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ASTHMATIC KITTY

As some of you may or may not know, for the past few years, as a holiday tradition, Sufjan has embarked on an extraordinary experiment to record an annual Christmas EP. It started in 2001, the year of Epiphanies, and continued onward (skipping only 2004), culminating into an odd and idiosyncratic catalog of music that has only existed in the Asthmatic Kitty archives (and on a number of file sharing sites). The recording process took place every December, for one week, usually at home, provoking collaborations with friends, roommates, and musical peers. Armed with a Reader's Digest Christmas Songbook (and a mug of hot cider) Sufjan & friends concocted a musical fruit cake year after year, implementing every musical instrument they could find lying around the house: banjo, oboe, Casiotone, wood flute, a buzzy guitar, hand claps, sleigh bells, Hammond organ, and some tree tinsel. Did we mention sleigh bells? It doesn't take much to capture that Creepy Christmas Feeling, does it? Recorded, mixed and mastered at home, the EPs themselves were often assembled in the kitchen, stapled together, and sent out with stickers and stamps to loved ones across the globe, year after year. Recording traditional favourites alongside unique originals, Sufjan has, over the course of five years, constructed an odd, impressive, and compelling collection of Christmas hits (and some misses) that will either warm your heart or make you throw up eggnog all over the bath mat (depending on your constitution). Asthmatic Kitty now releases ALL of the material (newly mixed and mastered) in one generous box set.

FORMAT INFORMATION

5xLP Box Set Info: 5 LP box set.

Sufjan Stevens

The Avalanche - Coloured Vinyl Reissue

    Released in 2006 as a follow-up to Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 Illinois, Asthmatic Kitty Records is finally releasing Avalanche on vinyl. Initially conceived as part of a double album version of Illinois, Avalanche instead became a “companion” (a polite word for “b-sides”) to Illinois. Since its release, fans have had mixed reactions. “3 versions of Chicago?!?! Enough already,” wrote ‘biografiend” on Sputnik. But “cravenmonket,” who gave the album 4.5 stars on rateyourmusic, suggests that we all “stop thinking of The Avalanche as more Illinois. It actually owes more to Michigan.” Cravenmonket may be right. Take “The Mistress Witch” or “Saul Bellow,” both of which could have lived on the 2003 Michigan as much as on Illinois. One can hear Sufjan’s 2004 Enjoy Your Rabbit in “The Undivided Self.” And the band jam on “Springfield” looks forward to 2010’s All Delighted People. Then there’s “Pittsfield,” which, at least lyrically, foreshadows the more personal themes of 2015’s Carrie & Lowell.

    All that to say, a vinyl release of Avalanche is long overdue. Complete with all 21 songs from the original release, including the three versions of “Chicago” (you’re welcome, biografiend).


    FORMAT INFORMATION

    2xColoured LP Info: Limited edition coloured vinyl. Avalanche white hatchback orange double LP.

    Sufjan Stevens

    Tonya Harding

      This 7” / cassette (both available to independent retailers) features two variations of ‘Tonya Harding’, a song by Sufjan Stevens celebrating the career and person of Tonya Harding, the Olympic figure skater from Portland Oregon.

      The 7” is pressed on marbled blue vinyl and includes a digital download code.

      “Sufjan Stevens is one of the most prolific and absolutely gifted American songwriters of the 21st century.” - NPR

      “Stevens remains at the height of his powers - capable of work as individual, compassionate and powerful as any American composer working today.” - The Washington

      Sufjan Stevens

      The Greatest Gift

        LAST COPY!!!

        ‘The Greatest Gift’ is a mixtape of outtakes, remixes and demos from Sufjan’s 2015 album ‘Carrie & Lowell’. This collection serves as a companion piece to the ‘Carrie & Lowell Live’ album (and as an expansion to the original album). In the same way the live show featured re-interpretations of the songs from ‘Carrie & Lowell’, the mixtape unveils new remixes by several longstanding collaborators including Roberto C. Lange (aka Helado Negro), Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) and James McAlister (aka 900X). The album also features Sufjan’s own remix of ‘Drawn To The Blood’.

        ‘The Greatest Gift’ features four previously unreleased new songs, ‘official’ outtakes from ‘Carrie & Lowell’ (they were recorded at the same time as the album). These include ‘Wallowa Lake Monster’, ‘The Hidden River Of My Life’, ‘City Of Roses’ and ‘The Greatest Gift’. This new material, in its investigation of love, life, death, God and the beautiful state of Oregon, serves as a contemplative companion to the original album.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: LP pressed on translucent yellow vinyl with digital download code.

        Sufjan Stevens

        Carrie & Lowell Live

          ‘Carrie & Lowell Live’ is an audio and visual document of Sufjan’s November 9, 2015 performance at North Charleston Performing Arts Center in South Carolina.

          The translucent blue LP release includes ‘Blue Bucket Of Gold’ on one side, a cover of Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ featuring Gallant on the second side and a digital download code for the full 16-track set from his ‘Carrie & Lowell’ live show.

          The show, which was designed by Marc Janowitz, incorporated an expansive lighting display and cathedral-like LED columns featuring home videos shot by Sufjan’s maternal grandfather, Nick Marabeas. Much of this vintage footage highlights family birthdays, graduations and weddings of Carrie and her siblings from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, lending the performances the emotional arc of a memorial, celebrating Carrie’s life and meditating on her death with a sweeping transcendence that gave testament to Sufjan’s central thesis of mourning: that in spite of death, we must go on living in fullness and joy.

          “Sufjan Stevens is one of the most prolific and absolutely gifted American songwriters of the 21st Century.” - NPR

          “Stevens remains at the height of his powers - capable of work as individual, compassionate and powerful as any American composer working today.” - The Washington Post

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

          Carrie & Lowell, the new album from Sufjan Stevens, is released on Stevens’ own Asthmatic Kitty Records. 

          The album - named for Stevens’ mother and stepfather - is a return to Stevens’ folk roots. Thematically the 11 songs address life and death, love and loss, and the artist’s struggle to make sense of the beauty and ugliness of love.

          Carrie & Lowell was recorded by Stevens alongside Casey Foubert, Laura Veirs, Nedelle Torrisi, Sean Carey, Ben Lester and Thomas Bartlett and mixed by Stevens, Bartlett and Pat Dillet.

          A year (to the day) after their sumptuous debut album, Lily & Madeleine return with beautiful second album ‘Fume’.

          From the beginning, the calling card has been the breathtaking union of their voices and fans of the debut will not be disappointed.

          The sound has evolved - the scope has broadened. Expansive, multi-layered instrumentation - like the sun slanting through a window in a Vermeer painting, it’s an experience that captures the subtleties of both shadow and light.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Ltd LP Info: Pop bottle green coloured vinyl edition exclusively
          available to independent retailers. Limited to 150
          copies for the UK and Eire.

          Ltd LP includes MP3 Download Code.

          The wind blows hard. We need songs for shelter and Raymond Raposa can build a shelter from almost anything: the sun-bleached bones of a drum track and a couple of spare organ chords; a carpet of creeping synth arpeggios, a scaffolding of multi-tracked harmonies, a few scraps of alto sax to prop up the whole structure. ‘Decimation Blues’, Raymond Raposa’s sixth release as Castanets, marks a decade of scavenger architecture.

          ‘Decimation Blues’ sees Raposa stepping out in front of the hermetic persona he’s crafted over ten years. There have always been shards of pop songs glinting in the dark corners of Castanets records. Here we get whole gleaming edifices.

          ‘Decimation Blues’ is the music of a man who’s learned to live and build among the wreckage - twelve seemingly offhand, secretly meticulous tracks that we can hunker down in. “Still always good to be alone in someone else’s home,” Raposa sings. Come in out of the rain, put your shoes by the fire. The walls might shake and the wind might howl but you’ll be safe here a while.

          Mozart’s Sister - the solo project of Montreal’s Caila Thompson-Hannant she started back in early 2011 - delights in making glittering, celebratory pop with an underlying strain of brittle, claustrophobic energy. By marrying the accessible with the decidedly off-kilter, she displays a similar vigor and charisma to female contemporaries Grimes and tUnE-yArDs, both of whom too learned their trade among the same fertile hometown scene as her.

          Since attracting a ton of buzz for her entrancing live shows and for first EP ‘Hello’, Mozart’s Sister has been head-down in her bedroom writing her debut album. For anyone who’s been following her work - and for new listeners - ‘Being’ is Mozart’s Sister expressing macrocosmic ideas about life with panache and abundant hooks.

