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Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Van Etten

Step Right Up: Heather Woods Broderick

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Interview with Heather Woods Broderick.

“Many times I see things, whether it’s a passing scene out of a window, or a combination of colours on a wall, that conjure up memories for me. So sometimes I use these images to help depict or frame a feeling.”

— Heather Woods Broderick

Words: Mark Carry

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Glider’ is the highly anticipated sophomore full-length –and follow-up to the formidable 2009 solo debut ‘From The Ground’ – from gifted multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Heather Woods Broderick. The Brooklyn-based and Portland-raised musician has long been synonymous with some of the most breath-taking musical explorations of recent times, having closely collaborated with Portand’s Horse Feathers, Danish group Efterklang and is currently an integral member in U.S singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten’s band.

The nine immaculate sonic creations captured on ‘Glider’ unfolds a fragile beauty and striking emotional depth that inhabits an ethereal dimension from the opening dream-like atmosphere of ‘Up In The Pine’ to the closing country gem ‘All For A Love’. ‘Glider’s bewitching sonic canvas possesses a transient quality with each song cycle capturing a myriad of fleeting moments. The gorgeous vocal harmonies, pristine production and rich instrumentation serves the fitting backdrop for Broderick’s deeply affecting songs to flourish. For example, ‘Mama Shelter’ evolves into an infectious dub-infused groove which is masterfully inter-woven with Broderick’s richly soulful vocal delivery. The piano-based ballads of ‘Fall Hard’ (which could be taken from Marissa Nadler’s latest record ‘July’), ‘The Sentiments’ and the album’s title-rack ‘Glider’ serve the album’s most poignant and soul-stirring moments as the rich tapestry of vocal harmonies and piano notes drift majestically in the ether.

A Call For Distance’ epitomises the evocative production masterfully dotted across ‘Glider’ as timeless dreamwave sounds of This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins comes to the fore. The joyous sounds of ‘All For A Love’ with its jazz leanings (thanks in part to David Allred’s trumpet part) contains gorgeous clean guitar tones, upbeat harmonies and warm percussion akin to a marvelous sunset on a summer’s night. “There is a lot to live for” is a lyric that resonates powerfully and marks the album’s over-arching theme of perseverance through life’s difficulties and therein the strength to find one’s inner voice.

‘Glider’ is available now on Western Vinyl.

http://heatherwoodsbroderick.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

Interview with Heather Woods Broderick.

Congratulations on your sublime new record ‘Glider’. The album is nothing short of staggering where the nine sonic creations unfold a fragile beauty and striking emotional depth that leaves the listener utterly dumbfounded. Rather than a record being a snapshot in a moment of time, ‘Glider’ possesses a transient quality with each song cycle capturing a myriad of fleeting moments culled from a long period of time. Can you please talk me through the songs of ‘Glider’ and discuss the themes to ‘Glider’ and your aims from the outset?

Heather Woods Broderick: Thank you very much; I’m really happy to hear you’re enjoying the record. Most of the songs on ‘Glider’ are reflections of experiences I’ve had, or close friends or family have had. The songs were written over about a two-year period, but reference events spanning a substantial period of time in my life. The title track is the only song I wrote prior to moving to Brooklyn in the fall of 2011. Many years had passed since I released ‘From the Ground’ when I really began writing the material for ‘Glider’. I think I’d grown as a musician after playing with so many different projects, and also as a person after so much travel around the world. ‘From the Ground’ was my first attempt to write any songs with words, so there were a lot of things I wanted to do differently when writing ‘Glider’. I like to create an atmospheric landscape for songs to live in. For ‘Glider’, I still wanted this to play an important role in the sound of the record, but I spent more time fully forming songs and writing lyrics. I think all of the songs on the record are pretty self-explanatory in a lyrical sense since they are all based on real events and emotions, but I do like to utilize a bit of metaphor in songwriting to help paint a picture an allow for more imagination. Many times I see things, whether it’s a passing scene out of a window, or a combination of colours on a wall, that conjure up memories for me. So sometimes I use these images to help depict or frame a feeling.

The range of sounds masterfully sculpted across the record is something that sets ‘Glider’ apart from your formidable debut full-length ‘From The Ground’ where this time around all songs are vocal-based, reflecting a song-writing masterclass in full bloom. Please take me back to the recording sessions and the wonderful cast of musicians you were joined by, not least your brother Peter and the wonderful David Allred among several others.

