FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Paradise of Bachelors

Chosen One: Steve Gunn

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Interview with Steve Gunn.

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

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

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Mixtape: So Etched In Memory

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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

 

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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Chosen One: Nathan Bowles

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Interview with Nathan Bowles.

“I like the clawhammer approach to open-tuned banjo because it allows me to express ideas melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically in a way that feels closest to how I think of music in my head.”

—Nathan Bowles

Words: Mark Carry

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The Virginia-native, Nathan Bowles has long been synonymous with treasured folk and Americana music of today, having collaborated extensively with the Black Twig Pickers (banjo, percussion), Pelt (percussion), Steve Gunn (drums, piano and banjo), Hiss Golden Messenger (banjo), Jack Rose, and others. This November marks the highly-anticipated release of Bowles’ sophomore solo full-length, ‘Nansemond’ – named after the Virginia wetlands landscape that he grew up in that has long since drifted off the map – that features the windswept beauty of timeless folk gems (‘Jonah/Poor Liza Jane’ and ‘J.H. For M.P.); brooding, cinematic soundscapes (‘The Smoke Swallower’) and soul-stirring Appalachian old-time traditions (‘Sleepy Lake Bike Club’ ). The seven sonic creations contained on ‘Nansemond’ transports you to a place that has long since vanished but with each divine note and rhythmic pulse, fleeting moments of past lives and faded dreams flood into the present just like the deep blue Nansemond River that continues to find its sea.

Aesthetically, ‘Nansemond’ is a marvel of a record. The tender lament of ‘Golden Floaters’ unfolds gradually like the embers of a morning sun; a piece of music akin to Glenn Jones’ own transcendent banjo works. Moments previously, the full-blown traditional opus of ‘John Henry’ is steeped in age-old traditions that feels as if it’s at once immersed in familiar tradition and the compelling unknown. A rich narrative runs throughout ‘Nansemond’’s sprawling sonic canvas as a searching for truth and meaning serves the vital pulse to the shape-shifting compositions. Bowles is joined by Tom Carter (guitar), Joe Dejannette (guitar), Steve Kruger (fiddle/voice), and Jason Meagher of Black Dirt Studio (recording, production, mixing).

The North Carolina-based label, Paradise of Bachelors has delivered yet again another exceptional and utterly timeless work of art – hot in the heels of Steve Gunn’s careerhigh of ‘Way Out Weather’ which incidentally features Bowles’ peerless musicianship – that represents music to truly savour, now and forever more.

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‘Nansemond’ is out now on Paradise of Bachelors.

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Interview with Nathan Bowles.

Firstly, congratulations Nathan on the incredible and stunningly beautiful new record, Nansemond. It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about this very special and enlightening record. I would love for you to discuss the album-title, which is the place name of where you grew up in Virginia? The album itself takes you to these wonderful places – the Chuckatuck Creek, Nansemond River, the lakes and beyond – where the music becomes an enriching experience, dotted with childhood memories and a distant past that is far removed from today. Please recount your memories from these particular places and indeed your childhood, growing up in the wetlands landscape?

Nathan Bowles: Hi, and thank you. Glad you’re enjoying the record. I’m not sure the places are wonderful in and of themselves, they’re just places that played an important part in my growing up. They’re wonderful insofar as they were the physical background for a lot of my imaginings as a child, and as a backdrop for my early music studies on piano and drums. I’m not sure what this question is asking, exactly: I can’t obviously recount memories wholesale. It was a mostly confusing, occasionally exciting, mostly introverted childhood spent between my inner world and the outer realities of muddy lakesides, times with friends romping around the woods, spacing out driving along flat, swampy roads wondering when I was going to leave… the places and feelings evoked in the record aren’t as specifically fond as much as they are specific in their confusion and haziness.

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The album itself feels like a collection of suites that are tied together by the geographical trajectory of your hometown and family roots, where ‘Nansemond’ becomes one gorgeously crafted mood-piece. Please talk me through the opening Sleepy Lake Bike Club – which serves the fitting prologue to the record’s sonic voyage – and the construction of the song’s beautiful soundscapes?

NB: The sequencing is wholly sonic; there’s no attempt to trace any geographic trajectory. ‘Bike Club is the title I gave that piece after reflecting on the images it brought it up as I was composing, scattered memories of biking around the wooded paths with a few friends and coming up with idiotic excuses to hurl the bikes into little creeks or play games of chicken around corners. It’s wistful but sad, too, maybe. Those games always ended prematurely when the sun set and came out to nothing, really.

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In terms of influences, the album is rooted in both the familiar traditions of Appalachian and folk music from the south (and beyond) and the avant-garde and cinematic drone. For example, the beguiling minimalist drone of The Smoke Swallower is wonderfully placed before the traditional folk tune of Jonah/Poor Liza Jane. Can you discuss these worlds of music that lies at the heart of your transcendent solo works and indeed the artists and records that have introduced you to these worlds of sounds? It’s clear you have one foot steeped firmly in tradition but the other is rooted in experimental and this for me, is the essence of your unique blend of music.

NB:  I’m not sure what the question is here. It’s all music to me. ‘Experimental is a pretty crappy term; I’m not experimenting, I’m playing — even the most freely improvisational elements of my music are focused in their ultimate aims. Traditional Appalachian music catches my ear as much as the best freely improvised music and everything in between, and I think I’m as picky and discerning across all of those genres. It’d be impossible to isolate what particular ‘worlds influence the music I’m making.

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The pieces on Nansemond are primarily based on your compelling banjo-based melodies. Would this often be the starting point when writing a piece of music, Nathan? Can you discuss the banjo’s possibilities and the reasons you believe the banjo is such a unique and special instrument? 

NB: The songs are generally composed on banjo, excepting instances when they’re improvised around a rhythm or scale (‘Smoke Swallower for instance). I like the clawhammer approach to open-tuned banjo because it allows me to express ideas melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically in a way that feels closest to how I think of music in my head. I feel very lucky to have found that kind of match with an instrument. I’m not sure how to express it beyond that.

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You consider yourself first and foremost a percussionist; collaborating with a wide array of the leading U.S. contemporaries, including Steve Gunn, Hiss Golden Messenger, Pelt, and The Black Twig Pickers to name but a few. I can imagine being part of these various projects must tap into (on a subconscious level at the very least) the solo music you are creating? What do you think are the values you have learned from these varied and awe-inspiring collaborative ventures?

NB: Collaborating is what makes one a truly better musician; listening, adapting, finding spaces, understanding dynamics. These are applicable to solo music, it just means you have to listen very closely to yourself and your environment. Patience is an important lesson.

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You are joined by a formidable cast of musicians on Nansemond. Please talk me through the players on these sessions and what were the sessions like? Were the pieces of music very much written and mapped out prior to recording, Nathan? Any happy accidents occur during this process? 

NB: Tom and I improvised ‘The Smoke Swallower and ‘Chuckatuck in the studio, to different degrees. ‘Smoke Swallower was built around a banjo scale and a rhythm… ‘Chuckatuck was a little more defined, though the arrangement and separate movements happened as a result of studio collaborating. John Henry is a tune that Steve Kruger, fiddler, and I play a lot when we get together around town, and Joe is a singular bassist and guitarist/recording engineer that could easily hop in on that tune. The rest of the tracks are composed but also heavily improvised during each recording.

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The album’s penultimate track, Golden Floaters/Hog Jank is my current favourite, and I love particularly how these two pieces merge together, and the slow-building banjo patterns that casts such a hypnotic spell. Can you recall writing this piece of music, Nathan? It’s such a beautiful and moving piece of music, reminiscent of Glenn Jones such is its brilliance. 

NB: Wow! Thanks. ‘Golden Floaters originated as a tuning and a kind of circular riff after a hallucinatory experience on the gulf coast of Florida. Much of the melody and arrangement was improvised during the recording. ‘Hog Jank is a slide riff that I’ve been toying with for a while now. It made sense as a bridge, tuning-wise and mood-wise, between ‘Golden Floaters and ‘Tire Swing. I’m currently integrating it into another piece I’ve been working on… we’ll see what comes of that.

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What’s next for you? I am sure you must have quite a few ideas currently floating in your mind.

NB: There’s a handful of collaborations in the works that I’ll keep on ice for the moment.  Oh, but there’s a Steve Gunn & Black Twig Pickers collaborative record on Thrill Jockey dropping in February. And another Black Dirt Oak thing in the mix… and … well, you’ll have to wait and see. Needless to say I’m very busy.

 


 

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‘Nansemond’ is out now on Paradise of Bachelors.

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http://www.nathanbowles.com/
http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com/

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Written by markcarry

November 20, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Chosen One: Steve Gunn

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Interview with Steve Gunn.

