Posts Tagged ‘Woods’
We’re delighted to present two previously unreleased tracks for September’s mixtape, by Iceland-born cellist and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and Portland Oregon-based artist Brumes.
For well over a decade now, Hildur Guðnadóttir has firmly established herself as one of the jewels in the crown of today’s independent music scene. Guðnadóttir’s remarkable artistry and versatility has been widely evident in her highly prolific recording output to date – whether in the form of solo works or her many collaborations – on labels such as Touch, Sonic Pieces and Oral Records. Guðnadóttir has released a string of formidable solo albums – from her landmark 2009 full-length “Without Sinking” to 2014’s “Saman” (both albums released via the world-renowned U.K. independent label Touch) and has collaborated with musicians including Hauschka (Dusseldorf’s Volker Bertelmann) and Iceland’s Jóhann Jóhannsson.
The moving composition “Fólk fær andlit” (translates to “People get Faces”) was originally published by Guðnadóttir to her YouTube page in April of 2016, in response to the series of events which unfolded in her native Iceland in December 2015, involving the deportation of Albanian children with terminal illnesses along with their families who had been denied residence permits (her heartfelt and eloquently written account of the inspiration to “Fólk fær andlit” can be read in full HERE).
Brumes are a three-piece based in Portland Oregon whose lineup comprises of lead songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Desireé Rousseau, Dalton Long (drums) and Nico Bartulski (keys). The band’s debut album “Soundings in Fathoms” was recorded by renowned producer (musician/composer) Peter Broderick at his home studio The Sparkle along the Oregon coast. “I’m Not Listening” was also recorded at The Sparkle by Peter Broderick.
Also featured in September’s mixtape are newly released gems by longtime indie greats Cass McCombs (“Mangy Love”, Anti-) and Woods (“City Sun Eater In The River of Light”, Woodsit); latest solo full-length by beloved Irish songwriter Lisa Hannigan (“At Swim”, Play It Again Sam); a pair of releases by the forever inspiring FatCat imprint 130701 (Warsaw-based cellist and composer Resina and Moscow-based pianist and multi-instrumentalist Dmitry Evgrafov). September also sees the welcome return of the hugely influential independent label Tomlab (The Books, Patrick Wolf, Final Fantasy) with Berlin-based electronic artist Heimer’s shape-shifting debut album “Teilzeit Swag”.
Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S01E09 | September mix
To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:
01. Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek – “Cin” (excerpt) (Faitiche)
02. Botany – “Needam Wish To” (Western Vinyl)
03. The Avalanches – “Saturday Night Inside Out” (XL Recordings)
04. Syrinx – “Hollywood Dream Trip” (RVNG Intl)
05. Ashanti Roy – “Hail The Words of Jah” (Soul Jazz)
06. Barbara Lynn – “This Is The Thanks I Get” (Light In The Attic)
07. Woods – “Sun City Creeps” (Woodsit)
08. Mr. Sweety “G” – “At the Place to Be” (Soul Jazz)
09. Cass McCombs – “Opposite House” (Anti-)
10. Angel Olsen – “Woman” (Jagjaguwar)
11. Lisa Hannigan – “Ora” (Play It Again Sam / ATO)
12. Resina – “Afterimage” (130701)
13. Hildur Guðnadóttir – “Fólk fær andlit” (Unreleased)
14. Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie – “Lithium, The New Era” (Erased Tapes)
15. Brumes – “I’m Not Listening” (Unreleased)
16. Fiona Brice – “Dallas” (Digital 21 + Stefan Olsdal Remix) (Bella Union)
17. Cat Power – “Say” (Matador)
18. ISAN – “Napier Deltic” (Morr Music)
19. Forma – “Maxwell’s Demon” (Kranky)
20. Jackie Lynn – “Alien Love” (Thrill Jockey)
21. Craig Leon – “Details Suggest Fidelity To Fact” (RVNG Intl)
22. Heimer – “Icy Grip” (Tomlab)
23. Zomby & Banshee – “Fly 2” (Hyperdub)
24. Oliver Coates – “STASH” (PRAH Recordings)
25. Mogwai – “U-235” (Atomic OST, Rock Action)
26. Katie Kim – “FOREIGN FLEAS” (Bandcamp)
27. Eluvium – “Strangeworks” (Temporary Residence)
28. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Distant Sky” (Bad Seed Ltd.)
29. Dmitry Evgrafov – “The Lofty Sky” (130701)
30. Irene Buckley – “Waiting” (House of Usher extract) (Soundcloud)
31. Arvo Pärt – “My Heart’s In The Highlands” (Else Torp, Christopher Bowers-Broadbent) (Harmonia Mundi)
32. Jóhann Jóhannsson – “Good Night, Day” (Deutsche Grammophon)
Compiled by Fractured Air, September 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.
Interview with Jarvis Taveniere.
“There are certain things like we just scratched the surface on in the new record that I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and really going deep.”
Words: Mark Carry
Wooden Wand’s James Toth has perfectly described the unique allure of Brooklyn-based indie darlings, Woods — and more specifically the band’s latest country-tinged, psych pop odyssey of ‘With Light And With Love’ — as “an album of deeply psychedelic, deeply satisfying songs for a new age of searchers, of Don Juan and Animal Chin alike”. For the past decade, the core partnership of singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeremy Earl and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere (alongside a cast of musicians, most notably drummer Aaron Neveu) have forged a distinct blend of mesmerising pop songs that has metamorphosed into strange, new and enchanting forms with each and every release. At times, the New York group have dabbled into krautrock territory (2011’s ‘Sun And Shade’ comes to mind, particularly the glorious 60’s psychedlica haze of ‘Out of the Eye’ or this year’s hypnotic title-track of ‘With Light and With Love’); gleaming sunshine pop gems (‘Pushing Onlys’ which sings of “time that just slips away” and begins that very same album from 2011); timeless psych-folk cuts (any array of 2012’s ‘Bend Beyond’s towering cannon of songs) and simply put, the art of the perfect pop song (‘With Light and With Love’s opener ‘Shepherd’ is certainly one of those, speckled with a gorgeous Flying Burrito Brothers folk country sound). It is immediately clear with the latest opus that new horizons are reached as a more focused and fully-realized batch of songs come before us. As the seasons come and go, the timeless music — and cherished songbook — of Woods has provided a reliable companion and trusted constant, through which all else fades.
The glorious title-track, ‘With Light and Love’ — and the record’s longest cut at over nine minutes — builds on an intense guitar groove that wonderfully shifts in and out of focus as a journey of epic proportions descends upon us. The lyric of “I walk with love” resonates powerfully. Sung by Earl, the affecting vocals hover gently beneath the shape-shifting rhythms of guitars and drums. A brooding darkness slowly envelopes the headspace during a later verse: “Death brings us close/Death brings a ghost.” In between the verses, the interludes of organ and electric guitar jams brings forth a transcendental state of mind as a space and dimension is masterfully attained. An urgency and directness is imprinted on the song’s majestic chorus refrain of “With light and with love/Tell me what to do”. The masterful song-craft of Earl, combined with the musical wizardry of Taveniere is a force to truly behold. ‘Full Moon’ contains sunshine-drenched and “tattooed memories” of George Harrison-esque guitar tones and sumptuous pop melodies. A wonderfully sparse folk lament comes on the album’s close, in the form of ‘Feather Man’ that also features beautiful violin accompaniment from Samara Lubelski (Chelsea Light Moving). ‘Leaves Like Glass’ is a pristine soulful pop gem that shares the illuminating sparks of Zombies ‘Oddysey & Oracle’ and the recent Truth & Soul records of Lee Fields & The Expressions. The opening lyric to the opening verse is perhaps my favourite moment of ‘With Light and With Love’: “This life will wait for you/It’s gonna take some time.” Earl sings “Still I hold you dear” towards the close of ‘With Light and With Love’ and this is precisely what the gracious music fan has done for each of the timeless works of this special band.
‘With Light and With Love’ is available now on Woodsist.
Interview with Jarvis Taveniere.
Firstly Jarvis, the new album feels like a perfect balance between the previous Woods albums in the sense that there is a lovely mix of the country and wonderful pop melodies you have and also the more psychedelic elements. But that balance with the ten songs on ‘With Light and With Love’ is really striking.
Jarvis Taviniere: Thank you. Well I think what you said about having that balance between everything that we kind of do, you know like the country and psychedelic. But also – I don’t know I mean it sounds silly but I’d like to think that whenever we make a record, I think of it as a ‘Best of’ record; of songs that haven’t come out yet, like what now is the best country-flavoured song we can do, you know what I mean? Like all the elements of things we’ve touched on, like how can we do it the best that we can do it, right now. We’re still a band that’s growing. We started six years ago and we couldn’t really play our instruments so in a few years we feel we are actually better, if that’s your definition of better, you know like technically.
That’s another thing that strikes me is like how you say it’s only six years ago when you started; it’s amazing just how prolific you are.
JT: Yeah, I mean we have slowed down because we are more interested in spending more time on the records because the first few we did, we really just banged out. And I mean we weren’t really thinking of ourselves in terms of what bands are supposed to do, you know, we didn’t play live shows- we just hung out in our living room and we made music; we made records that we thought were cool, you know and we didn’t expect a lot of people to hear them. So it wasn’t like we were churning them out and putting ourselves against some standard of you know, what we thought other bands would do or what we were supposed to do.
I love the title-track, you know it’s obviously the longest song on the album itself but it works so well as that sort of psych exploration and gives so much space to the album.
JT: Yeah, that’s one of our favourite tracks too. We’ve done not similar songs but we’ve done longer songs on other records and this was one we really developed live. The first half of it is pretty new and the second half has developed really slowly onstage without speaking about it so it was really cool going into the studio and track it live how it’s shaped up and giving it that space to really let it breathe and you know just have fun. It was like a recording project – that one song – where the original version was so stripped down like three guys in a room just going for it.
That sounds cool because you can sense how the song just evolves over time because you can feel that as you listen to it- it wasn’t something you did in one take.
JT: Yeah I mean that is the first or second take in the studio. We closed our set with something similar to that every night for two years.
I love the opening song ‘Shepherd’. It takes you to ‘The Basement Tapes’ with Dylan and The Band with that really cool country feel to it.
JT: Thanks, yeah I really love that song too. We had two friends down, Tim Presley from White Fence who was playing with us live. We’re such cavemen in our approach that you know it’s really fun to be like ‘oh well sitar guitar, oh like other instruments’, it’s been such an insular living room/bedroom project for so long that closes our minds to simple things.
Is your studio at the moment still Rear House Studios or have you moved on from there to a different place?
JT: I moved to a different studio, still Rear House but a little bigger. I miss the old Rear House but it was a little too small. The older house is actually where we all lived and the band kind of started in Jeremy’s bedroom and grew out of that. But it’s nice to be in a bigger space, it’s still in the same neighbourhood.
You touched on it already with the title-track but I’d love to know more about the spontaneous nature of the songs and how they almost just flow out, more like a spontaneous jam that the band does.
JT: Yeah I mean Jeremy does a lot of the songs by himself but a lot of the things on the new record, there are a lot of ideas that we fleshed out together and I feel like sometimes when we make songs whether it’s a pop song or some sort of instrumental, they do come from the same place where you’re playing and something takes hold on you, you know. It takes you somewhere else. We don’t just say, this is a verse and chorus, and it’s done, it’s gonna be on the record. But we write a lot of those and nothing ever happens with. It’s the ones you get hit with inspiration and you’ll get it finished.
I love the album cover, it’s a really cool design.
JT: Thank you. Jeremy drew that.
One of my favourite songs at the moment, it changes a lot is actually the closing song ‘Feather Man’. I love that sparse feel to it.
JT: Me too. You know we recorded most of this record in I guess what you would call a proper recording studio, and ‘Feather Man’ and ‘Leaves Like Glass’ were recorded pretty last minute in Jeremy’s living room. That’s just like a final verse, I guess we were just missing the touch of recording ourselves in a living room – that comfort, that looseness – so, ‘Feather Man’ was one of those. I’m really glad we had the inspiration to add that onto the record.
And is that strings beneath the vocals or is it keys?
JT: Our friend Samara Lubelski played violin on this song [‘Feather Man’] and ‘Full Moon’. She’s great, she plays in Chelsea Light Moving and some other bands, New York bands and a solo artist too, she’s great. You know it’s funny, we recorded that song like I said in Jeremy’s living room and then drove down to the city and I went to Samara’s apartment and just set up a microphone, we sat on her bed and we just recorded in like twenty minutes. Not everything we do is that haphazard but it’s fun to have some of those moments in with the studio recordings.
And what I love too about Woods – and you touched on it there – is the whole ethos with the DIY aesthetic and the old tradition about what you do.
JT: Yeah I mean that is something you know, we have loved so many bands that have operated that way and I just really enjoy it. I mean we are pretty DIY – we do have a press agent and a booking agent – but yeah, you know, me recording the records and Jeremy releasing them, it doesn’t stress me out, you know I like the extra work. I love being involved in every process and really getting to shape every aspect of it, you know it’s kind of like a handmade feel.
Oh definitely and especially in this day and age – you know, obviously vinyl is still as important as ever – but that idea of a download and how technology is changing so fast, it’s a funny situation really.