HWB: Every song on the record started out as a poorly self-recorded demo. I knew that I wanted to go into the studio having all of the material prepared, so I spent a lot of time with the demos – working with the structure and arrangements of the songs. I had all the vocal ideas worked out on demos, and knew the guitar sounds I wanted to go for, etc. When it finally came time to go into the studio I asked a few friends to be a part of the process. I spent five days at Type Foundry studio, working with engineer Adam Selzer, in Portland, OR where I recorded all of my basic tracks and vocals, and also tracked 2 of the songs (Wyoming + All for a Love) live as a three-piece. During these sessions Dave Depper played bass, Peter Broderick played Drums, Birger Olsen came in to lay down the guitar solo on ‘All for a Love’, and Eric Early played some hammond on ‘Desert’. All phenomenal musicians; I was lucky to have them join me on the songs. After the five days at Type Foundry, Peter and I took all those tracks out to a home studio he has on the Oregon Coast called The Sparkle. We spent a couple of weeks out there doing the rest of the overdubs. David Allred also came out and added some upright bass and trumpet during this time. We worked with the songs a lot during this phase, filling out the arrangements more, doing all of the post production, and then mixing the record here as well.

Aesthetically, ‘Glider’ is such a triumph and revelation. The piano-based ballads such as the heartwrenching title-track, ‘Fall Hard’ and ‘The Sentiments’ are beautifully inter-woven with ethereal dreamwave creations like ‘A Call For Distance’ and stunning folk gems like ‘Desert’ and ‘All For A Love’. I wonder was it ever difficult to decide on a certain style or version of a particular song, Heather? Did any of these songs undergo a dramatic transformation (or mutation!) from your original sketch of a song to its final recorded entity? For example, I can imagine a song such as ‘A Call For Distance’ is such a thrill to perform and record with your band?

HWB: I find it almost impossible to go back and drastically change the structure or lyrics of a song once I’ve written it. So for the most part, the songs are really similar to the demos. I wasn’t really going for any particular style or anything when I was writing. ‘A Call for Distance’ was sort of my labour of love on the record. I used a lot of delays through the process of writing these songs, and I think this one in particular was really inspired by what I was hearing as I went. I had an electric guitar with a delay pedal, a vocal mic, and a basic logic setup, so I could play and listen back while writing. I wouldn’t even know how to replicate some of the sounds from the demos on this song, so we ended up flying in some of the demo tracks. I have yet to perform this one live with a band, but I really look forward to doing that, and figuring out some version of it that works in a band setting. Some fun developments did happen during the recording process though. For example, Dave Depper’s bass playing on ‘Mama Shelter’ ended up being a huge influence to the path of that song took. He came up with this dub/reggae bass part in the chorus’ that we loved, so we sort of played on that theme while adding the other instrumentation. It fit in really well with the chorus echo and space echo machines that we were using with all the other tracks as well.

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The art of collaboration has been a trusted constant in your musical path, from Horse Feathers to Efterklang and Sharon Van Etten. I would love for you to share your feelings on music as being the great collaborative art. I can imagine the sum of these experiences and journeys with all these special souls makes for such an inspiring and rewarding journey. What are the memories you most cherish from these particular collaborations?

HWB: I have been very lucky to play with so many talented musicians, and collaborating with other artists is something that I’ll always have an interest in doing, musically and beyond. I love learning other peoples’ songs as well as writing parts to accompany others’ music. I find a lot of pleasure in practice and repetition. It’s a very different experience playing with different people. Everyone approaches music in their own way, and I find that really interesting. I go through phases of wanting to work on music that’s much more structured or technical, and wanting to throw out all the rules and just play loud rock music. It’s all rewarding in different ways. I loved being able to play cello in Horse Feathers – something I haven’t done with any of the other bands I’ve played in since, at least in a live setting. I have particularly fond memories of traveling with Efterklang to places I’d never been, and haven’t been since. They were really special people to make music with. I was late in the game in hearing Sharon’s music, but I’m so glad I did. I still remember the first time we sat in my living room and sang together – a moment I’ll never forget.

Coming from a musical family – both your parents are musicians and you began piano lessons at the young age of eight – music has always been in your life. I would love if you could reflect on pivotal moments that occurred during your musical upbringing that you feel helped you in a significant way? I can only imagine you and your brother at home must have been playing music together, almost on a constant basis?