“Writing the words to songs has been a bit challenging, but I really enjoy the process, and look forward to doing more. To me singing is another instrument, so it adds a bit more to some of the guitar pieces that I’ve come up with.”

—Steve Gunn

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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The Brooklyn-based guitarist, Steve Gunn is one of independent music’s true treasures, having released a plethora of records through various guises and collaborative projects over the past decade. Gunn’s guitar prowess is revelatory that ceaselessly inspires and illuminates. To think of Gunn’s masterful musicianship, an array of guitarists spring to mind – Dirty Three’s Mick Turner, Glenn Jones, Michael Hurley, William Tyler and Jack Rose – that lovingly embodies the spirit of an age-old tradition with which a dedication to the artist’s craft lies at the heart of all the creator’s works. If you were to listen to these gifted guitarist’s career-spanning works, one feels a journey evolving which traverses vast plains of sound, styles, emotion and possibilities. Steve Gunn’s latest masterpiece, ‘Time Off’ – released on the North-Carolina based independent label Paradise Of Bachelors – conveys the guitarist’s most affecting collection of songs thus far.

‘Time Off’ was recorded at Black Dirt Studio, Westtown New York and produced by Jason Meagher. The personnel include Gunn (vocals and guitar) aided by the gifted talents of John Truscinski (drums), Justin Tripp (bass), Helena Espvall (cello), Jason Meagher (flute) and Tyson Lewis (piano). The album feels a culmination of all Gunn’s previous incarnations that have come before; Gunn’s solo works, sometime-guitarist in Kurt Vile’s Violators, one half of the Gunn-Truscinski Duo and a member of GHQ. A new emphasis is drawn to Gunn’s use of vocals here that makes ‘Time Off’ a richly absorbing body of work that encompasses both the art of song-writing and the power of unrivaled musicianship. This deep musical telepathy that exists between the trio of Tripp (bass), Truscinski (drums) and Gunn (guitars/vocals) serves the blood-flow to ‘Time Off’s resolutely unique world of sound.

‘Lurker’ – the album’s second track – perfectly embodies the spirit of ‘Time Off’ as Gunn’s central guitar motif conjures up the sound of an utterly timeless psych folk exploration. The hypnotic bassline supplied by Tripp and Truscinski’s soaring beat serves the ideal backdrop to the song’s vivid sense of searching and longing that permeates throughout. The refrain of “Found a spot to kill time and look around” invites the listener to explore the Brooklyn neighbourhood and city streets and in turn, lose yourself to the multitude of senses and flavours that surround you. A brooding mood develops as a beguiling guitar interlude comes to the forefront of the mix some five minutes in. A towering crescendo is reached that gradually comes to a resolution. Before too long, the gloriously meditative guitar motif returns like the arrival of a long-lost friend.

‘Old Strange’ is the album’s centerpiece. The song’s sprawling canvas is a joy to savour that serves a celebration to Gunn’s dear departed friend and muse, Jack Rose. At a recent Glenn Jones show, it was strikingly clear what a presence Rose has had – and continues to have – on the guitarist’s life and music, as a prevailing sense of loss was etched across the face, and indeed the music of Jones. Similarly, the spirit of Rose is wonderfully portrayed throughout the shape-shifting eleven minutes of Gunn’s ode to a dear friend. A cathartic energy is released by Truscinski’s majestic drum-work that serves the heartbeat and pulse to Gunn’s swirling rock rhythms. A symphony is formed where raw emotion exudes from the player’s trusted instruments. Elsewhere, Gunn’s twelve-string guitar-based ‘Trailways Ramble’ contains an Eastern – near cosmic – feel as an irresistible groove is formed by the rhythm section of Tripp and Truscinski. The soothing melodies of ‘Water Wheel’ serves the perfect opening of the enriching voyage. ‘Time Off’ is a marvel of a record that will long serve my trusted companion for many years to come.

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‘Time Off’ is available now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

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Interview with Steve Gunn.

Firstly, congratulations, Steve, on the absolutely incredible ‘Time Off’, it’s been on constantly since I first listened to it during the summer and it is such a breathtaking record. It feels like such an enriching journey – a sort of cross-country road trip of an album – and the songs form such a beautiful, cohesive whole which linger for such a long time afterwards.

SG: Thanks so much for the kind words on the album. I’m really happy to hear that it provided a bit of a soundtrack to your summer this past year.

