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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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10_web


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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Step Right Up: Torres

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Interview with Mackenzie Scott.

“I fall in love with people instantly. That particular song is about one such instance. It’s my most fervent attempt at a heartsick love song, and its subject will never know it’s about them.”

—Mackenzie Scott

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

torres_honey

Torres is the moniker for Mackenzie Scott, the Georgia-native whose singular voice represents one of the most poignant and unique voices in song-writing today. Still only in her early twenties, Scott’s songbook comes from the heart of darkness, where a flood of feelings – sorrow, longing, pain, hope, survival – diffuses through the artist’s works. The self-titled debut album’s ten utterly shape-shifting creations seeps into each and every pore of one’s heart and mind, as the deeply touching songs remain with you long after the journey reaches its end. The likes of ‘Tramp’ by Sharon Van Etten and Cat Power’s ‘Moon Pix’ albums can be reference points to the trajectory of Torres’s captivating music.

Armed with her beloved Gibson guitar – whom Scott’s family pooled together to buy – the songs are diverse, ranging from raw, sparse folk ballads (Come To Terms’), achingly beautiful love songs (‘November Baby’, ‘Don’t Run Away, Emilie’), cathartic indie-rock gems (‘When Winter’s Over’, ‘Honey’) and one of the most saddest songs in the world (‘Moon & Back’). The debut record – the culmination of a life’s work – is a stunning achievement from a young artist who will undoubtedly create many masterpieces in the coming years. Upon listening to Torres, I am reminded of first hearing New York-based singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia’s debut record ‘Dogs’ many years ago. The dark production and striking vocals share parallels to the sprawling canvas of Torres’s similarly affecting music and tower of song.

The record was recorded live to tape over the course of five days with a resulting immediacy apparent throughout. ‘Honey’ builds into a sprawling rock opus where the refrain of “Heavy are you on my mind” is delivered upon a frenzy of guitars and drums. Reverb drenched guitar notes penetrate the atmosphere of ‘Jealousy and I’. The vocals of Scott are nothing short of breathtaking, particularly on the song’s rise where Scott sings “I’ll never let her go”. ‘November Baby’ – the longest cut on the album – contains dream-like guitar whose clean tones wavers delicately beneath Scott’s heartfelt words of longing. The opening lyric sets the tone for this tender ballad: “This skin hangs on me like a lampshade / Keeping all my light at bay.” I feel the magical presence of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ close by as Scott’s lyrics are sheer poetry, conveying moments of decadence: “But Summer takes you far from me / So just for now I’ll place an angel / Atop an early Christmas tree.” ‘November Baby’ could be a distant relative to Tom Waits’ ‘Coney Island Baby’ – both steeped in fragile beauty – as Waits sings “All the stars make their wishes on her eyes.”

The achingly beautiful lament ‘Don’t Run Away, Emilie’ is one of the many heart-warming and empowering moments of the debut record. The openness and directness of Scott’s song-writing is something to behold as she sings softly “I’ll be the truest one you know if you’ll stay awhile” on the song’s close. A gorgeous delicacy breathes from the softly spoken voice of Scott – that feels almost a whisper – which touches you profoundly; whose words of longing elicits vivid emotion: “Don’t run away Emilie / Please don’t try and get out now / Dream of angels Emile / I need you cause you see me somehow”. The instrumentation is immaculate. A violin melody rises and falls magnificently beneath the deeply powerful chorus refrain. Moments later, warm percussion, clean guitar tones, hypnotic bassline and infectious keys provides the ideal backdrop to the dream-like ballad. I think immediately of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Was Young When I Left Home’ as Scott sings “this place felt like home” on a later verse; the sound of something familiar, warm and vital all at once.

‘Moon & Back’ is a sparse lament that graces the second half of Torres’s soul journey. A beautiful pop symphony is in full-bloom here as a river of tears and sadness flows from the poignant and ever-pristine song-writing of Scott: “I’m writing to you from 1991 / The year I gave you to / A momma with a girl and son.” Kindred spirits such as Elliott Smith, Nina Nastasia and Angel Olsen grace the song’s sphere as a sense of painful hurt is released. The dynamic range inherent in ‘Moon & Back’ creates a beguiling atmosphere, as the chorus forms an empowering climax, of anthemic proportions (think PJ Harvey) where soaring strings, rampant drums and raging guitars fills the surrounding void. Rarely does a song possess the power to melt a heart in one fleeting moment as when the final verse arrives: “Your new family knows I did this all for you / Maybe one day you’ll believe it too.”