HWB: There was definitely a lot of music going on in my house growing up. My parents both played guitar and always spun records after dinner. My older brother Noah played saxophone and also electric in a grunge rock band. I took piano lessons for years, and then quit for about a year when I was 15 or 16. Probably typical of that age and not wanting to be told what to do. I came back around to it though. I found some classical pieces that I really fell in love with and contemporary bands that I heard classical crossover with (everything from Rachels to various math rock bands), and it made me excited to keep practicing, and to be able to apply what I’d learned to making music with people. My brother Peter started taking suzuki violin lessons when he was really young, but we never really played together until I was 18 or 19. We started playing in a band together then, and also went to the same school for a brief period and would write and perform pieces together for composition classes and recitals. My parents were always really supportive of whatever I wanted to do with music, and I’m sure their support encouraged me to go down my own musical path.

The tender lament ‘Desert’ is one of the album’s (many) defining moments. I love this sense of a travelogue that flickers in and out during many of your songs. The imagery and poetic prose
conjured up on ‘Desert’ resonates powerfully. Please talk me through this song and your memories of writing ‘Desert’.

HWB: ‘Desert’ was one of the later songs I wrote for the record. I was on a break from touring and trying to spend some quiet time at home with my guitar in Brooklyn. I wrote the song in one afternoon in my living room there. I had recently been playing a lot of music with my dear friend and fellow musician Alela Diane in support of her record ‘About Farewell’. I was playing second guitar along with her and had been messing around with some of those finger picking patterns. The core of the lyrics are based around a conversation that I’d recently had with a former boyfriend that had left me feeling unresolved. It was also late winter in New York, and the imagery is embedded in observations of the season.

I feel the empowering piano ballads contained on ‘Glider’ serve the vital pulse to this remarkable album, reminiscent of Marissa Nadler, Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ LP and indeed, Sharon Van Etten. It feels as if these songs represent some of the earliest written songs that helped shape the rest of the record. I love the ethereal dimension the piano-based works inhabit, creating in turn, utterly transcendent moments.

HWB: Those are all lovely ladies to mention, thank you. ‘Glider‘ was the earliest track written for the record, and was written while I was still living in Berlin before moving to Brooklyn. ‘The Sentiments’ was written somewhere in the middle of that two year writing period, and ‘Fall Hard’ was actually the last song I wrote for the record. Maybe it’s appropriate that they are scattered like they are throughout the record in a sense; I hadn’t thought about that.

What records do you find yourself coming back to, time and time again? Please discuss any books/gigs/music/films you have been most impressed with lately?

HWB: My musical tastes really vary. On the classic side, I always go back to records by Kate Wolf, Neil Young, and Springsteen. These are all records I grew up listening to. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Dawn Upshaw performing Henryk Górecki’s Symphony no. 3, Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2, or any Chet Baker record. I also love a lot of new indie bands, jazz, ambient – the list could really go on forever. I think the most memorable performances I’ve seen in the last few years was Antony and the Johnson’s performing Swanlights at Radio City Music Hall. I love seeing dance performances. ‘Drift’ by Cindy Van Acker, and a piece titled ‘Leading Light’ by Suniti Dernovsek are two of my favorites I’ve seen in the last year. I recently read ‘Light Years’ by James Salter and ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion – both beautiful books. I’d highly recommend both.

 


 

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‘Glider’ is available now on Western Vinyl.

http://heatherwoodsbroderick.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

Chosen One: Sharon Van Etten

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Interview with Sharon Van Etten.

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

—Sharon Van Etten

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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

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

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

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

‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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

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Interview with Sharon Van Etten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love the production on ‘Are We There’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

SVE: Aw thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What music are you listening to right now?

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

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

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

 


 

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

‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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

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Written by markcarry

February 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Albums & Reissues Of The Year: 2014

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

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

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Albums of the year:

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Grouper ‘Ruins’ (Kranky)

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

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

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‘Ruins’ 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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arewethere_web

‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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

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Print

Clark ‘Clark’ (Warp)

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

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

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

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‘Clark’ is available now on Warp.

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

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

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

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

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

http://hauschka-net.de/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christina Vantzou ‘N°2’ (Kranky)

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

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

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‘N°2’ is available now on Kranky.

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

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Birds Of Passage ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (Denovali)

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

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

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‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available now on Denovali.