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What I’d be really interested in hearing about, firstly, is that ‘Time Off’ is your first album with a “band”, featuring the wonderful talents of both John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp on bass. Of course, you also have been heavily involved with many collaborations over the years, not least as half of the magnificent Gunn-Truscinski Duo (alongside John), as a member of The Violators and numerous other bands and records. Did recording as a band mean a departure for you in how you approached ‘Time Off’? When did the writing and recording of ‘Time Off’ begin?

SG: Recording as a band was a bit of a departure, because it wasn’t just me recording alone anymore. We worked on the songs on ‘Time Off’ for a while in a band setting before going into the studio. This was the first time I took songs into a studio with a band. It was a long time coming, but a bit of a departure for sure.

I never really knew that I was writing for the album per say. I realized that it was time to make an album because I had enough songs and felt that they were ready to be put together. It was a span of a few years that I got all of these songs together. Some of them developed over a long period of time and playing them live, other songs were writing pretty quickly and not played live. It was mix of different times I suppose.

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I would love if you could talk a little about the playing of both John Truscinski and Justin Tripp on the album. Together with your own incredible guitar playing (and vocals), the musicianship on the whole is so breathtaking – the sense of rhythm and in particular how everything combines so organically is such a delight to behold. How and when did you first meet both John and Justin?

SG: I met John in New York City about seven years ago through mutual friends who played music. We were jamming together here and there with different people, and we decided to start collaborating as a duo. We’ve played together a lot and developed a real sense of each other musically.
Justin is a close friend that I first met in Philadelphia. We’ve known each other for a long time and have played in all different kinds of bands, and share a similar sense of and appreciation for many types of music.
Both John and Justin have had a lot of experience in studio settings, which has been really valuable. I look forward to working with them on this next record.

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I get the impression that the six pieces on the album must have been such a long time in coming together, they really feel like a culmination of a particularly long time. How did these songs come to light? Additionally, were they the result of improvisations or were they carefully assembled and imagined from the outset between yourself, John and Justin?

SG: I wrote these songs and played most of them quite a bit as a soloist. I intended to try them with a band, but it took a while. John and I had been working on duo instrumental recordings for a few years, and I was doing my solo stuff separately. Finally it was the right time for me to incorporate John into my songs. Justin was a logical fit as well, because we go way back and have an acute understanding of what we wanna try to do in the studio and when we play live. I also have to mention Jason Meagher, who is the engineer at Black Dirt Studios, where I’ve worked on a many recordings. He’s also been a big help when I try to figure out what to do with the songs and question how to incorporate different instruments, etc. He knows how to set the scene and vibe perfectly in the studio.

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When did you realize you wanted to record vocals on your album? I love how your voice adds such a beautiful new dimension to your music. The imagery in the lyrics also add another realm to the feel and mood of the album (for example “the sun goes down / the dogs will sound” from ‘Water Wheel’). I imagine it must have proved a challenge in the sense you were adding another “layer” to the process, so to speak?

SG: Thanks. I always wanted to sing, but it took a while for me to get used to it. Touring as a solo performer was a real learning experience for me and I’ve grown more comfortable singing live. I’m still working on it.
Writing the words to songs has been a bit challenging, but I really enjoy the process, and look forward to doing more. To me singing is another instrument, so it adds a bit more to some of the guitar pieces that I’ve come up with.

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There’s such a natural and stunning unfolding to each song – whether in particular arrangements or subtle shifts in tempo and so on – I imagine the album must have been challenging not only to write but also to capture to tape in a manner you were satisfied with?

SG: With these songs, we’d rehearsed and played them out live quite a bit before going into the studio to record them. That made the process easier when we finally got into the studio. The album was mostly recorded live, and we’d already developed what we wanted to do before going in to record.

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Where does the title ‘Time Off’ originate from?

SG: It comes from me taking a long time to make a record.

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My current favourite is the magnificent ‘Old Strange.’ It’s got such an expansive, hypnotic and meditative quality to it. The visceral quality (as well as those wonderful strings) reminds me of Dirty Three or Velvet Underground recordings. Also, the lyrics are beautiful, I particularly love the “what was real” and “it’s strange coming back around” lyrics. How did this song emerge for you? Did it stem from that repeated guitar phrase at the beginning?

SG: The song did stem from a repeated guitar phrase at first. I guess that’s how all of my songs come about, really. This song was a dedication to a friend, Jack Rose. I wrote this song for him.

