The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Sparklehorse

Mixtape: Flashlight Seasons [A Fractured Air Mix]

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Flashlight Seasons [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:


01. Washington Phillips ‘What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?’ [JSP]
02. The Dead Texan ‘A Chronicle of Early Failures, Pt. 1’ [Kranky]
03. Sparklehorse ‘Box Of Stars (Part Two)’ [Parlophone]
04. Sun Kil Moon ‘Jim Wise’ [Caldo Verde]
05. Young Marble Giants ‘The Taxi’ [Rough Trade]
06. The Space Lady ‘Major Tom’ [NightSchool]
07. Rodion G.A. ‘Zephyr’ [Strut]
08. Panda Bear ‘Mr Noah’ [Paw Tracks]
09. Clark ‘Herzog’ [Warp]
10. clipping ‘Work Work’ (Featuring Cocc Pistol Cree) [Sub Pop]
11. Clap! Clap! ‘Sailing in the Seas of Wood’ [Black Acre]
12. Francis Bebey ‘Akwaaba’ [Original Music]
13. The Boats ‘And There Are Stars That Fell From The Sky’ [Moteer]
14. Gravenhurst ‘The Diver’ [Warp]
15. The Gentleman Losers ‘Pebble Beach’ [City Centre Offices]
16. Bernard Herrmann ‘Thank God for the Rain’ [‘Taxi Driver’ OST/Arista]
17. Etta James ‘My Heart Cries’ [Chess]
18. Bob Dylan ‘I Threw It All Away’ [Columbia]


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


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

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Mixtape: Sad And Beautiful World (FA08)

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To listen to Sad And Beautiful World:



Sad And Beautiful World (A Fractured Air Mix)

We were delighted and honoured to be invited to contribute a mixtape for The Onion Cellar, a collective based in Vietnam which puts on various film screenings and gigs. This mix is specifically intended for a film festival based in Hanoi entitled Sad And Beautiful World, a festival inspired by the life of the late Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse).

Like so many other music fans everywhere, we too feel a very close connection to the sacred songbook of Mark Linkous and the many, many treasures (musical and otherwise) he has left behind. Our own introduction to Sparklehorse came through 2001’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” album. I can still vividly recall the nerve-tingling and gentle soul-stirring sensation provided by that opening passage of the album’s title-track (“I am / the only one / can ride that horse / th’yonder”). The sounds seemed to come from some discarded dusty nineteenth century musical box while a sadly beautiful dancing Ballerina would gracefully rotate to Linkous’ whispered words of comfort and solace. It’s a wonderful life. It’s all the more wonderful with the music of Mark Linkous in it.



01. Max Richter – Lullaby (Fat Cat)
02. Colleen – I’ll Read You A Story (Leaf)
03. M’Boom/Max Roach – January V (Sony)
04. Eden Ahbez – La Mar (Righteous/Cherry Red)
05. Scott Walker – Farmer In The City (Fontana)
06. Julia Holter – Hello Stranger (Domino)
07. Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Cause Of Labour Is The Hope Of The World (Fat Cat)
08. Julianna Barwick – The Harbinger (Dead Oceans)
09. Tom Waits – Innocent When You Dream (78) (Island)
10. Henry Mancini – Tana’s Theme (Cherry Red)
11. Grizzly Bear – Foreground (Instrumental) (Lakeshore/Warp)
12. Bill Fay – Be Not So Fearful (Deram/Decca)
13. Georges Delerue – Camille (Universal)
14. Bob Dylan – Not Dark Yet (Columbia)
15. Dirty Three – I Should’ve Gone Out Last Night (Anchor and Hope)
16. Townes Van Zandt – Kathleen (Charly/Poppy)
17. Christina Vantzou – Homemade Mountains (Kranky)
18. Lee Hazelwood – My Autumn’s Done Come (MGM)
19. Ravel – Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte (The Cleveland Orchestra) (CBS)
20. The Band Of Blacky Ranchette – Square (Thrill Jockey)
21. Sparklehorse – It’s A Wonderful Life (Capitol)



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


To listen to Sad And Beautiful World:

Fractured Air 08. The universe is making music all the time.


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November 26, 2013 at 11:27 am

The Graceless Age

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“I detested virtuosity and its attendant features from the very beginning, I detested above all appearing before the populace, I absolutely detested the applause, I couldn’t stand it, for years I didn’t know, is it the bad air of concert halls or the applause I can’t stand, or both, until I realized that I couldn’t stand virtuosity per se and especially not piano virtuosity. For I absolutely detested the public and everything that had to do with this public…”

(Thomas Bernhard, ‘The Loser’)

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry


“We’re all in this shit together”, John Murry tells his disciples at Whelans, asking us to move forward towards the stage. It is Sunday 27th January 2013. The setting is the upstairs venue at Whelans, on 25 Wexford Street, Dublin, Ireland.

This is John Murry’s first Irish show on his European tour promoting his debut solo album ‘The Graceless Age’, the heartbreaking masterpiece released last year on Bucketfull Of Brains. For the assembled fans, this was no ordinary gig though. We were gathered here to witness the mythical John Murry, the man behind this awe-inspiring record. In short, we were here to witness history.

Poignantly, on looking at the stage, the first thing to be noticed – on Murry’s fine array of guitars – was the name ‘Tim’ printed large, in black, on his electric guitar. Tim, of course, being the late great Tim Mooney (American Music Club), whose presence was clearly felt on this magical night. Mooney – John’s dear friend and compatriot – recorded and co-produced ‘The Graceless Age’, and was hugely influential in realizing the stunning arrangements and immaculate recording of the finished album.

To say, the evening in question was “highly anticipated” would be a gross understatement. This is the man who has previously “died”, only to survive, write an album about it, and create one of the most defining albums of recent times (and of all time) in the process. This is no false prophet. A wolf in sheep’s clothing Mr. John Murry certainly is not. The man – and the music – is as blood-red as the Mississippi clay itself. Amidst the (many) false prophets, John Murry is the true saviour.

Tonight, the stage was set for a piece of musical history. Onstage, Murry and band form a quartet, with keyboards, guitar and drums accompanying Murry’s haunting songs, each one dripping with emotion. From the opening ‘The Ballad Of The Pajama Kid’ we know we’re in for a magical night. The set, as well as drawing largely from ‘The Graceless Age’, would also feature two stunning new compositions (the latter performed on the encore with John solo on a twelve string acoustic), several of Murry and Bob Frank’s collaborative recordings, and incredible covers of both Sparklehorse and Townes Van Zandt.

“The air is filled with lead / lights are going down / they told me to forget you / they never told me how” Murry sings on ‘The Ballad Of The Pajama Kid’, drawing his audience into his incredible songbook. The songs on the night were performed as immaculately as one would expect. If one thing is absolutely certain about John Murry; it is the fact that he does not do things in half-measures; if things are going to be done, they’ll be done in all their glory – blood-spilled and all.

This was a performance highlighting the fine art of deconstruction. The intricate songs from ‘The Graceless Age’ would be taken apart (as if Murry was seeing what put them together in the first place) only before putting them back together with his own bare hands before our very eyes. ‘Southern Sky’ would be played in an almost funk or reggae fashion, the rhythm’s irresistible groove would never hide those fragile lyrics though: “I’ve got no past / there is no future / this sickness follows me around”. ‘California’ is played with even more charged feelings than on record; Both electric guitars form a field of reverb akin to Neil Young and Crazy Horse while Murry’s vocal delivery is reminiscent of Tom Waits at his most visceral as he snarls: “My soul has been bled / Don’t know for sure / if my heart is breaking / Is your’s breaking too?”

Later, Murry’s “Things We Lost In The Fire” – like on record – begins as a beautifully delicate lap-steel-accompanied country song (where Murry sings “I don’t need nobody / I’ll tear down this machine”) and later further electric guitars layer together to a stunning climax. The storming ‘Photograph’ concludes with an earth-shattering finale where crashing drums and feedback-heavy guitars recalls American Music Club at their brilliant best. To witness Murry and band perform Mark Linkous’s ‘Maria’s Little Elbows’ was a truly special and touching tribute to one of Murry’s musical heroes. Mark Linkous would indeed be a proud man. Who better to sing Linkous’s painful words of alienation than Murry:

Came kicking at my door”

(—’Maria’s Little Elbows’, taken from the Sparklehorse album, ‘Good Morning Spider’, 1998)

The closer to the set (prior to a three-song encore) was ‘Little Colored Balloons’, a song so personal it feels almost wrong to listen to on record, not to mind in person. As Murry realizes that the audience knows what is in store, he says – reassuringly – “We’ll get through it okay” before launching into one of the most life-affirming songs ever conceived, a song which reveals more and more pain with every single listen; a song written about Murry’s overdose when he was found clinically dead:

“Nightmares in daylight! I’m stealing the birthright! Off 16th and Mission! I took an ambulance ride: they said I should’ve died, right there on 16th and Mission.”

Tonight the man behind the legend stepped onto the stage to prove to us that he does, in fact, exist – that these songs were in fact penned by the hand of a mortal. On ‘Little Colored Balloons’ Murry sings: “I know you don’t believe in magic / Nobody does anymore.” Well, on the night of Sunday 27th January 2013, we can both safely say that magic indeed does exist. In the form of Mr. John Murry’s music.


This was also our first time meeting John Murry in person, having been in contact with him since the release of ‘The Graceless Age’ last July. Too shy to meet him beforehand, our simple wish was to hand him a gift (a framed portrait, the scanned version accompanies this piece). Our intention was to leave the parcel at the merchandise table afterwards. But as fate would have it, John Murry walks across both our paths, he is now standing a couple feet away. We shyly introduce ourselves. He has indeed remembered us, we hug and hand him our picture; he opens it right there and then and hugs us once more; and amidst the following conversation we do indeed get to say what we wished most of all to tell him:

“Thank you. Thank you for your music.”


“… Whatever condition we are in, we must always do what we want to do, and if we want to go on a journey, then we must do so and not worry about our condition, even if it’s the worst possible condition, because, if it is, we’re finished anyway, whether we go on the journey or not, and it’s better to die having made the journey we’re been longing for than to be stifled by our longing.” 

(―Thomas Bernhard, ‘Concrete’)


‘The Graceless Age’ is out now on Bucketfull Of Brains (EU). In the U.S. Evangeline Recording Co. will release ‘The Graceless Age’ on March 5, 2013.  

For tour dates and further information please visit:

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January 29, 2013 at 9:15 am

The Last Waltz: Mark Linkous

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“Songwriting’s lonely
songwriting hurts
a relentless itching
bed-bug curse
songwriting costs
it doesn’t come free

ask Elliott Smith
ask Richie Lee
ask Mark Linkous
ask Shannon Hoon

to get up on stage
and sing you a tune
this business is troubling”

—Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon, ‘Track Number 8’)

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry


Last year’s latest Mark Kozelek release (Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Among The Leaves’) contained a haunting and timely reminder of the many gifted songwriters whose lives were tragically cut short. Of course, the list of ‘troubled songwriters’ who left the world much too early down the years is, very sadly, much too long indeed.

As Kozelek writes, songwriting is lonely. The songwriter’s (writing) life is essentially a solitary one. The process involves dedication and perseverance. And demands seclusion.

What struck me most of all, on listening to ‘Among The Leaves’ was Kozelek’s inclusion of Mark Linkous in the song. While listening to ‘Track Number 8’ – for a split second at least – it seemed to me as though Linkous was still here. Why has he been included in Kozelek’s song? But then, after collecting myself, I realized that, yes, he has indeed left us. This March will be the third anniversary of Linkous’s death, who took his own life, aged 47.

Perhaps why I had been so slow to realize Linkous’s passing is the simple fact that – like so many music fans – the music of Sparklehorse is always so close at hand. Those fragile songs; haunting melodies; deeply intimate words; are never far away. Linkous’s albums, through his Sparklehorse pseudonym, not so much spoke to his listeners – but whispered, soothed, comforted. He wrote from a dark place, at times a deeply unsettling place. The kind of music that simply had to be written and recorded in the dead of the night. He went to the darkest places so we wouldn’t have to venture there ourselves. Perhaps that darkness got too much to bear, like Bob Dylan’s ‘Not Dark Yet’:

“I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”

(‘Not Dark Yet’, taken from Bob Dylan’s 1997 album ‘Time out Of Mind’)

It is sad – as is the case for so many songwriters – that the music of Sparklehorse did not spread to a bigger audience during Linkous’s life. Sure – he had the “critically acclaimed” tag forever associated to his name, but his audience would be best described as “of a cult following” variety. Yet these devoted fans worshipped their hero. They sought solace and wisdom (and still do) from his beautiful country-folk songs. And whose to say, Linkous would have necessarily liked – or wanted – a “bigger” audience anyway?