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.marissanadler.com/

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

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Reissues of the year:

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

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

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

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

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

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Lewis ‘L’Amour’ (Light In The Attic)

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

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

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

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

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One Of You ‘One Of You’ (Little Axe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fikret Kızılok ‘Anadolu’yum’ (Pharaway Sounds)

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

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

http://lightintheattic.net/

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

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

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

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

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Mixtape: ‘Do Not Wait For Better Times’ [A Fractured Air Mix]

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donotwaitforbettertimes

‘Do Not Wait For Better Times’ [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/do-not-wait-for-better-times-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. The Peep Show ‘Do Not Wait For Better Times’ [Tenth Planet]
02. The Moles ‘Lonely Hearts Get What They Deserve’ [Fire]
03. Craig Leon ‘Nommo’ [RVNG Intl]
04. K. Leimer ‘Lonely Boy’ [RVNG Intl]
05. Sharon Van Etten ‘Break Me’ [Jagjaguwar]
06. Emerald Web ‘Dreamspun’ [Stargate]
07. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler ‘The White Balloon’ [Thrill Jockey]
08. Amen Dunes ‘Lilac In Hand’ [Sacred Bones]
09. The Necks ‘The Boys III’ [‘The Boys’ OST / Fish Of Milk]
10. Erik K Skodvin ‘Shining, Burning’ [Sonic Pieces]
11. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Heyr Himnasmiður’ [Touch]
12. Ela Stiles ‘Anything’ [Fire / Bedroom Suck]
13. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh ‘what what what’ [Diatribe]
14. Margaret Barry ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ (Long Version) [Rounder]
15. Robbie Basho ‘Leaf in the Wind’ [Gnome Life]

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

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

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

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Fractured Air 21: Safe In The Womb (A Mixtape by Brigid Power-Ryce)

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Galway-based musician and visual artist Brigid Power-Ryce has quietly established herself as one of the brightest hidden talents from Irish shores over the past several years. Having released solo material via such Irish independent labels as Rusted Rail and Abandon Reason to date; Ryce is also a member of drone-based trio Gorges. Ryce’s own solo material centers around her unique vocal delivery (recalling such diverse sources as early recordings by Cat Power, Irish traditional singer Margaret Barry and folk luminaries such as Vashti Bunyan and Bridget St John) while her sparsely delicate instrumentation of accordion, guitar, ukulele or piano serve to emphasis Ryce’s own characteristically intimate and soul-stirring compositions.

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Fractured Air 21: Safe In The Womb (A Mixtape by Brigid Power-Ryce)

To listen on Mixcloud:
http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-21-safe-in-the-womb-a-mixtape-by-brigid-power-ryce/

Tracklisting:

01. Angel Olsen ‘Safe in the Womb’ (Bathetic)
02. Neil Young ‘Danger Bird’ (Reprise)
03. Duke Ellington ‘Blues In Orbit’ (Columbia)
04. Charles Mingus ‘Track B – Duet Solo Dancers’ (Impulse!)
05. Maria Callas ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ (EMI)
06. Neil Young ‘For The Turnstiles’ (Reprise)
07. Sharon Van Etten ‘Your Love is Killing Me’ (Jagjaguwar)
08. Aretha Franklin ‘Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)’ (live) (Atlantic)
09. The Band ‘Chest Fever’ (Capitol)

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

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Read interview with Brigid Power-Ryce HERE.

‘I Told You The Truth’ EP by Brigid Power-Ryce is available now via Bandcamp HERE.

 

http://brigidpowerryce.com
https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowerrycemusic
https://soundcloud.com/brigidpowerryce

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Time Has Told Me: Ed Askew

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Interview with Ed Askew.

“He sang in the morning
And after work he’d sing
A song before supper
For the world”

—‘For The World’, Ed Askew

Words: Mark Carry, Paintings: Ed Askew

ed askew_small objects series

During the Autumn of last year (albeit several decades late), I discovered the enchanting music of U.S. singer-songwriter Ed Askew, in the form of a mix-tape compiled by Philadelphia-based harpist, Mary Lattimore (who also plays on Askew’s current album, ‘For The World’). The mix was entitled Keeper of Beauty (three words which conveys the sheer beauty and purity of the artist’s empowering works of divine art), and Ed Askew’s ‘Blue Eyed Baby’ appeared towards the gentle close (sandwiched between Nils Frahm’s ‘Went Missing’ and Samara Lubelski’s ‘Keeper of Beauty’). A ripple-flow of piano notes and rich tapestry of harp notes forms the ideal backdrop to the songwriter’s delicate voice. In the words of Lattimore: “Ed is a legend and his songs make people weep, they move people. I played harp on this one. Very proud of this record.”