I love too Jarvis about the Woodsist label is just how many great records that have been released.
JT: Yeah, I mean Jeremy has done a good job on the label. A lot of those bands are our friends too. It’s nice because it feels like a community. All the bands that have ever put some stuff out on his label are still bands that we are friends with, whether they have gone on to other labels or whatever, we’ll always be tied together. Even Real Estate always comes and does the Woodsist festival in Big Sur, you know they haven’t been on the label for a while but still it’s really nice.
There is a great parallel between yourselves and Real Estate and particularly how the albums grow and keep on growing. For example, your previous albums and Real Estate’s too, you get something different from them each time. It’s fascinating really.
JT: Yeah I know. I really love their new record, you know just like you’re saying, how it reveals itself to you over time, you know just one listen won’t do the trick. I like that, those are my favourite records.
Would you have particular favourite records?
JT: Well I have a couple stand by favourite albums but I would say in relation to the Woods record, things that came up a lot: the first Stooges album, Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’, Tom Petty, no album in particular. Those were the records that were floating around that we were listening to.
And what about those stand by ones, Jarvis?
JT: I will always come back to the first Ramones record, maybe the first four but the first one especially; The Zombies ‘Odyssey & Oracle’, you never get sick of it, it’s insane, I still put it on it’s like the first time. I mean that’s a record that it’s a grower yet it is immediately satisfying and then it grows and you find new layers in it. I mean to make a record like that, I mean that’s how you make a legendary album.
Yeah it’s amazing to think it’s so old as well and yet it’s so fresh.
JT: Yeah, I mean people who are ten years younger than me who are hearing it for the first time and loving it, and inspired to start bands.
It must be fun having upcoming tours again, playing the new songs to audiences.
JT: Previous records were mainly me and Jeremy and you know, recording everything really quick. This one, we pulled in a live drummer and we rehearsed and recorded the band live which was rarely ever done, maybe one song here and there. So this is the first time we actually played the whole album live and it probably sounds silly that we haven’t done it before but that’s just the way the band happened, you know-more of a recording project than anything else. It’s really exciting that after touring for so many years we can finally just say just drop a bunch of old songs and play the new record.
It must be exciting to see what comes next too and the records that will follow.
JT: Yeah it is. Jeremy started to write some stuff and we’ve been talking about what’s next. I mean whenever I finish a record, as happy as I can be I never feel 100% completely satisfied and that just leaves room for the what’s next question, which I think is really fun. There are certain things like we just scratched the surface on in the new record that I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and really going deep.
‘With Light and With Love’ is available now on Woodsist.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen ‘ATOMOS VII’ (Erased Tapes/Kranky)
This April marks the hugely anticipated return of the impeccable duo of A Winged Victory For The Sullen as a co-release between London-based independent label Erased Tapes and the Chicago-based Kranky label. Comprising the majestic talents of the duo Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (Stars Of The Lid) and pianist Dustin O’Halloran, ‘ATOMOS VII’ is bound to capture — just like it’s glorious self-titled predecessor — the imagination of every single music listener lucky enough to cross paths with it. As O’Halloran has stated: “We never imagined 2013 would be such an explosively creative year. The first record took us two years from start to finish, but in the micro span of time over last summer we were able to change the formula for the way we write, record, and let go. It was incredibly liberating.”
‘ATOMOS VII’ is available on 28 April via Erased Tapes/Kranky.
Christina Vantzou ‘No.2’ (Kranky)
Kansas-born artist, film-maker, musician and composer, Christina Vantzou returns this year with the spellbinding ‘No.2’, and follow-up to her equally gorgeous debut ‘No.1’, released at the beginning of 2012 on the Chicago-based label Kranky. Made over a four-year period, ‘No.2’ sees Vantzou re-unite with Stars Of The Lid and Winged Victory For The Sullen’s Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and the internationally renowned arranger Minna Choi of the San Francisco based Magik*Magik Orchestra. ‘No.2’ also features the addition of further instrumentation (previously not heard on it’s predecessor) with the use of bassoon, oboe, and an enhanced string section augmenting Vantzou’s timeless and dreamlike floating worlds.
‘No.2’ is available now on Kranky.
Sharon Van Etten ‘Are We There’ (Jagjaguwar)
Available 27 May on Jajjaguwar, ‘Are We There’ is Brooklyn-based songwriter Sharon Van Etten’s follow-up to her monumental ‘Tramp’ LP from 2012. Thus far, ‘Taking Chances’ has been made available online, revealing a less stark and cleaner sound, yet remaining as utterly captivating and wholly engaging as always. Check out Van Etten’s official website HERE for some wonderful pre-order bundles, including clear vinyls, limited edition 7″, and signed prints of photographic cover art by Van Etten.