‘Come To Terms’ is a sparse lament containing softly strummed acoustic guitar and soothing percussion. The intimacy created conjures up the sound – and subsequent feeling – of witnessing Angel Olsen’s live performance. A sensation that remains with you now and forever-more. The closing lyrics resonate powerfully as Scott sings “I’ll never know if looking out the window is what brings me to my knees / Or if it’s what’s inside that’s killing me.” Album closer ‘Waterfall’ centres on the meditation of ending one’s life and the contemplation of possibilities. The hard-hitting themes may be the subject matter yet the song becomes a source of hope and survival from the depths of despair. Scott sings “Do you ever make it halfway down and think God / I never meant to jump at all”. The sonic backdrop shines forth light that embodies the will for survival. ‘Waterfall’ – and the record as a whole – is a stunning achievement in conjuring up the darkest of places that in turn, becomes a portrait of the human condition. Scott’s voice leaves “like the setting sun” but like the imminent sunrise, will return once again, and illuminate us with her formidable presence.

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Interview with Mackenzie Scott.

Firstly, congratulations on your stunning debut album. I’ve been living inside the world of these songs for the past few months. It’s rare to find an album of such deeply affecting music and songs of such raw emotion to truly captivate your heart. I feel the spirit of songwriters such as Sharon Van Etten, Cat Power and Nina Nastasia grace the album’s stratosphere. I would love to gain an insight into the space and time in which this collection of beguiling songs were created?

I wrote all of these songs in Nashville when I was attending college at Belmont University. In total, the album took about 3.5 years to write. Some of the songs were class assignments that I ended up writing in the stairwells of the dormitories at 4 AM. I think I shaved about twenty years off of my life just by staying up all night writing songs for almost the entirely of my college career. HA.

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The intimacy of the songs immediately struck me when listening to songs such as ‘Moon & Back’ and ‘November Baby’. I was very interested to read that the album was recorded live to tape over the course of five days. I love how that special spark of creativity and a sense of wonder is captured in these recordings. Can you please recount those five days of recording and how the journey felt for you during those days?

Those five days were low-key and relaxed. There was lots of sitting around in the house where we recorded and just discussing beforehand what I wanted each song to sound like. For example, before we recorded “When Winter’s Over”, I played Ryan Adams’ “It’s Starting to Hurt” over the speakers and told Ryan McFadden (my producer) and the band, “this song gives me the same feeling I want people to get when they listen to my song.” And we’d go from there. There was lots of coffee and whiskey involved. It’s an experience I’d gladly have all over again, if the opportunity were to come my way.

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The lyrics and subject matter on the album encompass the spectrum of human emotion; pain, longing, loss, love, innocence, despair, hope are etched on the canvas of sound. Can you please discuss the songwriters who have made the biggest impact on you and who, in turn has shaped your music?

Brandi Carlile is my hero. I’m obsessed with Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain. I’m a few decades behind on the Talking Heads train, but I love David Byrne. Sufjan Stevens, Matthew Berninger (The National), Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields), and Tori Amos are all geniuses in my book. And St. Vincent. Ugh, she gets me. She’s so good.

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My current favourite is the dream-like ballad ‘November Baby’. The song is achingly beautiful evoking the power of ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell, particularly with the Christmas setting reference. Your vocal is fragile that seeps beautifully into your consciousness. Can you discuss this song for me?

I fall in love with people instantly. That particular song is about one such instance. It’s my most fervent attempt at a heartsick love song, and its subject will never know it’s about them.

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Your family pooled together to buy your beloved Gibson guitar. Describe your love for this particular instrument. The guitar sound brings me back to albums such as ‘Moon Pix’ by Cat Power or more recently, ‘Half Way Home’ by Angel Olsen. I love how the guitar is central to each and every song.

