Posts Tagged ‘Sonic Cathedral’
Cheval Sombre (New York-based poet and songwriter Christopher Porpora) has earned his reputation in recent times as one of independent music’s true treasures. Having released two full length albums to date: 2008’s self-titled debut album (Double Feature Records) and 2012’s moving opus ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral Recordings); 2017 marks the eagerly awaited third Cheval Sombre LP ‘Time Waits for No One’. We are delighted to premiere the video to the achingly beautiful lament ‘If It’s You’, the record’s illuminating first single.
On “If It’s You”, Porpora’s drone-infused psych hazes infiltrates the human space amidst a windswept beauty of fragile vocals and mesmeric viola passages; navigating lyrical, emotional and spiritual depths. The majestic ballad “If It’s You” conjures up the timeless sound of the early Stones ballads penned by Jagger & Richards interwoven with Robbie Basho’s transcendent flow of lyrical guitar tapestries. A master of intimate mystery. The sparse arrangement of Porpora’s voice and guitar is accompanied by Gillian Rivers’ divine viola playing.
The exclusive vinyl-only release – released via UK independent label Static Caravan Records – are viewmaster reel 7″ records – true pieces of art in and of themselves. The record also features the hauntingly beautiful B-side “Give Me Something”, a haunting instrumental performed as a collaboration by Porpora (guitars) and legendary New Zealand-based artist Alastair Galbraith (elbowed guitars), recorded at the Bhakti Box and Hope St. Studios.
Watch the video for “If It’s You” here:
“If It’s You” is available now (limited vinyl) via Static Caravan Records (purchase online HERE).
The prestigious Fruits De Mer label have also released a split 7″ with Static Caravan, featuring a Cheval Sombre cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”, (purchase online HERE).
There is also a recently finished LP with Dean Wareham which is expected in 2017, recorded between Los Angeles & New York, as well as the third Cheval Sombre full-length album, “Time Waits for No One”, destined to be one of 2017’s hidden gems.
To mark this Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated debut Irish concert by Cheval Sombre (New York native Christopher Porpora) we are delighted to publish – in Porpora’s own words – the key inspirations (spanning visual art, poetry, film and music) that have helped shape Porpora’s own art as both poet and songwriter. Porpora has released two studio albums to date – self-titled debut (Double Feature) and ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral) – as well as various vinyl issues and a live album recorded at St. Pancras Old Church, London, with longtime friend and collaborator Pete Kember (Sonic Boom, Spacemen 3).
Words: Christopher Porpora
Words have always held great importance for me. Choosing one word can be the work of many mornings and nights, the work of many long hours. As I say of music, we all might consider what sounds we contribute to the world – and words too – sonorous as they are. Are they beautiful sounds we are producing? Are the words, the sounds we choose, enhancing the quality of our experience of life? Might we lift this life up to the light? Can we see it as glorious?
To ask such questions is to be bold in the face of a cynical society. One must risk criticisms of naïveté, sentimentality, idealism, even romanticism. I have risked all these long as I can remember, in the name of what I experience as the beautiful, especially in writing.
But I have always discovered wondrous support along the way – artists who have sustained me, atmospheres which have held me, all nurturing my pursuit of the written word, of beauty.
Joan Ambrosio Dalza
A seemingly anonymous lute player from Italy brings this luxurious atmosphere in which to write – this just improves the quality of any room, any hour of the day.
This recording of a 1975 concert in Köln, with Don Cherry, is the sound of reaching for the stars, or reﬂecting them, and nothing less.
A master of intimate mystery.
La Double Vie De Véronique
This ﬁlm had an immense impact on me when it ﬁrst came out, and still, to this day. Its atmosphere is utterly dreamlike, and Zbigniew Preisner’s accompanying score hints strongly at the reality of magic in our daily lives.
William Butler Yeats
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
In Yeats’ lyricism I have always found the flourishes of how exquisite a quiet moment can be.
Bouquet de Fleurs
Georges Rouault’s paintings always reminded me of another everyday miracle – stained glass. He
worked with glass as a medium, too. His work helped to deﬁne the cover art for the ﬁrst album.
Five for Ireland
Limited Edition of 99 copies
letterpressed, each hand-numbered
Five for Ireland began as a simple celebration of my ﬁrst proper show in Ireland. I had played in Galway years ago, in the streets, and fared alright. Ireland was very kind to me then. But I didn’t have any proper songs then as I do now. So I thought to work on something for the occasion. I had to ﬁnd an arc, a theme of a kind. Hearing about the beauty of Cobh, I immediately began dreaming of the sea, and I had heard that folks were still listening to Mad Love there, so there it was – the sea / mad love became the theme from which to choose and order the poems. After a few days, I had twenty, looking into older works and recent pieces, all suggestive of this double-theme. Thinking about format, the broadside came to light as an unexpected suggestion. I began to think of a time when poetry’s venue was the street – of times when one might encounter a poem slipped between the pages of something else amidst the hassle, or walked through crowds in a pocket. It became time to slim the collection down. Space would now be limited, and very. Remembering Rouault, I began to sift for poems smaller in size but evocative of the landscape of paintings – images which could then suggest the sea / mad love, alternately, by leaving impressions in which to get lost, standing in the street or otherwise, anywhere.
Cheval Sombre’s debut Irish concert (with special guest Margie Jean Lewis) takes place at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Co. Cork this Saturday 17 October.
TICKETS are priced €15 and can be purchased HERE.
Event Page via Sirius Arts Centre HERE.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Cheval Sombre (USA/Sonic Cathedral) plus Margie Jean Lewis (AUS) / Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Co. Cork / Sat. 17 Oct. 2015
Fractured Air presents:
CHEVAL SOMBRE (USA/Sonic Cathedral)
plus special guests
Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Co. Cork
Saturday 17 October 2015
Tickets: €15 (ORDER ONLINE HERE).
“Once we admit our humanity, the experience of this life becomes tinged with authenticity.
And the flicker of what is authentic illuminates – always.”
—Christopher Porpora (Cheval Sombre)
CHEVAL SOMBRE (USA/Sonic Cathedral)
Cheval Sombre (New York-based artist Christopher Porpora) has earned his reputation in recent times as one of independent music’s true treasures. Having released two full length albums to date: 2008’s self-titled debut album (Double Feature Records) and 2012’s moving opus ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral Recordings); in 2013 Sonic Cathedral issued the limited cassette comprising Cheval Sombre & Sonic Boom’s celebrated live performance recorded at London’s St. Pancras Old Church. On the latest record, ‘Mad Love’, Porpora is joined by long-term collaborator Sonic Boom (Peter Kember/Spacemen 3) whose fusion of drone-infused psych haze and illuminating soundscapes form the ideal backdrop to Porpora’s fragile vocals and warm acoustic guitar. In addition, the special guests on the ‘Mad Love’ sessions included Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT (in whose Brooklyn studio it was recorded), Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna), Britta Phillips (Luna, Belltower) and Nick Kramer.
Cheval Sombre’s rare live appearance at Sirius Arts Centre is Porpora’s first ever Irish show and will be only his third live appearance of 2015. Furthermore, audiences will be treated to a solo acoustic performance that will also include some poetry readings. In the words of Porpora: “the show will offer a look into the stark essence of the songs, stripped-down so to speak, as it will be acoustic and solo, favour of an intimate experience, which is increasingly rare in such times.”
“Beautiful” — NME
“music that needs time to unwind and reveal its treasures.” — The Line Of Best Fit
“… its Porpora’s disconsolate vocal performance that steals the show.” — Drowned In Sound
“it slowly creeps into the subconscious, unsettling and calming as it works its magic.” — musicOMH.com
“Porpora has managed an album that is at points a tiny bit distressing, yet it offers sweet refuge from the uneasiness he himself creates.” – The Quietus
Read a recent interview with Christopher Porpora:
Watch ‘Someplace Else’ official video:
Listen to “Incandescent Innocent”, a mixtape compiled by Cheval Sombre:
MARGIE JEAN LEWIS (AUS)
Special guest on the night will be Australian musician Margie Jean Lewis. Hailing from Adelaide, Lewis is a classically trained violinist and jazz vocalist who has been based in Dublin for the past six years. From a young age Lewis began to pursue the violin, she would later study both composition and jazz voice at the Adelaide conservatorium. Lewis’s intricate live setup comprises loop station, zither, violin and voice where the spirit of both improvisation and experimentation lie at the heart of her soul-stirring sounds. Lewis has collaborated extensively with many Dublin-based artists in recent times, including New Jackson, Rhob Cunningham, Paperdolls, Ickis Mirolo and Queens of Neon. She has also performed extensively both nationally and internationally, including performances at Body&Soul, IMMA and Kilkenny Arts Festival.
“…nothing short of jaw-dropping” — Hot Press
Fractured Air presents:
CHEVAL SOMBRE (USA/Sonic Cathedral)
plus special guests
Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Co. Cork
Saturday 17 October 2015
Tickets: €15 (ORDER ONLINE HERE).
“I find playing music a highly charged moment, whenever and wherever I play.”
—Christopher Porpora (Cheval Sombre)
“Don’t Look Back” is our look back on the year from the perspective of both musicians as well as various members of the arts community at large, who — despite varying geographical locations and backgrounds — all share the following in common: a deep passion and love for music. We’re both honored and delighted to be able to share the words of these special people through their personal accounts of the year that was: 2014.
Part 1 of a 2-part series.
Susan Schneider, The Space Lady (Colorado, USA)
There are fewer people in the universe more deserving of such a rewarding and special year than The Space Lady. And 2014 has been that (and so much more) for the much-fabled Outsider Artist Susan Schneider, who, after the NightSchool Records release of “The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits” in November 2013, suddenly found a whole new audience (and new generations) of adoring music fans. After decades of street busking across the States (San Francisco’s Castro and the Haight areas would become her adopted home) with her beloved Casiotone keyboard and iconic winged helmet (with flashing red light), 2014 would see The Space Lady embark on her first ever tour of venues, where she toured extensively across both the United States and Europe to universal critical acclaim.
What a cosmic whirlwind 2014 was for The Space Lady, after what I thought was her long-ago retirement. First, a tour of America’s West Coast, then off to the UK and Ireland in April – where those strange rumours about TSL having thousands of adoring fans around the world proved overwhelmingly true, and held true throughout the European tour, and then in Denver, Toronto, and finally in little, picturesque Crestone, Colorado.
From the daily struggles of playing on the streets – dealing with traffic noise, inclement weather, dying batteries, complaints to police, and indifferent, or sometimes outright rude people – to playing to enthusiastic crowds of TSL fans in artistic, counter-cultural settings with powerful sound systems, my songs – and my self-esteem – sky-rocketed!
Not only that, but with the support of my husband Eric, “The Space Manager,” I realized I could actually have a music career, doing what I really love, not just what I had to do to make money. Once again, Joseph Campbell’s advice to “follow your bliss” became a viable alternative to doing what’s expected, schlepping along uninspired on that proverbial wage-slave treadmill. All those years of hand-to-mouth struggle not only weren’t wasted – after all, I did support my family of five – but my unique sound and style had taken on a life of its own and traveled around the world, thanks to the internet and word of mouth.
Coming back home to quiet, conservative Colorado after the tours was not unpleasant….in fact, at first it was replenishing. Then a book by Elizabeth Kolbert, ‘The Sixth Extinction’, slapped me upside the head. Of course we’ve all heard about climate change to a nearly numbing extent; but the author’s dispassionate, scientific reporting on eco-collapse from around the world shocked me awake like never before. I found myself almost paralyzed emotionally with despair. What can I possibly do? Well, the next right thing for me was to get behind my keyboard and mournfully wail, which led to the creation of my new song, ‘The Next Right Thing’. I call it a love song to Mother Earth…and a call to action.
Then more recently, Eric discovered another book called ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’, by Charles Eisenstein. Upon reading that, my hope for the future of nature and humanity was rekindled. It’s all about inventing a new cultural “story,” i.e., making a very necessary shift from our old, black-and-white story of separation, frantic competition and endless expansion, to a new story that creates a world of inter-connectedness, steeped in kindness and patience. To illustrate, Eisenstein quotes an African tribal chief who was warned by activists that his world was about to be destroyed by encroaching civilization, and that it was urgent for him to fight back. The chief calmly replied, “Urgency is not something we have here.”
We can’t fix what’s wrong in the world by simply revamping those old methods that got us here. We have to change our way of being. So we really have nothing more to do than follow our hearts and practice patience. That’s what I began doing in 1980 when I joyfully started busking with an old accordion in downtown Boston, which led to the creation of The Space Lady. But after 20 years of playing on the street, I had given up. Now, thanks to my fans, promoters, agents, record producer Michael Kasparis, and most of all to Eric – my ever-supportive husband/manager – I am following my heart again. Thank you all – you’ve given me the opportunity to once again step into the role of The Space Lady – that cosmic, other-worldly messenger who comes to us on Wings of Song!
‘The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits’ is available now on NightSchool Records.
Iker Spozio (San Sebastián, Spain)
Italian artist Iker Spozio is an illustrator, engraver and painter whose artwork is handmade using traditional techniques (such as monotype, collage, ink and paint) and without computer. Spozio’s work has been widely reproduced and seen in the context of music: producing album sleeves for such musicians as: Colleen, Hauschka, Mark Fry, Adrian Crowley, Half Asleep and working with music labels such as FatCat, The Leaf Label, Thrill Jockey and Deutsche Grammophon. Spozio is represented internationally by various illustration agencies (including London-based Folio) while his client list also includes publishers Laurence King and Penguin Books. Extensive commission work for Laurence King for a series of Artist books entitled “This Is” will be published next year (including “This Is Magritte”, to be published in Autumn 2015).
– Jamaican music.
Mostly old 7″s, 10″s and 12″s which haven’t been reissued yet. My favourite find of the year would be Lee Van Cliff’s ‘Wiser Than Solomon’ 10″ (HitBound, mixed by Scientist).
Also several reissues released in 2014 by Pressure Sounds, DKR and OnlyRoots.
– Tommaso Landolfi.
My all-time favourite writer. I treasure all his books (which are being repressed by Adelphi in Italy) and always will.
– Medieval art.
I’ve always been interested in it, but only in 2014 I took the time to investigate it in-depth. I saw many great examples of it during a holiday in the South-East of Italy, this year, and read several interesting books on the subject. I’ve grown a great passion for Mozarabic miniature painting in particular.
– Italy in the 70s.
I was a child then, hence I don’t remember much about it. I’m currently trying to learn as much as possible about a particularly complex period in the history of my native country.
– Birdwatching with Cécile by the river, especially to see my beloved kingfisher.
Cécile Schott, Colleen (San Sebastián, Spain)
The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’ will be released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.
2014 started promisingly with settling in my newly renovated rehearsing and recording studio: the doors and windows of this former olive and pepper brinery were literally 50 years old and full of gaps, so that a lot of noise passed through them, making recording possible only late at night. Everything was changed for state-of-the art triple glazing, and tiles were added to a part of the floor that suffered from dampness problems, and these two changes have made a world of difference and turned an OK place into a truly welcoming and adequate work environment.
This in turn led me to a major upgrade of my recording equipment. I’m quite the anti-consumerist and believe a minimal mindset can be beneficial to making music, so whenever I make a new purchase, it’s usually preceded by months of thinking and research on the product that will best fit my requirements. With this finally silent working environment, it made sense to invest in my first nearfield monitoring system (the basic mixing tool, which I did without for all my previous albums except ‘Les ondes silencieuses’). My soundcard was from 2003, so that also needed a major upgrade, along with a new computer, two pairs of really good headphones (one for mixing, one for recording), and an analog delay Moogerfooger pedal which unexpectedly ended up playing a major role on my new album.
This all contributed to making the recording of my fifth album by far the most pleasant and pain-free recording I’ve ever experienced. It was actually the first time I was able to record in a near-professional environment, with the invaluable advantage of this being my own place, which means unlimited time and freedom, and no neighbours to worry about. It was also the first time I recorded during the spring, and the light coming from outside, although filtered, imparted a real sense of joy to these sessions. It was awesome to get out of the studio at 8 in the evening and still see the light outside!
I finished the album in early July and got the confirmation that American label Thrill Jockey would release it, which has been tremendously exciting, and is hopefully the start of a long and fruitful working relationship with a label that has a truly impressive and diverse roster of free-thinking artists.
I was then able to relax for real during the beautiful summer, and in September, due to having to rehearse with more bass frequencies than in the past (the 5th album contains lots of bass lines), I also bought a small PA system, which has made rehearsing for the shows a much closer experience to actually playing live, making it all the more exciting.
The walls of our home have been vibrating daily to the sounds of Jamaican music almost non-stop for more than 2 years now, vastly thanks to my partner in life and in art Iker Spozio, whose obsession with the Jamaican stuff keeps the house filled with new vinyl. I’ve listened to Jamaican music several times in my life, including when I was very young and had no clue as to what it was, and it seems entirely logical and natural that it has finally entered my own music.
Last but not least, in a year that also contained some very sad news, some small creatures have come to play an increasingly important part in my life and help me stay sane: birds. I started to get into birdwatching last year, in great part thanks to Martin Holm who curated the Music and Migration series at Second Language, the label that released my fourth album ‘The Weighing of the Heart’. My interest progressed steadily with the acquisition of the birdwatching Bible that is the ‘Collins Bird Guide’ and a good pair of binoculars, and since then there’s been no turning back. It’s hard for me to describe in words what it is about being in nature and observing birds that feels so right to me… Apart from the sheer amazement at their beauty and at the biodiversity that was right on my doorstep without me even knowing it (I live in the Spanish Basque country which is very varied in terms of landscape), there is something incredibly liberating about an activity that has nothing to do with us humans, and indeed with me: birds don’t care about us and that’s why watching them is so great – the feeling of disconnecting from modern life and reconnecting with something wild and ancient is truly priceless. For me, birdwatching even acts as a metaphor for life and how I should try to live it: I used to think I paid attention to my surroundings, but now I know that I was half-blind, and that when you start to *really* watch, *really* listen, you discover a whole new world that was there all along – and I can’t really think of better news than that.
Julia Kent (New York, USA)
World-renowned Canadian cellist Julia Kent has three solo albums released to date: 2007’s ‘Delay’ (Shayo); 2011’s ‘Green And Grey’ (Important Records) and 2013’s ‘Character’ (The Leaf Label). Previously, Kent worked and collaborated extensively with numerous musicians and groups, including: Antony And The Johnsons; Rasputina and Parallel 41. This year, Kent contributed original scores for numerous film works, including award-winning short film ‘Oasis’, directed by Carmen Jimenez and Chris Boyce. As part of artist Peter Liversidge’s exhibit, “Doppelgänger” at the MAC, Belfast (which took place during October), Julia Kent made a special one-off collaboration with Kentucky-based pianist, arranger and composer Rachel Grimes. During November 2014, Kent was in Italy, performing live with Balletto Civile (a company of performers, established in 2003) for “How Long Is Now” in Genova and “In-erme” in La Spezia and Florence.
I can’t remember at all the beginning of 2014; it’s been, for me, a rather vague year, involving a lot of traveling and a bit of consequent disorientation in terms of time and space…but I do remember vividly playing in Cork this past March with the spell-binding Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, after a stressful and dramatic journey involving the temporary loss of my cello and the enormously gracious and generous loan of another, from a sympathetic music store in Cork, Pro Musica. It was my first solo show ever in Ireland, and was a memorable and beautiful experience: Cork is a special place, and I’m so grateful to the Carry brothers for bringing me there, and also to the welcoming audience! It was also a really special experience to play with Caoimhín in Cork and Dublin and have a lovely and wide-ranging chat on the journey in between.
For me, time is really defined by the people and places I encounter, and 2014 brought some other wonderful encounters: I was thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with the extraordinary Rachel Grimes for Peter Liversidge’s metaphysical and fascinating show, “Doppelgänger,” in Belfast; to create live music for the dance companies Balletto Civile in Italy and Compagnie Tensei in Paris; and to contribute music to other theatre works, dance, and film, in the U.S. and Europe. Performing at William Basinski’s festival in London was another highlight of the year: he brought together so many incredible artists to celebrate the spirit of his and James Elaine’s glorious Arcadia, a seminal arts space that contributed so much to New York and still is sorely missed. And just this past week, I was so thrilled to share the experience of seeing some images from Antony and the Johnsons’ and Charles Atlas’s “Turning” on the breathtakingly enormous screens in Times Square…it was incredible to see those heartbreakingly beautiful images in that context, and in the company of some of the iconic women who embodied them on the “Turning” tour, which was and always will remain a special and emotional experience for me.
I’m looking at my calendar to try to remember some other details of 2014…and seeing the week where I went from Athens to Joshua Tree to Torino. I continue to feel enormously fortunate to have the chance to travel and play music in such disparate, beautiful, and inspiring places, and encounter, along the way, equally beautiful and inspiring people. Right now, since I’m home for a moment, I’m working on a new record that I hope will come out next year…and I hope will distill some of the memories and essence of this one…thanks for letting me share some of them!
“Happy Holidays NYC, 2014”
‘Character’ is available now on The Leaf Label.
Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Dublin, Ireland)
2014 has been a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer and fiddle player 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 and triumphant homecoming shows on Irish soil including Kilkenny’s St. Canice’s Cathedral) 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, organized by Music Network Ireland. 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 as part of their ‘Solo Series Phase II’ project) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration between Ó Raghallaigh and U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman.
Time marches on, there’s no stopping it: do you remember a time when the only way to pronounce 2014 was two thousand and fourteen, when even the year 2000 seemed like the far distant future?
We find ourselves here at the tail end of twenty fourteen, looking back on a euphoric whirlwind of a year. My thirty-fifth year on this bluegreen orb has been truly wonderful, in so many ways. There have been major milestones and moments of wonder and beauty. This act of looking back is welcome, too, this year in review, not something I naturally do, and it brings home just how special it has been.