‘Are We There’ is available on 27 May via Jagjaguwar.
Hauschka ‘Abandoned City’ (City Slang)
The impeccable talents of German composer Volker Bertelmann has been widely evident for many years now via Bertelmann’s Hauschka guise. Using the prepared piano as his starting point (Bertelmann positions pieces of foil or paper on the strings of his grand upright piano to create new sounds), Bertelmann has been wowing audiences far and wide over the last decade or so. ‘Abandoned City’ is Hauschka’s latest full-length, available via Berlin-based independent label City Slang (Calexico, Lambchop, The Notwist) and was recorded at his home studio over the course of ten days following the birth of his first son. Talking about the album’s title, Bertelmann has said: “I was interested in finding a metaphor for the inner tension I feel when I’m composing music, a state of mind where I’m lonely and happy at the same time.”
‘Abandoned City’ is available now on City Slang.
ORCAS ‘Yearling’ (Morr Music)
ORCAS comprise the duo of Thomas Meluch (Benoît Pioulard) and Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below), who release ‘Yearling’, their hugely anticipated follow-up to their Morr Music 2012 debut ‘Carrion’. For it’s wonderful follow-up, ‘Yearling’, Meluch and Irisarri are joined by Martyn Heyne (of Efterklang) on guitar and piano, and Michael Lerner (Telekinesis) revealing a gorgeous sonic tapestry and an infinite array of emotions throughout, amounting to another pristine, understated sonic gem.
‘Yearling’ is out April 4th in Europe and April 15th in the US on Morr Music.
The Delines ‘Colfax’ (Decor / El Cortez)
Led by Richmond Fontaine’s principle songwriter, the novelist Willy Vlautin, The Delines are the newly-formed group featuring Vlautin alongside his Fontaine drummer Sean Oldham, Amy Boone (The Damnations), Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists), Tucker Jackson and Freddy Trujillo. Thus far, the single ‘I Won’t Slip Up’ has been revealed, featuring the stunning vocals of The Damnations’ Amy Boone, the gorgeously soulful and late-night feel echoes Richmond Fontaine’s ‘We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River’ while the heartfelt lyrics (“I get so tired of people / Always worrying about me”) are typical Vlautin; imperfect and true and straight from the heart. The Delines will have a new 7″ single out on record store day called “The Oil Rigs At Night” which features two tracks not on the forthcoming album. The Delines will tour the UK and Ireland this June (tour dates HERE).
‘Colfax’ will be available on Decor on 01 May 2014.
Lavender Country ‘Lavender Country’ (Paradise Of Bachelors)
This year North Carolina-based label Paradise Of Bachelors re-release Patrick Haggerty’s hugely affecting landmark 1973 self-titled LP by Lavender Country. As Paradise Of Bachelors say: “Widely recognized as the first openly gay country music album—and cited as such even by Nashville institutions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and CMT—the landmark self-titled 1973 LP by Lavender Country stands as nothing less than an artifact of courage, a sonic political protest document of enormous power, clarity, and grace. The record reflects Haggerty’s experiences: his upbringing on a tenant dairy farm in rural Washington, on the Canadian border; his dismissal from the Peace Corps on the spurious grounds of his sexuality; and his righteous struggles as an outraged young gay man navigating the Pacific Northwest in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall.”
‘Lavender Country’ is available on 25 March via Paradise Of Bachelors.
Cate Le Bon ‘Mug Museum’ (Turnstile)
Cate Le Bon is an artist hailing from Carmarthenshire, rural West Wales and is currently a resident of Highland Park, Los Angeles, having relocated across the pacific to record her latest album ‘Mug Museum’. Her first album ‘Me Oh My’ was released on Gruff Rhys’s Irony Bored label in 2009 and was followed by ‘CYRK’ (OVNI/Turnstile) which was released to widespread acclaim in 2012 and saw her play live across the world. A frequent collaborator, Cate Le Bon has added vocals to the likes of Neon Neon and Manic Street Preachers in recent times, while Perfume Genius contributes vocals on ‘I Think I Knew’.
‘Mug Museum’ is available now on Turnstile.
Valentin Stip ‘Sigh’ (Other People)
Montreal’s Valentin Stip has quietly released one of the finest electronic albums of the year thus far in the form of ‘Sigh’, available now on Nicolas Jaar’s Other People label. Valentin Stip’s story thus far is best surmised by Stip’s Soundcloud profile:
“My name is Val, I was born in Paris. I started playing piano when I was seven. Missing my piano too much in Montreal, I started playing around with the musical abilities of my computer and have been making electronic music since then…”
‘Sigh’ is available now on Other People.
Woods ‘With Light And With Love’ (Woodsit)
Brooklyn’s beloved folk collective Woods have been amassing a wonderfully enduring and timeless body of music since the band’s formation in 2005. Albums such as ‘Sun And Shade’ and ‘Bend Beyond’ have introduced the band to new waves of fans and admirers over the years, enchanted by the band’s “DIY” ethos, impeccable musicianship and an innate appreciation for melody. As Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth has said: “With Light And With Love is an album of deeply psychedelic, deeply satisfying songs for a new age of searchers, of Don Juan and Animal Chin alike.”
‘With Light And With Love’ is out April 15th on Woodsist Records.
Interview with Axxa/Abraxas.
“As I got older I started delving deeper into the history and various movements of music over the last 50 years and I try to take my favorite sounds from my favorite bands/albums/songs and blend them together.”
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Axxa/Abraxas is the pseudonym for 23 year-old Ben Asbury, whose debut self-titled album will be released by Brooklyn-based independent label Captured Tracks this March. Hailing from just outside Atlanta, Georgia, Asbury combines a plethora of irresistible tones and infectious melodies on his highly accomplished debut, taking in divine worlds of fuzzy pop psychedelia, lo-fi pop, and swirling haze of 60’s psych and art-rock.
The tracks on the record were written and demoed around the time Asbury was in college (and shortly after) in Athens, Georgia, where he was studying psychology, religion and sociology. Meanwhile he started the RTA Collective, which featured Asbury’s cassette and CD-R releases along with his visual art. The artwork of hand-crafted silkscreen imagery lovingly graces the sleeves of the eagerly awaited debut full-length Axxa/Abraxas release. A visionary DIY aesthetic is forever apparent in Asbury’s art, whether it’s the medium of visual art or music.
What is most striking about the debut record is not only the large sonic palette Axxa/Abraxas draws from but the beguiling atmosphere that resides throughout the layered sonic creations. A stream of consciousness exudes from Asbury’s abstract lyrics where a sense of spontaneity and magic is captured from the spark of the young artist’s creativity. The glorious instrumentation of vocals, guitar, bass, drums, organ and synths conjures up the sound of a distant past, amidst an uncertain future. ‘Axxa/Abraxas’ is a record to “soothe our weary eyes”, a place to gather one’s thoughts and fears and a step towards inner contentment.
A record collector and music obsessive from a very young age (“I got into punk in the third grade”), Asbury’s Axxa/Abraxas seamlessly fades through a journey’s past of 13th Floor Elevators, White Fence, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Television Personalities and beyond, creating one cohesive whole of utterly transcendent, enlightening torch-lit gems. The songs, explained by Asbury, are “generally directed at myself, often criticizing my shortcomings”. The Crazy Horse-esque tour-de-force ‘Beyond The Wind’ contains floating guitars and an eerie atmosphere that drifts in and out of focus. “This fragile heart is in the sea / To fall apart in misery” reveals a torn heart unravelling at the seams. A delicacy and intimacy permeates throughout.
The album was recorded and produced by Jarvis Taveniere (Woods, Rear House Recording), who also adds bass guitar on several of the tracks. Woods drummer Aaron Neveu stepped in on some songs, as a trio of Asbury, Taveniere and Neveu quickly laid down the bare tracks. Later, the sublime layers of Asbury’s synths, organ and lead guitar would be recorded to tape. A wonderful pop sensibility glistens across each of the album’s ten cuts that conjures up the sound of Woods’ distinctive psych pop oeuvre, particularly on the stunning closer, ‘All That’s Passed’. The words and music feels just that. The pop gem contains clean guitar tones (echoing Real Estate or Woods), warm percussion and an infectious bass groove, all played beneath Asbury’s evocative vocal delivery. ‘All That’s Passed’ is a song of hope and healing: “We soothe our weary eyes / And we take a step towards what we recognize / And realize it’s never worked before / So why we’re trying again and again and again”.
