FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘William Tyler

Mixtape: Tompkins Square Mix by Josh Rosenthal

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1) Shawn David McMillen – “Fuck Norfolk (For Max Ochs)”

I just wrapped up a mini-tour of the West Coast with two original Takoma Records guitarists, Max Ochs and Harry Taussig. They had never met, even though they were on the same Takoma sampler 50 years ago ! A few years back I released a digital EP, ‘Hooray For Max Ochs’, with folks paying tribute to Max. This one is by Texas artist Shawn McMillen who toured with Max and Christina Carter in 2006.

2) Peter Walker – “Hot Fusion”

I called Peter this morning to tell him it’s Karen Dalton’s 80th birthday today (July 19). He and Karen were very close. This track is from A Raga For Peter Walker, which featured the first new recordings by Peter in 40 years, plus tracks in tribute by Jack Rose, Thurston Moore and others.

3) Ben Reynolds – “England”

This is one of my favorite guitar tracks in our catalog. Ben went on to play in Trembling Bells.

4) Nathan Salsburg – “Bold Ruler’s Joys”

Today is also Nathan Salsburg’s birthday ! He once told me this track, which I asked him to do for Imaginational Anthem vol 3, was the “a-ha” moment when he decided to take himself seriously as a solo guitarist. Now look at him; collaborating with Joan Shelley, Bonnie Prince Billy and James Elkington. Might be the most technically proficient player on the acoustic scene. Can play in any style clean and pretty, but with soul too.

5) Richard Crandell – “Swallowtails”

For someone with the purest of hearts and zero career aspirations, Richard has actually built a great catalog – fine duo records, mbira records, a superb Christmas LP, and one stone classic – In The Flower of Our Youth, which we reissued on LP. Swallowtails is from a collection of 80s/90s recordings we just released as ‘Then & Now’ digitally. Flower is maybe my favorite rural road trip soundtrack. Try it !

6) Laurel Halo – “Blue Notion”

This one is from Remembering Mountains : Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton. Laurel Halo is someone I keep tabs on, an amazing artist. Her new album ‘Dust’ is ambitious and bold. Today would have been Karen’s 80th, so this song gets a revisit.

7) A Broken Consort – “A Mercy Kill”

We released two albums by British composer Richard Skelton, who has recorded under many pseudonyms. He is a visual artist, musician and publisher of journals and poetry, many relating to nature. I’ve worked with many talented people, but Richard might be the only one who actually deserves to be called a “genius.”

8) Hiss Golden Messenger – “Fennario”

Michael Taylor has moved on to big things since recording this track – signing with Merge and playing big festivals worldwide. But when I asked him to cover his favorite Michael Chapman song, I had no idea he’d bring so much to this faithful “Fennario” from MC’s Wrecked Again LP. I mean everything, down to the gospel backing vocals. Everything a “tribute” should be – bringing a great song to life again. I bet even some of his fans haven’t heard this one yet . . .

9) William Tyler – “Ponotoc”

This version is from the live WT CD we snuck into the Imaginational Anthem 1-5 box set. It’s out of print and not available in any other form, so sort of a scoop here. Tompkins Square released Will’s debut LP, Behold The Spirit, which has only grown in stature as a landmark LP.

10) Brigid Mae Power – “My Lagan Love”

B-side released last year digitally, new album in the works from this Irish songstress. I first heard this song via Van Morrison’s Irish Heartbeat LP back in the 80’s. Tompkins Square learned about Brigid from . . . Fractured Air . . . and are eternally grateful. We love her.

“Deep Cuts” Playlist by Josh Rosenthal (Tompkins Square)

01. Shawn David McMillen“Fuck Norfolk (For Max Ochs)”
02. Peter Walker“Hot Fusion”
03. Ben Reynolds“England”
04. Nathan Salsburg“Bold Ruler’s Joys”
05. Richard Crandell “Swallowtails”
06. Laurel Halo“Blue Notion”
07. A Broken Consort“A Mercy Kill”
08. Hiss Golden Messenger “Fennario”
09. William Tyler“Ponotoc”
10. Brigid Mae Power – “My Lagan Love”

Compiled by Josh Rosenthal, July 2017.

http://www.tompkinssquare.com/
https://www.facebook.com/tompkinssq/

Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 2)

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Final part of our “Don’t Look Back” series; which 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 2 of a 2-part series.

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William Tyler (Nashville, USA)

William Tyler is a Nashville guitarist and composer who has played an integral part in world-renowned U.S. bands such as Lambchop, Silver Jews and Hiss Golden Messenger. In recent years, Tyler has carved out a deeply enriching solo path, beginning with 2010’s universally-acclaimed ‘Behold The Spirit’ (Tompkins Square) and its exquisite follow-up, ‘Impossible Truth’ (Merge Records), released in 2013. Last April marked the release of ‘Lost Colony’ – a limited-edition 12-inch – featuring the new song ‘Whole New Dude’, a full-band re-working of ‘We Can’t Go Home Again’ (from ‘Impossible Truth’) and ‘Karussell’; a cover of a Michael Rother (Neu!) song.

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My year in review:

Hanging with my buddy Michael Slaboch talking records and life in early January. Michael came down to Nashville from Chicago and got stuck in a rare snow storm the precluded his return to the Windy City, which I believe was suffering from some of the coldest temperatures on record. We ate bbq and watched Auburn lose to Florida State in the national championship game while Nashville buckled from the cold outside.

Touring with Califone in the dead of an intense midwestern winter.  We did “Big Ten” country: Minneapolis, Madison, Columbus, Omaha, Detroit, Chicago. I should have brought a snowplow instead of a Volvo station wagon. Beautiful people and music. Frigid temperatures. Haunting drives through cracked Michigan highways covered with snow. Listening to Bruce Hornsby in a Tim Horton’s outside of Benton Harbor.

Taking a series of trains across central and southern Europe on tour in February. Played a rock club that doubled as an indoor shooting range in Belgrade. Played a theater in Zagreb. Played a wine bar in Switzerland. Played a cinema in Lausanne, another cinema in Dresden. Watched “Dallas Buyer’s Club” with German subtitles. Read “Blues People” by Amiri Baraka and “Where the Heart Beats”, an incredible book about John Cage and Zen Buddhism. Train hopped across Italy. Wrote fragments of songs in hotel rooms like you are supposed to. Ate everything that was offered to me. Bought Fernet at an Italian gas station.

I drove across America with my buddy Garland two days after returning from Europe. One day we drove from Nashville to Omaha, the next day across South Dakota to Wyoming. Next day all the way to Coeur D’Alene Idaho. The fourth day we made it to Seattle. I did a three-week tour opening for Daniel Rossen. My other best bud Brad Cook accompanied me for most of the trip. Stoned day off driving through the redwoods for a weird evening of awesome beer and sketchy Mexican food in Eureka, California. Playing a winery in Napa valley. Playing the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Driving across the west by myself in a rental car. San Diego to Phoenix, Phoenix to Santa Fe, Santa Fe to Roswell, Roswell to Marfa, Marfa to Austin, Austin to Jackson, Mississippi. Putting about 8000 miles on that poor rental car. Up and down the east coast. Driving back through the North Carolina mountains to home finally and the ‘welcome to Tennessee’ signs greeting me.

I moved temporarily to Oxford, Mississippi for a month. Spent a lot of time writing and reflecting, walking every afternoon down to the town square and sharing a few drinks with new friends. This was the place my parents went to college and I settled into the lazy, deliberate pace of the environs. I feel like as I grow older, the pull further South is stronger. It felt like home.

Green Man festival in Wales. Epic hang with my man David Morris. Playing to a field of friendly folks as the sun set. Being cold in the middle of August and drinking lots of cider.

Some things I enjoyed:

Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
“Citizen Four”
Harold Grosskopf – Ocean Heart
Swans – To Be Kind
Bob Dylan – Basement Tapes reissue
Bitchin Bajas
Tashi Dorji
Blake Mills
“The Soul of Designer Records” – Big Legal Mess box set
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”

My favorite modern country singles of 2014:

Blake Shelton – Neon Light
Keith Urban – Somewhere in My Car
Dierks Bentley – Drunk on a Plane
Anything by Taylor Swift

 

—William Tyler

 

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‘Lost Colony’ E.P. is available now on Merge Records.

http://www.williamtyler.net/
http://www.mergerecords.com/

 


 

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Félicia Atkinson (The French Alps, France)

Félicia Atkinson is a French visual and sound artist based between the French Alps. She also co-curates Shelter Press, an independent music label and contemporary art publishing house. Félicia Atkinson also releases music via her Je suis le petit chevalier guise and exhibits regularly across both Europe and the US. Atkinson lives presently in the French Alps and has released over 20 records and tapes with labels such as Shelter Press, NNA, Umor Rex, Aguirre, Spekk, La station Radar, Home Normal. Atkinson has performed extensively all over Europe/USA-CANADA with such artists as: Sun Araw, Grouper, Gabriel Saloman, Theo Angel and Hamish Gilmour, Mind Over Mirrors, Lee Noble. She is also involved in the duo Naked Island on the L.A based label Peak Oil (alongside Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle). Her new album, ‘A Readymade Ceremony’, will be out on Shelter Press during 2015. 

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2014: A YEAR OF RENDEZ-VOUS

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Caption: Félicia Atkinson painting yogo balls during the preparation of her latest art show at Saprophyt, Vienna, last November.

 

January:

New Year’s Eve, dancing with candles and flutes outside in the snowy mountains with my friends, the musicians and artists Mc Cloud Zicmuse, Anne Brugni, High Wolf, Marsh Cavern, Chicaloyoh and Bartolomé, my partner in life and in Shelter Press.
Anne Brugnu makes incredible colorful ceramics and drawings. She just published a children books with Mc Cloud called “bonjour”, published by L’artichaud, here is an image of it:

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It’s a very sensitive book about natural phenomena and the marvels of earth. And here is an example of her vivid collages:

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You can also hear Mc Cloud Zicmuse’ poetic words and music HERE.

February:

Driving from California to New Mexico with Bartolomé. We also met a series of unforgettable artists. In Joshua Tree we walked among the prickly pears with Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carre. They are from Chicago and make very interesting minimalist animated films. Lilli is also an illustrator and ceramic artist. She exhibited recently at the MCA of Chicago. Here are two images of her sculptures:

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Alexander made collaborative films with musicians from Chicago, such as Jeremy Lemos, who plays now in Acteurs and also with Disappears, two Chicago bands that I strongly recommend. I particularly like the specially designed EP Disappears published with the Belgian Sleeperhold publications with a silkscreen on the B-side by this young and talented Belgian photographer, Stine Stampers. You can see the design here:

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Here are video stills of Alexander’s films ‘Peacock’ and ‘Power’:

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March:

In March Bartolomé and I did an exhibition, ‘The Last Frontier’, at this artist-run space in Basel called OSLO 10. They are also a music venue and there was a wonderful list of music shows during the exhibition, some with shelter press artists and some with people, even if we don’t publish them, we feel related to. One of them played at Oslo 10 in March 2014, it’s the French-Japanese musician Tomoko Sauvage who plays with water and bowls: a mesmerizing and meditative music.

April:

April was a beautiful month in the Alps, with butterflies and flowers everywhere. On the 1st of April I invited Jennifer Tee, an artist from the Netherlands, to make a lecture at the art university I am teaching in: Annecy, L’ESAAA. I am a huge fan of her works that include: performance, sculpture and installation. Some examples of her works here, including her latest exhibition at Signal in Malmo:

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May:

In May I played a music show for Videoex Festival in Zürich with the experimental film-maker from San Francisco, Paul Clipson. I don’t know if you are familiar with his works, but he showed his films with a lot of interesting musicians from the Bay Area such as Grouper, Jefre Cantu and Barn Owl, who are all musicians that inspire me everyday. Here are some images of Paul’s films:

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June:

June was a month spent listening to Suzanne Ciani’s amazing re-issues by Finders Keepers.

July:

In July I toured in Canada with the amazing Sun Araw and D/P/I. I feel like I learned a lot while seeing them playing and each of their shows was a source of joy. I recommend you to see them live and to listen to their latest album. I also played in Seattle with RM Francis that month, which was the occasion to discover his beautiful and smart music.

August:

August was a month spent in Oregon. I always love Portland. It was great to hang out there with my friends and see very good shows and have such great vegetarian food. Then we spent some time camping at CAPE LOOK OUT before I recorded with my friend Peter Broderick. Stay tuned… the project will be called La Nuit and will be out next summer on Beacon Sound.
In Portland I bought a lot of records at Little Axe Records, Mississippi Records and Beacon Sound Records. One of my favorites is ‘Put No Blame On The Master’, a record of Jamaican gospel, published by Mississippi.

September:

In September 2014 I did a mini tour in Switzerland with the amazing Gabriel Saloman, with whom we just published a record on Shelter Press. I recommend also his records on Miasmah and Infinite Greyscale. When he played in Geneva​, it was so powerful that the sound engineer actually cried. We are all blown away. I also listened very much to the re-issues of K. Leimer on RVNG.

October:

In October I saw Lieven Moana / Dolphins into the future and Spencer Clark / monopoly childstars playing also in Geneva, with wonderful visuals. It was like being in another time. Lieven is a kind of Caspar David Friedrich of modern times.

November:

In November I played at Soy Festival where I had a chance to see playing some people I admire: Lee Noble, Noveller, Steve Hauschildt and Robedoor.
Do you know Lee Noble’s cassette labels NO KINGS? They do amazing artworked tapes that you should take an ear/eye at!

December:

My highlight of December was feeding and meeting the neighbor’s little cat that love to visit us and watching VANISHING POINT by Richard Sarafian and CARRIE by De Palma. I also listened a lot to Valerio Tricoli album on PAN, Miseri Lares. And Bartolomé bought me this wonderful book by and about Robert Ashley, ‘YES, BUT IS IT EDIBLE’ published by New Documents.

THE END/THANK YOU!

 

—Félicia Atkinson

 

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Naked Island’s self-titled debut, the collaboration between Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle and Félicia Atkinson, is available now on Peak Oil. ‘A Readymade Ceremony’ is a forthcoming release on Shelter Press.

http://feliciaatkinson.be/
http://shelter-press.com/

 


 

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Cian Ó Cíobháin, An Taobh Tuathail (Galway, Ireland)

Cian Ó Cíobháin is the presenter of An Taobh Tuathail, a music show dedicated to promoting the very best in independent music. Cian’s show is broadcasted on RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta on weeknights from 22.00 to midnight, Monday to Friday. Cian also compiles a series of compilations which are made available for free download. Presently, the An Taobh Tuathail compilation series is at volume 6 (they have this year been uploaded to Ó Cíobháin’s Mixcloud page HERE). Additionally, Cian DJ’s at 110th Street, Galway, with Cyril Briscoe. As of this year Cian Ó Cíobháin has also carved a name for himself as a specialist wedding DJ.

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In January and February, I dipped my toes into English language broadcasting for the first time in eons, with a six-part series on Pulse about my ‘An Taobh Tuathail’ compilations. My thick-tongued mumbling were well received, in some instances it was the first time listeners were able to follow what I was saying on the radio. ATT was shortlisted for two awards this year. In April I visited the picturesque St. Ives in Cornwall for the Celtic Media Awards, then had a night to remember in Kilkenny in October at the PPI Radio Awards. The Lyric FM contingent were seated at our table and helped us to party with panache. The winners of both categories were utterly deserving. JJ O’Shea’s superlative ‘The Global Village’ took the gong in St. Ives and Ray Wingnut’s excellent documentary on the Community Skratch games topped the PPI list.

Two of the best DJ sets I heard this year happened at Ireland’s best off-the-radar summer festival (so secret that I’m afraid to even refer to it by name). A fine summer’s evening somewhere in deepest Longford, the intimate & enthusiastic gathering in convivial spirits, were treated to the DJ début of Roscommon-native Peter Casey who simply blew the roof off the place with a perfect festival set: a combination of bangers, anthems and sing-a-longs. Later on, underground Liverpool legend John Heckle showed what an outstanding DJ he is, reading the crowd perfectly, working some amazing disco basslines into his high-octane techno set…. Speaking of Scousers, following Liverpool last season was a riot. Sure they fell short, sure they may never win the Premiership, but what a gallant effort it was, playing some of the most scintillating football in Europe, which even Pep Guardiola tipped his hat to. Of course, we’re back to a level we’re sadly more accustomed to now, in the wake of Luis Suaréz migrating to warmer climes. In a peculiar way, like when the winter evenings begin to draw in, there’s almost something strangely comforting about being simply mediocre again. Almost.

In other sports, my native Kerry thrilled in their two game battle against Mayo in August before grinding out an unexpected All-Ireland victory in September (unexpected to everyone bar the team and management), ending a five-year Celtic Cross-less drought in the Kingdom. All this without The Gooch. Great to see Star poach an opportunist’s goal in the final. I was DJing in West Kerry a few years ago and he was right up the front urging the crowd to sing along to the words of Warren G’s ‘Regulate’.

Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under The Skin’ was a haunting cinematic experience, made all the more powerful by Mica Levi’s superlative soundtrack. One of her featured compositions ‘Love’ is my tune of the year: somehow evoking ‘Loveless’-era MBV, Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann. I only recently realised that the movie is based on a book by Michel Faber. I picked up his latest novel ‘The Book Of Strange New Things’, as endorsed by the wonderful West Cork-based author David Mitchell and have been in a trance reading it the past few days… Other movies I enjoyed this year were ‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ and I finally watched ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’. How had I ignored it up to now? Simply one of the finest movies I’ve ever laid eyes on. If only I could roll a cigar around in my mouth like Clint Eastwood. The original ‘Blondie.’

Summer 2014 was one of the most consistently summer-like summers in recollection, the rain seemed to bypass our island. How good was the vibe at ‘Body & Soul’ during the shortest nights of the year? It was my first time in attendance and I was bowled over by the genuinely magical, fairy-tale atmosphere. Galway legend Mike Smalle played a beautiful set under the trees, that weaved everything from Max Romeo to Nolan Porter to Hot Natured into its fabric. Mike was busy recording again this year, his first work since B-Movie Lightning, under the Augustus & John moniker collaborating with Matteo Grassi. Check out their excellent ‘Crosslines’ EP.

In late August, with the help of Galway’s Electric venue, 110th Street hosted a boat party on the river Corrib, where Cyril Briscoe & I were joined by Jon Averill and Sol O’ Carroll. Between the genial atmosphere on the boat, where everyone was best friends by the end of the voyage, followed by a hothouse atmosphere in the club, created by a combination of our guest DJs being on top form and the visiting influx of revellers, it was a day and night that will live long in my memory.

I read shed-loads of books this year but the two that stood out were ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by JK Rowling, a brilliant take on that peculiar and specific genre of ‘English village’ literature and ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes, one of the most breathtaking thrillers I’ve ever read. Re-reading Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Portrait Of Dorian Gray’ was a great pleasure. Two evocations of hedonistic life in our capital city in different eras also provided food for thought. Anthony Cronin’s ‘Dead As Doornails’ recounts the lives of Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan & Myles na gCopaleen in the pubs of post-war Dublin. The drinking and the poverty they endured to keep on drinking is utterly startling. Rob Doyle’s ‘Here Are The Young Men’ recounts a different Dublin, that of the early to mid-‘noughties’. If the pre-mentioned literary giants had access to the drugs that the characters in Doyle’s début novel binge on, well … the mind boggles at the consequences. Both books shine a torch into our nation’s gluttonous, booze-centric culture and reveal long, dark shadows extending well into the background.

The best TV show I saw this year was ‘Fargo’ but I was also impressed by ‘Boardwalk Empire’ (seasons 3 & 4), ‘Ray Donovan’, ‘Vikings’ (second season), ‘Love/Hate’ (which found its groove again – though I’d love to sort out their often incongruous soundtrack choices for them) and ‘The Fall’. Caught the first season of ‘Sherlock’ too, the opening episode was particularly good. I waded my way through most of the first season of ‘Game Of Thrones’ but was left cold by its clunky pace and prolixity.

My best nights DJing all happened at weddings. I was lucky to be invited by some remarkable people to play at their nuptials, more often than not in memorable, bucolic settings to intimate gatherings of sound heads. The atmosphere at these evenings were off-the-hook and has encouraged me to launch myself in the specialist DJ wedding market in the year ahead. So (here comes a plug) if you’re getting married and want to avoid the usually stodge, I’m available through cianociobhain.com or the One Fab Day site.

And what about the night the Sleaford Mods came to Galway? Like Gang Of Four, The Fall, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins & Bez rolled into one Tour(ettic)-de-force. Middle-aged rock stars showing everybody else how it’s done. Proper.

Oh! One of my music moments of the year was when my truelove bowled me over by playing the soundtrack to ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ out of the blue at a party last summer. I hadn’t heard it in decades and it completely transported me another place. Somewhere special, beyond mere nostalgia.

 

—Cian Ó Cíobháin

 

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There will be two An Taobh Tuathail Christmas specials on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, 22.00 – 00.00. Cian Ó Cíobháin is also now taking bookings as a specialist wedding DJ at cianociobhain.com

Web: http://www.rte.ie/rnag/an-taobh-tuathail

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnTaobhTuathail
DJ bookings: http://cianociobhain.com/

 


 

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Seán Mac Erlaine (Dublin, Ireland)

The Dublin-based woodwind composer (saxophonist and clarinetist) and music producer Seán Mac Erlaine is one of Ireland’s best-loved musicians and composers. Mac Erlaine is also a member of the Irish/Swedish four-piece This Is How We Fly and has collaborated with numerous musicians in the past in both live and studio settings (The Gloaming, Bill Frisell, Lisa Hannigan, The Smith Quartet, Iarla O’Lionaird). This Is How We Fly had an extensive European and Irish tour this year promoting their remarkable debut self-titeld album (having been released at the end of 2013 via Playing With Music) while Mac Erlaine also released his latest solo album ‘A slender song’ via Dublin-based label Ergodos. Earlier in the year, Mac Erlaine contributed to the Ergodos-released ‘Songs’ album which featured numerous re-interpretations of songs by members of the Ergodos roster of musicians. In September, Mac Erlaine performed at Dublin’s annual Bottlenote Festival (which Mac Erlaine co-runs) for a site-specific “The Walls Have Ears” series of live improvisations. 

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Two thousand and fourteen began in an urban idyll: Prenzlauer Berg. Waiting on fingers to defrost to record a range of songs from John Dowland to Richard Thompson. That record, released a few months later, turned out to be a beautiful thing – listen to Michelle O’Rourke sing! Germany has a lot of saxophone players and a lot of dead saxophone players – I bought a sleeping beauty from a dusty shop – a Martin alto saxophone from 1968.

Nobody saw it coming but in February I made my dancing debut in Willfredd Theatre’s CARE, this was a great eye-opening process working with super people looking into the work of hospice workers.

I was very lucky to find myself lost in Pauline Oliveros’ near infinite reverb chambers in the company of fine musicians broadcasting live to the nation on my favourite medium, radio. More radio followed later in the year working with director Dylan Tighe on a new sound piece celebrating one of our favourite poets, the late Michael Hartnett. We poured many hours into this work and in every moment (almost) there was a richness that can only come when your two singers are the incomparable Nell Ní Chróinín and Iarla O’Lionaird.

Spending time with the three other members of This is How we Fly has been such a rewarding and important aspect over the last few years. In 2014 we got to play in France, Sweden and all over Ireland (Baltimore Fiddle Fair does seem in fact to be the best festival here!).

Other high points included: sharing the stage and shaking the soft, soft hand of maestro Bill Frisell… The honour of playing solo to many rooms of silent listeners over the year… Playing Bowie’s back catalogue in NCH with such a killer band… Walking around Cork City in the very early morning… Walking around the Lower East Side in the almost late night… Swimming through a lake in Northern Sweden at midnight watching the paling sky… Cycling thousands of kilometers through the mountains of Wicklow, the flatlands of Kildare and the streets of Dublin… Cycling a 180km round-trip to play a gig in a sauna…

I loved seeing Ger Wolfe sing in Dublin – gotta be one of the most honest songwriters out there these days. Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years A Slave’ didn’t hit me quite in the same way his first two features did but this was a fine piece of work. Irish film-maker Pat Collins produced another beautiful work with ‘Living in a Coded Land’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Frank’ was superb. Contemporary fiction isn’t a strong point for me but I was astounded by the beauty of Tarjei Vesaas’ ‘The Ice Palace’, a Norwegian novel from 1963. Gabriel Rosenstock’s monumental collected poems ‘The Flea Market in Valparaíso’ seems to have slipped under the radar but that can happen easily. Richard Mosse’s work ‘The Enclave’ got a lot of lookers, it blew many of us away. Israeli choreographer Danielle Agami had me up out of my seat whooping after her dance piece as did Irish actor Shane O’Reilly’s piece ‘Follow’ in The Abbey Theatre. A great time for Irish music: The Gloaming album made many revolutions on my CD player (I hope they press it on vinyl!), seems to have classic album written all over it. Deaf Joe’s ‘From The Heights Of A Dream’ is refreshingly really going for something and presented so beautifully – strongly recommended. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman’s fiddle duo record ‘Laghdú’ (also presented as a highly covetable good) is a tender thing of beauty.

 

Seán Mac Erlaine

 

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‘A Slender Song’ is available now on Ergodos.

http://www.seanmacerlaine.com/
https://ergodos.ie/

 


 

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Kat Epple, Emerald Web (Los Angeles, USA)

Kat Epple has released 30 music albums internationally, composes music for film scores and television soundtracks, and performs live original music featuring synthesizers and flutes with her various ensembles, including the legendary “Space Music” band Emerald Web (comprising Epple and her late husband Bob Stohl), whose hugely influential music continues to impact music audiences worldwide through many recent re-issues. ‘The Stargate Tapes’ album was re-issued in November 2013 via Finders Keepers, and consists of music originally recorded from 1978-1989; earlier this year, Emerald Web’s ‘Whispered Visions’ has also been re-issued by Finders Keepers, while ‘Catspaw’, Emerald Web’s seminal recording (first issued by Larry Fast’s Audion label) will be re-issued by Anodize in January 2015.

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Highlights of my year 2014 include: a concert for dolphins, ancient dead Indians, growling dinosaurs, and ‘Whispered Visions’. These events transpired as I concert toured, recorded new albums, did session work, archived old reel-to-reel masters, and enjoyed some amazing adventures!

“Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs” is a film for which I composed music, sound effects and Foley, for The Hong Kong Science Museum. The high-tech digital animation was projected onto a sixty-foot-wide HD screen with my music and sound effects in surround sound. I enjoyed creating the music, but especially making the sounds of the dinosaurs as they tromp, fight, and perish as a meteor strikes the earth. CRUNCH…….GROWL……..RUMBLE…….SCREAM………EPIC CRASH!

Playing native flute at sunset, on the top of a burial mound built by the extinct Calusa Indian tribe, may have been one of my concert highlights of the year. I felt as though their spirits were surrounding me, and softly singing. Now THAT is surround sound!

My favorite jam session happened one night as I was playing flute for a star-gazer cruise on a beautiful ship on the Gulf of Mexico. A pod of dolphins arrived, then surrounded the ship as they lifted their ears above the waterline, apparently to listen. They all joined in as they clicked, splashed, and squeaked along with the sound of my flute.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the music of my vintage synthesizer and woodwind band, Emerald Web. In fact, this year, our second album, “Whispered Visions” was released on vinyl LP, thirty-four years after its original issue. The master tapes had to be baked and archived after sitting on the shelf for decades. It was very moving to hear the music again after all those years, as it transported me back to the moment it was created so long ago. Music has the power to do that, especially when it is your own music!

I recorded acoustic tracks for a new album with World Percussionist, Nathan Dyke. I played World Flutes in the session, and am now in the process of overdubbing synthesizer tracks to the album. Yep……Thirty four years later, I am still pissing off the purists who don’t like it when I mix ancient primitive instruments and technology. Yay!

My session work on flute, EWI, and synthesizers for albums by a variety of musicians include: New Age pioneer Steven Halpern, enchanting folk musician Mariee Sioux, electronic guitarist Barry Cleveland, and legendary heavy metal guitarist Devin Townsend.