I’ve never listened to Cat Power, but I love that Angel Olsen record. People like Joan Jett, Lindsey Buckingham, and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) made me want to play the electric guitar. They play with a hunger that I find to be violent and sexy. It’s an instrument I fall for more and more every day.

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Music must have always been important for you, especially as you are a native of Nashville. This place must have been a constant source of inspiration for you growing up?

I’m not actually from Nashville. I lived there for four years when I was going to college, but I’m originally from Macon, Georgia. I was always involved in some realm of musicality growing up, but it was always musicals and church choirs and piano lessons. I was never involved in what you’d call the secular world of music; I wasn’t raised on the “classics”. I listened to audio books instead.

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What path do you think you will venture down on the next record, Mackenzie? Are there new songs already formed for this follow-up record?

I’m currently in the process of writing the new record. I’ve really been in the process since before the last record was released, actually. Writing an entire body of work is a sporadic, spaced out thing for me. I haven’t done enough writing to have a clear idea of what this next album will sound like, but I imagine it’ll be a darker one than the first.

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What are the albums you are currently listening to?

I’ve been on what seems like a music hiatus for a few months. I’ve had to keep myself almost entirely removed from it since the beginning of the year. I am listening to a couple of things, namely the new Diarrhea Planet record, “I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams”, as well as Anna Calvi’s self-titled record.

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What books are you currently reading? Any favourite authors?

I’m reading JD Salinger’s Nine Stories currently. I just finished The Stranger by Albert Camus and Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I really love Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, and Joan Didion.

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Torres’ self-released debut album ‘Torres’ is out now.

http://torrestorrestorres.com
http://torrestorrestorres.bandcamp.com

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Written by admin

October 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

Something’s Going On: Le Guess Who?

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Come wander the canals and streets of beautiful Utrecht and be immersed in the best of independent music as the city’s prized Le Guess Who festival makes its eagerly awaited return. Utrecht, Holland provides the dream backdrop for a host of awe-inspiring music, from the legendary Australian trio Dirty Three to the songwriting queen, Sharon Van Etten. Over the course of four days, from Thursday November 29th to Sunday 2nd December, intimate performances will grace the centuries old, university town. The heart of independent music is happening right in the heart of the city for the sixth time, having started in 2007.

Words: Mark Carry, Design: Craig Carry

Last night, the opening festival performance of Colin Stetson sparked amazement and inspiration to all those fortunate to be present. Stetson’s avant jazz has been celebrated and universally acclaimed by the entire international music community. Stetson’s solo saxophone compositions are performed in single takes with no overdubs, which in this advanced age of technology, is something truly special to witness. His music defies both genre boundaries and the physical boundaries of what one person can sonically create without resorting to the aids of technology. I recently interviewed German composer Nils Frahm and while discussing his favourite music, he likened hearing Colin Stetson’s solo saxophone to discovering ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ by Steve Reich for the first time. Is there higher praise possible? Mr. Stetson kicked off Le Guess Who? last night, epitomising the sheer quality and multitude of compelling artists that this unique festival attracts.

Tomorrow night Dirty Three will transcend the centuries-old city of Utrecht, with their unrivaled intensity of emotion-filled instrumental music.  I was fortunate to recently see Dirty Three in concert last Friday night in Dublin. It was amazing to witness Ellis, Turner and White in person. Almost mythical, almost an impossibility. Their sound was just so beautiful as it poured through the space and up to the rafters. Ellis is one of those rare iconic figures. A conductor. Jim White’s drums were incredible. To hear the range of sounds and harmonies rising from his very touch of hand. Mick Turner’s guitars were awash in soul and exhaled a spectrum of emotions. Undeniably this year’s highlight of Le Guess Who? and a must-see for Thursday night’s festival. The band have released one of their finest works to date, earlier this year with ‘Toward The Low Sun’. A stunning masterpiece from a band whose recordings and live performances forever illuminate and inspire.