          Inspired by ‘Discovery’-era Daft Punk, ‘Post’-era Bjork, and Betty Davis, Caila produced, recorded and wrote the album using a cheap soundcard and Ableton software, approaching it with a do-it-all-by-myself ideology.

          Being is fundamentally a pop record. If you’re looking to catalogue her music more than that, you’re going to have a hard time; Caila describes Being as an intentionally fractured album. “It was far reaching. Things didn’t always connect, but that was part of the whole idea,” she says. Which is representative of the best music, and maybe the best of life: looking for order in chaos, not always finding it, and living with whatever happens next.

          Half-handed Cloud’s ‘Flying Scroll Flight Control’ presents Dada interior-architectural songs, in the mode of Kurt Schwitters’ ‘Merzbau’, the sound of Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard combines, interrupted by Futurist noise intoner music of collision. They’re integrated with the radiant flicker of Stan Brakhage’s domestic / personal 1960s art films, the mechanized music of Conlon Nancarrow, Mister Rogers’ avant-garde children’s operas and the methods of Grunge era hometaping alchemists Eric’s Trip, with scriptures giving voice to the unknown.

          The album features a 5-person female choir, manipulated recording tape, fuzz bass, clarinet, some piano, a child’s Magnus air organ, rhythmic zipper, trombone, a cushioned Stylophone stick and intermittent backpacker guitar.

          Mixed by Sufjan Stevens.

          Mastered by John Dieterich (from Deerhoof).

          “Sometimes, the songs have an appeal reminiscent of a hypercaffeinated Shins, with the addition of a refined sense of quirkiness that evokes a Mark Mothersbaugh score for a Wes Anderson movie.” - Pitchfork

          “The usual intricate assortment of horns, pianos and marimbas return to fill out the sonic tableau but the synthesized textures push Ringhofer toward a delightfully idiosyncratic white-boy soul aesthetic.” - Paste Magazine

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          LP includes MP3 Download Code.

          This Indiana duo, just 16 and 18 years old, sing with a spare, breathtaking elegance. Lily and Madeleine can sing powerfully, but you will find no show-off pyrotechnics here. They are not afraid of fragility or vulnerability.

          In their home country they have had huge coverage, including features on Morning TV, NPR, NY Times, Vogue and American Songwriter, amongst many others.

          “A small miracle” - Uncut

          ‘Psychic Temple II’ is a labour of love envisioned by Chris Schlarb to bring his most far-ranging inspirations to life - as he puts it, “a dream ensemble that could never actually exist”.

          The ensemble’s sophomore release was painstakingly constructed over more than a year with the cooperation of some of the most progressive musical minds from a staggering variety of genres.

          ‘Psychic Temple II’ reaches beyond the long-form experiments of its predecessor for a more tightly focused yet conceptually unrestrained approach.

          Schlarb also includes three cover songs by composers who share his boundary-demolishing mindset: Joe Jackson’s ‘Steppin’ Out’, Frank Zappa’s ‘Sofa No. 2’ and Brian Wilson’s ‘Til I Die’, a gorgeous, lesser-known Beach Boys song that features vocals by Sufjan Stevens, Ray Raposa (Castanets) and Nedelle Torrisi.

          Fol Chen make the soundtrack to a future that never was. To listen is to leave the comfort of nostalgia and land with both feet in a more bold 21st century.

          ‘The False Alarms’ continues the band’s electropop odyssey, now with a honed character and a more distinct palette of sounds.

          Fol Chen have also traded their cloak of anonymity for defiant confidence, featuring Sinosa Loa as their new front voice.

          Helado Negro

          Invisible Life

          Press play on ‘Invisible Life’ and you lose your season. Roberto Lange - Helado Negro - is talking to you in Spanish. He’s talking to you, perhaps with more volume, in the language he’s been teaching us all over the past three years through the lessons of the seductive full length ‘Canta Lechuza’, the sub-narrative exploration EP ‘Island Universe Story One’, and the all-in collaboration, ‘OMBRE’, with Juliana Barwick.

          Jon Philpot, The Bear In Heaven frontman, is one of a few key contributions on the album, including more old friends like Eduardo Alonso (Feathers) and Matt Crum (Lange’s longtime bandmate in ROM), as well as kindred and vast spirit Devendra Banhart. Banhart’s guitar on ‘Arboles’ multiplies the whispered dream of Helado Negro into Technicolor parallel existences.