I did manage to get out of the studio once in a while to go camping, running on the beach, and to attend concerts, including King Crimson, the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” festival in San Francisco, and a variety of amazing house concerts.

I am grateful for the wonderful experiences that 2014 brought, and look forward to 2015 being even better!

 

—Kat Epple

 

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‘The Stargate Tapes’ and ‘Whispered Visions’ by Emerald Web are available now via Finders Keepers Records. ‘Catspaw’ by Emerald Web is to be re-issued on 20 January 2015 via Anodize (pre-order HERE).

http://www.katepple.com
https://www.facebook.com/KatEppleMusic

 


 

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Roll The Dice (Stockholm, Sweden)

Roll The Dice comprise the Stockholm duo of Malcolm Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt, who released their hugely anticipated third LP this year, ‘Until Silence’, via the renowned UK-based independent The Leaf Label. ‘Until Silence’ sees a brave and intriguing shift in the duo’s sound (most noticeably with the addition of a 26-piece string section ensemble during the recording sessions with an even greater focus this time around on an intensity of emotion across an ever-expanding sound palette) while the conceptual framework of the album draws inspiration from World War One (the album’s title is inspired by a book on the period). To date, Roll The Dice have released a trilogy of monumental albums, beginning with their self-titled debut LP (Digitalis, 2010);‘In Dust’ (Leaf, 2011); ‘Until Silence’ (Leaf, 2014), confirming the Swedish electronic group as one of independent music’s most intriguing and compelling contemporary artists.

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Tracks of 2014 by Roll The Dice:

Malcolm:
Future – ‘Look Ahead’
The groove and the sample and the 123 /15 hi hat pattern. Lovely.

Aphex Twin – ‘Produk 29’
Surprisingly likable. As I haven’t been a big fan in the past, I had no “issues” with him putting out a new album whatsoever.

Vessel – ‘Red Sex’
Simple and to the point monotony as it should be.

Nils Frahm – ‘Says’
A bit cheesy in the best possible way. Reminds me about us…

Katy Perry – ‘Roar’
I have been force-fed this track every morning all spring by my 10 year-old daughter. A bit like a musical stockholm syndrome…I have fallen in love with my tormentor.

Peder:
Gazelle Twin – ‘Anti Body’
Just found out about this record, totally feeling the attitude and impact of it. Really got a sound of it’s own which is pretty rare these days.

Klara Lewis – ‘Msuic II’
Klara is probably the artist that has had the biggest impact on me this year. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with such a unique and gifted talent.

DB 1 – ‘Nautil 1/3 B1’
The whole Nautil series on Hidden Hawaii is so amazing but if I have to pick a favorite from the 3 records this has to be it. Perfectly balanced and executed.

Surgeon – ‘Fixed Action Pattern’
The best techno 12″ this year from the best label, Token.

QT – ‘Hey Qt’
The PC music camp is the most punk of 2014. The fact that both my girlfriend and my 3 year-old daughter told me that it was the worst thing they ever heard me play at home makes me like it even more.

2014 Highlights Roll The Dice:

Putting out ‘Until Silence’ of course but also the fact that it turned out exactly the way we wanted.

Semibreve festival in Braga, Portugal: it was a delight to get to play in this beautiful old theatre where they have hosted the festival off the beaten track for several years. The organisers and everything surrounding this small and heartfelt festival was a delight.

 

Highs 2014: 

Malcolm:
My 10 week old Staffordshire puppy, Billie.

Peder:
Being able to do what I do for another year, to be able to make music and do whatever I want is something I am truly grateful for.

Lows 2014:

Malcolm:
The Swedish parliamentary situation which is going from bad to worse rapidly.
We all hope that the re-election in march will clear things up a bit, but as is now its just a farce, with very sinister undertones.

Peder:
See Mal’s answer. One love, fuck fascism.

 

—Roll The Dice

 

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‘Until Silence’ is available now on The Leaf Label. 

https://www.facebook.com/rollthedicesthlm
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

 


 

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Klara Lewis (Stockholm, Sweden)

Earlier this year marked the eagerly awaited debut full-length release from Swedish electronic artist, Klara Lewis, on the prestigious Editions Mego label. ‘Ett’ was recorded, sampled, edited, manipulated, mixed, produced and arranged by Lewis. A collection of four new works — contained on the sublime ‘Msuic’ EP — would later see the light of day on the Swedish imprint, Peder Mannerfelt Produktion (released on 12″ vinyl last November). ‘Msuic’ sees Lewis further expand the sonic envelope with her signature explorations of field recordings, electronics, rhythm, sound and atmosphere; confirming the Swedish artist as one of electronic music (and independent music at large)’s most exciting new talents.

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My top albums:

1. ‘Under The Skin’ OST, Mica Levi
2. ‘Because I’m Worth It’, Copeland
3. ‘All Over + All Under’, Edvard Graham Lewis
4. ‘The Epic Of Everest’, Simon Fisher Turner
5. ‘The Aquaplano Sessions’ (re-release), Donato Dozzy & Nuel

 

—Klara Lewis

 

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‘Ett’ is available now on Editions Mego. ‘Msuic’ (12″ & Digital) is available now on Peder Mannerfelt produktion. 

http://klaralewis.bandcamp.com
http://editionsmego.com

 


 

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Seti The First (Dublin, Ireland)

Seti The First is the Ireland-based cello-led group comprising the songwriting duo of Kevin Murphy (cello) and Thomas Haugh (drums, marxophone, percussion). ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. The band’s distinctive sound draws inspiration from a wide number of diverse sources (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, The Haxan Cloak). 2015 will see the highly anticipated follow-up to their mesmerizing debut, ‘Melting Cavalry’, entitled ‘The Wolves of Summerland’.

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Kevin: It’s probably a question of tunnel vision but for me 2014 was all about finishing our second album which is called ‘The Wolves of Summerland’. We toiled relentlessly and finally put it to bed in December. It marks a bit of a departure from our first album ‘Melting Cavalry’ and therefore was a bit of a nerve-wracking adventure, however, we’re thrilled with the results. Cellos still provide the bedrock but there is much more frantic Marxophone and Zither leading the way; overall there is a more aggressive intend this time out. We had strong themes of unrest and revolution in mind––the dynamics of denial & delusion and the blindness to rising tides of societal upheaval among those in power; and of course, the recurrence of these things time and time again. So we focused on some extraordinary historical events, the rise and demise of entire empires and the regimes that followed, huge moments of passion, bloodshed, tragedy and melancholia. This became the canvas unto which we offered our wandering brush. In November we collaborated with visual artist Brian Kelly at the Cork Film Festival which took these ideas into the live arena, something we’ll hopefully further explore going forward.

Other than that, highlights of the year include playing on Adrian Crowley’s brilliant album ‘Some Blue Morning’. Myself and Seti’s live cellist Mary Barnecutt also played at Adrian’s launch in The Workman’s Club in Dublin which was a special night.

Thomas: Working on the second Seti album likewise dominated my year, rhythm made an unexpected return to my musical outpouring. As we got into the spirit of the music–with all of these big themes and ideas, it just became necessary to have that kind of foundation. It’s been a long time since I got behind the drums to really drive the bus, I just let it happen and it more or less flowed. Some new discoveries for me here too–the Persian Daf (drum), an incredibly versatile instrument. It’s a powerful and sacred centre piece in lots of Sufi music of which I’m very fond. Some Hurdy Gurdy made it on there too and I’ve loved that instrument since my teenage years when I first heard a Nigel Eaton album.

As for the music of others in 2014, Perfume Genius and Wildbirds & Peacedrums come to mind, both of which also took rhythm to new levels on their latest releases. Mica Levi’s incredible soundtrack for ‘Under The Skin’ thrilled me, also Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ and Arca’s ‘Xen’. Hildur Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’ took some time to settle with me but it was worth the effort. I also took some time to listen to the works of Ligeti–the music of whom most of us are probably familiar with through it’s prolific usage in films, music that is both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure. Not a bad aul year.

 

—Seti The First

 

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‘Melting Cavalry’ is available now; its much-anticipated follow-up, ‘The Wolves of Summerland’, is due for release in 2015.

http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/SetiTheFirst

 


 

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Adrian Crowley (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 marked the special return of Irish songwriter Adrian Crowley with his hugely anticipated (and career-high) seventh studio album, ‘Some Blue Morning’, via Glasgow-based independent label Chemikal Underground. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is the follow-up to Crowley’s masterful 2012 Choice Music Prize nominated ‘I See Three Birds Flying’, and features contributions from Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy on cello; Dublin-based songwriter Katie Kim on vocals and members of London string ensemble Geese, amongst many more.

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When I cast my mind back to the beginning of 2014 I am brought back to the familiar recording den with my old friend Stephen. I remember a few crisp mornings where the sun was shining in its wintry way. I’d walk from the north of the city all the way to the south reaches, along the grand canal, the path on the bank with the weeping willows near Portobello and on and on towards Dolphin’s Barn… thinking all the while about the day’s recording that lay before me and wondering how it would all sound by the evening when I’d walk back along the same way along the canal banks to Portobello…and turning then towards Kelly’s corner, up Camden Street and onto Wexford Street, South Great George’s Street… continuing through the city and finally on to the home stretch of North Strand. Those walks were times I would relish every day with a spring in my step for the record that was beginning to take shape. That daily ten-mile leg-stretch became a part of the process of making the record. Yes, I’m pretty sure there is no joy quite like the joy of recording new songs and building an album from the those first glimmers of ideas. And then I finished the record that, later in the year, I would call ‘Some Blue Morning’. 
I suppose much of early 2014 was taken up with making ‘Some Blue Morning’. It is all-consuming and, really, I found little time for anything else. I remember thinking that until I had something complete I would hide myself away. Even after the recording there was that matter of coming up with suitable artwork for the album. Which brings me to Steve Gullick.
2014 was the year I first met the fine gent that is Steve. We had ‘spoken’ over the years and talked about maybe making some pictures and indeed had planned to meet once or twice, usually when I was in London for a gig. But things happened and we never seemed to manage to get to the same spot at the same time. Not until Easter, ‘14, that is.I remember waiting in a café down the street from Highbury and Islington tube station across from Union Chapel. I sat in the window seat with a huge coffee staring out at the brick portico of the chapel. Then the door of the café swung open and Steve was greeting me in person for the first time. He was carrying three cameras. We sat there chatting for some time. About the world, about making records, about people, about life and mutual friends. About Jason Molina who had tragically passed away the year before. Something that has deeply effected me and so many others. Then Steve said, “okay, let’s get started” and we left the café and walked across the busy street and approached the heavy locked doors of Union Chapel. A quick phone call to Les who was working in the chapel that day (installing a new lighting rig) and we were inside wandering about corridors and back stairwells. Steve must have taken more than 800 photos and by the end of the afternoon we were sure that he had captured something that would be the cover art for ‘Some Blue Morning’.
Oh, 2014 was the year I discovered I could play clarinet. There is a charity shop near where I live. One day I ducked in for a quick look round. And there at the back of the shop in a glass cabinet was an opened black box with a dissembled clarinet inside. I knew it had to be mine and a few minutes later I was at home checking on YouTube how to put a clarinet together. A few minutes after that I was getting some sounds. I suppose all those years of playing saxophone in my bedroom had some bearing. I told Thomas and Kevin of Seti The First about this “haunted clarinet” I had found. Thomas called me a few weeks later and asked me to have a go at recording some parts for the new Seti record.
So the next thing you know I’m on a 123 bus to Thomas’ house with the charity store black box under my arm. I’ve been listening to the finished record and I have to say that I am proud to have played a small part in it. I’m so happy that my clarinet notes didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.
I’m trying to remember what films I went to see in the cinema. I spent a week in London by myself in the summer in a little house in Golders Green by Hampstead Heath. A friend of mine kindly let me stay there and I thought it would be a nice way to work on some writing. I did get some writing done but I also did a lot of walking around. One day I went down to Soho and headed for the Curzon Cinema. That’s where I saw ‘Boyhood’ by Richard Linklater. What an incredible film. I didn’t feel the three hours pass. I loved ‘The Double’ by Richard Ayoade which I saw at the IFI in Dublin, the Nick Cave documentary ‘20,000 Days on Earth’ at The Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin. ‘Under The Skin’ was creepy and great.

Oh, and speaking of London, I’m brought back to a late night taxi ride with my sister. It was late September. We had hopped in a cab in Hammersmith and didn’t speak once all the way to Woolwich Arsenal where our younger sister lives. Why didn’t we speak? Well, we both suffer from car sickness and we had just been on a pilgrimage, you see, and were still trying to process the three hours or so that had just passed. I’m talking about Kate Bush. Kate Bush at Eventim Apollo. The opening bars of ‘Running Up That Hill’. Now there was a moment.

But that was the night there was a power outage on stage before the show was due to start. We, the audience, sat waiting for around 50 minutes. At one point when the house lights went up, we all thought the show had been cancelled but a few minutes later Kate is onstage telling us matter-of-factly and down-to-earthedly that “it had been sorted”.

I managed to see a lot of great concerts. Bill Callahan at the Olympia, Dublin in February. Cat Power in July, also at the Olympia. Eels at Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven for Naked Song festival. I was playing at the festival and I managed to duck in behind the sound desk an watched the whole concert (at the end of the concert Mark jumped off the stage and went around the entire auditorium giving hugs to everyone in his path before ending up back on the stage to play an encore).

My Brightest Diamond at The Workmans Club. Shara Worden’s voice is incredible and it was so great to finally see her live. Violinist Cora Venus Lunny played an astonishing improvised set at her album launch in The Grand Social in Dublin. The National at The Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Speaking of the Iveagh Gardens, I got to see some great comedy there… namely Eddie Pepitone.

Albums released in 2014… I really loved ‘Brothers and Sisters of The Eternal Sun’ by Damien Jurado and wonderful albums by Cora Venus Lunny, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Kate Ellis, Tindersticks, Einsturzende Neubaten, Marissa Nadler… I’m sure I’m missing others and I’ll probably kick myself later.

Well, my own album came out towards the end of the year…early November. I had a kind of belated album launch at The Workmans Club on December 12th. I am pretty confident that was the favourite gig of mine in 2014. I had been rehearsing with the twin cellos of Kevin Murphy and Mary Barnecutt, and also with Katie Kim who sang on more than half of ‘Some Blue Morning’. It felt so good having Katie, Mary and Kevin on stage with me not to mention my good friend Matthew Nolan who plays guitar on ‘The Wild Boar’ when we perform it live (just saying “plays guitar” feels like a gross understatement, though, considering the vast soundscapes he conjures).

Other favorite live moments from the point of view of the stage were the Daylight Music event at Union Chapel with Katie Kim (it just so happens it fell on the Summer solstice. I remember waking up that morning at 4am to the near deafening sound of birdsong from Hampstead Heath. It was quite something). Explore The North Festival in Leeuwarden, Netherlands was special too. That was in a church also, a Lutheran church with a lot of history. Oh, singing some David Bowie songs in The National Concert Hall in July was much fun.

And there was a special show that I was invited to be a part of during the East Cork Early Music festival. Justin Grounds and Ilsa de Ziah who play baroque violin and baroque cello respectively rearranged an hour-long set of my songs which we performed together at L’Atitude for a late night show. It was the first time I sang my songs on stage without playing an instrument. It felt like a new discovery. What incredible musicians. Also sharing the stage with David Thomas Broughton, Roddy Doyle, Mark Andrew Hamilton of Woodpigeon at the Golden Factories event for Young Hearts Run Free at St. Michians Church was quite special.

In theatre… I saw the final show of a seven-day run of ‘A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’ performed by Aoife Duffin. She was incredible. It was intense and staggeringly impressive. I wondered how long it must have taken her to unwind after giving so much.

This Is The Kit played in the engineering library of The National concert Hall as a part of the Brassland weekend there in December. Well, that was a beautiful show but equally sweet was having them sing happy birthday to my five-year old daughter in the hallway of my house at 7:30am before they rushed out the door to catch the ferry to Holyhead. I hope they didn’t miss it.

 

—Adrian Crowley

 

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/adrian.crowley
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

 


 

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David Westlake (London, UK)

The Servants formed in 1985 in Hayes, Middlesex, England, by singer and songwriter David Westlake (Luke Haines would later join The Servants in ‘87). Their unique blend of poignant lyrics, intricate arrangements, and utterly compelling indie-pop sounds was a world away from the mundane and noisy lo-fi scene heralded by the NME’s C-86 compilation the band would later appear on. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ re-issued double album is available now on 2CD via Cherry Red and on double LP via Captured Tracks. David Westlake’s ‘Play Dusty With Me’ will be re-issued next year by U.S. independent label Captured Tracks.

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2014? Deficit, devolution, free movement, Remembrance, Crimea, Ebola, ISIS, One Direction, Rolf Harris. But you know all this already. My 2014 – I got married, I played the NME C86 show, and first time since 1991 I played music with Luke Haines.

I am 49, so the best 2014 music release is unsurprisingly a reissue. It’s the Kevin Ayers Original Album Series five-disc set. The award for best latter-day recording (that I’ve heard) goes to Morrissey, from whom the very existence of new work is always an event. Cherry Red Records reissued C86 in 2014. I am on the compilation, but I always hated that song. Captured Tracks Records will issue my album ‘Play Dusty For Me’ in April 2015. Highly recommended.

Best book of 2014 has to be ‘Coming Up Trumps’ by Jean Trumpington. Multitudes of dull and deluded people trot out self-satisfied memoirs nowadays. Many can claim worth only as purgative toilet-seat reads. ‘Coming Up Trumps’ earns its right to exist – a remarkable life winningly told. Aurum’s paperback selection of John Betjeman newspaper pieces, ‘Lovely Bits of Old England’, is a treat.

Best film – ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. Impeccable in every respect. Ralph Fiennes delivers a tour-de-force performance. Tenacious and good as Leslie Howard’s Scarlet Pimpernel. Or Anthony Valentine as Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman. There’s one for the teenagers. Someone would have to have a pretentious heart of stone not to love ‘Paddington’, too.

Memorably best new TV – Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC documentaries on Paul Nash and William Sickert, with the centennial focus on World War One. Most momentous TV – a repeat in March 2014 of a 1979 episode of ‘Top of the Pops’. Momentous because my wife was on-screen in the audience, then aged 14. Who could have known that thirty-five years later we would be thanking our lucky stars that the presenter she found herself standing next to that week was blameless Mike Read?

 

—David Westlake

 

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‘Play Dusty For Me’ by David Westlake will be re-issued by Captured Tracks (LP & CD) on 18 April 2015. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ by The Servants is available now on Cherry Red Records (2CD) and on Captured Tracks (2LP).

http://www.lostsheep.com/davidwestlake
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/
http://www.capturedtracks.com/

 


 

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K. Leimer (Seattle, USA)

For the third installment in Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl.’s archival series, the tape is wound back to 1970s Seattle, home place of ambient music pioneer K. Leimer. ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983)’ unearths unreleased portions of Leimer’s vast archives and highlights the work of a self-taught visionary whose use of generative compositions ferried his music to infinite resonance. Kerry Leimer was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He was raised in Chicago before his family permanently settled in Seattle in 1967. This year’s ‘A Period of Review’ heralded one of 2014’s most prized re-issues. K. Leimer’s forthcoming full-length player, ‘The Grey Catalog’ will be released on Palace Of Lights in January 2015. 

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It’s odd that highly obscure music, written and recorded more than 34 years ago, would matter in any way at all today. So despite performing again and completing and releasing a few albums on our little label, much of the past year was spent talking and writing about the germinal work that was assembled as ‘A Period of Review’. Which made 2014 seem more like 1979 to me. But between bouts of studio time and grappling with miles of tape there was some remarkable listening: Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’; the Jakob Ullmann ‘Fremde Zeit’ / ‘Addendum’ box; Taylor Deupree’s ‘Faint’; David Sylvian’s ‘There’s a light that enters…’; Nils Frahm’s ‘Screws’; and A Wing Victory for the Sullen’s ‘Atomos’. impossibly rich diversity and innovation. And now wrapping up the year with ‘Different Every Time’, a book that’s unevenly written but compelling all the same. And the recording — especially important to me because it includes Wyatt performing one of the ‘Experiences’ by John Cage from a record, also thirty+ years old, originally issued on the Obscure label. Now if i could just find the piano pieces from that same document! The free hours that remained were given over to compiling another reissue, based on ‘The Neo-Realist’ (at Risk). A compilation for my fake rock band Savant which will be released in the first half of 2015. Titled ‘Artificial Dance’, it seems set to guarantee that my experience of 2015 will seem more like 1982. But beyond the solace and joy of such sustained musical innovation and accomplishment, the overriding experience of 2014 remains the naked violence and injustice that my country visits upon so many people. Our own citizens routinely and unjustifiably killed by police; The published and redacted details of the Bush administration’s torture program; pornographic levels of wealth set beside unprecedented income inequality; blanket denials of our shared environmental crisis. Just who is meant to be left solvent and able to purchase the refrigerator magnets and iCrap that drives most of the culture?

 

—K. Leimer

 

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

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

 


 

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Matthew Collings (Edinburgh, UK)

Matthew Collings is a Scotland-based composer. In addition to his solo recording and live output, he collaborates regularly with artists from disparate backgrounds, including musicians Dag Rosenqvist from Jasper TX and Denovali label-mate Talvihorros, dancers and filmmakers. 2014 marked the release of Collings’ new sophomore full-length, ‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ on the prestigious German-based independent label, Denovali Records.

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So, 2014.

Has been another year of slow growth. I spent much of the year wrestling with the idea of Edward Snowden. Realising that my work is much better off with other people, and made with other people…and so am I.

It saw various births and deaths of beautiful people who I will miss and look forward to getting to know. I wonder what role I will play in people’s lives.

This year saw a furry of releases – a beautiful vinyl/photobook with Elin Svennberg, the dark yet uplifting pop of Graveyard Tapes, and a new record in ‘Silence is a Rhythm Too’ and a re-release of ‘Splintered Instruments’ on Denovali. 2015 will expect the Snowden monster to rear it’s head, as well as a record with Dag Rosenqvist which I’m finishing right now.

I’ve been incredibly lucky this year to meet so many amazing, inspiring people. The thought of them keeps me positive when I start to complain about my place and position in the world, which I really have no ground to do.

I’m a very very lucky person.

Some music to listen to this year: These New Puritans, Ben Frost, Talvihorros, Numbers are Futile.

Here’s to 2015 ; chasing sound, not chasing my tail.

 

—Matthew Collings

 

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‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ is available now on Denovali.

http://mcollingsmusic.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

 


 

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Sophie Hutchings (Sydney, Australia)

‘White Light’ is the latest collection of mesmerising piano music from Sydney-based composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings. Beginning with 2010’s debut ‘Becalmed’, the gifted composer has crafted her unique blend of neo-classical, piano-based compositions, which would later be followed-up with the spellbinding ‘Night Sky’ LP in 2012. Both records are available now on the Australian independent label, Preservation. Hutchings is currently working on her third studio album – and follow-up to ‘Night Sky’ – which will be released in 2015.

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Does anyone get nostalgic as midnight creeps towards the closing of a year, the beginning of another…… Reminiscent. Looking back over years, contemplating life…….

As a child I often created a sacred moment as the year wound down. Preparing for the approaching strike of midnight, setting up the record player with one of mum or dad’s records. I took life very seriously! Always allowing a moment over midnight to ponder over life… And so we should…… Casting our minds back and then casting it ahead in view of a new beginning.

I often start the year with the goal of uncomplicating my life. Uncluttering my brain… Simplfying and yet as weeks and months go by, slowly or quickly enough, the complicated starts to work its way back in. Whether it be the things in your life or the things you fill your mind with…

There was a lot of creative purging this year associated with writing the new album.. The highs and lows that come with that and life in general. So as I venture down the beautiful south coast of Australia this week, and make my way through the diverse landscapes of Myanmar in January, I want to remind myself of a basic fact. The simple things in life can offer so much contentment…

A boundless vast ocean, lying under a star lit sky, or gazing into an open fire……..Things like these..
I’m going to press the reset button and see how it goes for me this year ….

 

Inspiring Highlights of 2014:

Reads and Watch:
First read of 2014 – Donna Tarts ‘The Goldfinch’ one of the best contemporary authors to date. Her compelling narratives lead to not being able to put the book down!..

‘Tracks – The documented Solo Journey of Robyn Davidson’ (also known as ‘The Camel Lady’) through the Australian West Desert. The cinematography and soundtrack by Garth Stevenson created for the actual film was also a highlight.

Reading Solzhenitsyn’s contemplative and symbolic story ‘The First Circle’ depicting the lives of a secret research development made up of Gulag inmates set in Moscow. His sayings and philosophy on life pack some punch… Indeed an author to respect.

I watch so many movies so this is a hard one, but first one that comes to mind is Lao film ‘The Rocket’. It wasn’t released this year but was a standout for me. After living in Laos for sometime, Kim Mordaunt (director) was inspired to write the film whilst working on the documentary ‘Bomb Harvest’, and discovering Laos was the most bombed country on the planet, per capita. Two young children play the main characters in the movie, both whom had never actually acted before. It was a really inspiring film and gives insight to a country that has suffered at the hands of war.

I wanted to watch Béla Tarr’s 8 hour epic film ‘Satantango’ this year and it’s on my film hit list for 2015! There’s some beautiful shots HERE from it set to one of my all favourite composers Arvo Pärt.

Music:
I’ve been embracing a few new musical eras and genres. 60’s Vietnamese rock, Gamelan and also Turkish singer songwriter Fikret Kızılok!…
Also, ‘Open’ by The Necks was on high rotation.
Cleaning the house to this year’s Liars release ‘Mess’.
Touring with Ólafur Arnalds…
Creatively purging and mapping out the journey for the new album which will continue into the new year…….

All the best to everyone’s start to 2015.

 

—Sophie Hutchings

 

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‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE. ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ are out now on the Preservation label.

http://www.sophiehutchings.com/
http://www.preservation.com.au/

 


 

To read Part 1 of Don’t Look Back, click HERE.

To read our Albums & Re-issues of 2014, click 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.

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

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

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Mixtape: I Think I Knew [A Fractured Air Mix]

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ithinkiknew_front

I Think I Knew [A Fractured Air Mix]

A selection of some of our favourite music released in the first six months of 2014.

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-think-i-knew-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. William Tyler ‘Whole New Dude’ (Excerpt) [Merge]
02. John Murry ‘Glass Slipper’ [Ruby Works]
03. The War On Drugs ‘In Reverse’ [Secretly Canadian]
04. Marissa Nadler ‘Firecrackers’ [Bella Union / Sacred Bones]
05. The Delines ‘The Oil Rigs At Night’ [El Decor / Cortez]
06. Cate Le Bon feat. Perfume Genius ‘I Think I Knew’ [Wichita / Turnstile]
07. The Moles ‘This Is A Happy Garden’ [Fire]
08. Greg Gives Peter Space ‘Electric Eel River’ [Erased Tapes]
09. Hauschka ‘Thames Town’ [City Slang / Temporary Residence]
10. Roll The Dice ‘In Deference’ [Leaf]
11. Trans Am ‘I’ll Never’ [Thrill Jockey]
12. Jamie xx ‘Girl’ [Young Turks]
13. Caribou ‘Can’t Do Without You’ [City Slang / Merge]
14. Hydras Dream ‘The End’ [Denovali]
15. Yann Tiersen ‘Meteorites’ [Mute]

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

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

Mixcloud / Soundcloud

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Chosen One: Wooden Wand

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Interview with James Jackson Toth.

“Ask anyone who writes songs — other things get sacrificed on the altar of the song. It isn’t martyrdom, though — it is, like the song says, “a kind of coma (but also), a kind of crown”.”