Friday night sees Julianna Barwick perform her unique ambient choral-pop creations. Last year, Julianna Barwick’s gorgeous album, ‘The Magic Place’ flooded the sound clouds with its healing tones and blissed out ambient soundscapes. Barwick’s looped vocal harmonies evoke a church choir with wordless harmonies, where fragments of sound combine to form the loveliest of intricate patterns. As the title suggests, Julianna Barwick’s music is indeed magic. Furthermore, the cinematic journey of Barwick’s unique sound is full of hope, joy and solace. ‘The Magic Place’ has been one of my most cherished albums from last year, together with Julia Holter’s ‘Ekstasis’ of this year, who like Barwick, conjures up an otherworldly dreamscape of wonder and beauty. The chance to witness Julianna Barwick’s live performance is one not to miss out on. This year, Barwick unleashed her wonderful collaborative project of OMBRE. OMBRE is a new musical collaboration between Julianna Barwick and Helado Negro. Their album ‘Believe You Me’ was released earlier in 2012 on the wonderful Asthmatic Kitty label. Barwick’s clean, soaring harmonies and church choir sensibilities merge effortlessly with Negro’s rustic-Latin-psyche-folk. It’s an album full of hazy sunshine pop fused with drone ambient wrapped in warmth and beauty.

A seamless array of indie music giants grace Friday’s stage. Liverpool-based indie-rock band Clinic will summon their post-punk noise revival to the masses, following their recently released, seventh studio album ‘Free Reign’. Baltimore’s Lower Dens, led by Jana Hunter, are a must-see band. Their latest album ‘Nootropics’ is a milestone of 2012 and beyond, in its interstellar sonic journey. Lush future pop (the single ‘Propogation’), hypnotic krautrock infused rhythms (‘Brains’), swirling meditative hymns (‘Lamb’) are meticulously crafted. Lyrically, the album deals with transhumanism and feelings about technology. The Baltimore collective have made an ambitious work which exceeds on every level. Cincinnati’s finest and recent City Slang signings, Why? will bring their inventive blend of hip-hop and sunshine pop harmonies to Le Guess Who? on Friday. Other acts on this good Friday are headliners Deerhoof, Mathew Dear and Fuck Buttons, who should all be pencilled in to the timetable schedule!

Saturday is all about one person, and that person’s name is Tim Hecker. The Montreal based electronic musician is at the forefront of contemporary music. His ‘Dropped Pianos’ record is one of my most cherished albums with its cinematic soundscapes and drifting piano notes. This album in addition to its companion ‘Ravedeath 1972’, showcases Hecker’s gift for minimalist composition. The live performance of Tim Hecker’s richly textured ambient music is a vital and must-see performance. The magic of this great composer cascades down on the heart of Saturday night in Utrecht. You do not want to be anywhere else.

Sunday night belongs to Brooklyn-based, American singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Her third studio album ‘Tramp’, released in January, stands as one of the finest records of 2012. ‘Tramp’ is one of those very special records that resonates powerfully to all those who hear it. Van Etten’s songs come from a real place, where I feel the beautiful weight of words and music flow endlessly throughout. The album was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and features her friends Julianna Barwick, Zach Condon (Beirut), and members of Wye Oak and The Antlers. Importantly, it is the unique voice of Sharon Van Etten that lies at the heart of her empowering music. Utterly inspirational.

Also on Sunday night is the Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley. A national treasure. His latest album ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is a true awakening of the senses. Crowley’s lyrics are sheer poetry. The string arrangements are divine. Crowley’s peerless baritone immerses you into a deeply contemplative listening experience. ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is timeless, in the truest sense that captivates the heart. This enchanting album is Crowley’s strongest to date, and is a fitting addition to a rich body of work.

Indie kings DIIV bring their atmospheric indie-pop masterpieces to Le Guess Who? on this closing night. Their debut album ‘Oshin’ is filled with beautiful atmospheric guitar pop soundscapes. ‘How Long Have You Known?’ is one of the year’s standout songs. ‘Oshin’ is one of my most played records of 2012, and to witness Z. Cole Smith and co. live on the closing night will be very special indeed.

Le Guess Who? Festival allows you to explore the heart of independent music, right in the beating heart of Holland.

Le Guess Who? happens on Thursday Nov 29th, Friday 30th November, Saturday 1st December and Sunday 2nd December in Utrecht, Holland.
http://www.leguesswho.nl/

Written by admin

November 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm