MAGIC MIX

folk . americana . blues . r&b . rock&roll

WEEK STARTING 26 Jan

Genre pick of the week Cover of On Your Own Love Again by Jessica Pratt.
We all want the world to be beautiful. We want scribes and songbirds to tell us so - and sometimes they do and then it is. They point their pens and focus their lens where they will and surprise us to our soul. ‘On Your Own Love Again’ is a record that does it to us, with songs from a spine-thrilling new place and a gifted young singer with her own musical logic.

Jessica Pratt’s self-titled 2012 debut has been much-murmured about. People respond to the austere, pristine clarity of the performances, the gentle strength, marvelling at how much comes from so little: just a voice and a guitar or two. They remark on the timeless nature of the songs and the voice, scrupulously informed by the folk rock of ages past but sung without bags (none in hand, nor beneath eyes). They speculate on just who is the personality behind this Jessica Pratt? It is hard not to respond to the sound of her music, not to want more right away.

Two years on and Jessica’s very new ‘On Your Own Love Again’ is here for us, playing her further adventures in different pastures. If they feel removed from the first songs, it may help to know that the recordings of the first album were made some years back with no expectation of making an album. They sat quiet on the shelf for a long time, appearing on the internet eventually. It all seemed harmless but when Birth Records honcho Tim Presley rolled up in his long white limousine and began to spin tales of folk rock glory, who was she to say no?

The nice part about learning that people dig your sound is that it gives you the chance to think of what else you’d do. After deep consideration, Jessica found new songs within her and an urgency to make another record, marked with a strong sense for rendering it exactly the way she heard it in her head, spending time with her tunes and crafting the smallest details. In this way, she truly was able to inhabit her own skin as a singer of her songs - and make ‘On Your Own Love Again’ the first Jessica Pratt album constructed to be an album.

What makes ‘On Your Own Love Again’ new? Everything and yet everything woven so subtly into the presentation leaves you unaware that you have been modulated upon. The album was recorded entirely by Jessica in the fashion of ‘Night Faces’ and ‘Dreams’ from her first album, mixed in collaboration with Will Canzoneri.

Touched lightly with additional instrumental and vocal parts, the songs ripple beneath the surface with lyrical details that morph almost subliminally from the personal into fantasy. When Jessica’s playful nature bubbles up, she sends her voice travelling into strange places to see what it finds there. The music too is deceptively accomplished, providing subtle hallucinatory nuances to the tunes: the orchestral organ stop working in the shadows of ‘Wrong Hand’; the reverberant percussion floating through ‘Game That I Play’; the clavinet panned out on the side in ‘Moon Dude’; Jessica’s sudden vocal dip into her lower register on ‘Greycedes’; all pulling at the ears, highlighting her unique pop sensibilities with craft and humour, giving the album’s inherent romance a greater heft.

Perhaps most significantly, ‘On Your Own Love Again’ was recorded at home, at places in Los Angeles and San Francisco, over the past two years. This process sands the surface of her more active multi-tracking approach, allowing a sound as delicate and singular as her former recordings.

Arthur

Dreams And Images

    The pantheon of performers known by but one name is full of superstars. Arthur - the nom de plume of singer-songwriter Arthur Lee Harper - is not one of them, but this gentle singer-songwriter and his wan, string-drenched, loved-up, psych-folk was probably never likely to be suitable for mass consumption.

    Released on Lee Hazlewood's LHI label, the haunted Dreams And Images is the first of two albums from the Melbourne, Florida-born singer-songwriter. LHI was a broad church, taking in everything from soul to country, and Arthur found a home, a producer, and a champion in Hazlewood, who described him as "A man who will someday be a child again… A reason to cry and be unafraid… A bird with eighth-notes for wings."

    Though his lonely, intimate music, shy demeanor, and stutter might not have suggested a man of great ambition, Arthur moved to Hollywood chasing the music industry dream. He suffered hardships to do so, living hand-to-mouth in a YMCA hostel with two like-minded individuals: Mark Lindsey Buckingham and Stephen John Kalinich, whose A World Of Peace Must Come has been reissued by Light In The Attic. "Arthur was a peace person. He was all about peace, love, and harmony," remembers Kalinich in the brand new, extensive liner notes for Dreams And Images. "He was a person that believed you could change the world. We thought we would be some of the ones to usher in peace."

    While Kalinich and Buckingham were signed by the Beach Boys' Brother Records, Arthur allied with Hazlewood, having knocked on the door of the label's Sunset Boulevard HQ and auditioned on the spot. Entering the studio with Hazlewood, Donnie Owens, Tom Thacker, and arranger Don Randi, who brought baroque pop grandeur to the songs, Arthur let his music do the talking. "He stuttered and had a hard time getting his ideas out, so he would sing me the parts he had in mind,” remembers Randi.