Ed Askew is a painter and songwriter living in New York, whose reputation has solidly grown to become a New York music legend. This reputation is not undeserved, the singer songwriter released ‘Ask The Unicorn’ on ESP (also home to Pearls Before Swine, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler) in 1968 to critical acclaim and cult status (in much the same way as Mark Fry’s ‘Dreaming With Alice’, Vashti Bunyan’s ‘Just Another Diamond Day’ and ‘Parallelograms’ by Linda Perhacs forged a rare odyssey of psych folk treasures from this golden age circa late 60’s/early 70’s period). In recent years, each of these artists have thankfully received their much-deserved recognition and universal acclaim as a new generation of music fans are introduced to these utterly transcendent musical works. Last year, the British-based independent label, Tin Angel Records, released Ed Askew’s deeply affecting full-length album, ‘For The World’, an album steeped in stunning beauty and honesty. What is most striking about ‘For The World’ (after endless revisits throughout the changing seasons) is how hugely enriching the narrative of Askew’s collection of songs are that, in turn, serves the vital pulse to the rich sonic canvas. A wonderful use of colour and evocative imagery — songs created from the mind of a painter — includes recurring imagery of a child’s eyes, nature, willow and maple trees, the ocean, and sense of belonging and home-place, typified by the use of the rose as almost a symbol of the album, referenced by the famous quote of Gertrude Stein’s (the tiple-based lament ‘Gertrude Stein’ feels like a song you’ve always known, particularly the chorus refrain of majestic harmonies). Moments of joy, solace, sadness, nostalgia, loneliness, and despair are etched across the vivid colours of ‘For The World’s mesmerising web of sound.

In the summer of 2011, Ed Askew embarked on his first U.S tour at the age of 71, in support of the limited vinyl/digital re-release of the 80’s era cassette tape ‘Imperfection’, accompanied on piano by Jay Pluck and travelled with tour mates, The Black Swans. A short time later (two weeks in fact), as a result of the tour, it was decided that Jerry DeCicca (of The Black Swans) would assist Ed in making a record, which would later become ‘For The World’. The group spent a week in a West Harlem warehouse that September. The recording sessions comprised the gifted talents of Jay Pluck, two members of The Black Swans’ Tyler Evans (banjo, tiple, electric guitar), Canaan Faulkner (bass) and Eve Searls (backing vocals), along with Mary Lattimore (Meg Baird, Thurston Moore) on harp. Later on, electric guitar was added by Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) and backing vocals on three songs were provided by Sharon Van Etten.

The raw emotion and tearful sadness of ‘Moon In The Mind’ immediately stops you in your tracks. A song so powerful, touching and intensely sad. The lyrics are sheer poetry, which drift slowly beneath the windswept beauty of harmonica, piano, and guitar: “Golden boats float down a river of sighs / Rain on the street is falling tears my eyes.” A lyric in the following verse resonates powerfully, the light of hope and darkness of pain and fear are effortlessly coalesced together as Askew achingly sings “Wings of an angel open in the dark sky.” The musical interlude of harmonica arrives later that is filled in a prevailing sense of despair and searching, matching the mood of Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’ or ‘On The Beach’ era Neil Young. The album closer (and title-track) is a torch-lit ballad to cast light upon the darkest of days. As the chorus refrain of rejoice brings the album to a fitting close, the horizon comes into view, where the bluebirds are singing, that marks the end of a wholly enlightening experience. Like the album’s cover painting (a self portrait by Ed Askew), ‘For The World’ is a work of true art: rare and true.

“We chase the birds away and they flee
To evergreens down the street
We make castles in the leaves
Of maple trees”

(lyrics taken from ‘Maple Street’)

 

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‘For The World’ is available now on Tin Angel Records.

http://edaskew.bandcamp.com/
http://eaband.tumblr.com/
http://www.tinangelrecords.co.uk/edaskew/

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ed_selfportrait_Dots 1970s-1990

Interview with Ed Askew.

You have spent a lot of your life living and performing around New York. I love how the city is almost a character inside the world of your songs that forms the foundation to your songs, particularly the beautiful ‘Gertrude Stein’. Can you please describe New York for me, in your eyes and how much of an inspiration the city has served your music and song?

Ed Askew: This is Empire City: http://edaskew.bandcamp.com/track/empire-city
Yes, the City is bigger than any of us. A joy and a tragedy. I’ve gone everywhere in NYC since I moved here. Though I’ve lived at one location, I have worked with kids (doing art) in Harlem, Washington Heights, and the upper west side. I have painted apartments across from the Met Museum and downtown. I have played shows in Brooklyn and Manhattan. And I have baby sat for friends in Queens.

Of course, I have used the City as a setting for more than one song. They say that L.A. has no center. But NYC doesn’t have a center either. And, even if I do stay and work here in my room most days, I always feel the city around me: the rivers, the bridges, the politics, the various communities.