—James Toth

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Loney John Hutchins/Kyle Hamlett

woodenwand_Kyle Hamlett_Battle Tapes studio in Nashville

‘Farmer’s Corner’ is the title of the latest record by the song-writing luminary, James Jackson Toth AKA Wooden Wand. The American songsmith has been responsible for a plethora of truly transcendent works under various guises this past decade, encompassing psych folk, roots/country and blues. The recent releases of Wooden Wand — including the formidable ‘Blood Oaths Of The New Blues’ and this year’s ‘Farmer’s Corner’ — marks a career peak in Toth’s empowering songs of redemption.

A marked positivity abounds the scintillating nine sonic creations that comprises Toth’s latest masterpiece. ‘Sinking Feelings’ is a gorgeous country gem that conveys the uplifting spirit of Wooden Wand’s rich canvas. The clean guitar tones are reminiscent of the pristine sound of Buddy Holly, while the harmonica-led passages conjures up the sound of new beginnings and endless possibilities. The opening lyrics resonate powerfully as Toth sings “You gotta make a pact with the earthly body / Make a trade and take a stand.” The fresh country sound could belong to any array of timeless gems such as ‘Harvest Moon’ era Neil Young or Dylan’s ‘John Wesley Harding’. The chorus refrain of “Don’t let those sinking feelings draw you in” offers ceaseless solace, sung beneath a delicate guitar-led melody. One of the album’s lyrical highlights arrive at a later verse: “In every looking glass there’s a crack / Where the looking glass looks back.” As ever, the narrator’s poetic prose and imaginative wordplay leaves you mystified.

Another tower of song is ‘Dambuilding’ which could perhaps be seen as the album’s centerpiece. A cinematic feel permeates the head-space of eerie banjo notes, soaring pedal steel and warm percussion. A bleak atmosphere is effortlessly created as the central protagonist lets go of his past and sets foot on a new frontier, wherein a new day is dawning: “Trying not to worry / I told myself I’d better hurry / And buried everything I could stand to lose.” Half-way through, a beautiful interlude of guitars (rhythmic pulses of banjo notes are interwoven with a ripple-flow of pedal steel) rise to the forefront of the mix. The song becomes a representation of the songwriter’s mind, an insight into the creation of art, in which a lovely parallel exists between Toth’s masterful songcraft (and the song-writing process of collecting ideas and inspiration) and the process of dam building: “There was no time to be nervous / As I kicked up the dark with purpose / Soon the water rushed through my knees and over me.” The music flows effortlessly into your consciousness, like the water-flow that fills the vast plains of land.

‘Farmer Corner’s cycle of intimate songs were recorded along the singer-songwriter’s travels. The new songs were recorded as he wrote them, resulting in a liberating and spontaneous process. The sessions for ‘Farmer’s Corner’ involved over six sessions in four studios, spanning three states, and the dutiful task of amassing the tracks would begin. Remarkably, the latest Wooden Wand album marks the first self-produced Wooden Wand album, having producers at the helm for the previous outings. The majority of the tracks were aided by the supreme talents of electric bassist Darin Gray (On Filmore, Jim O’ Rourke) and guitarists William Tyler and Doc Feldman. In addition, Toth also called on friends in St Louis, Nashville, and his current home in Lexington, Kentucky. As ever, a wonderful sense of musicianship is etched across the album’s sprawling canvas, as the seamless layers of immaculate instrumentation forms the ideal backdrop for Toth’s engaging and illuminating song-craft.

The opening lyrics of the dazzling epic cut ‘Port Of Call’ perhaps best explains the sonic trajectory of Wooden Wand: “We do not decorate / We like an empty space / We like to fill an empty space.” The hypnotic bassline and Keith Richards-esque guitar wizardry (think ‘Let It Bleed’) on display is filled with endless stellar moments (particularly, the divine funk of bass towards the song’s close). ‘Gone To Stay’ is a more sparse blues track that brings ‘Farmer’s Corner’ to a fitting close. A gospel feel radiates brightly throughout. Elsewhere, ‘When The Trail Goes Cold’ is a divine slice of Americana that echoes the spirit of Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand (a distant companion to the similarly cathartic ‘Corridor’). ‘Adie’ is a stomping 70’s rock opus with an infectious groove and killer riff. The expansive sonic terrain covered throughout ‘Farmer’s Corner’ is a joy to witness. ‘Home Horizon’ is an achingly beautiful ballad that feels close to Toth’s previous song-writing master-class of ‘Blood Oaths of the New Blues’. To echo Swans frontman, Michael Gira, the narrative of Toth’s timeless song-craft “leaves you mystified, both smiling and sad.”

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‘Farmer’s Corner’ is available now on Fire Records.

http://www.woodenwand.org/
http://www.firerecords.com/

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Interview with James Jackson Toth.

Congratulations, James, on the latest Wooden Wand masterpiece, ‘Farmer’s Corner’. It’s a pleasure to ask you some questions about this latest record. I love how that spark of spontaneity is clearly evident that illuminates throughout the album’s nine songs. Can you please discuss the latest album and the narrative that lies at the heart of ‘Farmer’s Corner’?

James Toth: Thank you, Mark — I’m really glad you like it. Narratives usually only become obvious to me after the album is finished, and this time, I noticed that Farmer’s Corner is a relatively “affirming” record. There are some pretty positive songs here – Sinking Feelings, Home + Horizon, Port Of Call, Gone To Stay, etc. If there is a theme, it’s that.

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What is remarkable about ‘Farmer’s Corner’ is that it’s the first self-produced Wooden Wand album. I would love to gain an insight into this aspect of the music-making process. What was the experience like? How did you find it shaped the final sound and feel to the record?

JT: I didn’t really understand that I was producing the album until halfway through. Excepting home recorded things, every album I’ve ever made in the studio was made with a producer of some kind. I like having a producer, and I like the idea of collaborating with someone whose work I respect who will leave their fingerprints on the record somehow, but this time, I decided I didn’t need that input. I just started recording the songs as they were written, more or less, to capture the excitement of them before they started feeling over-rehearsed and stale. To do this, I had to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak. There are obviously things on this record that many producers would not have been OK with, like the ‘cocaine country’ phaser on my acoustic guitar. I didn’t want to have to defend those decisions or answer to anyone when it came to that sorta stuff.

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The last time we spoke, you described [previous Wooden Wand album] ‘Blood Oaths Of The New Blues’ as a truly collaborative process where you were simply a member of the band. I feel this is still the case on the new record where I feel each band member contributing a big part to the record’s sound. Do you feel ‘Farmer’s Corner’ is another collaborative album, James?

JT: Less so. That is not to diminish the extraordinary contributions of everyone involved — especially Darin Gray, who really should have gotten a co-producer credit on more than half of these songs — but because I was assembling people almost as an experiment (some of these people were meeting for the very first time in the studio, just hours before we tracked a song), and more or less conducting. But everyone’s individual parts were mostly their own, save for the sort of ‘riffs’ and harmonies and certain parts I had written and included on the demos. But overall, less band input than with the Alabama contingent — with those guys, there’s no ‘pulling rank’ or having ‘final say’ — after the songs are written, decisions about where they go are made more or less by committee. Luckily, we almost always agree. This time, I sorta felt like the captain.

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As always, you are joined by a wonderful ensemble of musicians — I think of The Band such is the peerless musicianship on display — with the guitar prowess of William Tyler, Doc Feldman, collaborator Darin Gray and bassist Darin Gray. Can you please recount for me these recording sessions? It must be a fulfilling and rewarding experience to have such a wonderful ensemble backing your penned songs? The music just flows out from each member.

JT: I will defer that compliment to the band, but thank you, and I agree. There were four sessions and each one was pretty magical in its own way. I will say the Lexington session that produced five of the album’s nine songs — with engineer Jason Groves — was especially positive. Everything just seemed to work.

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How much of a challenge was it to record in four separate studios (spanning three states) during the making of ‘Farmer’s Corner’? I feel that it must have been a liberating process to venture down new roads here, both in terms of geographical (new locations) but also the process of writing and recording the new songs during the same space in time? This aspect definitely resonates on the album’s tracks. I’d like to think of it like Dylan’s ‘John Wesley Harding’ album; it occupies a special moment in time.

JT: There were pros and cons to doing the album this way. Again, it wasn’t really intended to be, like, a ‘road album’ or anything, and to be perfectly honest, my preference is still to sort of hunker down and record in the same place — to inhabit the record with no distractions. I like it when the day ends and no one has to pack up any gear you can just leave everything where it is to resume the next day. I think the ‘roving’ style worked really well for Farmer’s Corner, but I think the next album will be different. We’ll see!

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‘Dambuilding’ is one of the album’s stunning highlights. It’s such a tour-de-force. I love the dreamy, searching feel that permeates throughout. The banjo part adds to the sense of mystery. I would love for you to discuss this song, your memories of writing and recording it please? Your vocal delivery is sublime. Was this the first take?

JT: It was a first take, and a live vocal. Funny thing about that one was that we lost the master recording — some error between the tape and the digital — so I thought that was gonna be our “Second Arrangement” or something (if you know the Steely Dan story). But everyone liked that song so much, we just mastered from the rough mix we had, which was a high quality mp3. Maybe that’s supposed to be a secret. Ooops.

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‘Home Horizon’ is another vintage Wooden Wand song that could be found on ‘Blood Oaths’, perhaps a sister-song to ‘Outsider Blues’. I love the bassline and pedal steel lines. Can you please discuss the narrative to ‘Home Horizon’, James?

JT: I hadn’t made the connection with Outsider Blues, but that’s very astute of you, Mark! I can sorta imagine that the narrator of Home + Horizon is on his way home from playing the Outsider Blues festival or something. Dave Anderson played the great steel part on that, and Darin played bass. The idea behind the song is similar to that of Gone To Stay: the idea that bad feelings, bad memories, embarrassing situations, etc. are fleeting. Like I said, it’s a pretty positive record.