Album opener ‘Ryan Michalak (Is Coming To Town)’ begins with Asbury’s synthesizer musings before erupting into a gloriously infectious indie-rock anthem, recalling the likes of Deerhunter and, more specifically, Lockett Pundt’s Lotus Plaza. ‘Going Forth’ is a West coast pop crystalline gem with Byrds-esque guitar licks and organ-frenzied bursts (think The Zombies ‘Odyssey And Oracle’) on the momentous chorus. The beautiful guitar lead towards the song’s close brings to mind the perfect pop symphonies of L.A.’s Allah-Las and their note-perfect self-titled debut album from 2012. A punk energy and urgency is evident on lead single ‘I Almost Fell’ (the oldest song on the record) that recalls the likes of Dan Treacy’s Television Personalities. ‘Same Signs’ is an irresistible folk lament. Asbury muses “You’re just feeling alone” on the song’s chorus as a meandering guitar line (think Ducktails) evokes vivid imagery of lazy summer days and rolling green hills.
Hot on the heels of labelmate Juan Wauters’ debut solo album, ‘North American Poetry’, Axxa/Abraxas is another towering achievement from a hugely promising artistic talent, home on the indie-supreme label, Captured Tracks.
Interview with Ben Asbury, Axxa Abraxas.
Congratulations, Ben, on your truly remarkable debut album. The songs range from fuzzy pop psychedelia to swirling haze of 60’s psych rock and lo-fi pop and art-rock that creates a truly captivating batch of songs. Please discuss the space and time in which these songs were written and drawn from? I was very interested to read a lot of the songs were written while you were in college?
BA: Thanks! All the songs on the album were written while I was studying at the University of Georgia and this past summer while working at a summer camp after I graduated. I recorded all the demos on a Tascam 4-track in my ever-moving, ever-evolving home studio space “The Time Cave”, which is a clutter of music gear and magical objects that I’ve acquired over the years. The oldest song on the album, which is incidentally the first single, ‘I Almost Fell…’ (also the first song under this moniker that had lyrics) was written at the end of 2010 and is in its third form on the record. The synth interludes on the album were recorded in the Time Cave in 2012 and are culled for a self-released tape of synth musings.
The album was recorded by Jarvis Taveniere (Woods, Rear House Recording). This must have been a special experience for you? The collaboration works wonderfully as faint hallmarks of the producer’s works is evident in the layers of pristine instrumentation. What was the typical day-to-day routine of recording like, Ben? Did the songs change or evolve during the recording process?
BA: Working with Jarvis was awesome, as someone who has been a big fan of his work it was really thrilling to be in the studio with him. Over the 8 days of studio time that we had the routine took a couple different forms. Aaron Neveu, who plays drums in Woods, was around for the first few days and we took the opportunity to record the cores of most of the songs as a three-piece with Aaron on drums, Jarvis on bass, and me doing rhythm guitar. After Aaron left we kind of jumped around between songs adding in the organ/synth parts, vocals, and extra guitar tracks. Some of the tracks were refined a bit and we made a few changes to endings (in anticipation of the flow of the album) and that sort of thing but most of the songs stay pretty true to the original demos, we wanted to keep the vibe pretty similar to those.
The album’s highlight for me is the sublime ‘Beyond The Wind’. The rawness and immediacy of the song is really quite something. The opening lyrics, your vocal delivery and the Crazy Horse-esque feel that permeates throughout conjures up the sound of someone lost or that of a broken heart. It’s incredible. A cathartic energy is released by the mist of guitars and ethereal vocals. Can you recount for me please writing and recording this song? It must have felt good to capture the mood and sound in the studio?
BA: That song has an interesting history, as it is simultaneously one of the oldest and newest songs on the album. It shares some similarities with a song called ‘State of Mind’ on my self-released demo album ‘Time Inside’. I wrote ‘Beyond the Wind’ this past summer and realized the similarities between the two songs and more or less merged them together. As with all my lyrics they’re written initially through stream of consciousness and then refined when I attempt to write them down. I feel like most of my lyrics are written in such a way that there is enough ambiguity for each person to find their own meaning, perhaps link the words to something in their life to create a perspective on it. For me the lyrics define the previous half-year for me, I moved around a lot and things were pretty much in disarray, being productive in between moves but having gaps of spaceless time. For me it highlights the difference between our true nature as humans and the things we have to go though to live in this society. Life can be a frustrating experience, and I often feel the weight of our current reality on me, it can be depressing. I feel like the main vibe in that song comes from the subtle, yet very spacey lead guitar that lurks in the background throughout the song. When I was playing that guitar part in the studio I was able to pretty much totally space out for the duration of the track and I think that really helped to capture the mood.
I would love to gain an insight into the visual art aspect of your work. How does this filter into the music side of things? I imagine they’re very closely connected. Staying on this, I absolutely love the album artwork — stunning DIY silkscreen imagery. Please talk me through the album cover artwork please?