          A supercombo team-up between Simon Lord (ex Simian) and Rafter Roberts, the Roberts & Lord duo present their Asthmatic Kitty debut, ‘Eponymous’.

          Roberts’ rough and grimy (yet complexly arranged) analog backing tracks paired with Lord's clean, digitally-recorded vocals gives these songs a tricky kind of depth that is immediately engaging. This effortless juxtaposition reigns throughout the album.

          Influenced by nonsense verse poets like Ivor Cutler and Edward Lear, Lord gives us a simple, light-hearted return to innocence, the sweaty exuberance of a dance party with all your friends around you.

          Helado Negro is Roberto Carlos Lange, sometime collaborator of Scott Herren in Savath & Savalas and occasional conspirator with Jaytram of Yeasayer.

          Whilst his last full length, ‘Awe Owe’, was a Funkadelican mega-opus, this is a more personal beast, a solo affair built lovingly from live instruments, percussion, and field recordings, all processed through electronics, computers, and synthesizers. It is an album with very defined songs, its song-structure has been laboured over; choruses count bigtime, confident breakdowns and digi-pop bridges are all part and parcel of the greater good.

          His voice recalls ‘China Girl’-era David Bowie; a relaxed and tropical Peter Gabriel (or even Peter Murphy).

          Continuing Asthmatic Kitty's penchant for an extremely diverse roster - rather than follow down the more, shall we say, abstract or experimental paths that some other recent artists have, Stephens delivers a true song-writers record. This is a lazy afternoon of a release, with beautiful vocals and melodies delivered over calm and tender acoustic, slightly country tinged, slightly jazzy backdrops. Its appeal is broad and its influences are myriad.

          Sebastien Grainger & The Mountans

          Sebastien Grainger & The Mountans

          Best known for his contributions as singer and drummer for Canadian dance-punk duo Death from Above 1979, whose decadently catchy anthems took the world by storm, Sebastien Grainger is soon to be even better known to the world as a singer and songwriter who, as Pitchfork rightly reflected, 'is all about two things and two things only: the rock, and the roll'. Fans of his prior music will likely be surprised and delighted by his new direction - muscular and smart rock. Big chords, soaring choruses and a voice that portrays a man still climbing.

          Fol Chen

          Part 1: John Shade Your Fortune's Made

          Fol Chen sound like Prince with Amon Duul II and a children's religious revival, not to mention Hot Chip, Pink Floyd, Gwen Stefani, Pere Ubu, Danielson Famile, Scritti Politti, Boards of Canada, The Blow and Pulp. Fol Chen features Samuel Bing, guitarist for The Liars, and appearances from Karin Tatoyan, Rafter, members of Castanets and Liars. Two of their songs have been featured in the major motion picture 'Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom'. Fol Chen will also soon be heard via their remixes of High Places, Frightened Rabbit and No Kids. Cryptic and Joyful and Asking you to Dance.

          Asthmatic Kitty Records presents "Achoo!" their second sampler of music released on the label – 27 tracks for the price of a CD single! Featuring songs from every artist on the label and spanning the entire breadth of the catalogue, this gives a concise and exciting introduction to one of the most interesting independent labels in operation today.

          Green Water - The Curtains
          Henney Buggy Band - Sufjan Stevens
          High Life - Shapes And Sizes
          Adventurers - Rafter
          Eyes Peeled - Half-Handed Cloud
          We Were Sparkling - My Brightest Diamond
          Sold To The Nice Rich Man - Welcome Wagon
          So Gentle Your Arms - Shannon Stephens
          Poison & Snakes - Liz Janes
          Strong Animal - Castanets
          Twilight And Ghost Stories (excerpt) - Chris Schlarb
          Year Of The Boar - Osso
          Encouragement - Rafter
          Say You Will - Cryptacize
          Future Past Perfect - Future Rapper
          Sampler Song - Rafter
          Sailing The Veil-Boat - Half-Handed Cloud
          Climbing Texas - Belltower
          Christmas In July - Sufjan Stevens
          Dancing With Someone (Privilege Of Everything) - Castanets
          A Feast - Royal City
          Goldenhead - Shapes And Sizes
          Yes/No - Bunky
          Quail - Half-Handed Cloud
          Careless Love - Liz Janes & Create
          Golden Star (Alias Remix) - My Brightest Diamond
          As You Do - Castanets