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How has your writing process changed, looking back over your rich body of work? I wonder are there certain rituals or habits you find integral to the writing process?

JT: Not really. The way I write has very little to do with intention, so I mostly do it the way I’ve always done it, by paying attention to things, sometimes at the expense of other things. Lately I’ve been wondering if I’ve missed out on a lot of other things in life in my search for great titles, great first lines, etc. Ask anyone who writes songs — other things get sacrificed on the altar of the song. It isn’t martyrdom, though — it is, like the song says, “a kind of coma (but also), a kind of crown.” People who don’t write tend to think of writers as very observant people, and this is true to an extent, but we also tend to be extremely selective about what we observe. Everything extraneous can come to feel like minutiae. A good example would be if you and your friend are walking on the street and you meet someone you both know and talk for a few minutes. Afterward, your friend says “That was weird that Bill had a giant monkey on his shoulder.” And you say “What monkey? I didn’t see any monkey. Can you believe he used the phrase ‘Jerusalem Syndrome?’”

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Please take me back to the recording session of ‘Sinking Feelings’. It’s such a gorgeous country gem. The harmonica and rhythm bring me back to ‘Harvest Moon’ era Neil Young and the beautiful guitar lines conjures up the timeless sound of Buddy Holly. As always your lyrics are sheer poetry (“Old friends come bearing the past / But impressions never last” is one example) that stay with you long after the notes have faded into the night.

JT: Harvest Moon was something I was thinking a lot about when the first few songs for this album were being written. It is not a record I listen to a lot, but that’s just because I’ve listened to it enough for one lifetime and can conjure it in my head whenever I need to hear it. But the first few songs I wrote for this one seemed sorta wistful, and I decided to go with that. But when Darin and William and Doc came in, everything got this sorta groove, which sorta countered the Harvest Moon vibes in a really good way. I think William will be really psyched you compared him to Buddy Holly.

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What were the records you were listening to the most during the making of ‘Farmer’s Corner’? Any current reading recommendations?

JT: I rarely listen to any music that sounds anything like Wooden Wand — that is, lyric-driven songwriter music. This is not because I don’t think there are some extraordinary writers making this kind of music, because I do, but I have to be really careful to not become influenced by, say, Bob Dylan, any more than I already am. So, these days, I restrict myself. The music I listen to for enjoyment nowadays has more to do with performances than compositions. So I will listen to “Nick Of Time” by Bonnie Raitt twenty times in a row. I will do the same with “When U Were Mine” by Prince, or “Cycles” by Sinatra, or “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gale, and pay very close attention to the phrasing, the choices the singer makes, things like that. I try to figure out why listening to Darryl Hall sing “North Star” feels like a drug high no matter how many times I hear it. What is that ineffable quality that affects me? And how can I cultivate that? I guess what I’m saying is I’ve been paying attention to singers, not lyricists.

I’m always reading five or six books at a time, which gets sorta confusing and makes for weird dreams. Best book I read recently was ‘The Soundscape’ by R Murray Schafer, which I guess is a pretty well-known sound studies book, but I just got around to reading it; some real poetry in there. My wife and I were reading some of the later Beckett things together, which somehow led to a brief Harold Pinter kick. Before bed I’ve been switching between ‘Soweto Blues’ by Gwen Ansell and ‘Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers’, by John Einarson and Chris Hillman; 60 pages in, Hillman seems pretty bitter. Lastly, a friend sent me a great collection of Jim Carroll’s poetry, so I’ve been reconnecting with him — I liked him a lot in high school and I guess I still like him as an adult.

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‘Farmer’s Corner’ is available now on Fire Records.

http://www.woodenwand.org/
http://www.firerecords.com/

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Wooden Wand Photograph credits:

(i) Battle Tapes studio in Nashville. Photograph by Kyle Hamlett.

(ii) James Jackson Toth, “the teacher’s lounge”. Photograph by Loney John Hutchins.

(iii) Photograph by Loney John Hutchins. “Studio is called “the teacher’s lounge”. We were the last session of an 8 year run there. He’s opening a new studio soon, not sure if it’ll be named the same…”  —Kyle Hamlett

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Written by admin

May 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

Step Right Up: Promised Land Sound

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Interview with Promised Land Sound.

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

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

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with Promised Land Sound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with William Tyler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by admin

November 27, 2013 at 11:02 am

Chosen One: Hiss Golden Messenger

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

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

—M.C. Taylor

Words & Illustrations: Craig Carry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Haw” is out now on Paradise Of Bachelors. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Which novels and writers do you admire the most?

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

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What is next for you, Mike?

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

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“Haw” is out now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

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

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Step Right Up: Daniel Bachman

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Born and raised in the town of Fredericksburg in Virginia, Daniel Bachman (whose guitar playing style has been dubbed “psychedelic appalachia”) is a guitarist of prodigious talent. This summer Bachman completed a hugely successful tour of Europe and will recommence touring his homeland when he tours the east coast of America this August.

Illustration & Words: Craig Carry

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At only twenty-two years of age, Virginia-born Daniel Bachman has quietly established himself as one of the finest guitarists around. Listening to Bachman on record brings to mind an array of artists (from John Fahey to Mark Fosson and from William Tyler to Glenn Jones) and similarly transports the listener to a faraway space and time in a deeply engaging and enriching manner. Fittingly, Daniel shared the stage with both William Tyler and Mark Fosson last year while on his U.S. tour (Fosson joined him for the length of the tour while Tyler joined him while playing at his home of Nashville). Despite his tender age, Bachman has already released a lot of material of his own solo material. Formerly going under the pseudonym “Sacred Harp”, Bachman has been recording under his own name for the last couple of years. Bachman has released a multitude of material including tape cassette releases and strictly limited capacity material. His records “Oh Be Joyful” (released on the One Kind Favor label) and “Seven Pines” (put out by Tompkins Square) were both issued in 2012 and served to establish Bachman’s name in the minds of listeners in Europe as well as his native America.

My first time witnessing Daniel Bachman in a live setting was July 4th of this month. A sunny summer’s evening in the intimate setting of Gulpd Cafe (and organized by Plugd Records) served the perfect backdrop for the prodigious talents of Bachman. Witnessing the mastery of Bachman’s guitar playing (very much in the same mould as the “American Primitive” school as advocated by John Fahey in the late 50’s and 60’s) is an absolute joy to savor. Seeing first hand the masterful technique he has honed over the years is a sight to behold. Whether quietly plucking notes (where the notes are left to linger for a time) or strumming intricately picking out notes in a forceful-yet-emotive manner, the music at all times conveys such real feeling and true artistry. Seeing one musician making such incredibly dense, textured and nuanced work on his own is something to truly marvel at, and reminded me of seeing William Tyler perform solo this year (while on his “Practically Friends” tour alongside M.C. Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger) where a myriad of feelings and a vast array of impressions are cast upon the listener. The guitar and guitarist become one. And the listener is truly fortunate to witness such an inspiring occasion.

In fact, like Tyler, I listen to Bachman’s work as a storyteller. Despite having no words to tell, the music seems to communicate rich and immersive stories from experiences made by the artist who wishes to share, in turn, those poignant memories with us, the listeners. In fact, I feel words would only lessen the impact. We would suddenly have a particular idea or theme in our minds, whereas on listening to Bachman’s creations our imaginations can conjure up any number of themes, feelings, experiences. Listening to “Seven Pines” (the wonderful title-track or the sublime “Mount Olive Cohoke”) and “Oh Be Joyful” brings to mind scenes from Wim Wenders’ classic road movie “Paris Texas” where a man at odds with the world wanders the desert landscape under Ry Cooder’s evocative score. Additionally, I feel there is also a wonderful connection between such music as Bachman’s and that of the photobook, particularly such road trips across America made frozen in time by Robert Frank in his 1958 classic “The Americans.” Armed with a 35mm Leica, Frank traversed the length of the country by car and – through eighty-three finally selected photographs – Frank redefined photography in the process. His poetic pictures were created through his off-kilter, intuitive and immediate style. Such intuitive and immediate styles certainly can be seen in Bachman’s art also where it feels (listening to Bachman live and on record) that he’s creating the pieces almost as he plays them where sparks of creativity and raw honesty can be felt – and admired greatly – on every single note that is played.

Fittingly, “Seven Pines” was issued last year by independent label Tompkins Square, a label who had previously released such classic records as William Tyler’s “Behold The Spirit” and Hiss Golden Messenger’s “Poor Moon” (not to forget the aforementioned Mark Fosson and his classic Fahey sessions “Digging In The Dust”). The album was based around Bachman’s experiences made from living and working in Philadelphia over the course of a twelve-month spell. The resulting seven heavenly pieces of music hint at a wide array of feelings and experiences, from intense abandon and exhilaration to dazed wonderment and acute homesickness. A real sense of place is conjured up in each and every recording.

Bachman’s steel fingerstyle guitar playing is sure to only further establish his rightful place as one of the most exciting musical talents around as he continues on his beautiful journey.

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“Seven Pines” is out now on Tompkins Square. “Oh Be Joyful” is out now on One Kind Favor and reissued on cd/digital by Debacle Records. 

Daniel Bachman tours USA this August (All tour dates are here)

http://www.tompkinssquare.com
http://www.onekindfavor.net
http://debaclerecords.bandcamp.com/album/oh-be-joyful

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