Wandsworth, Boys’ Choir & London Symphony Orchestra ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 64: On the Ground, Sleep Sound’ [‘Moonrise Kingdom’ OST / ABKCO]
10. Oneohtrix Point Never ‘Still Life’ [Warp]
11. PASSAGE ‘Poem To The Hospital’ [Anticon]
12. The Notwist ‘Neon Golden’ (Console Remix) [City Slang]
13. Kiasmos ‘Swayed’ [Erased Tapes]
14. A Winged Victory for the Sullen ‘ATOMOS II’ [Erased Tapes / Kranky]
15. Jack Hardy ‘The Tailor’ [Numero Group]

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

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Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

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Time Has Told Me: The Monks

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Interview with Eddie Shaw, The Monks.

“Their melodies were pop destructive and must be played to your younger brother.”

—Jack White

Words: Mark Carry

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As described by David Fricke of Rolling Stone, “The Monks were the original exiles on main street — ex-GI’s playing heavy attitude freakrock in the hard-luck bars and roughhouse teen clubs of the 60’s Cold War Germany.” The story of The Monks — whose ground-breaking full-length record ‘Black Monk Time’ (released in March 1966) journeyed into garage, psych and punk many years before any Sex Pistols or aforementioned movement would surface — is beautifully told by Monks bassist, Thomas Edward Shaw in the aptly titled autobiography ‘Black Monk Time’.

The Monks were five beat playing American GI’s stationed in Germany, who after their discharge, decided to stay and continue their musical mission, in the words of Shaw: “Our creation is the material expression of an inner spiritual reality”. The line-up for The Monks comprised: Gary Burger (Minnesota, guitar); Roger Johnston (Texas, drums); Larry Clark (Chicago, organ); Dave Day (Washington, banjo) and Eddie Shaw (California, bass). Starting out as good-time surf band The Torquays, their metamorphosis into the Monks occurred during the mid-60’s after a chance-encounter with a team of local managers after which time the five-person order forged a fuzz-drenched evolution of sound, bursting with social commentary and futuristic primitive rhythms.

Some forty years after the original release of the band’s landmark studio album, ‘Black Monk Time’, Light In The Attic Records lovingly assembled the U.S. group’s recorded legacy, including ‘The Early Years 1964-1965’ and numerous period photographs (many unseen) included in both releases.

“You’re a monk, I’m a monk, we’re all monks!
Dave, Larry, Eddie, Roger, everybody, let’s go!
It’s beat time, it’s hop time, it’s monk time now!”

—Taken from ‘Monk Time’, the album opener to ‘Black Monk Time’ (Polydor Records, 1966).

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It’s a real honour to ask you some questions about the Monks and the rich musical legacy that five American GIs have left behind. Firstly, before discussing the band’s cult-classic — 1966’s ‘Black Monk Time’ — I would love to gain an insight into the inception of The Monks. You originally were The Torquays, a good time surf band. Please discuss these few years together as the Torquays and your cherished memories of this period. It is clear a solid foundation for the band’s peerless musicianship developed naturally during this time. 

Eddie Shaw: I was a trumpet player and began playing professionally when I was 15 years old, playing at The Nugget Casino in Carson City, Nevada. I was on the backroom stage, while Wayne Newton, 12 years old, was on the main stage with his brother.

After boot camp in the army, I was assigned to the Sixth Army Band, at the Presideo in San Francisco — the same company assigned to Herb Alpert and Chet Baker. It was a prestigious assignment. Not many musical people are given this opportunity, but I was too naive (Dumb? Adventurous?) to understand it. Since I thought it was too close to home, and since I wanted to see the world — I asked for to be sent somewhere else. That’s how I came to Germany. I realized I had made a mistake when I got there and found myself assigned to a combat unit where I became a computer in an artillery battalion. At that time there were no electronic computers. A person was the computer, and my job was to calculate the locations of targets using Geometry (the Pythagoras Theory).

Stationed in Gelnhausen Germany, there were many amateur musical groups on this army base, because playing music was a way to relieve the tension caused by more serious matters. For awhile when off duty, I played drums in a Dave Brubeck style trio — both in boot camp, on the troop ship, then for the officer’s club. When this group was unable to stay together, I played drums in a country band for the non-commissioned officers’ club in Gelnhausen.