Above all else, ‘Laghdú’ has given me endless pleasure this year. Musically, it’s the thing I’m most proud of I’ve ever made, and playing that music with Dan has been unfailingly rewarding and delightful. Equally wonderful was working with Rossi McAuley of Distinctive Repetition, whose design for the ‘Laghdú’ packaging continues to surprise and give immense pleasure every time I touch, see and feel it. And I love that we have an ongoing relationship with the object, as we must continually assemble the albums ourselves from the printed card, discs and rubber bands, spending time touching, feeling, learning and living with this beautiful object, deepening our relationship with it.
One day I called over to Rossi’s studio while he was working on the design, and he told me the music on the record really reminded him of Patrick Scott’s work, whose extraordinary retrospective was still occupying the Garden Galleries at IMMA. Experiencing Scott’s work for the first time at that exhibition was one of the highlights of 2014 for me, as was Maria Simmonds-Gooding’s retrospective at the RHA. Maria is a neighbour of mine down in Kerry, and her large-scale aluminium pieces have been living inside my head for a few years now, married to a line of Beckett’s: “they were things that scarcely were, on the confines of dark and silence”. But it was her plaster canvas works and the carborundum prints that got inside me at the RHA, and live there still. Like Scott, I find her work deeply satisfying and profoundly moving. Instructive, too, informing the music I wish to make, the feeling I wish to produce, and it somehow inspires a conviction in the worth of doing so.
Earlier in the year at the RHA, Richard Mosse’s “The Enclave” completely blew my mind with his infrared immersion in that jungle of sadness that comes of war. To be surrounded by that violently pink world of the Congo, to feel that sound move your innards, to see these unknown things and feel them twist your insides, it was nearly too much, and wiped the floor with your soul. Powerful beyond words.
Early in the year, too, we released The Gloaming’s debut album, and what a year for the Gloaming it has been, going to #1 in the Charts, playing the Royal Albert Hall and the like. But playing the Sydney Opera House beats all, I truly never imagined such a thing was possible. I woke that morning well before sunrise, at jetlag’s insistence, and set out across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, looking down at the Opera House and trying to process the idea that we’d play there that night. The following morning myself and Iarla took off for a long old walk before breakfast, down through the Botanic Gardens and out to Mrs Macquaries Point, the pair of us looking incredulously across Farm Cove to the scene of the crime and the Harbour Bridge beyond, hardly believing we had rocked that House the night before. You know, I still don’t quite believe it.
The Gloaming were in residence at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August, and it offered an opportunity to showcase other of our projects. Myself and Dan premiered ‘Laghdú’ there, for instance, and the This is How we Fly gig on the Saturday night really took off. There were a series of secret pop-up gigs in fancy Gardens around the town, and the one I did with Cleek Schrey gave rise to my favourite moment of the festival, when our cheeky sunspectacled selves sidled up to Nic Gareiss, who reached into his pocket, pulled out an appropriately bright vivid yellow pair of shades and started dancing up a storm on the loose gravel path on which half the audience stood. A totally joyous moment, mischievous, irreverent, unexpected, ecstatic.
Cleek is a fellow 10-string hardanger d’amore fiddler from the States, and I spent a wonderful mid-March week with him in New York, writing music together courtesy of a residency at the Irish Arts Center. There’s such a wonderful openness to his approach, a great combination of the carefree and the curated, and he’s very much a kindred spirit of mine. I feel at every moment that anything is possible, that there’s no agenda, just this feeling of co-exploration and endless possibility. The highlight of that week was an impromptu hour-long improvisation we embarked on to ourselves out in Redhook – unplanned, unrecorded, purely in the moment, sending out sound into the vast main hall of Pioneer Works.
This hardanger d’amore fiddle is a stunning instrument, and it is a joy and a revelation to play. Equally beautiful are the bows I play with, made by Frenchman Michel Jamonneau. While touring Brittany with uilleann piper Mick O’Brien in June, I visited Michel in his workshop, and fell head over heels with a bow of his, one he had recently made. Though I already had three extraordinary bows by Michel, playing with this bow was fundamentally different. Those other bows allowed me to do anything I wanted, but this seemed to float in the air, generate ideas of its own, made new things possible, brought forth the unintended. It is effortless to play with, not only a feather-light paintbrush for sound, but a creative force in its own right. When we left Michel’s workshop, that bow left with me inside my mind, and I revisited the feeling of playing with it throughout the following weeks, until Michel brought it over to Dublin to me in early August. It is a joy and a privilege to hold.
It has been a year of non-stop, nigh-on relentless traveling. It’s easy to shrink into yourself, or into your electronics, and it’s a real challenge to stay present, motivated and curious – you need something to keep you sane on the road. Looking through the camera lens has helped more than anything else – photography has been such a rewarding addition to the touring life, engaging the mind and the body. It turns drudgery to delight in alchemy, keeps you always looking outwards, seeking to connect, keeps the spirit fresh, and offers an unlimited learning curve for the curious mind.
Curious minds were in evidence aplenty in the Redwoods of California, as was the sheer joy of making music and being alive, when I spent a week teaching outdoors amongst the trees at the Valley of the Moon fiddle camp. One of the most enjoyable moments, aside from all the music, connections and conversations, was an epic game of water polo/football/chaos in which I became so fanatical that the rough bottom of the pool rasped right through three of my bare-footed toes, and put me hobbling around for the remainder of the week on tender feet. An enchanted bubble of a week topped off by the most wonderful Alice-in-Wonderland-themed Fancy Dress Banquet, the entire host appareled in the most colourful and fanciful costumes. A week that I came away from feeling as though life would never be the same again.
All this is only the beginning. The moments go on. The wheels turn, twenty fourteen is well-nigh gone.
—Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album is available now on Real World Records; Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ is available via Diatribe Records HERE; ‘Laghdú’ by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman is available from Irishmusic.net HERE.
Cillian Murphy (Cork, Ireland/London, UK)
The ever-prolific Irish actor Cillian Murphy contributed stunning performances for numerous roles — spanning TV, film and theatre — during 2014. Murphy reprised his role as Thomas Shelby in the BBC2 epic British gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ which returned to TV screens for its second season this Autumn. Murphy also continued his collaboration with award-winning playwright Enda Walsh (‘Disco Pigs’, Misterman’) for ‘Ballyturk’ (a play written and directed by Walsh starring Murphy alongside Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea) which spellbound sell-out audiences at Galway International Arts Festival; Dublin’s Olympia Theatre; Cork’s Opera House and London’s National Theatre during 2014. Numerous film roles are set for release in 2015, including the hugely anticipated Ron Howard-directed film ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ which is due for release in March 2015. Cillian Murphy is also set to star in ‘Free Fire’, a Boston-set crime thriller from ‘Kill List’ writer-director Ben Wheatley.
Twelve months slipped by at a pace this year. Thinking about it at first I was convinced that 2014 had been worryingly barren for me culturally, due to the restrictions of work and life and a new-found affection for sleeping. On reflection it seems I did manage to get out of the house on occasion, listen to the odd record and take in a show or two. Here’s what I liked, or what I can remember liking in no particular order….
‘Salad Days’ by Mac Demarco made a big impression on me. I am a sucker for melody in music and this kid (he is only a kid, twenty-three or something) can’t help but write songs with an instant hook. He also has a gorgeously dry sense of humour, plays a mean guitar and is Canadian. I like Canadian people. The album speaks very simply but with great fluency about love, the fear of losing that love, and what it means to be alive today. It is beautifully and simply produced and puts a smile on my face every time I listen to the album. I managed to catch Mac play in Manchester in may, a brilliantly ramshackle gig which climaxed with the whole venue on our knees singing along to ‘Unknown Legend’ and giving thanks to Neil Young.
I love the new Blake Mills album ‘Heigh Ho’. Another great guitar player, with a tone very reminiscent of George Harrison, it’s a definite grower but one worth waiting for.
The new Caribou album deserves all the plaudits its earning. Such a great record – designed to make you dance.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen very slowly prised the roof off the Barbican in October with genuinely affecting and moving music. An amazing show and an amazing group of musicians.
I also caught Damon Albarn live in Manchester at the 6music festival – thank God for BBC 6 music! I am very impressed by Damon Albarn as a man and musician. This is a highly personal record, filled to the brim with gorgeous melodies and revealing lyrics, my high point being ‘Heavy Seas Of Love’ a duet with Brian Eno.
Ok I did see a lot of gigs in Manchester, I was working there for a stretch, they are coming back to me now……. with maybe the highlight being Prince. I’ve wanted to see him play live for ever and the man did not disappoint. It was a three and a half hour gig, during which he jumped effortlessly between hits and space-funk jams with his all female backing band. It’s a nice feeling when a legend lives up to their legendary status. Finally, I managed to catch Tame Impala in L.A. Love this band, such confident musicians, they completely filled the auditorium with blissed out fuzz-drenched tunes. Their support act Delicate Steve I also highly recommend, a very unusual guitar player, his music is of the joyous instrumental kind you want to listen to walking around feeling warm inside while everybody else looks worried.
The Richard Ford trilogy of ‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Lay Of The Land’ rank high amongst my favorite all-time novels, and this year Ford re-introduced us to Frank Bascombe (protagonist of all three novels) in his latest novel ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’. Frank is now in his late sixties but as compelling a character as ever. It’s a brief book, written as a series of short stories but is as incisive and acerbic an investigation of the American dream as I have read.
‘The Dog’ by Joseph O’Neill is also a joy, a book that is as tragic as it is funny.
For some reason I recently decided to re-read some books that I had read in my teens to check if they were still the masterpieces I had first ostentatiously judged them to be. ‘The Book Of Evidence’ by John Banville certainly remains one. Such an extraordinary tour-de-force. If you haven’t read it recently please do. It will inhabit you. I also re-visited some Salinger. Those early short stories still must be unmatchable in terms of heartache and droll musings on American youth and life.
After the sad passing of Dermot Healy this year the only fitting tribute I could think of was to read ‘A Goats Song’ once more. I fell in love with it all over again, sad and mournful and touching – part of this Island’s history.
I’ll finish up now as I realise writing these things can cause quickening anxiety about leaving some wonderful book or poem or song out without a mention.
Before I go I must write briefly about some visual art I saw. Mark Garry’s show – at the Model in Sligo town, “A Winter’s Light” – was a thing of beauty, delicate and life-affirming. I recently saw Douglas Gordon’s show ‘Tears become Streams’ at the Armoury in NYC. It featured concert pianist Helene Grimaud play a series of pieces inspired by water while the extraordinarily vast space was slowly flooded by water creating a lake on which she seemed to hover and also turning the space upside down in reflection. Breathtaking.
So that is it……. I appear to have completely left out any mention of film and theatre. So be it. They will have to wait until next year.
Dean Wareham (Los Angeles, USA)
The legendary Los Angeles-based Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean & Britta) released his sublime self-titled solo album this year via London-based label Sonic Cathedral (Europe) and his own label Double Feature (USA). Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at his home studio in Louisville, Kentucky, ‘Dean Wareham’ features Wareham alongside the formidable line-up of Britta Phillips on bass and Anthony LaMarca on drums.