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I would love for you to discuss for me please the title of the record, ‘For The World’. I feel those three words serve the perfect embodiment of the album’s ten songs. The beautiful self-portrait painting that adorns the sleeve in a way, reminds me of Dylan’s ‘Self Portrait’ or at least it comes to mind when I take the record out of its sleeve. Was this a painting that was completed at the same time of making the album?

EA: “For the World” is the title the producer preferred. Though I like it. It is the tittle of the song by that name. And I agree that it expresses my desire to share my music; or really our music, since I am not the only one on the album.

The self portrait is an interesting story. Originally, Tin Angel was interested in some of the self portraits I did a while ago, that I have on Flickr. Then there was discussion about using some more recent charcoal self portraits. But these are tall and narrow. So I made a charcoal drawing in a square format, that I thought might fit the album better. Then someone said we should have something in color. So I added color to the portrait, and sent it to Tin angel. I said, “maybe you can use this for something”. And everybody liked it.

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One of my favourite songs off the new album is ‘Maple Street’. I love how the piano melody flows along your stream of poetic words, and the fragile guitar accompaniment works amazingly. The vivid imagery of the maple tree and maple leaves are scattered throughout the album. I would love for you to please discuss ‘Maple Street’, the street itself (if it is a street you walk down often or originated from your imagination) and the importance of nature in your songs. I love the sensual aspect to your songs, and ‘Maple Street’ is one such example. The lyric “we will build what we believe” is one of my favourite lyrics contained in ‘For The World’.

EA: Yes, that’s Mark Ribot playing lead guitar.
Maple Street is a Street near where I grew up. It’s where my church was at that time. The story is made up. Though I did try to build a kind of low, not to high up, “tree house”. It fell on my head. I wasn’t hurt.
I just liked the idea of a bunch of kids making something like that. Cooperating on such a project. Doing something, without being organized, and protected by adults.

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Can you please take me back to your first ever European tour which you embarked on last year, Ed. This must have been a very special moment for you. Can you recount your memories of these shows? I’m sure there is a vivid sense of recognition and anticipation for the concerts that have certainly been a long time coming. What were your thoughts on Europe and how was the experience for you, both personally and artistically?

EA: Well, we had a nice time mostly. Though we spent a lot of time in cars and on planes. And I got really sick one night, for no apparent reason. Be that as it may, it was nice traveling with friends. And we got to play for a lot of people at a bunch of packed shows, which was gratifying.

One (me and my band) is working, of course; making an effort to present these shows as best we can. I find that if one is having fun and is relaxed, the audience will feel that way also. It’s interesting that we work so hard but have so much fun doing that.
It’s difficult for me to sit down and tell stories and present memories. I think, as time passes, and we remember this time, certain events will stand out.

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I almost forgot to ask you. Last year I had the good fortune of interviewing Mary Lattimore, the Philadelphia-based harpist who plays with you on ‘For The World’. When discussing your music, Mary mentioned that there’s a really great story of how you lost the Tiple on a train and it was returned to you years and years later. I would love for you to tell me this story, please Ed.

EA: Tiple Poem, maybe 3 years ago:

he put down the tiple
annoyed at the weight
of the new wooden case
he had been carrying around
and sat on a bench
while waiting for the train
to New York
and i think
that it is true
that we are sometimes
punished for our
idiotic thoughts or moods
for when the train arrived
he just
stood up
and entered
the train
leaving the tiple behind
and now some 22 years later
he has apparently been forgiven
for this momentary lapse
by someone
who never knew he was ever annoyed
by the weight of the tiple
and case
because that lovely man
who was the one
who found the lost tiple
has tracked him down
and returned it

 

I think this explains it, more or less. I had written something about my history with that instrument for Fretboard Journal (see “HOW I GOT MY MARTIN TIPLE”:  https://www.facebook.com/enarcrane). And a the man who found the tiple was able to find me when his friend saw the magazine.

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Can you please take me back to your earlier recordings. I would love to gain an insight into the making of ‘Ask The Unicorn’? Shortly before this time, you acquired your Martin Tiple and I was very interested to read that the majority of your songs were written during a teaching job for a prep school in Connecticut. Please take me back to this period of time in your life and what fond memories you have of this time-the mid-to-late sixties? As ever, music and art must have been closely inter-related and connected.