I didn’t enjoy playing country, when I noticed two guys who played weekends, off base, in town. Gary Burger and Dave Day were guitar players, and they played for whatever money people might put in their guitar case on the barroom floor. It was simple three chords, Chuck Berry type rockabilly. When I heard them practicing in a small room in the servicmen’s club, I went to a music store, bought a bass guitar, practiced the three chords for about a week and then approached them. After awhile there were six people in the group. It’s all described in the book. The song list was expanded into new songs, some of which included the Beach Boys — and later the English groups. Gary sang the high falsetto parts.

I was the first to get out of the army, and when an agent (Hans Reich) heard us playing at the Maxim Bar in Gelnhausen, he suggested he could get us full-time gigs. I agreed to stay in Germany if the others would stay, when they got out, as well. They did. Being in a foreign country, we stuck together. We played the German clubs, seven nights a week, six to eight hours a day (2 hour matinees on Sundays) — and did nothing else but that.

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You found yourselves together because of the army, stationed in Germany. After your discharge, the band decided to stay and continue your musical mission. After reading your wonderfully insightful and enlightening book, ‘Black Monk Time’, there were many memorable club shows during those early years. Can you please talk me through the various shows you performed together during the pre-Monks years. It’s amazing to read how diverse the audiences were, depending on the space and time. I can imagine you must have faced many difficulties and hardships being so far away from home, and as a result, a closeness must have formed quickly between all the band members?

ES: I don’t think it’s easy for five healthy males to eat together, live together, travel and work together without some kind of tension. As time passes and there is an awareness of being noticed, there is also a competition of egos or perhaps feelings of trying to maintain positions — it’s a common condition in rock groups.

The Beatles experienced it. The Rolling Stones all have separate dressing rooms when they perform today. In time we get to know too much about each other, causing each person to look for his own space. Years later, when we did our reunion performances, we began to recognize that circumstance. We are individual people and still we’re all Monks — together.

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The lineup of the Monks were Gary Burger (lead vocals, guitar), Roger Johnston (drums), Larry Clark (organ), Dave Day (banjo), and your bass prowess. Can you please explain how you adapted to each other’s styles and preferences? The essence of the Monks could perhaps be seen as that truly captivating hybrid sound you unleashed, which became the blueprint for punk, psych, krautrock and garage music. 

ES: Gary Burger was a country/folk guitar player, with no professional experience before the army. Dave was an Elvis fan — with some experience playing three chord songs. Larry was a taught piano player (Chopin, Brahms, etc.), who loved the song ‘Green Onions’ and could play it just like the record. Roger was a country swing drummer from Texas, who may have played some gigs before the army, and I was a person who played different instruments and had spent about two years working in a Nevada based jazz quartet (“E Pluribus Quatro”). The individual members of The Torquays had nothing in common with each other, regarding musical influences and tastes. And this is what eventually became the basis for our hybrid sound.

We played month-long engagements for a year and a half as the Torquays, playing whatever was the hit songs of the day. In that year and a half, we only had three nights off. For me, it was the opportunity to travel, to see the world — or at least Germany. We returned often to the Odeon Keller in Heidelberg, and there we did a couple of our own recordings, written by Gary and Dave, but they were conventional tunes, not particularly interesting to anyone looking for something new.

When our managers discovered us in Stuttgart, we realized that in order to find our own sound and perform our own songs, we would have to compromise our individual musical tastes. Each person had to change some element of his style to make the mixture more cohesive. Gary could not play country. Dave could not play Chuck Berry licks over and over. And I could not play jazz progressions. We deconstructed the songs, minimized the words and chordal elements and changed the normal 12 — 8 bar passages to odd counts, like 15 bars or other odd length progressions — with key changes to break up the minimalist repetition. We did this to put tension into the music.

When the audience seemed at ease, while we performed; talking to each other and not paying much attention to the group onstage, it was a sign of failure. We knew we had to do something to keep the audience’s eyes focused on the stage. Tension and controversy were discovered to be the best approach for having people remember the group. As mentioned earlier, this insight was gained from being onstage for hours — watching people. After a while you begin to experiment with the audience. A summation of this experience is also in the book.

At the time, we never knew that our music was groundbreaking in any way. We only knew that whenever anyone heard us, they knew who it was. It was our sound. We “owned” our music, as some musicians might say. And it was not easy to own something that left people perplexed and sometimes angry.

Almost forty years later, following publication of my book ‘Black Monk Time’, we monks found ourselves doing various interviews and being featured in new articles. It was as if the group had come back to life. To my surprise I was told that The Monks had some effect on the “Krautrock” movement, which included Faust, Tangerine Dream, Can, Kraftwerk, and many more German artists who played a new form of progressive rock music in Germany in the 1970s. Suddenly there were a number of artists who released monk songs on different record labels — including Das Furlines; The Lunachicks, Mark E Smith’s The Fall; Kelley Stolz; The Graves Brothers Deluxe; and London’s The Nuns — and other groups that I am unaware of.

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Can you discuss for me your fascination with jazz music, Eddie? What were the first records you heard that opened a doorway into jazz? As a bassist, were there certain musicians you looked up to in a big way?

ES: I began playing Dixieland style music, Louis Armstrong, etc. after seeing all the groups that came through the local casinos where I lived in Nevada. It was the prevalent style. And I did my first recording when I was fifteen years old — playing live.

When I was a teenager, there was a late night radio program that featured modern jazz — and when I heard Dave Brubeck for the first time, I was intrigued. The music was more complex and wasn’t easy to understand on the first hearing. The songs contained layers of counterpoint, counter melodies and sophisticated rhythms which offered a diverse listening experience — and the improvisation made the music seem more personal. It got me — and from there, I discovered Duke Ellington who did some very complex and interesting arrangements, just as Stan Kenton did. From that I got into the Eastern U.S. jazz music with performers like Miles Davis and John Coltrane — the more avant-garde the better. I felt I was exploring new thresholds (some of today’s contemporary musicians in the rock scene are doing that same thing now).

In time I was copying the sound and style of Miles, even turning my back on the audience, when I performed onstage, to show how hip I thought I was. Of course, it was kid stuff, but I was hooked. I never intended to play rock and roll music, but then being in the army and discovering that rock music is generally about what you cannot get — like satisfaction, I found it to offer a release from the problems of the day. When we invented our monks style, I felt more satisfied, as if this is what a jazz player would do in the same circumstances.

After the Monks, I returned to the trumpet and a jazz based style, playing cities like Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, and recording in Nashville. That group was known as Copperhead, later named Minnesoda on Capitol Records. It was a 180-degree change from the style of the Monks — my reaction after feeling failure.

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Your favourite live band were the Tielman Brothers, hailing from Indonesia. You saw them playing live many times and shared the stage with them on occasion. What was it about this band that made such a deep impression on you?

ES: We never shared the stage with the Tielman Brothers. While we were in the army, we did go to Hanau many times, to see them perform at the Jolly Bar. They were there often and in Hamburg as well. I knew little about them, but Gary and Dave were avid Tielman Brothers admirers. The Tielman’s style was like Cliff Richards — tightly synchronized guitars, at a low concise-mixed volume. You could hear every instrument’s part as the drums played in the mix, not over it. Gary would always marvel about Andy Tilman, the lead guitarist, by saying, “Look how long his fingers are.” Andy was a very precise player, as you can hear on ‘Java Guitars’, but on the recording/s, you can’t hear the stereophonic effect between the guitars. The Tielman Brothers were much better live than they were on recordings.

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Can you please recount for me the first time onstage as the Monks, in Heidelberg, Germany? I really enjoyed this part of your book as it was a significant turning point for you all personally, where many people were not ready for such a dramatic transition? Also, the fact each member had shaved tonsures into the tops of their heads and were wearing black clothing with rope ties must have stopped a lot of people in their tracks. 

ES: As soon as we left the barber in Frankfurt, after getting our tonsures, we knew that our lives would be different. We saw it on the street, immediately. Old women smiled at us, not the same as when we had long hair. Young people would not make eye contact, always averting their eyes if we said anything directly to them. Our image was a challenge to us, as we suddenly realized that people reacted to us as some kind of authority (priests — religious figures or serious serious guys) — but when we were drinking beer, talking rough and eyeing the girls, we were also very aware of the shocked faces that watched our behavior. Of course the black clothing and the rope ties had something to do with it as well. We were always conscious of being watched, no matter where we were.

When we were the Torquays, the Odeon Keller was always packed in Heidelberg. Everyone loved the conventional show and top pop tunes. We were an easy group to like and everyone seemed to be our friend. But the first night we showed up as the Monks — and Heidelberg was our first gig as the Monks — there was a very shocked reaction from our old friends. No one danced. No one applauded. They just sat at their tables and stared at us. The most often asked question was, “Why?”

They could not understand that we wanted to do our own music, not someone else’s — and especially there was the question, why the “I hate you,” stuff and “Why did you get that kind of haircut?” We spent a miserable month there and I don’t think we ever returned, after that. The owner, Herr Friedman, was pissed. “I do not want the Monks. I want the Torquays.” And of course, we could not turn back. The Torquays no longer existed. The further south, in Germany, we went, the more extreme the reactions to us were. In Hamburg we were like irreligious heroes, like we were making fun of serious matters and the naughty people of the St. Pauli District of Hamburg considered us as one of them. The Beatles crowd in the Top Ten would sing “I want to hold your hand” while the Monks crowd would sing, “I want to fuck your hand.” It wasn’t nice was it?

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Please discuss the beat scene in Hamburg during the mid-60’s, Eddie? It was described as the Mecca for music, and you resided quite a lot in the legendary Top Ten Club. I loved your description of Hamburg in the book: “I felt the dirt and decided that I would till it.” I would love to hear about your memories of Hamburg and indeed the musical scene during this time?

ES: In the 1960s, Hamburg, Germany was the origin of many rock musicians’ careers. As New Orleans had an effect on early American jazz, the same could be said for Hamburg, the city that provided an environment for upcoming rock groups. Some of these groups dominated the 1960’s popular music worldwide. It could be said that Hamburg was the training grounds for the oncoming British Invasion.

The main music scene was along the Reeperbahn (a wide street filled with neon lights, strip clubs and restaurants). This is where a narrow street, Grossfreiheitstrasse (“Big Freedom Street”) contained more of the same — including the famous clubs; the Kaiserkeller, The Star Club, and The Indira Club. A few yards south of the corner at Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit was the popular club known as The Top Ten Club.

The Beatles and other emerging groups played in these clubs as did the Monks who followed the Beatles in 1965. This district, known as St. Pauli, was also known as a home to prostitutes and hustlers who plied their trade on the streets. It could be dangerous place for those who wandered into the area, unaware. According to one Beatle, it was where the Beatles spent their apprenticeship. According to another Beatle, “We improved a thousand fold in Hamburg and when we returned to Liverpool, no group could touch us.”

The Top Ten was formerly known as the Hippodrome (Reeperbahn 136); designed as a circus like structure with naked ladies riding horses around a dirt-floored ring. In 1960 Peter Eckhorn turned it into a fashionable beat club, the same club the Beatles played three years earlier before we monks arrived. Like the Beatles, The “Anti-beatles” slept on the second floor, in the same small two-room area with dismal bunks and lockers, the same bunks and lockers described by the Beatles. When we were there, there were bullet holes in the lockers put there as a warning by the owner, to keep the volume down.

According to Tony Sheridan who recorded ‘My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean’, with the Beatles, “It was terrible, now that I look back. We washed our shirts and socks so the place smelt like a Chinese laundry. And I’m afraid we used to tease the life out of the old lady who [took care of] us.” And he was talking about the elderly woman who worked in the men’s restroom, referred to as “Mama” in various Beatles’ biographies — the same woman referred to, by us monks, as “Oma” (grandmother).

As the Monks discovered, like the Beatles, our Hamburg female companions were prostitutes, strippers and dancers who appeared at the club in various versions of sexy attire — before and after performing their own venues. Those of us, who spent time there, do agree it was one of the most naughty cities in the world.

According to rocker, Gerry Marsden, frontman for Gerry and the Pacemakers, in the nearby Herberstrasse brothels, located on a blocked-off street where women sat in windows, one would find experiences offered nowhere else in the world, and you better watch out. As the book ‘Black Monk Time’ stated, many of these women were friends of monks. Nightly in the Top Ten Club, Oma would supply Preludin to our drummer, Roger Johnston, to help him stay awake on stage. Even the waiters in the clubs would offer a pill when they saw a musician unable to perform because of too much drink or exhaustion.