Calvin Johnson at Ooga Booga in Los Angeles. Cate LeBon at Amoeba Los Angeles.
Favorite books read:
‘10:04’ by Ben Lerner
‘The Wet & the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey’ by Lawrence Osborne
‘The Book of My Lives’ by Alexsandar Hemon
‘Morvern Callar’ by Alan Warner
‘A Place of Greater Safety’ by Hillary Mantel
Velvet Underground deluxe 3rd album with bonus live discs recorded 1969 at the Matrix
Brian Jonestown Massacre ‘Revelation’
Jack & Eliza ‘No Wonders’ EP
Ultimate Painting ‘Ultimate Painting’
Papercuts ‘Life Among the Savages’
Courtney Barnett’s ‘Double’ EP
War on Drugs ‘Lost in the Dream’
In 2014 I released my first solo album after 26 years making records. I also worked with the Andy Warhol Museum on a film/music project, selecting a group of performers (Tom Verlaine, Marty Rev, Eleanor Friedberger, Bradford Cox and myself) to perform live onstage to never-before-seen silent films by Andy Warhol. And Britta Phillips and I scored another excellent film for Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig — ‘Mistress America’ — which will likely hit theaters in 2015.
But I will remember 2014 for horrific images from the Gaza Strip, and for the terrible suffering in Libya and Iraq and Syria (courtesy of European and American politicians who “liberated” two of those countries without caring about what might come after). Many smart people have observed that 2014 in the Middle East can only be understood in the light of 1914: the Great War and its aftermath. We will remember also a coup and civil war in the Ukraine (where again the US is not blameless). Here at home 2014 will be remembered by the slogans “Hands Up Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe.”
—Dean Wareham, Los Angeles
Dean Wareham’s self-titled debut solo album is available now on Sonic Cathedral (EU) and via Double Feature (USA).
Terry Magson, Puzzle Muteson (Isle of Wight, UK)
Iceland-based label Bedroom Community’s much-prized Puzzle Muteson (aka Isle of Wight-based singer-songwriter Terry Magson) released his divine sophomore full-length release this year. Entitled ‘Theatrics’, the album was recorded between Iceland’s Greenhouse studio and Magson’s friends’ studio at the Isle of Wight and features contributions from Magson’s trusted collaborators (and label-mates) Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly. Puzzle Muteson’s debut LP, ‘En Garde’, was released in 2011 (preceded by a 7″ of the same title which featured the B-side ‘Brittle Break’) which was also released by the prestigious Bedroom Community label (Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sam Amidon).
2014 has been a peculiar one for me. It really has gone too fast for me to comprehend. I spent far too much time in my own head, and maybe too much time in the company of cats. As far as listening to music went I slightly strayed from it.
I listened to mainly a bunch of separate songs when I did…
P.M Dawn – ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’
Julia Holter – ‘Hello Stranger’
London Electricity – ‘Just One Second’
Chantal Acda – ‘We Must Hold On’
Drake – ‘Come Thru’ (James Blake Remix)
Jon Hopkins – ‘Breath This Air’
Ben Frost – ‘Venter’
Nightcrawlers – ‘Push The Feeling On’
Robin S – ‘Show Me Love’
Tan Dun – ‘Gone With Leaves’
Black – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Doveman – ‘The Best Thing’
The Blue Nile – ‘Headlights On the Parade’
Airhead – ‘Believe’
Red – ‘Sorry About Your Love’ (RUCKAZOID Remix)
Akira Kosemra – ‘Light Dance’
Three live shows that I enjoyed for three different reasons would be Zebra Katz, Boys Noize and Gideon Conn.
‘Theatrics’ is available now on Bedroom Community.
Erik K Skodvin (Berlin, Germany)
One of the true cornerstones of the thriving contemporary independent music scene, Erik Skodvin is both a remarkable composer (as both a solo performer and via his numerous musical projects including: Svarte Greiner, B/B/S/ and Deaf Center), visual artist, designer and label owner (Skodvin runs the ever-impressive Berlin-based Miasmah label). 2014 was a particularly busy year for Skodvin with an extensive touring schedule as well as the release of numerous records (Skodvin’s second solo album ‘Flame’; ‘Recount’, a mini-album by Deaf Center, who celebrated their 10-year anniversary during 2014). Miasmah Recordings released a number of spellbinding albums during 2014: ‘Sprang’ by Eric Thielemans; the self-titled album by Shivers and Andrea Belfi’s ‘Natura Morta’.
2014 started for me with finalizing my soon-to-come second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame”. A mastering date was set for late January and I pretty much worked on it nonstop up until the day of mastering. Right after this, my good friend Otto A Totland’s debut album was released, something I was helping out Sonic Pieces with.
Next up, in mid February was a small northern EU tour with my trio B/B/S/ as we had a live LP recorded in 2013 that got released this time. I really like to play with Aidan and Andrea although we rarely all have time to meet up. We played a boat in Hamburg, Copenhagen jazzhouse, a studio in Gothenburg and an atelier on the Polish border, amongst others.
It’s funny to look back at a year and see how much different things were going on at the same time. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. We did a couple of house shows at our miasmah + sonic pieces HQ in Berlin, something that’s really fun but also quite exhausting. I’m also constantly working on artwork and communication for new upcoming miasmah releases, which I’m actually using most of my time on. Personally at this time I was also not completely well and used big parts of the year to get myself back in action.
Then something I’d been looking forward too for a long time, which was the sonic pieces Japan tour together with Otto, Rauelsson and Monique. This was maybe the highlight of the year and something I’ll for sure remember. It was also my first time visiting Asia.
No more than a couple of weeks after the Japan tour, me and Monique went to London to do merch for the two first Slowdive shows since 20 years. Being a big Slowdive fan having the opportunity to see them on such small stages was incredible. I guess this is a perk of having released some of Simon’s solo records.
Some more weeks at home before I had another small tour, this time as Svarte Greiner. Together with Alexander Rishaug we played 4 Norwegian gigs in Bergen, Fredrikstad, Trondheim and Oslo. Went quite well though I was still not completely in shape, and all the traveling was taking it’s toll. We had one amazing evening in Oslo at a small Izakaya (!) where we played on a home-made sound-system for a packed crowd.
My second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame” was then released, on my birthday actually – Well planned, Monique! It also came out as a 2LP together with my first EKS album “Flare”, which sold out quite quickly. Also the Shivers album on Miasmah was released then, though slightly delayed from the pressing plant. Around this time I also worked on a new commissioned piece of music to my now regular collaborator, Marit Følstad, for whom I also was commissioned the Black Tie material I released last year. This was later in the year exhibited in Bergen, Norway where both me and Monique attended.
The mid-summer was quite event-free when it comes to music, though once August started to approach I was invited to play a Svarte Greiner set on the Danish island of Fanø, at the Fanø free folk festival, which turned out to be really great. Set in a local commune house on the tip of the island, with mostly bands I never heard of before. Found some great new musical tips there.
Just a week later I played another Svarte Greiner set, this time on a pretty much complete opposite setting, being Berlin electronic/techno music festival Krake. I played in between techno sets and was forced to do a massive drone-noise attack, which ended pretty great, as I immediately got another booking just minutes after I finished.
Shortly after this I played at an ambient festival in Poland on the border to Belarus. This was an outdoor stage in the middle of a big park. It was only myself and Rafael Anton Irisarri who were to play, and of course it started to rain during sound check already, fucking up some of Raf’s gear. We ended up playing together, something we havent done for 5 years. It was also good to see him again. He had quite the bad year, with him and his wife losing all their possessions during a move to the east coast.
Berlin-based electronic-gear wizard Derek Holzer had contacted me earlier with the idea of custom making me a processing box for my effect pedal rig. After a good bunch of back-and-forth talking on what to do, it turned out as a “chaotic synthesizer-ringmod-guitar-processing box” as he calls it, and is something amazing I’m still trying to figure out properly.
Rest of August was set off to work on Miasmah stuff + two B/B/S/ shows in Berlin, one where we headlined and one where we opened for Thurston Moore at Lido, which was fun, but maybe not our best show so far. We also played a B/B/S/ show at the Italian festival Flussi, in Avellino outside of Naples, where the accommodation was set in an Italian olive farm in the mountains. This was pretty amazing. On top of this, our first Deaf Center material since 4-5 years was released on a new sonic pieces series I’m doing together with Monique called “Pattern”, which is pretty much based on laser cut sleeves. “Recount” as the record was called, was 2 lost long pieces made in 2007 and 2012.
For once I didn’t have a lot of gigs set up for the Autumn, so I spent most of it in Berlin with the occasional trips to Norway. I used my time working on graphics, arranging house shows with Monique and going on sunday trips to the country side. One other thing I did during this time was to use a whole day at the Funkhouse studio here in Berlin being directed by Nils Frahm to make sounds and music for this film he’s scoring. It will be interesting to see if some of what I contributed ended up in the film which will premiere in the new year. I did a similar thing like this for Jóhann Jóhannsson last year for the film ‘Prisoners’. Both were fun but difficult as I needed to play spontaneously to the film over and over.
On a different note I also ended up going to Unsound festival for once without playing. Not often I go to a festival just to hang out, meet people and see shows, but this was a good occasion and I saw both some great and quite bad shows. The highlight of which was a band I never heard of before, named “Cyclobe”.
Seeing this was Deaf Center’s 10 year anniversary we did quite a lot more than we usually do this year. On top of the Japan tour we played 3 more shows in Germany. Mainly being Hauschka’s “Approximation festival” in Düsseldorf, then at UT Connewitz in Leipzig with Tomaga and a fairly secret house show at our own place. All went pretty good to great I’d say. Just one week after this tour, I did a small NL/BE Svarte Greiner tour, playing Antwerp and Brüssels but also visiting Amsterdam and Mechelen. Got to hang out with the Miasmah Belgian gang, which is always a great time. It was a little stressful trip all in all, but can’t complain. Also by now I was very ready to stay at home for a while.
The last big bang of the year is something that’s yet to happen as I write this. We’re going to open for Slowdive at massive venue The Forum in London this Friday the 19th. Quite scary but also very exciting. This will be the ending of our 2014 Deaf Center anniversary and although some things are set for next year, it will probably be quieter on that front.
To sum up, looking at what I just wrote it seems like a very busy year, something it kind of was. For sure an improvement from last year, which was not so good for me, so with this I write off 2014 with a big thanks to my working and living partner, Monique Recknagel, who’s been a big part of pretty much everything on this list. Next year will for sure not be any less busy as I haven’t even mentioned all the upcoming Miasmah stuff I used A LOT of time preparing and working on during this year. It’s gonna be a very exciting year I think.
Erik K Skodvin 2014 TOP 12 albums:
Matt Christensen – ‘Coma Gears’ (Bathetic)
HTRK – ‘Psychic 9-5 club’ (Ghostly)
Valerio Tricoli – ‘Misery Lares’ (PAN)
Josef Van Wissem / SQÜRL – ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ OST (ATP recordings)
Mica Levi – ‘Under the Skin’ OST (Milan)
Ai Aso – ‘Lone’ (Ideologic organ)
Tomaga – ‘Future Grotesk’ (Hands in the dark)
Andy Stott – ‘Faith in Strangers’ (Modern Love)
Otto A Totland – ‘Pino’ (sonic pieces)
Black To Comm – S/T (Type)
Simon James Phillips – ‘Chair’ (room40)
Driftmachine – ‘Nocturnes’ (Umor-rex)
Top 5 films 2014:
‘Under the Skin’
‘Only lovers left alive’
Top 5 concerts 2014:
Marsen Jules (Berghain 10 year anniversary, Berlin)
Cyclobe (unsound festival)
Nils Frahm & Stargaze performs Terry Riley in C (volksbuhne, Berlin)
Tomaga (UT Connewitz, Leipzig)
Driftmachine (miasmah+sonic pieces HQ, Berlin)
—Erik K Skodvin
‘Flame’ by Erik K Skodvin and ‘Recount’ by Deaf Center are available now on Sonic Pieces.
Mary Lattimore (Philadelphia, USA)
Mary Lattimore is a Philadelphia-based harpist whose name has become synonymous in independent music circles as both a gifted solo composer as well as a versatile and accomplished collaborator. 2014 saw the release of ‘Slant Of Light’, the gorgeous collaboration between Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler; a record featuring heavenly harp and synthesizer improvisations released by Chicago-based indie label Thrill Jockey. Mary Lattimore has also contributed her highly distinguished harp playing for numerous artists, including: Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Are We There’ and Steve Gunn’s ‘Way Out Weather’ albums. Previously, Lattimore has collaborated with New York-based songwriter Ed Askew and ex Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore.
Okay, here goes! Hi from a cold night in Philadelphia:
Favorite Things of 2014 List
Favorite Records, in no order:
Myriam Gendron – ‘Not So Deep As A Well’
Steve Gunn – ‘Way Out Weather’
Grouper – ‘Ruins’
Watery Love – ‘Decorative Feeding’
Amen Dunes – ‘Love’
Marissa Nadler – ‘July’
Total Control – ‘Typical System’
Weyes Blood – ‘The Innocents’
War on Drugs – ‘Lost in the Dream’
Tinariwen – ‘Emmaar’
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Are We There’
Nathan Bowles – ‘Nansemond’
Purling Hiss – ‘Weirdon’
Lewis – ‘L’Amour’ (Reissue)
David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – ‘End Times Undone’
K. Leimer – ‘A Period of Review’ (Reissue)
Mike Cooper – ‘Trout Steel/Places I Know’
William Basinski – ‘Melancholia’ (Reissue)
Jennifer Castle – ‘Pink City’
Daniel Bachman – ‘Orange Co. Serenade’
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band – ‘Intensity Ghost’
Brigitte Fontaine – ‘Est…Folle’ (Reissue)
Favorite Song I Just Learned Of In 2014 (thanks to Justin Tripp and Nathan Bowles):
Favorite New Place:
Favorite Shows of 2014:
Slowdive and Low, two favorites, same show (Philly)
War on Drugs secret shows (Philly)
Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN
Transfigurations Festival in Asheville, NC (an anniversary party for Harvest Records)
Memorial Show for Jack Rose (Glenn Jones, Daniel Bachman, Chris Forsyth, Nathan Bowles, Megajam Booze Band) (Philly)
Getting to see Steve Gunn and his incredible band every night while on tour together!!
Kensington Picnic II (Philly)
Sitting in with Cass McCombs and his excellent band, wow.
Getting to play harp for some elegant parties at the Philip Johnson Glass House, architectural gem in Connecticut.
Improvising with bandmate Jeff Zeigler and dancers Elle Erdman & Laura Bartczak.
Orange Polenta Cake with Honey and Rosewater Syrup, wow.
Thrill Jockey putting out the record and getting to know those guys.
Becky Suss’s paintings (beckysuss.net).
Recording session with Steve Gunn and friends at Black Dirt Studio in upstate NY.
James Turrell Skyspace in Chestnut Hill, PA.
Seeing top American actor Michael Shannon in a play.
Finally buying a rice cooker instead of burning the rice all the time!
This unreal experience of natural beauty – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCWkzQqO7Ro (you can catch me and Naomi Yang and my mom on this news show, haha).
‘Slant Of Light’ by Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.
Ed Askew (New York, USA)
The New York-based painter and singer-songwriter Ed Askew was born in Stamford, Connecticut. He moved to New Haven to study painting at Yale Art School in 1963. During his mid-twenties, while working as a teacher at a private prep school in Connecticut, Ed Askew began to write songs. Significantly, he also at this time purchased his much-loved Martin Tiple (a 10 string lute-like instrument originally from Columbia). Over the preceding years and decades, Askew would continue to write songs and paint consistently. However, a lack of fortune with record labels (like many musicians of the time) led to years of uncertainty and obscurity. Debut LP ‘Ask the Unicorn’ (initially released via ESP Disk and UK’s Parlophone) would quickly disappear into folk-psych obscurity. Second LP, ‘Little Eyes’ was recorded next; however, it sat in the vaults for some 40 years until its long-overdue limited release in 2007. In the summer of 2011, Ed Askew embarked on his first US tour at the age of 71; while in 2013, Ed Askew’s masterful album ‘For The World’ was released via Tin Angel Records. 2014 found Ed Askew writing its hugely anticipated follow-up.
My recent birthday was on Dec. 1st, and I spent a quiet day alone doing stuff at home. Later, I said to Jay (my keys player): “lets do something”. So the next Saturday we joined friends at a nice little west side restaurant to have drinks and dinner.
It’s amazing to imagine that only a year previous I was at a gallery in Paris, on Nov. 30th, and chatting with people after the show; when, at midnight, I turned around and was greeted with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.
The next morning we all went to a place where the band could have it’s picture taken with the Eiffel Tower. My idea. Then on to Brussels.
The tour was for about two weeks and took us to Köln, Gent, Utrecht, Paris, Brussels, London, Copenhagen, Coventry, where we also played and stayed with John, on an old rebuilt farm. John is a friend of Richard Guy, who runs Tin Angel Records, and drove us around for the duration of the tour. We also played in Bristol and Glasgow. I remember the beautiful hills in Scotland, and won’t forget all the great people we met.
I also have to mention Jordan Hunt (a London boy) who was violinist for the band during the tour (and Tyler Evans who is a regular member of our band; plays tipple and guitar).
Well, once back in the states I resumed my normal life of occasional shows in Brooklyn, rehearsals with the band, working on new songs at home, occasional visits from friends, and painting.
A big event in my, life this year, was a fall I had in June that just about put me out of action for a few months. but not to dwell on THAT. I will put up this recent poem that relates:
Watching the Hudson River through a tangle of
Trees, broken limbs, and late Autumn leaves.
Like James Joyce’s blind man,
Walking across Dublin.
Except that I am not in Dublin
And I am not blind.
This is the longest I have walked
Since I fell, in June;
Infuriating the nerves in my legs.
But looking at the gold and green,
And tangle of trees, before me,
I can almost not notice the discomfort
In my legs.
And as I walk home from breakfast
I pass a child, learning to ride a bike.
And I remember the pleasure in overcoming difficulties,
(Even ones that are NO fun)
Learning to play an instrument,
Or finishing a new painting.
At any rate, aside from doing some shows in Brooklyn; we played at a show in July with Plastic Crime Wave. P C W is Steve Krakow’s band. Steve is a Chicago-based music promoter, musician, and all around psychedelic freak.
Ed Askew Band got most of the songs recorded for a new LP for Tin Angel. Going to Philly and upstate NY to do it. And Jay and I went to Canada to play, and see friend Molly Sweeney and enjoy her set. From Canada went to Maine, where we played during the closing week of the Oak and the Ax. A great venue in the Portland area. Sad to see it go.
Otherwise I have been working on a new set of abstract paintings and new songs for another Bandcamp self release.
And, oh, me, Jay and Tyler played a show at Issues Project Room with Josephine Foster (who will be on the new album) and Victor Herrero, back in January. The hall was packed, which is gratifying.
Some artists whose records and CDs I got during 2014 are:
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle
Do Make Say Think
the Milkman’s Union
Because I live in Northern Manhattan and it takes 2 trains and some time to get to Brooklyn and, I’m just lazy, I don’t go to many shows that I’m not playing in. I did see my friend Jerry DeCicca (producer of ‘For The World’), at Union Pool recently, though. They have Sunday afternoon shows there, that are relaxed and make for a nice, low-key time.
So here I am, at my trusty MacBook and another year has come and gone.
some more paintings,
‘For The World’ is available now on Tin Angel Records. Ed Askew also released the double 10″ ‘Rose’ (w/ Joshua Burkett & Steve Gunn) via Okraina Records (Info/Buy HERE).
Carl Corcoran, The Blue Of The Night (Dublin, Ireland)
Dublin-based broadcaster and radio presenter Carl Corcoran presents his radio show “The Blue Of The Night” nightly on RTE Lyric FM from 10pm to 1am. The much-loved show has become widely regarded as one of the finest resources to Irish music fans for both its vast eclecticism and its unwavering dedication to showcasing the very best musical talent from both Irish and international shores. All genres of music are catered for: from jazz to blues, classical to neoclassical and from traditional to modern composers, and all points in between.
I consider myself to have the greatest job in Ireland. I listen to, I play, I share music with an audience that ranges in age from young teens to octogenarians with tastes in music that run the whole gambit from 13th Century polyphony through Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods — from trad to jazz and where the two meet, right up to contemporary neo-classical, baroque pop and fusions of all sorts. The Blue of the Night defies categorisation – in fact we have become a genre of our own. My desk (and that of my co-Presenter Eamonn Lenihan) is piled high with CDs and my Inbox is jammed with emails containing Mp3s and links to Soundclouds, Bandcamps and Dropbox tracks which songwriters and composers feel is Blue of the Night material. Isn’t that cool! Isn’t that the greatest testament to the programme! What a compliment! What a thrill! So when I get around to listening to all this new music I marvel at the creativity that exists. The internet has facilitated the dissemination of new music. There is a Universe of great stuff out there – and for me it is a privilege to be able to share some (and it is only a small “some”) of this creativity. As a performing musician in another period of my life (and still am from time to time) I respect the “circular reciprocity” that emanates from a great performance. In other words performers enjoying their gig connect with their audience who in turn transmit that enjoyment back to the performer thereby completing the circle. Similarly, the same happens in my current role on Blue – I play the music, the audience responds and they in turn suggest music and artists that I am genuinely enthralled to hear and enjoy.