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In terms of musical styles and traditions, you seem to be able to draw inspiration from so many diverse avenues, yet you can distill them so beautifully into your own distinctive sound (blues, country, psychedelia, free jazz and spiritual jazz, German Krautrock and so on), and call to mind many musicians (Jansch, Cooder, Chapman, Thompson, Dylan, for example). I would love to know the albums that, for you, hold the most resonance as both a musician and as a songwriter?

SG: Here is a short list of some of my favorites:

Michael Chapman – Rainmaker
Sonny Sharrock – Black Woman
Richard & Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver
Bob Dylan – Basement Tapes
Sun Ra – Lanquidity
Moby Grape – 1969

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Can you remember the moment you first realized music was going to be your true path in life? What were your formative influences to be a musician when growing up?

SG: I got really interested in music in middle school, and starting playing guitar in high school. First I was into skateboarding and punk rock stuff. Later I discovered jazz and older rock records and my whole world opened up.

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In terms of your own guitar playing; I would love if you could talk about your development as a guitarist over the years?
There is also such a richly diverse number of guitarists making such wonderful music today – William Tyler, Glenn Jones, Daniel Bachman and Cian Nugent to name just a few – it must be an exciting time for you to be able to receive the attention and acclaim from audiences that you so much deserve?

SG: I started getting serious about playing the guitar in college, more than fifteen years ago now. That’s when I started practicing a lot, started listening to and drawing from a wide range of music. I still try to practice often and make time for it. I am mostly inspired by my friends who play music and those who are generous with their playing and listening, those for whom it’s always about the music itself. I’m fortunate to know a lot of really talented and dedicated musicians, and I’m humbled by the attention I’ve received, inspired to keep working at it.

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‘Time Off’ is available now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

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

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Written by admin

January 20, 2014 at 10:14 am

Step Right Up: Promised Land Sound

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Interview with Promised Land Sound.

“It reminded me of Eggs Over Easy, the Link Wray albums on Polydor. A version of country rock that wasn’t too glossy, that still had gravel stuck in the boot toes so to speak.”

William Tyler (on listening to Promised Land Sound for the first time)

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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

The rich musical heritage of Nashville lies rooted to the band’s debut record – displaying a varied sonic palette of country, rock ‘n’ roll, folk/americana and soulful pop music – whose peerless musicianship and masterful songcraft defies the band member’s young years. Promised Land Sound consists of brothers Joey Scala (bass and vocals), Evan Scala (drums) – forming the damn fine rhythm section for guitar prodigy and singer Sean Thompson and classically trained keys man Ricardo Alessio and not least, Luke Schneider on rhythm guitar. The spirit of Creedance Clearwater Revival’s bayou sound is immersed in ‘Promised Land Sound’ (check out the rock rhythms of ‘Empty Vase’) that evokes a timeless sense of place, particularly that of the deep south: a powerful, raw-edged sound. Elsewhere, The Band’s club roots sound (‘Understand’), early Stones shuffling rhythm and blues (‘Money Man’), songwriting prowess of Gene Clark (‘Wandering Habits’), Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons (the deeply touching country gem ‘For His Soul’) are just some of the lineages carved out on this highly impressive debut by Promised Land Sound. But these are mere reference points that cannot justify (or come close to) the band’s artistic achievements and blend of energetic rock ‘n’ roll and sprawling country sound.

The band emerged from the fertile Nashville garage scene where members have played with PUJOL, Denney and the Jets, and members of JEFF The Brotherhood and Those Darlins, among others. Early on, Third Man Records (co-run by Jack White) came on board as their attention was quickly transfixed on the young, talented ensemble of musicians, describing them as follows: “They’re all youthful scruff and bluff, and they crank out tunes that would be right at home in Link Wray’s 3 Track Shack or hanging with the specters of long lost 45s that haunt Nashville’s overflowing legend-filled cemeteries.” The man in question who opened up the doorways for Promised Land Sound was Third Man Records’ Ben Swank, and the rest as they say, is history. The description by album co-producer William Tyler of Promised Land Sound is pitch-perfect:

“A version of country rock that wasn’t too glossy, that still had gravel stuck in the boot toes so to speak.”