A scene from the recent documentary on Sixto Rodriguez (‘Waiting For Sugar Man’) comes to mind. Rodriguez, who had become (unknown to him) a phenomenon in apartheid South Africa, is asked “You weren’t aware of something that could have changed your life completely, I mean, probably for the better…” To which Rodriguez shyly smiles and responds: “Well, I don’t know whether it would have been for the better…but it’s certainly an interesting thought.”


On hearing ‘Swordfish Trombones’ by Tom Waits, Linkous would be inspired to start on a new musical path. Previously, Linkous had put out two albums with his band The Dancing Hoods (in ’86 and ’88). Linkous – still in his twenties – moved from his Virginia homeplace to New York City and later to Los Angeles in the hope of securing a major label deal – but to no avail. Linkous would return home to Virginia and start afresh and, by 1995, he had formed a musical project entitled ‘Sparklehorse.’

The beloved Sparklehorse debut album ‘Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’ was put out in ’95 and a European tour supporting Radiohead would happen the following year. However, Linkous’s lifelong fight against depression would resurface while on tour with Radiohead. Linkous was wheelchair-bound for six months (and needing dialysis for acute kidney failure while also requiring seven operations to save his legs) after taking an overdose of Valium and antidepressant medication in a London hotel room. Later, after his recovery, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Linkous said: “For a while there I was really scared that when I technically died – which I guess I did for a few minutes – that the part of my brain that allowed me my ability to write songs would be damaged.”

‘Good Morning Spider’ (1998) was the second Sparklehorse lp, seemed to draw inspiration directly from his near-death experience. Although subsequently Linkous said most of the album had been written prior to his attempted suicide. The album is a haunting and heartbreaking set of songs. On the track ‘Ghost Of His Smile’ Linkous’s poetry of everyday life can be found in all its beauty:

“Dogs will wag their tails
And birds will sing
Hell it’s a hard world
For little things”

Most heartbreaking of all (and proves an all-so-difficult listening experience now) is the song’s chorus:

“And we thought that he was doing alright

I can’t forget the ghost

I can’t forget the ghost

I can’t forget the ghost

Of his smile”

2001 would see the release of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, an album Linkous would collaborate with one of his own musical heroes – Tom Waits (Waits and Kathleen Brennan co-wrote ‘Dog Door’ with Linkous). Also guesting – on the sublime ‘Piano Fire’- was Polly Jean Harvey on vocals. The album – twelve tracks in length – was produced by Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) whose collaboration would beautifully bring Linkous’s eerie words to life.

Poignantly, Linkous would add “borrowed lines” from his dear friend Vic Chesnutt to the tenth track, ‘Little Fat Baby.’ The Vic Chesnutt song in question was ‘Myrtle’. The following is ‘Myrtle’s last verse:

“I’m not an optimist, I’m not a realist
I might be a subrealist but I can’t substantiate
It was bigger than me and I felt like a sick child
Dragged by a donkey, through the myrtle”
(‘Myrtle’, taken from Vic Chesnutt’s 1996 album ‘About to Choke’)

Linkous would incorporate ‘Myrtle’ (across each verse) into ‘Little Fat Baby’:

“He got dragged by a donkey
Through the dust and the myrtle
But he was once a little fat baby”
(Little Fat Baby’, taken from the Sparklehorse 2001 album ‘It’s A Wonderful Life)

Tragically, Chesnutt – Linkous’s close friend – (and another gifted songwriter) would – some years later – take his own life, by an overdose of muscle relaxers, and died on Christmas Day 2009. Only barely three months later, Linkous would himself take his own life, on 6 March 2010. On that day, the Linkous family made the following statement which will also be forever felt in the hearts of his many fans:

“We are thankful for his time with us and will hold him forever in our hearts. May his journey be peaceful, happy and free. There’s a heaven and there’s a star for you.”


For more information on the music of Sparklehorse please visit:

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January 15, 2013 at 7:22 pm