Music that came my way this year (and not necessarily released this year) that excited me and my listeners include Portadown musician/singer songwriter Katharine Philippa – her ‘Broken to be Re-built’ EP is great. NY’s Bryce Dessner (The National) impresses with his neo-classical creations for the Kronos Quartet; Sean MacErlaine’s latest release of solo reed (Clarinets and sax) musings along with his sonic backdrops is equally impressive; Dylan Tighe produced a personal and moving collection of songs in his “Record” Cd while the Ergodos Musicians (who in the past have paid tribute to 12C composers) on their CD ‘Songs’ captured the art of the song from writers such as alt-country singer Steve Earle, UK indie trio The xx, folk-rock hero Richard Thompson, maverick Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, and Italian Baroque genius Antonio Vivaldi. Ailie Blunnnie is another young songwriter that caught my ear, as did Slow Skies, Seti the First, Chequerboard, Owensie and a recent find from the UK – composer, singer songwriter Sasha Siem. There is so much good music out there – there are so many great music appreciators out there…….and we share. So much great music to be heard on the Blue of the Night. So much great music to send to Blue of the Night. I hope that circle continues – I hope I can reciprocate.
Carl Corcoran presents The Blue Of The Night on Irish radio station RTE Lyric FM nightly from 10pm to 1am. Playlists and playback options are accessible online for each show.
Eithne Hand, Galway International Arts Festival (Galway, Ireland)
Eithne Hand is a Radio Producer and Writer. In 2014 she curated the ‘First Thought Talks’ Strand of the Galway International Arts Festival. She produces Gay Byrne’s weekly Jazz Programme on RTE Lyric FM and is a past winner of the Prix Italia for Work on Music with a radio documentary called Voicejazz which mixed five voices talking about jazz in a loose quintet. All she loves about radio comes from Glen Gould. She has written and directed four Radio Dramas and is working on a site specific theatre piece for 1916 based on her own family story and Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Taking of Christ’.
Musically my 2014 contained not so many ‘new’ pieces but a lot of ‘new to me’ work. Working every week with jazz from the 30’s and 40’s constantly opens my ears to some of the best playing and improvisations from a time when the form was dangerously good. Take just one example – Mugsy Spanier’s ‘Relaxin’ At The Touro’.
Lisa Hannigan, Cillian Murphy, Fractured Air and Tony Clayton Lea all took to the stage of Druid Theatre in Galway on a sunny July Sunday and provided a real highlight for the audience of muso’s and sentimentalists all there to hear an hour-long riff on the joy of the Mixtape. Cillian had the bright idea of asking all comers in advance to bring their own Mixtape/CD along so at the end we shook a box and everyone took home someone else’s offering. A true example of local ‘sharing’.
Film musical highlights were just two – I got to see ‘Good Vibrations’ – the story of Terri Hooley and the punk movement in Belfast. Great soundtrack, smart script from Glenn Patterson and a cameo appearance by Terri himself. An eerily accurate capture of a time and place.
Best book with music in it: ‘From Out Of The City’ – A John Kelly transport aptly described on the cover as “a medicated fugue”.
Ken Loach’s film, ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ was shot about 10km from where I spend a lot of time in south Sligo. The film has good and bad bits but the musical assembly of fantastic jazz foot stompers led by Tommy Higgins were a joy.
Teho Teardo’s soundtrack for ‘Ballyturk’ by Enda Walsh was the overall musical highlight. Now just out on CD and Vinyl. Stunning music.
Björk’s ‘Bibliophilia’ came along and having been at the concert in Alexander Palace which was recorded for the movie I had to go. Surreal, stunning imaginative effort to ‘show’ the music as having an organic visual life alongside the sounds.
Elvis Costello in October in Dublin was forgettable but Julie Feeney in the Spiegeltent on the Wexford Quays on Halloween night was the opposite.
Lowlight award goes to David Byrne/Fat Boy Slim collaboration ‘Here Lies Love’ – the musical based on the Imelda Marcos story at the National London. Poor taste and disappointing all round.
Year ending with Cyrille Aimee and the wonderful Aaron Diehl as well as Christian McBride and Cecile McLorin Salvant all together on the new Mack Avenue CD release for Christmas (‘It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue’).
For 2015 I am looking forward to a much rumoured chamber opera involving both Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh. All details coming soon !
Brigid Power-Ryce (Galway, Ireland)
Brigid Power-Ryce (born in London and now based in Galway) is one of Ireland’s most talented and unique songwriters. Having supported such world-renowned musicians as Lee Ranaldo, Peter Broderick, Alasdair Roberts and Richard Dawson in the past; Brigid Power-Ryce’s moving and powerful concert performances (involving accompaniment with accordion, guitar, ukele or simply a cappella performance) demonstrate the supreme power still inherent in the songwriting form. Brigid Power-Ryce released the stunning ‘I Told You The Truth’ album this year via Galway-based Abandon Reason Records, comprising recordings made at St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway.
2014 was a crazy and hard year for me. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if it was any crazier than previous years, but it definitely was a year of “burning the candle at both ends”. There was a lot of change, which brought about a lot of chaos and loss, but then ultimately strength. It wasn’t a big year for me for soaking up new music or books. I go through phases where I will listen to a lot of music or read many books, but then I go into blank-brain mode and I need a lot of empty months, where I’m not usually listening to anything new, just listening to a lot of old favourites or sometimes nothing at all. Old stuff that I listened to a lot this year was Neil Young – ‘Zuma’, ‘Rust Never Sleeps’. Planxty. I listened to a lot of Prokofiev too and Satie.
My 4 year old son made us listen to and dance on repeat, the song ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line’ by Waylon Jennings. Hearing him shouting and sort of side-stepping “EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU BEEN STEPPIN ON MY TOES AND I’M GEDDIN PWETTY TIRED OF IT” was special. We’ve recently moved very close to a beach and he always says, “I see Waylon Jennings sailing a boat over there Mum. There he is Mum making a sand castle!” He has a connection with Waylon Jennings. How strange.
I played a lot of memorable gigs. Around April 2014 I played a few gigs around the UK. I started off with opening up for Cian Nugent & The Cosmos in Cafe Oto, London. They were really raw and alive. Then I went to Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Playing those gigs really nourished me. The audiences were all so appreciative and connective and so were the acts I was supporting, Alasdair Roberts and Sir Richard Bishop, they were great and the latter so funny. I felt like I was floating the whole time of that tour. When I came home I came crashing down with a post-gigs anti-climax. It was hard to get back to day-to-day life and get my feet back on the ground. But I’ve learned how to handle the aftermath a bit better since Spring.
An artist I discovered in 2014 who made a big impact on me was Angel Olsen. It’s funny because when I first heard her in maybe 2012/13, I didn’t want to listen, I sort of shut it off. It almost hurt to listen, because I had been laying low for quite a while and not performing or writing or even singing so I wanted to avoid listening to something that I might have unconsciously known would remind me of who I am. But then I did let myself listen this year and her two albums ‘Half Way Home’ and ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ were pretty much on repeat for the whole summer in our house. Here’s the evidence. I love her music, her voice and her lyrics too. I went to see her in Whelans too which was great, although there were a few assholes at the gig.
I played a good few gigs in the autumn. I supported a great American band upstairs in The Workman’s in Dublin, called Spires That In The Sunset Rise. They were incredible musicians and people. Then I supported Lee Ranaldo in Dublin, an exciting gig that went really well. And then my last gig was with Peter Broderick in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork. That was a really special gig. The promoters (ahem!) were extremely kind, generous, and without a hint of ego. Which was really unique. The audience was great and Peter Broderick was also lovely and I really liked his violin playing and multi-tasking abilities. After the show, we talked a lot about ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Seinfeld’, which brings me on to “what I watched in 2014”. A LOT of CYE. I know it wasn’t out this year or anything, but hey I’m always a few years behind on stuff. I also watched the first season of ‘Broad City’ which I really liked. I’m excited for that new season to come out in January. It’s about two young women in New York and they are pretty funny. I used to live in New York when I was 18 and I was in a similar mindset to them then, so it feels familiar.
I know this has probably been a boring read, with not much substance or music/film/book recommendations (oh I just remembered I re-read ‘Shakey’, and ‘East Of Eden’ which is very different to the film, very dark but brilliant), but it’s because I am tired. That sums up 2014, really: tiring. I think 2015 will be a lot more easier going. I think I will organize some more gigs and get over to America and maybe get a band together. I’m going to try and not waste so many hours on the internet also.
‘I Told You The Truth’ is available now on Abandon Reason Records HERE.
With very special thanks to all the wonderful contributors for their contributions.
Wishing all our readers a very happy new year and best wishes for 2015.
New York-based artist Christopher Porpora – who creates music via his Cheval Sombre guise – has earned his reputation in recent times as one of independent music’s true treasures. Cheval Sombre has released two full length albums to date; 2008’s self-titled debut album (Double Feature Records) and 2012’s moving opus ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral Recordings). Last year, Sonic Cathedral issued the limited cassette comprising Cheval Sombre & Sonic Boom’s celebrated live performance recorded at London’s St. Pancras Old Church. This year Cheval Sombre’s ‘Madder Love’ 12″ EP was released by London-based independent label Sonic Cathedral, comprising three exclusive remixes plus a special slowed-down re-interpretation of ‘Someplace Else’, entitled ‘Someplace Slow’. The EP is dedicated to the memory of Porpora’s dear friend Matthew Lyndon Wells, who recently passed away (Matthew played some early Cheval Sombre shows with Porpora).
Fractured Air 30: Incandescent Innocent (A Mixtape by Cheval Sombre)
“Once we admit our humanity, the experience of this life becomes tinged with authenticity. And the flicker of what is authentic illuminates – always.”
To listen on Mixcloud:
01. Cornelius Cardew ‘Father Murphy’ [Cramps]
02. KZA ‘Vous Dansez’ [Endless Flight]
03. Selda ‘Gesi Baglari’ [Bird / B-Music]
04. Dean & Britta ‘Incandescent Innocent’ [Double Feature]
05. Felt ‘Sempiternal Darkness’ [Cherry Red]
06. Amen Dunes ‘Lonely Richard’ [Sacred Bones]
07. The Limiñanas ‘La Melancolie’ [Trouble In Mind]
08. The Stone Roses ‘Don’t Stop’ [Silvertone]
09. Jacobites ‘Kissed You Twice’ [Glass, Regency Sound / Mammoth]
10. The English Beat ‘Save it for Later’ [I.R.S. / Go-Feet]
11. Gatto Fritto ‘The Curse’ [International Feel Recordings]
12. Sebastien Tellier ‘Le Long De La Rivière Tendre’ [Lucky Number / V2]
13. Spacemen 3 ‘Transparent Radiation (Violin Mix)’ [Forced Exposure]
14. Paul O’Dette, The King’s Noyse & David Douglass ‘Mr. John Langtons Pavan’ [Harmonia Mundi]
15. The Pogues ‘I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’ [Stiff / MCA]
16. John Fahey ‘In Christ There Is No East or West’ [Takoma]
17. Zbigniew Preisner ‘Tu Viendras’ [‘La Double Vie De Véronique’ OST / Sideral, Virgin]
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.
“Madder Love” EP is available now on Sonic Cathedral HERE.
Interview with Dean Wareham.
“Writing a song is a long road. Or it can be.”
Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Dean Wareham
Last Spring marked the long-awaited release of the legendary Galaxie 500/Luna frontman, Dean Wareham’s solo debut full-length on the London-based independent label, Sonic Cathedral. The self-titled album showcases Wareham’s immaculate song-craft and peerless musicianship; traits we have come to know (and cherish) from the American musician’s storied career (from the reverb-drenched, indie-rock gems of Galaxie 500 to Luna’s utterly transcendent dream-pop opuses). Following on from last year’s beguiling solo mini-album, ‘Emancipated Hearts’, a marked immediacy and directness is inherent in Wareham’s songbook as a rejuvenated spirit burns brightly across the debut album’s rich sonic canvas.
The debut record was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket at his home studios in Louisville, Kentucky. “I bought My Morning Jacket’s first album, ‘The Tennessee Fire’ back in 1999 and loved it,” recounts Wareham, “perhaps on account of the generous amounts of reverb on his voice, or the fact that he would belt things out loud and high”. The recording sessions comprised the formidable line-up of Britta Phillips on bass and Anthony LaMarca on drums. Album opener ‘The Dancer Disappears’ contains Wareham’s pristine baritone washed across a sky of sun-blissed guitar tones and an infectious groove. A vivid sense of nostalgia, memory and new beginnings unfolds before your very eyes (and ears) as an illuminating new chapter is forged in Wareham’s sacred songbook. A crystalline pop gem is masterfully crafted (sharing the glorious shades of Phil Spector and Jim James’ own solo material), which is inter-woven with Wareham’s poignant lyrics: “Now that we’re here / I’m ready to leave / The whole wide world behind.” An undying spark of optimism flickers like rays of sunlight, perhaps reflected on the album’s stunning front-cover artwork, which was beautifully designed by Sharon Lock (whose work similarly adorns the sleeve of label-mate, Cheval Sombre’s ‘Mad Love’ record). A few moments later, Wareham sings “Bring back the magic and light the match / There is a train that I’m hoping to catch” that brings to mind Tindersticks’ frontman Stuart A. Stalples’ solo album ‘Leaving Songs’ and particularly the Lhasa de Sela duet, ‘That Leaving Feeling’.
The fulfilling journey continues on ‘Beat The Devil’ as Wareham sings on the opening verse, “Take the high road to the sea / On the lost coast is where we’ll be” that recalls the tender ballads of ‘Deserter Songs’ era Mercury Rev, Daniel Johnston and Sparklehorse; while lyrically the spirit of The Byrds song — and Dylan-penned — ‘Ballad Of Easy Rider’ comes to mind. The song’s closing guitar interlude serves the perfect prelude to what follows, namely the only cover version on the album, ‘Heartless People’, written by Michael Holland. A song of immense power and emotional depth seeps into your consciousness. Sonically, a gorgeous ebb and flow of warm percussion and clean guitar tones flows effortlessly beneath Wareham’s endearing voice. A love song filled with pain, loss, longing and regret is created as a seamless array of poetic prose makes its swift dance to the forefront of one’s heart and mind: “But you / You and I / Hate to see a flower die / Somebody tell me / Which way the power lies”. An achingly beautiful lapsteel appears on a later verse as a darkness permeates the headspace: “No one ever really knew/The trouble in my heart / She had a way with me / Right from the very start”. ‘Heartless People’ could belong on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s ‘I See A Darkness’ or any of Johnny Cash’s ‘American Recordings’ such is the deeply affecting ballad’s brilliance.
‘My Eyes Are Blue’ beautifully depicts a father’s everlasting love for his son. A sublime country pop gem radiates throughout with Wareham’s pristine vocal delivery providing the song’s glimmering spark: “I don’t know my eyes are blue / I only know they’re following you”. The perfect pop song contains gorgeous backing harmonies and soaring guitar licks, that in turn, creates something of a symphony. A song of love and rejoice is wonderfully brought into full-focus as Wareham asks: “But how can we lose when we already won?” ‘Love Is Not A Roof Against The Rain’ conjures up the timeless sound of Gram Parsons (particularly, ‘Love Hurts’) as an intimacy descends upon the listener. The sparse folk song is a tour-de-force in songwriting, revealed in a later verse: “I can hold the midnight in my hand / Spoken like a singer in a band / Everyone remembers what they want / Stories told to give their life a font”. An honesty and directness prevails as a torn heart is laid bare, particularly on the chorus refrain as Wareham asks: “What have I done with my life”.
Part B evolves into psychedelic guitar-based pop gems, from the hypnotic groove of ‘Holding Pattern’ to the Velvets-esque ‘Babes In The Wood’. The latter transforms into an uplifting psych haze as the chorus refrain of “Take care of the babes in the wood” shares glorious shades of Galaxie 500. The star of Wareham continues to rise but this well-known fact has been written in stone ever since the turn of the 90’s, of course.
‘Dean Wareham’ is available now on Sonic Cathedral (Europe) and Double Feature (USA).
Interview with Dean Wareham.
Congratulations Dean on your utterly beautiful new solo album. I love the immediacy and directness of these songs and indeed, the gorgeous flow of music throughout. Can you please take me back to the recording sessions with Jim James and what the experience was like recording in his Kentucky home studio?
Dean Wareham: Thank you Mark. Let’s turn back the clock to the summer of 2012. Jim James invited me to play a summer festival that he was curating in Louisville; I played a set of Galaxie 500 songs. After the festival, my band (my wife Britta on bass, Anthony LaMarca on drums, and me) retired to Jim’s house in the suburbs of Louisville. It’s a home studio but frankly it had nicer equipment than a lot of studios I’ve recorded in. We set up the drums in the living room, vocal microphone in Jim’s den, and guitar amps in the garage. We spent two days, walked out of there with four songs, including “The Dancer Disappears,” “Heartless People” and “Babes in the Wood” and decided right away that we would come back in December and finish a whole record.
I was interested to read that ‘The Dancer Disappears’ and the Michael Holland cover ‘Heartless People’ were some of the first songs recorded for the album. I feel both those songs really shape the album. I love the beautiful arrangements of ‘The Dancer Disappears’ and lyrics such as “Now that we’re here / I’m ready to leave the whole wide world behind” evokes a vivid sense of journey that marks a new chapter. Can you talk me through ‘The Dancer Disappears’ please, Dean?
DW: I will try. It’s really two different processes — the music and the lyrics I mean — working separately and then hopefully working together. Often a song starts as someone else’s song; in this case I was strumming Glen Campbell’s “Mary in the Morning” and then we started playing around with those chords but set to a disco beat. When we got into the studio Jim James had a different idea for the drums; he set up a heavy slapback delay and that forced our drummer Anthony to change what he was doing. Lyrically I wanted to write about a last hurrah, the idea that as you get older you will have one last big party and then leave it all behind. And also during this time I was aware that I was about to leave New York City after thirty years and move to the west coast, which I certainly had mixed feelings about.
The cover song ‘Heartless People’ fits so perfectly alongside your own songs. Can you shed some light on this song please and its inclusion on the album? It’s such a gorgeous, tender song with deeply affecting song-writing. Thank you for introducing me to the music of Michael Holland.
DW: Yeah, this is the second Michael Holland song I have recorded. Michael and his identical-twin brother Mark were in a band called Jennyanykind in the 1990s, and I like that band but I like their side projects even more; Mark Holland recorded a few albums as Jule Brown (and I worked with him on those) and Michael Holland made a really great bluegrass album called “Tomorrow’s American Treasures”. I don’t even like bluegrass much but really loved the album he made. But back to your question, Michael sent me a home demo of this unreleased song he wrote — “Heartless People” — and I have been waiting to record it for a couple of years. It is a devastating song — the one lyric “You can hope for the best / But what is written in stone?” gets me every time I sing it. I think back to how we recorded that one, and to tell you the truth we almost gave up on it while we were rehearsing — it just wasn’t working. But Jim James set up this great vintage ribbon microphone into a plate reverb and all of a sudden my vocal sounded really silky, and so did Britta’s bass, and Britta and Anthony played a really fantastic rhythm track and then Jim James added a strange jazzy guitar lick and Anthony the pedal steel, and it all happened so quickly.
The stunning front-cover is beautifully designed by Sharon Lock, whose work I first came across through Cheval Sombre’s ‘Mad Love’ album, released on Sonic Cathedral a couple of years ago. The artwork is a perfect embodiment of the uplifting music contained on the record.
DW: It is just possible that the artwork is better than the album. And I am not dissatisfied with the album — it’s just that the LP cover is, as you say, stunning. It is glowing, effulgent, colorful, mysterious. Mind you, I haven’t yet seen it with the yellow translucent vinyl, the UK vinyl is out but we had a problem here.
I love that sense of musicianship and joy of playing that is clearly present on these special recordings. I would love to gain an insight into the writing process of your songs? Is it a case that you have the songs written beforehand and then bringing them to the table, so to speak? Your trusted ensemble of Britta Phillips (bass) and Anthony La Marca (drums) and Jim James have such a deep understanding of the music, it’s lovely to witness while listening to the record.
DW: I don’t generally bring finished songs to the table; I bring ideas, chords, riffs and then we sit down (we in this case being Anthony and Britta) and try them different ways and do this for a couple of months. And then when the recording session is booked the panic sets in and I realize I had better write the lyrics or else I will look like a fool standing there with nothing to sing. This time I was a little bit lucky because my voice completely gave out during our December sessions, which gave me an extra couple of weeks to finish the words.
Were there particular production techniques used by Jim James on these recording sessions that set them apart from previous releases? It’s cool too to think that clearly, the music of My Morning Jacket owes a lot to the unique reverb-filled sonic creations of Galaxie 500. It’s a wonderful combination that works so well.
DW: This record sounds very different to last year’s “Emancipated Hearts” EP, which was produced by Jason Quever of Papercuts. That one was a wall of sound. This LP is more hi-fi. Jim James has made some really massive sounding records, and he does not shy away from bold statements. That is perhaps what is different here — he pushed me out of my comfort zone at times. I tend to keep things pretty restrained (not always, but that is my default), while he goes for it. That was a good dynamic on this album.
‘My Eyes Are Blue’ is another truly captivating song. I love the intricate arrangements of sun-blissed harmonies, clean guitar tones, and enlightening feel. I really do get a sense that the songs are just pouring from you and it’s all so effortless. How has your song-writing changed over the course of your career across the various incarnations?
DW: Good that it sounds that way, but I promise you it is not effortless. Writing a song is a long road. Or it can be. Some things come quickly (for example, “Happy & Free”). But “My Eyes Are Blue” was very different in demo form. When we started playing it for Jim, he immediately suggested that we start with the chorus instead of the verse, a clever idea, and I’m not sure why I’ve never done that before. And then all kinds of pretty things were added; pedal steel, Jim’s beautiful backing vocals, and an nylon-acoustic guitar solo that I played straight into my computer over the Christmas holidays. Lyrically I had about three pages of potential verses; ideas pulled from here and there. One review suggested that I was singing this one to Britta but in truth I wrote it for my 12-year-old son. Perhaps this is too much information, I know it’s not very rock and roll to write a song for your kid. And yet there are some good songs in that vein — “Kooks” by David Bowie comes to mind.