The killer guitar riff of ‘River No More’ – a song that forms the backbone of the record’s side B – conjures up a beguiling atmosphere of “death and destruction”. A stone-cold classic is born here. The killer riff belongs as much to Jimmy Page as it does John Lee Hooker and the Delta Blues. Thompson’s vocal delivery is mesmerising as a foreboding mood is painted on the opening verse: “There’s blood on the shore / It’s as dark as the devil”. Frenzied guitar solos form the interlude, before the tempo shifts to chaotic jams on the song’s close. We’re told to “walk downstream and see how the river flows” that forms a bridge back to the Delta Blues of the 30’s – another long-lost age – where the awaiting devil stands at the crossroads and soul-bearing truths are about to go down.

‘Make It Through The Fall’ is a heart-worn country gem. The song could belong to a Rick Danko-led melody of The Band’s sacred repertoire (‘It Makes No Difference’, for example). The clean guitar tones and pedal steel creates a timeless country-tinged sound that aches of a heart’s absence and a sense of moving on: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen your face / And I’m alone and I know that you are too.” A vivid sense of contemplative longing is forged on the highways ahead as Thompson sings “I have found a way to fill my days”. The song’s sheer depth and masterful songcraft has gorgeous shades of Gene Clark ‘White Light’ record and ‘Grevious Angel’ by Gram Parsons. The country of ‘Make It Through The Fall’ indeed has got soul.

‘For His Soul’ represents another soul-searching ballad and gleaming treasure on the debut album. Glorious harmonies form subtle layers to the song’s structure, where beautiful guitar melodies a la George Harrison effortlessly meanders like a river-flow into the approaching deep blue seas. The bright tones and shape shifting keys (as well as the seductive bass groove) of opener ‘At The Storm’ immediately stops you in your tracks. The keys evoke the cosmic spirit of Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson, forming the ideal introduction to Promised Land Sound’s richly absorbing work. ‘Empty Vase’ is utterly seductive, complete with the raw energy of The Velvet Underground. ‘Understand’ transports me to The Band’s Last Waltz farewell concert on Thanksgiving Day of ’76 and the irresistible funk groove of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Don’t Do It’.

Undeniably, the music scene of Nashville is alive and kicking right now (as it has always been since the dawn of time). You are invited to come along and kick out the jams with one the city’s finest bands, Promised Land Sound. The debut’s haven of country rock sound is bustling at its seams, and is waiting for your demanded attention.

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Interview with Promised Land Sound.

[Promised Land Sound are: Joey Scala (bass, vocals); Sean Thompson (lead guitar, vocals); Evan Scala (drums); Ricardo Alessio (keyboards, piano); Luke Schneider (rhythm guitar, pedal steel)].

Congratulations on the absolutely stunning debut album. “Promised Land Sound” is such a great album. Firstly, I would love to know the history of the band, how you met and the circumstances which lead to the formation of Promised Land Sound?

ES: Joey and I met when I was 16 and he taught my drivers education class. I met Sean at Joey’s house when I was 17, and he didn’t like me (still doesn’t). That was the first time we had all 3 been in a room together. A few years later we decided to make a band.

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I would love if you could recount the moment Jack White invited you to release a live recording for a 7″ release on his wonderful Third Man Records label. It is obviously such a huge tribute to you as a band, and something you must have been really excited about?

ES: It was actually Ben Swank, who runs the day-to-day at Third Man, who passed along our sole recording at the time and hooked us up with the show/seven inch. We did meet Jack at the show and he was incredibly nice though, everybody at Third Man is super awesome and we’re really really thankful for throwing us that chance. It was a great time.

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Fellow-Nashville native William Tyler co-produced and played on your album. It must be such a great privilege to be in William’s company as he has such an incredible wealth of musical experience not only as a solo artist but as a collaborator and touring musician. It must have been wonderful having William on board for your album?

ST: Yeah man, William is a 1st class dude. We’ve all been buds with Willie for a while, so it felt great to have those good vibes in the studio. He’s no doubt one of my favourite guitar players ever. Definitely the most shred of our generation, so having a dude like that working in the studio is incredibly inspiring. Plus we all dig a lot of the same tunes. A big part of recording for us is being able to hang and nerd out about songs/riffs/mixes.

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As musicians, Nashville must be such an inspiring place to grow up and be based in as you must be always surrounded not only by its rich heritage and past but also indeed by the many varied artists making music there these days. What is it about Nashville that makes it a special place for you all? Which bands and musicians do you like the most making music there at the moment?