You could buy anything in Hamburg, no matter if it was legal or not. It was a place where a musician might come, get hooked on the environment and everything it offered, and never return home — like Beatles’ first drummer, Stu Sutcliffe who stayed there and died of a brain hemorrhage; or like singer, Tony Sheridan, who used to stand in front of the stage when the monks played the Top Ten, making fun of Dave Day playing the banjo (as described in my book). Sheridan never left Hamburg and died there in 2013.

Hamburg was the stomping grounds of many groups: Cream, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, Earth who became Black Sabbath, The Pretty Things, The Liverbirds, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, members of groups in King Crimson; The Indonsian group, The Tielman Brothers; and even some well-known Americans: Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a live album at the Star Club. The Americans who came there included; Bill Haley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Ray Charles and even Brenda Lee. How could any rock group claim they had appeared at all of the world’s most important rock music scenes if they hadn’t been in Hamburg?

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The band’s near-mythical studio album, ‘Black Monk Time’ was recorded in Cologne. I can imagine it must have been difficult to record your songs to tape, in a studio environment, after the extensive nights of touring clubs and venues? The primitive technology and the band’s attempt to replicate the fuzz-drenched revolutionary sound from the live setting to a studio environment must have been riddled with difficulties? 

ES: We were playing in Cologne, at Storyville. It was a relatively short gig each night (four hours) so when we finished at 1:00 am, we packed our gear and drove to a nearby town where we set up our equipment and recorded until about five or six in the morning. It took three nights (early mornings) to complete the LP. After recording we had to pack up our equipment and take it back to the club, the next night repeating the whole cycle. We were exhausted.

At the time, everything was done on four tracks — multiple track recording and remixing were not done, so everything had to be done as perfect as possible. Because our music required volume, it was hard to individually separate the sound of the instruments. Aggressive sound waves clashed in the studio making a lot of rumble and noise. Our engineer ran a loop of recording tape across the control room to a door handle approximately thirty feet away. The cycles of this tape going through one track of the recording machine was adjusted to put the clashing rhythms in sync. It worked and everyone congratulated the engineer who first said it would be impossible. Our producer, Jimmy Bowien, was a very smart man who encouraged recording studio experimentation.

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Please talk me through the album’s opening track ‘Monk Time’? It is clear it quickly became the cornerstone of the Monks’ songbook. The lyrics are bustling with a social commentary that even today, immediately sends shockwaves to your very core.

ES: Our lyrics and music was a combined effort. If only one person wrote each song, the music would not have been the same. We had to analyze what we were saying, especially to a non-English speaking audience, creating lyrics with irony, humor, or word play to make the meanings universal. One person could not do it, therefore the shared credits. ‘Monk Time’ created the most contention between us. We were ex-GIs and the last thing I wanted to do was appear unpatriotic. I was against, “Why do you kill all those kids in Vietnam?” and we argued about it for days.

When Walther, our manager tried to make peace, he suggested, “Why not add the words, ‘mad Vietcong’?” This helped me reconsider the meaning — and I finally agreed to do it — because yeah there were mad Vietcong. ‘Monk Time’ was an overt anti-war song and we did not like the Vietnam War. It was obvious. Our other songs were more social protest, or statements of irony; Be a liar everywhere, shut up don’t cry.

Or Higgle dy Piggle dy — Way down to heaven which loosely translated means arses and elbows, we’re on our way down to heaven. The song, ‘Wie Du’, was comprised of wordplay. We do as you, We do, Wie Du, Wie Du Wie Du – means, “We do as you, We do, We You, We You We You.”

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Looking back on the album, do you have a particular favourite song from ‘Black Monk Time’, Eddie? 

ES: ‘Shut Up, Don’t Cry’. It was fun to experiment with and invent a new style of minimalism — just as any jazz based person would like doing if he were playing rock today. Nothing has changed — lots of people are experimenting with new pop songs today. I like it!