          Inspired by influences as diverse as Guided By Voices, R Stevie Moore, Fela Kuti, Lightning Bolt, Fushitsusha, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Cody Chestnutt, "Sex Death Cassette" is an album full of hope, determination and chaos. It'll leave you with sweat dripping down your face onto your swelled lip; fresh, liquid salt, the quintessential flavour of late night post-disco parties and booty slinging good times. After dancing to this album, you're heavy with it, like too much cough syrup on a stomach full of hi-quality sushi. Rafter executes the helter-skelter boogie-down production so gracefully that it is no mystery why those in-the-know recruit him, including the likes of Fiery Furnaces, The Rapture, Arab on Radar, The Album Leaf, Rocket from the Crypt, Danielson, Black Heart Procession, The Peppermints, Hot Snakes, his own band Bunky, and fellow Asthmatic Kitty artists (Castanets, Liz Janes, and Sufjan Stevens).

          Chris Schlarb

          Twilight & Ghost Stories

          Asthmatic Kitty Records presents "Twilight & Ghost Stories", the debut solo album from musician and producer Chris Schlarb. A work of personal identity and deep catharsis, "Twilight & Ghost Stories" is a dense 40-minute modern composition featuring a disparate cross-section of musicians from the avant-garde, independent folk, jazz and electronic communities. A creative and accomplished jazz guitarist, Chris Schlarb cut his teeth producing hip-hop tracks, teaching music workshops and co-founding the free music collective Create (!). In 2004 he collaborated with installation artists Megan and Murray McMillan, and with fine artist Tom Steck formed I Heart Lung, which Tiny Mix Tapes called 'some of the most energetic free-jazz to spit out of America'. Spanning all of these endeavors, "Twilight & Ghost Stories" finds Schlarb playing acoustic piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar as well as tapes and percussion.

          An album based on a Hindu fable about being trapped in an escapable fate, with death and the limitations of our physical lives closing in from all corners. "In The Vines" was written in the aftermath of a mugging, which was the climax of a year of depression and nomadic, nocturnal dislocation. But "In The Vines" is not all peril and darkness; the songs are sung with such intimacy and earnestness that it sways somewhere between the serpent, elephant, bees and rats, the honey representing a strange sense of hope and delight in the brief moments of beauty that sustain our lives. The record features guest appearances from Sufjan Stevens, Jana Hunter, Viking Moses and many others.

          Shapes And Sizes

          Split Lips Winning Hips A Shiner

          Shapes And Sizes return with their refined brand of experimental pop to create a cohesive, demanding and rewarding listen. Recorded with JC/DC Studios (Destroyer, New Pornographers) and mixed with Asthmatic Kitty's own Rafter Roberts (Fiery Furnaces, The Rapture) to forge a pristine decomposition. Don't turn it down – the overdrive provides the framework for equally aggressive lyrics that combine sensuality, violence and social critique. For fans of Fiery Furnaces, Deerhoof and Animal Collective.

          Sufjan Stevens scales dusty prairies, steel factories, and two hundred years of history to produce his newest album "Illinois" on Rough Trade. Invoking the muse of poet Carl Sandburg (and the musical flourishes of Rodgers and Hammerstein), "Illinois" ushers in trumpets on parade, string quartets, female choruses and ambient piano scales arranged around Stevens' emerging falsetto. Whereas 2003s "Michigan" (the inaugural album of 'The 50 States' project) was rooted in memory, and 2004s "Seven Swans" was rooted in the spirit, "Illinois" is rooted in 'the world, in society, invention, civilisation, in disease, in death, in education, in business', says Stevens. And unlike "Seven Swans", Stevens surmounted the heights of "Illinois" solo, employing guest musicians but recording, engineering, and producing the album entirely on his own.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          2xLP Info: Beautifully packaged double vinyl in a double fold out gatefold sleeve.

          Sufjan's homage to his home state is a beautiful mix of Stereolab meets Philip Glass meets indie-folk - a delicate vocal with intricate instrumentation. 

          Although he plays all the instruments on the album himself, he enlists the help of fellow Danielson Famile members  Megan, Elin, and Daniel Smith on vocal duties.


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