    A mixture of things conspired to make sure few people heard Arthur, including a packed release schedule at LHI, followed by the withdrawal of their major label funding and a lack of foundation on which to market the album. After the 1970 follow-up album, Love Is The Revolution, Arthur bowed out of the business, immersing himself in Christianity, family, and a career working first as a rocket engineer and, latterly, a teacher. "I never stopped writing or recording," he later said. "I recorded in studios, friends’ houses, and live. I just recorded music with my friends or by myself when I felt inspired. For me, singing and songwriting is like breathing; I just do it."

    On January 10th, 2002, Arthur’s wife Lora died in a car crash. He tragically passed away of a heart attack the same night. Now, with this reissue of his great, lost album, Arthur's fragile heart can finally be enjoyed by all.

    * First ever LP reissue, first time on CD & Digital
    * Produced by Lee Hazlewood
    * Featuring three unreleased tracks
    * In-depth liner notes by LHI Archive Series co-producer Hunter Lea with unseen archive photos
    * All tracks newly remastered from the original tapes
    * LP housed in deluxe Stoughton “Tip-On” gatefold jacket.

    James Blackshaw

    Apologia

      Apologia is the 'lost' first solo guitar recording by James from 2003, which self-released on CD-R in an edition of 30. Now released on vinyl in a limited edition of 500.

      "‘Apologia’ was written on a cheap Yamaha guitar with a ridiculously high action over the course a couple of months in 2002 and recorded in February 2003, a few months before I picked up a 12-string guitar for the first time and wrote and recorded my first release, ‘Celeste’. I’d just started fingerpicking and had gotten comfortable enough with some techniques to experiment with open tunings of my own devising and write my own compositions, which were at that time very inspired by the musicians I adored - John Fahey, Robbie Basho and lots of old country blues players like Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake and Reverend Gary Davis. I burned about 30 CD-Rs with homemade covers in jewel cases, gave most to friends and family and sold a few in the record shop I used to work in Soho. I felt for some time afterward like I was only just starting to find my own voice with ‘Apologia’ - the songs are shorter and more straightforward and the cyclical structures and appreciation of drones and overtones really came to the fore later on, as did my appreciation of adding other instrumentation and experimenting with sounds generally. Plus, I wasn’t entirely happy with the sound of the recording (some small EQ changes and reverb was added for this edition) and let’s just say the situation in the studio was far from ideal, but that’s another story. For that reason, I never chose to reissue ‘Apologia’. Now, almost 12 years later, I’m hearing them in a different way, realising the songs' charms rather than simply concentrating on the flaws. It doesn’t sound quite like anything I’ve ever done since and there’s a simplicity and raw energy about them that I’ve grown to appreciate. It’s an interesting snapshot of where I was then and how things have changed. It is an absolute pleasure for me to work with Bladud Flies! to release ‘Apologia’ as a limited edition LP now - something I would never have dreamed of back in 2003." - James Blackshaw.

      The Contents Are

      Through You

        • Officially licensed by the group, who will receive royalties from sales of this album, its first American reissue.
        • Limited one-time pressing includes exact reproductions of the group’s two non-album 45s!
        • Sleeve notes by Jeremy Cargill (contributing editor, Ugly Things magazine).
        • LP sleeved in a tip-on jacket, with a 4 page insert with never before seen photographs.

        “Rumours of a limited demo LP pressing from this renowned Iowa garagey-folk rock band remained unconfirmed until a copy popped up at a 2005 Austin Record Show. Curiosity grew into excitement as the album turned out to feature 13 band originals in a terrific melodic Beatles '65-66 style with a sprinkling of Byrds on top. In other words, an ideal sound for a 'lost' 60s album, reminiscent of the Beauregard Ajax recordings from L.A. Drawing inspiration from the Beatles is usually an indication of both taste and cojones, and the Contents Are deliver a string of skillfully arranged 3-minute gems from the point where beat and folk rock turn into melodic psychedelia.” - Patrick Lundborg, The Acid Archives

        THE CONTENTS ARE’s debut album was originally issued in 1967 in an edition of just 100 copies. Hailing from Quad City, Iowa, these four young men recorded one incredible song after another, their ambitions well beyond that of the typical group at the time.This record, more rumoured than heard, lives at a wild nexus in American culture, simultaneously expansive and reflective, searching for answers in society through music and art.
        The great German label Shadoks first reissued this legendary set almost ten years ago, and we’re very happy to bring you a new deluxe edition of “Through You”, this time with the very special addition of the band’s two non-album 45s, originally released on the ROK label (these two singles are seeing their first ever reissue on vinyl; previously only available as CD bonus tracks, and well worth rediscovery). Let this record turn you on to new horizons.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Ltd LP Info: Includes bonus 2x7".

        For the past 14 years, Elephant Micah's Joseph O'Connell has quietly self-released his music, sometimes collaborating with the psych-folk imprint Time-Lag Records or other very small labels. Despite the project's almost secretive status, Elephant Micah has repeatedly caught the attention of NPR, and has been championed by an impressive cohort of like-minded artists including Jason Molina, Hiss Golden Messenger, Dark Dark Dark, and Hurray for the Riff Raff.

        Where in Our Woods, the 12th Elephant Micah album and the first for Western Vinyl, is defined by its limited palette. The arrangements foreground nylon-string guitar and an antique portable pump organ. A stripped-down drum set, a baritone ukulele, a toy recorder, and harmony vocals (sung by Will Oldham, a friend of and key influence on O’Connell) round out the sound. This sparse ensemble leaves O’Connell’s voice room to breathe, while elevating and magnifying the poetry of his songs.

        The album follows an ensemble cast of human and animal characters as they negotiate the supernatural and the mundane: “Light Side” catalogues a friend’s search for sublime experience through a self-described “redneck mysticism” involving in drugs, sex, and travel. “Rare Beliefs” and “Demise of the Bible Birds” explore the world of a "Bible Bird Man" from Noblesville, Indiana, who trained exotic birds to perform stunning Christian-themed stunts. “Albino Animals” is a modern day journalistic ballad, summarizing three stories found in one edition of O'Connell's hometown newspaper: readers responding to the recent slaying of an albino deer, husband-and-wife meth cooks escape federal prosecution based on an error in legal process, and a rower with local roots attempts a transatlantic passage that ends in disaster. The album closes with “Slow Time Vultures,” which was inspired by the descent of hundreds of migrating vultures on O'Connell's parents’ farm in southern Indiana. At the time of this avian congress, state government was instituting the observance of daylight savings time for the first time in Indiana. As O’Connell explains, "Maybe it goes without saying that the unexplained appearance of a sky full of vultures might seem like a harbinger of doom. I wondered if it related to the time change. At its core, this song is in the tradition of American country songs that express indignation toward the idea of progress." Throughout the album, O'Connell deftly transforms the stuff of everyday American life into a series of entrancing meditations on culture, nature, religion, and modernity.

        “A beautiful slice of narcoleptic folk...” WIRE.
        “A stealthy album, which rewards your patience.” UNCUT.
        “Haunted Americana at its lo-fi best. Unendingly elegant.” DUSTED.

        Jake Xerxes Fussell

        Jake Xerxes Fussell

          Featured on 42nd Uncut playlist.Produced by and featuring Willliam Tyler on guitar with Chris Scruggs (steel guitaf, bass. mandolin Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Marty Stuart). Brian Kotzur (drums: Silver Jews), and Hoot Hester (fiddle: Bill Monroe, Ray Charles). Jake Xexes Fussel's debut transmutes ten arcane folk and blues tunes into vibey cosmic laments and crooked riverine laments. As a teenager Fussell began playing with elder musicians in the Chattahoochee Valley including Piedmont blues legend Precious Bryant, Alabama bluesman George Daniel, Jimmie Tarlton as well as accompanying Etta James in North Carolina. Now collaborating with guitar virtuoso William Tyler, Fussell has made a conscious decision to depart cloistered trad scenes and sonics, for broader, more oblique horizons, imbuing these songs with equal parts vaporish, percolating atmosphere and academic rigour.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          LP Info: 150g vinyl with heavy duty reverse board jacket, plus download.

          Kitty, Daisy & Lewis return with their new album, three years on from their hugely acclaimed ‘Smoking In Heaven’.

          Described as “a gift to those of us who still believe in magic” (The Observer), the band have used those three years wisely, building a new 16 track analogue studio in a derelict Indian restaurant in Camden Town, resulting in an album and a sound all of their own making. With new space and equipment, the band knew they could take their third album to another level, with the songwriting, instrumentation, styles, production and sound.

          An early fan, Mick Jones of The Clash was keen to get involved as producer. He spent four months rehearsing in their home. “With Mick on board, it was the first time we have worked with a producer,” says Lewis. “Just having someone else in the room meant we could start bouncing ideas off other people and that was great.”

          “Our song writing has definitely changed over the three years,” adds sister Kitty. “Through life experience and expanding our musical influences, we have now incorporated more of our musical loves into our music.”