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Soon after the album’s release, the Monks toured extensively throughout Germany, including slots alongside Bill Haley and the Comets, and the Storyville club. What are your memories of the ‘Black Monk Time’ tour? I recall a moment in your book, supporting Casey and the Governors at Zirkus Krone, and having no soundcheck. There must have been many high and low points during this pressurized time of attaining (much-deserved) recognition, particularly concerning album sales?

ES: The tours were tests of courage. The further south in Germany we went, the more people we met, who hated us. We were attacked on stage by irate audience members a couple of times. Some of the British groups, when they first heard us said, “Are you crazy?” My friend, Ian Wallace, who later played drums for King Crimson, was one who asked me that same question. Casey Jones was another, who would smile and you knew what he was thinking — crazy yanks! And yet, no matter where we went, we got attention because we demanded it — except for the first concert we played with Casey Jones. We weren’t ready for that. As long as I could think I was doing a new form of music, I enjoyed it, no matter what the criticism was. When music turns into business, it begins to feel as if it is no longer music. With corporate accountants measuring the earnings, we began to find ourselves under pressure to make money — a new priority when it came to writing a song. And it took away the magic for me. I experienced this same thing, years later in Nashville, in the 1970s – as if formula music is the only kind of music a person can play if he or she wants to be on a major label. The tunes become deliberately designed with the right hooks, words, and most popular expressions. There are templates and formulas. There’s more of that today, than ever — and I never liked it and never wanted to be a part of it. Even as I could understand the algorithms in both music and math — economic formulas were not the reason I wanted to play music.

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There is a very powerful line in the book ‘Black Monk Time’ towards the end: “We’ve been monks for a long time, and we don’t seem to be making any headway”. Can you touch upon the feelings the band were going through during this time? It must have been especially hard considering the promises the record label executives were giving you at the time of ‘Black Monk Time’s recording and subsequent release?

ES: This was when everyone in the group began to question why he was there — as if there might be some better place to be. Three of us monks discovered the group no longer existed, the day before we were supposed to fly to Asia. We were on a rare two-week vacation when two monks left Germany. I got the information in a letter. There was no one to blame. When it all fell apart, all I could feel was a sense of relief. We were tired. When I went home after being gone for seven years (trying to explain my experience to my family at home) I tried to play this music for my mother. She was a good piano player, and when I put the Monks recording on the record player, she ignored it, like she didn’t hear it. Before I had gone to Germany, when I played drums and trumpet, all the jazz stuff —she’d say, “Great! Do that again!” It wasn’t the case with monks’ music.

When I played the ‘Black Monk Time’ LP for an uncle who played western music in a local Nevada casino, he turned the player off, and said, “You used to be a better musician than that! Why did you do that?”

When I returned to my hometown in Carson City, Nevada, I considered myself a failure. Old friends joked about it among themselves — and after that I never talked about The Monks to anyone, except one night when I was sitting in a bar, forty years later, drinking a beer and this guy was sitting next to me. We got into a conversation and he told me he had served in Viet Nam. I told him I was in Germany and he said, “Yeah, I was sent to Germany from Vietnam. I had a German girlfriend and we went to Hamburg once, where we saw this group in a nightclub. They were singing some bullshit song about “Why do you kill all those kids in Vietnam”. They were dressed like monks and I hated them — I wanted to kill ‘em.”

I drank my beer and I didn’t say anything. It’s a small world, I thought — and after some minutes of silence I quietly said, “I was in that group.”

He turned to me and stared. It was a minute or two before he spoke. “You were one of those guys onstage?”
“Yeah.”
“You were dressed like a monk?”
“Yeah. We were known as the monks.”
“When I listened to that whole bullshit about Vietnam and crap, I had just gotten back from Vietnam. Yeah, I hated you then and I still do.”

“I didn’t like those comments much, myself,” I said rather contritely. “It could have been done better.” I shrugged and added, “But as you turn around and look at it now — thirty years later — when Robert McNamara came on TV and apologized about the war, I suddenly felt that maybe we weren’t wrong. Not that being right was the important thing — the sad thing is that 58,000 American kids died along with all those Vietnamese kids — and for what?”

He shrugged, “Yeah, I thought about it myself, and you’re absolutely right. After all these years,” he stopped for a moment, before adding, “You’re right, but I still hate you.”

I saw him a couple of more times after that, and we never mentioned it again. In fact we did become friends.