ES: I think this is the question we get most in interviews. Most of our friends play in bands and there’s just a lot of good music. Some of our favorites I guess are Clear Plastic Masks, The Paperhead, D. Watusi, Weekend Babes, Banditos…there’s a bunch more, just too many to name.

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So many bands and sounds (rock ‘n’ roll, folk, country, British R’n’B, blues) come to mind when listening to your debut album. Bands like The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Band and Link Wray come to mind to name only a few. I would love to find out which bands – and indeed which albums – inspired you the most to make music?

ES: My favorite drummers are Kenny Buttrey, Mitch Mitchell and Ringo Starr, so I guess i wanted to sound like them. All the albums they played on in 1967 are incredible too. Best year for music.

JS: We definitely dig all those bands, in addition, Billie Joe Shaver, Joe South, Willie Nelson, and Lou Reed are just some of my favourite songwriters, and Donald “Duck” Dunn, Rick Danko, Doug Yule, and James Jamerson are just some of my favourite bass players.

ST: Nick Drake, Michael Hurley, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Sixto Rodriguez are some of my favourite songwriters (that I can think of right now). As far as guitar players go…Richard Thompson is one of my all-time favourites, so is George Harrison, and John Fahey. Clarence White and Jerry Garcia get honourable mentions.

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My current favourite song is the irresistible “Make It Through the Fall”, the combination of lead guitar and slide guitar – together with the wonderful harmonies which recall Robertson/Danko/Helm – makes for such a great song. Lyrically, it is also so wonderful; “I’m alone and I know that you are too” is one of my favourite parts on the album. Could you recount this song’s construction and what inspired it?

ST: Thanks man. I wrote the riff after work one night and then didn’t really do anything with it for a while. At the time when I wrote the lyrics and structure, I was thinking a lot about relationships that are starting to fade away or had long since passed. Sometimes its necessary to move on even though it doesn’t feel good to. I was trying to convey some kind of contemplative longing vibe, with the lyrics and the riffage/chord structure. My buddy Richard helped me write some of the chorus and the second verse. The phaser pedal steel was Luke’s idea and it totally fills out the song.

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Interview with William Tyler.

Recount your first time hearing Promised Land Sound and the impressions it conjured up for you?

WT: I was at the Promised Land’s first gig. About a year and a half ago we were doing a benefit concert for the nascent Stone Fox, (a bar/venue that my sister and I opened here in Nashville) and the guys were all there with their gear and asked if they could hop on the bill at the last minute. So they did. I think they probably only had a few original songs but they cooked. It reminded me of Eggs Over Easy, the Link Wray albums on Polydor. A version of country rock that wasn’t too glossy, that still had gravel stuck in the boot toes so to speak.

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Tell me about the production of the album, what direction did you go with it and what influenced you in the production methods?

WT: In all honesty, there were three people producing. Jem Cohen, Andrija Tokic, who also engineered, and then I was there, but probably a bit more in the background. My main goal was for the guys to feel comfortable and laid back. They are a relatively young band but have a remarkable amount of self-discipline. The kind of stuff they are into, Jesse Ed Davis, The Band, early Beatles, I mean they want to be super tight, they are really good players.

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What’s so immediately apparent is the sheer talent of musicianship on display by each Promised Land Sound member. You also added guitar playing on album, this must have been a lot fun for you?

WT: That’s kind of what I was just intimating. Yes, I did play guitar on a few tracks. I think it was more of a way of tracking live with two guitars so that Sean could have a rhythm player (in this case me) to feel a little more relaxed, at least on those songs I played on. But I think the overdubs were very tasteful, the slide guitar and Luke’s pedal steel. And Jem was great with helping arrange the backing vocals.

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Could you name some other bands you’d recommend making music in the Nashville scene?

WT: So many, I mean, this town has a pretty ridiculous amount of great bands. Natural Child, Los Colognes, Fox Fun, Tristen, Lylas, the JP5, those are a few that come to mind immediately. Honestly we are pretty spoiled for good music down here, I think if anything people are a bit oversaturated.

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The self-titled debut album by Promised Land Sound is available now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

https://www.facebook.com/PromisedLandSound
http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com

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Written by admin

November 27, 2013 at 11:02 am

Chosen One: Hiss Golden Messenger

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

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

—M.C. Taylor

Words & Illustrations: Craig Carry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Haw” is out now on Paradise Of Bachelors. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Which novels and writers do you admire the most?

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

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What is next for you, Mike?

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

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“Haw” is out now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

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

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