          Kitty, Daisy & Lewis’ ‘The Third’ was recorded and finished in the summer of 2014, setting them apart by embracing a spread of influences from blues to disco but always sounding unmistakably Kitty Daisy & Lewis.

          The stories in this album resonate with moods and melodies that touch you in ways that are both uplifting and unnerving. With three different writers and multi-instrumentalists in the band, each track is a sparkling gem that reflects a different facet of experience.

          Joining Kitty, Daisy & Lewis live on stage during their forthcoming tour will be their mum, former Raincoats drummer Ingrid Weiss on bass, the original Bombay Bad Boy Daddy Grazz on rhythm guitar and Jamaican trumpet legend Eddie ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton. At their packed shows they each take turns on vocals and jump from one instrument to another.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Ltd LP Info: White vinyl LP format exclusively available to independent retailers. Include bonus track ‘I Should Have Known’.

          The New Basement Tapes

          Lost On The River

          'Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes' is a music event 47 years in the making. It's an historic album project from five of music's finest artists - Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) - in unique collaboration with a 26-year-old Bob Dylan. Produced by project creator T Bone Burnett, the album was recorded in March, 2014 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, where the artists and Burnett convened for two weeks to write and create music for a treasure trove of long-lost lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of the legendary 'Basement Tapes' sessions. The collective completed and recorded dozens of songs, the first 20 of which appear on this album.

          Vinyl version comes on gatefold, 180g double vinyl with download card.

          Alasdair Roberts is the name of the new solo record from the well-known Scottish songwriter, guitarist and singer Alasdair Roberts, his eighth Drag City Records release under that name, following on from 2013’s ‘A Wonder Working Stone’.

          The making of ‘Alasdair Roberts’ found Alasdair back at Glasgow’s Green Door Studio, where he previously made his 2009 album, ‘Spoils’. ‘Alasdair Roberts’ has a warmer feel than ‘A Wonder Working Stone’, partially the result of having been recorded in the analogue domain by Green Door’s masterly house engineer Sam Smith. In the main however, the rich ambiance throughout the album is evidence of yet another tremendous leap in Alasdair’s writing, playing and singing.

          The six years since ‘Spoils’ seem like a much greater expanse of time for all the growth shown on the four albums between then and now. The decision, then, to selftitle this album hints at the idea of the artist as having achieved, in Jungian terms, complete ‘individuation’.

          Evident as well upon listening is the sound of deep contentment in Alasdair’s playing and singing (not to be confused with gratuitous delusions of self-satisfaction). Moreover, this music is projected from a place of confidence, where what is needed for the music comes naturally, instinctively and as needed.

          ‘A Wonder Working Stone’ was an expansive double album, featuring some thirteen musician friends working through complex arrangements of ten sprawling epics written in the syncretic style Alasdair debuted on ‘Spoils’. By contrast, Alasdair Roberts’ ten songs are sparse, intimate and concise. The focus throughout is on Alasdair’s deft acoustic fingerstyle guitar and his voice. The songs are variously elliptical and gnomic, direct and personal, romantic and tender.

          There are occasional guest appearances from fellow Glasgow-dwellers Alex South (clarinet), Donald Lindsay (tin whistle) and singing quartet The Crying Lion (Alex Neilson, Lavinia Blackwall, Harry Campbell, Katy Cooper), always to great dramatic effect.

          In response to the economy of the arrangements, Alasdair’s voice pitches down on occasion, enhancing the close feeling of this album - an environment where even the sounding of percussive stick-clicks signals a dynamic sonic shift. Alasdair has always delighted in a good, dark set of traditional ballads, the kinds of songs which address human mortality in all its grisly manifestations but even in the relative isolation of this almost-solo set, Alasdair shows no sign of the misanthrope; his advocacy for the fellowship of man is always unshakeably present.

          Alasdair Roberts has had a remarkable career to date, starting his music-making in the mid-nineties under the band name Appendix Out and collaborating widely with many musicians from within and without the traditional music tradition over the intervening twenty years. Alasdair has toured incessantly far and wide during this time, working as well with artists from other disciplines such as filmmakers, poets and puppeteers. The resulting performances, expressions and actions are his life’s work and ‘Alasdair Roberts’ is a new phase in an essential and ever-evolving discography; it will please long-term followers and new listeners alike and stand with his other records as a testament in time to as pure a talent as this era has seen and heard.

          Nina Simone

          To Love Somebody - 180g Vinyl Edition

          No slouch as a songwriter herself, Nina Simone ably picked a variety of compositional classics from the new Rock era for her 1969 LP To Love Somebody. Opening with a beautiful, introspective version of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”, Simone shows an obvious affinity for social statements with the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” and a trio of Dylan standards: “I Shall Be Released”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, plus a dramatic, meditative “The Times They Are A-Changin’”.