After all those years, the Monks disappeared in the “black hole” of the 1960’s as Leonard Cohen described it later, and then something happened. Not thinking about it for twenty-five years, I was reading an interview in People’s Magazine about a female group for New York, Das Furlines.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The article described a strange group, known as the Monks who disappeared without a trace. There were people who claimed these monks were the first punk band, when people didn’t know what punk was. They were a group of GIs who went AWOL and while the military police was searching for them, they showed up on German TV singing, “I hate you but call me”. It made me laugh.

Quite frankly I liked that scenario. It was a fitting end, when one looks back at it. Yes, some things said about The Monks didn’t happen, and some things did. Be a liar everywhere. Shut up don’t cry!

At the time I was studying writing with well-known writer/educator Gil Ralston (aka Gilbert Alexander) and he encouraged me to write the book, ‘Black Monk Time’. And after I wrote it, these two guys showed up at my house, knocked on the front door and when I opened it, they asked if I was Eddie the Monk. I just about fell over.

After they left, I immediately called Gary Burger in Minnesota. When he answered the phone, I said, “You won’t believe this but two guys showed up at my door and are going to do an article about the monks because they read the book and they loved our music—the Monks have people who like them.”

“Fuck you,” Gary said and he hung up. Maybe he thought I was messing with his head. I don’t know. Of course I laughed about it. Suddenly something felt right. As I learned from spending hours onstage, if you want to be an artist you need to feel the ripples of tension going through the audience. All of a sudden I was feeling it, like I did in the good old days. I was lost and now I was found. Something felt familiar. It is good to know that something is causing pushback. If you get a little pushback then you know the key to some hidden truth might be found right there.

You feel the resistance and it says you’re raising a reaction. If you’re getting a reaction, then you’re doing something! Wow! We weren’t failures after all! Okay — now I felt better!

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Forward several decades, the Monks have gained a cult status among the discerning music collector. Light In The Attic re-released the record and included many precious rarities and unseen photos. It must have been extremely gratifying for you, Eddie, to realize how much (deserved) recognition and universal acclaim ‘Black Monk Time’ has received, some forty plus years on? 

ES: To say it took special talent or effort might be an overstatement. I like to believe that what happened was the result of curiosity. Being in a different place, as in a different country. Looking for something that was not obvious — as some people might declare, “Looking for the lost chord.” With perseverance, time, and experience, a person does stumble on something that makes him sit up and say, “Whoa! What was that? I’m gonna do it again.”

Curiosity killed a cat, they claim, and it also can expose a rat. Most groups generally don’t last longer than three years. Once the limits, of what they can do, are reached — repetition sets in. Musicians who are interested in self-expression move on in a different direction, when they cannot get past the boundaries of their latest innovations. If the chemistry is right between individuals, a new discovery is waiting to be uncovered. That’s the fun of working in a curious group. The monks were daring individuals, otherwise they would not have stayed in Germany to see where the experience would take them. Okay to hell with that! It sounds too damned philosophical. And who am I to be talking like that, anyway?

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[Note: After finishing the above interview with Eddie Shaw, I received the news that Gary Burger, guitarist with The Monks, had passed on. In sending on a message of condolence to Eddie, I received the following reply]

ES: I did use a couple of passages from a not yet released Ebook titled, ‘The Resurrection of Black Monk Time.’ It’s a 120 page addition — to be the second part of the first book — it contains photos and notes of the monks doing their reunion tours. I was just about finished with it when Gary died.

His passing came as a shock because I didn’t know he was ill. The email news came to me from stranger a couple of days after he died. For sure there will be other monks leaving, sooner or later. When one monk passes, another will come along. Monks are always going somewhere. And hey, we’re all monks! And of this particular family of monks; it’s three down and two to go. And so what?

What the hell is that supposed to mean anyway? Cross out that last statement and replace it with, “Everything is alright. Shut Up! Don’t cry!”

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‘Black Monk Time’, Eddie Shaw’s memoir of The Monks is available now, published by Carson Street Pub Inc.

‘The Early Years 1964-1965’ and ‘Black Monk Time’ have both been re-issued and are available now on Light In The Attic Records.

http://lightintheattic.net/releases/32-black-monk-time

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