BA: Like most things my artistic activity works in cycles. I’m almost always writing new songs but sometimes I’ll be recording demos nonstop and sometimes I wont even hook my guitar into an amp for weeks. I’ve been really into printmaking since I was fairly young but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I was very productive with it. When I’m in a musical down period I start getting more productive with silkscreen art and vice versa. It keeps me from getting depressed during the musical down time. The biggest link between the music and the art is the approach I take to creating them. I’m very much a process artist; I try not to think too hard and to let my subconscious make the decisions.
The album art is all culled from a large piece that I spent the entirety of last year working on. Its 26 separate silkscreen pieces done on fabric that I have sewn together into a tapestry of sorts. I’m making five of these, one for me, one for Mike Sniper, and 3 that will be available to any interested art loving folks. I wasn’t making any of these pieces with the intention of them being the album artwork but as the folks at Captured Tracks began to find out more about these pieces it became apparent pretty quickly that it was the right fit. Since the process of creation is the same for each media (audio or visual) I’ve come to find that the two are irrevocably intertwined.
Growing up you must have been exposed to music from an early age. What bands, albums and artists resonated powerfully for you? I would love to take a look into your (eclectic) record collection.
BA: I was exposed to ‘Crosby, Stills, & Nash’ and ‘Déjà vu’ by CSN&Y early on and I still consider both of those records to be perfect. Neil Young is a major musical role model for me. The album ‘Dusk at Cubist Castle’ by The Olivia Tremor Control was one of the first more recent experimental psych pop albums I heard and it had a big impact on my musical taste. I’m also really into Television Personalities and other early Rough Trade stuff. More recently I’ve really enjoyed White Fence and other rock bands from that scene, knowing that music like that can still come out and thrive is really motivating to me. I actually just packed my record collection up as I’m in the process of moving to Asheville, NC. It took 10 boxes (not including 7″ singles). Not sure how to feel about that.
Can you trace me back to your first encounter with music? What were the first instruments you learned to play? How did your fascination with sound develop?
BA: Growing up my parents would play ‘Fox 97.1’ in the car. It’s been a long time since that was a radio station but at the time they played lots of 60s pop music, so like Motown and psych/ folk rock stuff. I was really into CCR and had a ‘best of’ cassette that I played all the time. I took some piano lessons when I was pretty young, then later started playing bass. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I really started seriously playing the guitar. Music was always around when I was growing up and my dad and brother both played guitar, so that definitely drew me to making music. My dad wrote folk songs and so usually when he would pick up his guitar he would play originals (as well as some choice Dylan songs and the like). Because of that I’ve always viewed instruments as a means of writing music rather than learning music by others. As I got older I started delving deeper into the history and various movements of music over the last 50 years and I try to take my favorite sounds from my favorite bands/albums/songs and blend them together.
You operate the RTA Collective, which features your cassette and CDR releases along with your visual art and recordings made by friends. When did this begin? This labour of love must be a great creative outlet for you and all done with the inspiring DIY aesthetic. What are the latest releases and what are the upcoming releases for 2014?
BA: Technically I started using that name in 2009 to self-release a cd-r of the heavy post-rock music I was making at the time, although I never actually finished the packaging so it was never released. I did one other cd-r summer 2010 under my own name. I started putting out tapes late 2010/ early 2011 in order to co-release the first Axxa/Abraxas album with my friend (and touring guitarist) Brian’s label. I’ve been expanding it ever since and it has become a collaborative effort as I do art that I feel captures the vibe of the awesome music that my friends make. The last batch of tapes included a tape by me as A.X. which has the synth music on it used for the upcoming Captured Tracks album, as well as tapes by mill, Aprotag, and electronic oddity DJ Mickey. Once I get settled in at my new place in Asheville I’ll be getting a bunch of new tapes out, all music by my friends and I. There’s gonna be new DJ Mickey and Aprotag as well as a tape by my touring organ player Joe’s synth project Subtle Body and some poorly recorded, raunchy punk music, Flaccid Blast, which I play guitar in.
What are your hopes for 2014, Ben?
BA: Now that I’m in Asheville, where my band is, we’ll be practicing to get ready to do some tours after the album drops. In the meantime I’ve got about an album and a half of songs written that I need to record demos for and I’ve got the next few batches of RTA tapes to keep me busy. Basically I’m just trying to stay productive and keep doing the things I love doing.
‘Axxa/Abraxas’ is available on 4 March on Captured Tracks.