EA: I don’t think often about the 60s. I was in Art School for many of those years. I got a Masters in Fine Art from Yale in 1966. Liked being in art school. It was safe. I didn’t need a job. I could just paint, mostly. I had good friends, who also painted mostly. After that I worked at a school in Ridgefeald CT, I worked as a Night Watchman some time around then, lived home, had a girl friend, moved in with her in Brooklyn. She left. I lived in the lower east side. Signed with ESP Disk. Fell in love with a boy (didn’t work out), went to England for a week or two to see friends, moved back to New Haven. Met Carl, became lovers. Made Ask the Unicorn and started performing publicly. All between 1966 and 1968. I will probably write about it someday, when i am up to it. I made art. I made love, a lot (not at the privet school) I sang for the kids a lot. Drank a lot of vodka (at that time my “teaching” didn’t go all that well. But it kept me out of Vietnam. And some of the kids befriended me) I smoked too much dope. I wrote 25 or so songs.

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Lastly, I’d like to thank you for the wonderful and insightful answers, Ed. Returning to the present, I would love to learn what you’re currently working on? Is there a series of paintings you’re in the midst of creating? (If so, I’d love to see an example of one such work). Also, in terms of music, are there new songs forming in your head, in the interim since the completion of ‘For The World’? I wish you all the best with these special projects and look forward to uncovering your next works of art.

EA: I am currently working on songs. I am hoping to have one or two harpsichord songs to put up on Bandcamp by the Summer. Also the Ed Askew Band has begun work on a second album for Tin Angel records. We have already recorded three tracks with Josephine Foster singing backup and, in one case singing a duet with me.

I have recently made 12 collages. you can see them on Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecaskew/

I’m planning to do more of these when I have time. I make free form paintings on paper. Then I cut them up and use the material to make the collages.

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edaskew_2

Paintings supplied by Ed Askew:

(i & iii) “here are two simple paintings I recently made. No title except “small objects series”. Both March 2014. 14′ x 11″ —Ed Askew

(ii) Self Portrait: “Dots 1970’s -1990”

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‘For The World’ is available now on Tin Angel Records.

http://edaskew.bandcamp.com/
http://eaband.tumblr.com/
http://www.tinangelrecords.co.uk/edaskew/

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Ten Mile Stereo

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A Winged Victory For The Sullen ‘ATOMOS VII’ (Erased Tapes/Kranky)
This April marks the hugely anticipated return of the impeccable duo of A Winged Victory For The Sullen as a co-release between London-based independent label Erased Tapes and the Chicago-based Kranky label. Comprising the majestic talents of the duo Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (Stars Of The Lid) and pianist Dustin O’Halloran, ‘ATOMOS VII’ is bound to capture — just like it’s glorious self-titled predecessor — the imagination of every single music listener lucky enough to cross paths with it. As O’Halloran has stated: “We never imagined 2013 would be such an explosively creative year. The first record took us two years from start to finish, but in the micro span of time over last summer we were able to change the formula for the way we write, record, and let go. It was incredibly liberating.”

‘ATOMOS VII’ is available on 28 April via Erased Tapes/Kranky.

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Christina Vantzou ‘No.2’ (Kranky)
Kansas-born artist, film-maker, musician and composer, Christina Vantzou returns this year with the spellbinding ‘No.2’, and follow-up to her equally gorgeous debut ‘No.1’, released at the beginning of 2012 on the Chicago-based label Kranky. Made over a four-year period, ‘No.2’ sees Vantzou re-unite with Stars Of The Lid and Winged Victory For The Sullen’s Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and the internationally renowned arranger Minna Choi of the San Francisco based Magik*Magik Orchestra. ‘No.2’ also features the addition of further instrumentation (previously not heard on it’s predecessor) with the use of bassoon, oboe, and an enhanced string section augmenting Vantzou’s timeless and dreamlike floating worlds.

‘No.2’ is available now on Kranky.

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Sharon Van Etten ‘Are We There’ (Jagjaguwar)
Available 27 May on Jajjaguwar, ‘Are We There’ is Brooklyn-based songwriter Sharon Van Etten’s follow-up to her monumental ‘Tramp’ LP from 2012. Thus far, ‘Taking Chances’ has been made available online, revealing a less stark and cleaner sound, yet remaining as utterly captivating and wholly engaging as always. Check out Van Etten’s official website HERE for some wonderful pre-order bundles, including clear vinyls, limited edition 7″, and signed prints of photographic cover art by Van Etten.

‘Are We There’ is available on 27 May via Jagjaguwar.

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Hauschka ‘Abandoned City’ (City Slang)
The impeccable talents of German composer Volker Bertelmann has been widely evident for many years now via Bertelmann’s Hauschka guise. Using the prepared piano as his starting point (Bertelmann positions pieces of foil or paper on the strings of his grand upright piano to create new sounds), Bertelmann has been wowing audiences far and wide over the last decade or so. ‘Abandoned City’ is Hauschka’s latest full-length, available via Berlin-based independent label City Slang (Calexico, Lambchop, The Notwist) and was recorded at his home studio over the course of ten days following the birth of his first son. Talking about the album’s title, 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’ is available now on City Slang.