Are there certain records you feel proved influential in making this solo record, Dean?
DW: Particular songs have their influences. So I know that certain songs take initial inspiration from other songs by Glen Campbell, Kaleidoscope, the Seekers, the Bee Gees, Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones, and Donovan. That can be how a song gets its start — but the final result doesn’t sound remotely like any of those artists, because sonically you start heading in different directions. Instead it sounds more like Dean Wareham as produced by Jim James.
Lastly, my current favourite is the sparse ballad “Love Is Not A Roof Against The Rain”. A song of redemption that possesses such power and intensity. “What have I done with my life” resonates so powerfully. I would for you to discuss your memories of writing this song, and indeed the title of the song itself?
DW: “Love is not a roof against the rain” is a line from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay (an American poet who was wildly popular in the 1920s) titled “Love is Not All.” Lately I’ve used this trick of taking one line from someone else’s poem and then writing my own song around it, so that’s what I did here. Her poem, about the power of love, starts:
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
She concludes that love may not be food or drink but she wouldn’t trade the memory of love (“the memory of this night” she writes) for anything else.
And again, this song was very spare indeed till we got into the studio, and we kept the first two verses that way but then Jim suggested it should explode at the end in a supernova of pedal steel and synthesizers. It is fun to play live.
‘Dean Wareham’ is available now on Sonic Cathedral (Europe) and Double Feature (USA).
Interview with Christopher Porpora, Cheval Sombre.
“Once we admit our humanity, the experience of this life becomes tinged with authenticity. And the flicker of what is authentic illuminates – always.”
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Last year marked the release of Cheval Sombre’s near-mythical live performance at London’s St Pancras Old Church. The special cassette-only release — released by the ever-dependable Sonic Cathedral imprint — captures an artist at the height of his powers, unleashing some of the most affecting and transcendent psych folk creations into the earth’s stratosphere. Cheval Sombre (AKA Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Christopher Porpora) is joined by long-term collaborator Sonic Boom (Peter Kember/Spacemen 3) whose fusion of drone-infused psych haze and illuminating soundscapes form the ideal backdrop to Porpora’s fragile vocals and warm acoustic guitar. A deep musical telepathy is forever inherent between these two special souls.
This particular London concert — recorded live on November 22nd, 2012 — showcases the immense power of Cheval Sombre’s songbook, particularly Porpora’s current studio album, ‘Mad Love’, released by Sonic Cathedral in 2012. The set begins with the album’s opening two songs, the gospel-laden ‘Someplace Else’ and the utterly beautiful love song ‘She Went Walking In The Rain’. Porpora explains how “overwhelming” and “very intense” the moment feels, clearly a reflection of how the audience feels towards the gifted musician and songwriter. An out-pour of emotion — in the same way I feel upon every re-visit of ‘Mad Love’ — permeates throughout the sacred space, where the audience and musician become one. A mesmerising cover version of ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ serves the perfect send off to an awe-inspiring and intensely beautiful night of music. As Porpora says “thank you for coming” towards the close, the enraptured audience are eternally grateful to the special soul that is Cheval Sombre.
‘It’s Not Time’, the first new material to be released since 2012’s ‘Mad Love’ will be put out on very limited vinyl-only release by Melbourne-based label Slightly Delic Productions this February. On the flip is one of the earliest versions of ‘It’s A Shame’, recorded back in 2006 and provides a rare look into the demos that would shape Cheval Sombre’s debut album.
Interview with Christopher Porpora, Cheval Sombre.
Since the last time we spoke, you have been touring extensively around the U.S and Europe in support of the deeply affecting and ceaselessly beautiful latest opus of yours, ‘Mad Love’. Performing live as both a quartet and your own solo shows must be very special for you to be part of. What are your feelings on both these worlds, and indeed the unspoken connection that transmits itself into the air during these nights of song?
CP: Each performance is its own, utterly unique experience, with others or solo, and an extraordinary opportunity, every time. Stepping into a place where people have gathered to listen and to lose themselves for a while is a moment of great potential. There is a chance that we all in the room might be ushered into a state of grace – there is that chance – and I am willing to do whatever I can, to do my part, so that we might. Since the release of ‘Mad Love’ there have been quite a few cities which have been overwhelming to play in terms of connection. Some transcendental nights. I find the beauty of these moments difficult to articulate. Sonic Cathedral released a recording of the London show – I can’t bear to listen to it, so touching it was.
As a songwriter of such spellbinding songs, how do you feel the sonic creations of ‘Mad Love’ and the debut record have evolved and developed through their various live incarnations over these past number of months? As a listener, it never ceases to amaze me just how your songs forever take on new meaning and significance, depending on the particular space and time. For example, ‘Walking In The Desert’ is the pinnacle of the record for me, right now. The brooding feel that flows throughout. The bassline conjures up the sound of the Velvet Underground and Spector rolled into one. The lyric “I’m just so tired of looking for you” and your achingly beautiful vocal delivery is such a profound moment. Not to mention the mesmerising strings.
What I mean to say, is that a record special as this one inhabits a human space that is in constant motion with the world outside and as a result, the songs change like the passing seasons that come and go; in turn becoming a deep part of you; an extension of oneself, so to speak.
CP: Thank you for saying what you did there. One hopes – or I should say, I hope – to write songs which withstand the weather well. I’d like to put songs out there which make sense in all seasons – songs which retain their beauty and truth regardless of place, time, fashion. I want go-to songs – songs which work, every time. It is a question worth asking. What makes a song timeless? Keep asking that question and things start happening – things begin taking shape. Certain sounds, certain ideas will always be relevant. Once we admit our humanity, the experience of this life becomes tinged with authenticity. And the flicker of what is authentic illuminates – always. If a record ends up inhabiting one listener deeply, I believe it has done miraculous work. And we all have them, don’t we? Songs which speak to us throughout our own constantly evolving lives? Songs which, somehow, become soundtracks to our lives? You mentioned The Velvet Underground. ‘Run Run Run’ — especially the guitar run (I can’t think of a better word) in the middle of the song — has always spoken to me about the rough exoticism of this life. And it has worked, every time I’ve heard it. What a gift. It must have been astounding when it first came out, in the context of the 1960’s. It was astounding when I first heard it in the 1990’s. It is still so, now.
Please take me back to the momentous live show of London’s St Pancras Old Church with Sonic Boom please, Chris? The cassette of this special concert is a gleaming treasure to my cherished record collection. Can you recount for me the ‘in-between’ moments that happened during this day and indeed, the concert itself and aftermath? The intimacy of this sacred space suits your music so well.
CP: I hadn’t experienced anything like that night – remotely – and I don’t imagine I ever will again. I don’t recall much about it, except for being moved to tears throughout, and Pete gently telling me to get back out there while they were clapping for the encore. I did ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ and then suddenly, it was all over. I felt like falling down then, on those last notes. The chair felt rickety – barely in one piece. I couldn’t believe I made it through, and I pretty much collapsed back there, in the vicar’s quarters. The audience was lovely – generous and kind. I remember on the way down from Rugby with another dear friend we listened to The Clash – the first album – on repeat. It brought back good, warm memories. Just before the gig, on a walk through Camden, I discovered a box of Ship Matches, which I felt drawn to, for their luxury. My English friends laughed at me, lovingly. I like a box of sturdy wooden matches. Later that night, Nat Cramp, Sharon Lock and I raised glasses and I faded into the beauty of Kentish Town for a few days. Music was in the air – porter, shadows, streetlights, Hampstead Heath, rolling…
Forgive me for asking but would you like to share some words on the special soul of Lou Reed that unfortunately is no longer with us. I can only imagine how much of an inspiration this man was on your own life and work?
CP: His work was always a great comfort. I can hear his voice now, singing, “And you know it was alright” – and his voice was one of those which made me believe that indeed, everything was alright. That is one of the most important messages to get across to all of us worried souls. I took a breath when I first heard that. Thank you, Lou, for that. Thinking of him now, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ or ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ come to mind, and I realize what a Romantic he always was to me. I wonder out loud now if anyone has ever written anything as tender as ‘Candy Says’…?
I was interested to read that during your summer Italian tour, you played La Belle Estate (solo) in a prison in Avellino. This must have been incredible. What was this experience like for you? I can imagine shows such as this, and exploring new places with your music provides endless inspiration for you?
CP: Yes. It was a Bourbon prison, in Avellino. They had constructed this wooden stage, outside, by a lush garden filled with herbs and flowers of all kinds. During soundcheck, clouds rushed in, and the afternoon got suddenly dark. The folks at the prison persuaded me to step down and sit beneath an umbrella at a table nearby and we drank beer as more Italians arrived, worried, hands on hips, looking up at the dark clouds and at the stage with all the electrical gear plugged in. Worry. We were all waiting for rain. I felt awful that they were going to have to dismantle that wonderfully crafted stage as the first drops began to come down. I have to say – they waited until the very last-minute – covering everything on the stage with garbage bags, in hopes of a passing shower.
But it began to downpour. I offered help but they insisted no, collapsed the whole set, and relocated to another stage in a small theatre inside the prison in the space of two or three beers. They kept telling me to relax and there I was under the umbrella in the pouring rain making notes, inhaling that hot, storm-drenched air, intoxicating in a thoroughly and singularly wonderful Italian way. It was all a potent combination – much chaos going on – a few Italians yelling at each other for the best possible solution for an outdoor concert in a sudden downpour, the heat of the street rising up from the sweltering pavement like a ghost in the unexpected rain, the scent of flowers, jasmine, herbs, perfume, coffee, kindness, thoughtful, gorgeous, beautiful people – love in the air – it’s true – everyone seemed to be in love there, even if they were shouting at one another, or embracing.
To your question – it was incredible. The show itself was wonderful, now indoors with an exquisite sound, and a giving, loving audience. And after – a careening party ensued, with bottles of wine produced there in Avellino poured out for new friends and old – some old friends from New York and Italy managed to come – and a trillion and one toasts to good health and living life. And then an early morning dinner of homemade vegetable pasta and more wine with Bianca, Luca, Claudia and Alessandro. The entire experience that night was transformative – very much like a garden born out of a prison.
How are the new songs of yours coming together, Chris? Any new covers in mind? I am very excited about the prospect of a follow-up to ‘Mad Love’ – your crowning jewel – and wish you all the very best with the writing and recording of the new material.
CP: Thank you, Mark. There’s a new one called ‘It’s Not Time’ being released soon on Slightly Delic, out of Melbourne. Only vinyl. Really looking forward to that one coming in the mail. There’s a delicate surprise on the B-side – an original demo from some of the first ever recorded. Much of the third album is written – just not certain how it’ll be recorded or when. Got the title, too. And covers? Yes – a few. Dean and I have something cooking. Something else. We’ll see what unfolds.
‘It’s Not Time’ / ‘It’s A Shame’ (original demo) 7″ will be available on lime green & black splatter vinyl (150 copies) and regular black vinyl (100 copies) from late February on Slightly Delic.
‘Cheval Sombre with Sonic Boom live at St. Pancras Church, London’ is available now on Sonic Cathedral.