          The album title is taken from the Bee Gees song “To Love Somebody”. Her cover of the song became her second British hit single after “Ain’t Got No-I Got Life”. Also “I Can’t See Nobody” is a song by the Bee Gees. “Revolution” (parts 1 & 2) was Simone’s third subsequent single released in the UK, after “Ain’t Got No-I Got Life” and “To Love Somebody” both became hits. The song was released around the time of the same titled song by The Beatles and, although it has a similar hook (“Don’t you know it’s gonna be - all right”) and structure, most of the lyrics differ.

          Siskiyou returns with Nervous, a majestic album of carefully constructed art rock built around songwriter and lead singer Colin Huebert's stacked acoustic guitars and intimate, whispery vocals. Siskiyou’s sound has been previously dubbed a sort of ‘Northern Gothic’, conjuring cold winds and the life-saving warmth of temporary shelters and tiny hearth fires. With Nervous, the band continues to push beyond the crisp lo-fi intimacy of its early work, and has forged its most confident and finely-crafted recording to date, moving fully into auteur and chamber-pop territory with a song cycle that brings to mind the meticulousness of mood and sonics found in recent work by PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Tindersticks. Inflected by an anxious, sussurant restraint, Huebert's voice is supported by the falsetto backing vocal counterpoint and economical instrumentation of bandmates Erik Arnesen, Peter Carruthers and Shaunn Watt. Fans of the understated and underrated 1990s group Swell may also hear a welcome evocation of that group's acoustic guitar-driven simplicity and austere deployment of adornments.

          Following Siskiyou's excellent sophomore release Keep Away The Dead in 2011, Huebert became afflicted with a serious inner ear condition that eluded conventional diagnosis. While honouring a previously scheduled songwriting residency in Dawson City, Yukon in winter 2012, Huebert found himself grappling with severe anxiety and an unwelcome interiority, engendered by hyperacusis and a house that felt utterly haunted. Intense chronic ear-ringing and panic attacks continued throughout the year, for which conventional medicine was unable to find any cause or effective treatment; Huebert began focusing on meditation, retreated to silence for a period, and then began rehearsing his new songs with the band at extremely low volumes. The songs on Nervous are shot through with the entirety of this experience: the literal feeling of being trapped in one's head and the physical-psychological feedback loop of debilitating anxiety; the lyrical themes and tense, whispered singing amidst tightly-wrought compositions and arrangements.

          Huebert found solace in new working methods within the controlled environment of studio-based production and composition, developing new sonic palettes and pursuing new avenues of instrumental arrangement and recording fidelity. Working with producer/engineer Leon Taheny (Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy, Dusted, Austra) on most of Nervous, Siskiyou has emerged with by far its most assured, ambitious and authoritative recordings, while preserving the economy of elements, deft structures, and assiduous melodic deliberation for which the band has been rightly celebrated over its two previous albums. In charting escape paths from his disquieting cranial confinement, Huebert has very much succeeded in setting his songs out on an expansive canvas, while preserving a palpable sense of nervous interiority and quiet desperation at their heart.

          Nervous includes contributions from guest musicians Colin Stetson, Owen Pallett, JP Carter, Ryan Driver and the St. James Music Academy Senior Choir, among others. The album features original artwork by Michael Drebert.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          LP Info: The Deluxe 180g LP edition includes a series of 12"x12" prints of Drebert's india ink drawings inspired by the album.

          Various Artists

          Slow Grind Fever Vol. 3

            Yet More Adventures In The Sleazy World Of Popcorn Noir...

            “Being a part time DJ whose fave musical period is the decade between 1953 and 1963 one can dig forever in a bottomless pit of great danceable uptempo tunes. Even after years and years of bringing new and exciting tunes to light there still are new finds every day who fill the dancefloors around the world for fans young and old. We're talking rhythm & blues and the phase in the early 60s when it morphed into soul (now called new nreed), as well as the genre that nowadays is labeled Popcorn - a mid-tempo style with a high groove-factor that was created in Belgium (of all places).

            The 'Slow Grind Fever' series was created after stumbling over a clubnight in Australia via the internet: Melbourne's only slow dance party, where they play the slowest, spookiest, sweetest records they can find, and folks dance real slow in a haze of smoke and dim red light.

            Well, what a concept! The Soundcloud-mixes the three DJs posted pretty quickly convinced the Stag-O-Lee chief that this is very exciting and after a few mails with the guys who run the Melbourne night the 'Slow Grind Fever 'series was born.



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