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ORCAS ‘Yearling’ (Morr Music)
ORCAS comprise the duo of Thomas Meluch (Benoît Pioulard) and Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below), who release ‘Yearling’, their hugely anticipated follow-up to their Morr Music 2012 debut ‘Carrion’. For it’s wonderful follow-up, ‘Yearling’, Meluch and Irisarri are joined by Martyn Heyne (of Efterklang) on guitar and piano, and Michael Lerner (Telekinesis) revealing a gorgeous sonic tapestry and an infinite array of emotions throughout, amounting to another pristine, understated sonic gem.

‘Yearling’ is out April 4th in Europe and April 15th in the US on Morr Music.

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The Delines ‘Colfax’ (Decor / El Cortez)
Led by Richmond Fontaine’s principle songwriter, the novelist Willy Vlautin, The Delines are the newly-formed group featuring Vlautin alongside his Fontaine drummer Sean Oldham, Amy Boone (The Damnations), Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists), Tucker Jackson and Freddy Trujillo. Thus far, the single ‘I Won’t Slip Up’ has been revealed, featuring the stunning vocals of The Damnations’ Amy Boone, the gorgeously soulful and late-night feel echoes Richmond Fontaine’s ‘We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River’ while the heartfelt lyrics (“I get so tired of people / Always worrying about me”) are typical Vlautin; imperfect and true and straight from the heart. The Delines will have a new 7″ single out on record store day called “The Oil Rigs At Night” which features two tracks not on the forthcoming album. The Delines will tour the UK and Ireland this June (tour dates HERE).

‘Colfax’ will be available on Decor on 01 May 2014.

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Lavender Country ‘Lavender Country’ (Paradise Of Bachelors)
This year North Carolina-based label Paradise Of Bachelors re-release Patrick Haggerty’s hugely affecting landmark 1973 self-titled LP by Lavender Country. As Paradise Of Bachelors say: “Widely recognized as the first openly gay country music album—and cited as such even by Nashville institutions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and CMT—the landmark self-titled 1973 LP by Lavender Country stands as nothing less than an artifact of courage, a sonic political protest document of enormous power, clarity, and grace. The record reflects Haggerty’s experiences: his upbringing on a tenant dairy farm in rural Washington, on the Canadian border; his dismissal from the Peace Corps on the spurious grounds of his sexuality; and his righteous struggles as an outraged young gay man navigating the Pacific Northwest in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall.”

‘Lavender Country’ is available on 25 March via Paradise Of Bachelors.

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Cate Le Bon ‘Mug Museum’ (Turnstile)
Cate Le Bon is an artist hailing from Carmarthenshire, rural West Wales and is currently a resident of Highland Park, Los Angeles, having relocated across the pacific to record her latest album ‘Mug Museum’. Her first album ‘Me Oh My’ was released on Gruff Rhys’s Irony Bored label in 2009 and was followed by ‘CYRK’ (OVNI/Turnstile) which was released to widespread acclaim in 2012 and saw her play live across the world. A frequent collaborator, Cate Le Bon has added vocals to the likes of Neon Neon and Manic Street Preachers in recent times, while Perfume Genius contributes vocals on ‘I Think I Knew’.

‘Mug Museum’ is available now on Turnstile.

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Valentin Stip ‘Sigh’ (Other People)
Montreal’s Valentin Stip has quietly released one of the finest electronic albums of the year thus far in the form of ‘Sigh’, available now on Nicolas Jaar’s Other People label. Valentin Stip’s story thus far is best surmised by Stip’s Soundcloud profile:
“My name is Val, I was born in Paris. I started playing piano when I was seven. Missing my piano too much in Montreal, I started playing around with the musical abilities of my computer and have been making electronic music since then…”

‘Sigh’ is available now on Other People.

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Woods ‘With Light And With Love’ (Woodsit)
Brooklyn’s beloved folk collective Woods have been amassing a wonderfully enduring and timeless body of music since the band’s formation in 2005. Albums such as ‘Sun And Shade’ and ‘Bend Beyond’ have introduced the band to new waves of fans and admirers over the years, enchanted by the band’s “DIY” ethos, impeccable musicianship and an innate appreciation for melody. As Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth has said: “With Light And With Love is an album of deeply psychedelic, deeply satisfying songs for a new age of searchers, of Don Juan and Animal Chin alike.”

‘With Light And With Love’ is out April 15th on Woodsist Records.

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