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Cassandra Jenkins

(An Overview On) An Overview On Phenomenal Nature

    Features additional material from Cassandra Jenkins' An Overview On Phenomenal Nature sessions.

    Cassandra Jenkins' An Overview on Phenomenal Nature emerged from the blue earlier this year. With pandemic unknowns and political upheaval leaving most at frayed ends, the New York-born musician’s assuring voice and expansive fresh take on songwriting created a much needed reflective space for listeners worldwide. As 2021 comes to a close, Jenkins revisits those flowing textures and refrains with (An Overview On) An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, a collection of previously unreleased sonic sketches, initial run-throughs, demos, and sound recordings from the cutting room floor that provided the scaffolding for what became one of this year’s most critically acclaimed albums.

    When Jenkins visited Josh Kaufman’s studio this summer, they opened up their original sessions to uncover the ideas that were shed in the creative process. The new collection, (An Overview On) An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, isn’t merely a retrospective; it acts as a clear-eyed addendum as well as a compelling origin story, coming to life as a subconscious companion to the original album.

    First takes of “New Bikini” and “Hailey” are born from opposite starting points; while “New Bikini” began as an airy alto meander, “Hailey”’s origins lie in an upbeat dance track. On “Crosshairs (Interlude),” Jenkins’ pitched vocal delivers a straight monotone, recasting the format as poetry with music highlighting her words, and “Ambiguous Norway (Instrumental)” lifts the ambient nature of the mournful song into glimmering waves. The demo version of “Michelangelo” contains alternate lyrics “I’m Michelangelo, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,” a lost contrast to the later verse where Jenkins’ likens herself to the sculptor. On “Hard Drive (Security Guard),” we join Jenkins as she listens to a passionate museum guard whose promised “overview” of the exhibit on view builds into a monologue of observations on art, politics, feminism and the human condition. This candid interaction evolved into the cornerstone and title of Jenkins’ album.

    Before they decided to make an album together, Jenkins brought Kaufman a song called “American Spirits.”The dusky ballad takes us to the Texas plains via a voicemail from the payphone of a county jail (“Miss Cassandra”). Cassandra sings, “Time here burns through the sunsets / Like you and a pack of American Spirits” over warm instrumentation with a vocal delivery that reinforces Jenkins’ unwavering tenderness towards her subjects.

    (An Overview On) An Overview On Phenomenal Nature bookends Cassandra Jenkins' musical output this year with nuance, coloring in the corners, and giving us another window into her ever-expanding world of chance encounters, experiences, and sonic textures. They glimmer like the sun’s changing patterns on the wall as a new day gets going. 

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Michelangelo (Demo)
    2. New Bikini (First Take)
    3. Crosshairs (Interlude)
    4. Ms. Cassandra
    5. American Spirits
    6. Hailey (Premix)
    7. Ambiguous Norway (Instrumental)

    Quivers

    Golden Doubt

      Melbourne-via-Tasmanian four-piece Quivers first released their 2018 debut We’ll Go Riding On The Hearses as hand-made cassettes. The album dealt with singer Sam Nicholson’s loss of his brother in a freediving accident, and “trying to not think about that, and often coming back to ghosts, benders, water, and pissing in the snow.” When demand for the album grew, it received a vinyl release and led Quivers to tour the US, film a KEXP session, and be selected by NPR Music for both the Austin 100 SXSW preview and as a “Slingshot” artist to watch. Their life-damaged but hopeful jangle pop has only sharpened since then, and while 2021 follow-up Golden Doubt conjures up REM or The Clean, there is a lyrical directness that sets this record apart as always its own.

      Golden Doubt is carried by shimmering guitars and the harmonizing vocals of members Holly Thomas and Bella Quinlan. Elevated by the production of Matthew Redlich (Holy Holy, Husky, Ainslie Wills), the record explores what comes after grief, and how one throws oneself back into love. As Nicholson explains, the album tries to bottle “the rush of feelings and fears when you give in to falling for someone. It’s also an album in love with other albums, and the other bands around us.” Before each take at Woodstock and The Aviary studios in Melbourne, Australia, the band would imagine a scene together (a waterhole for “Laughing Waters”, an overgrown carpark for “Videostores”) and then dive in to capture live group takes. Quivers need to get words on the page and sounds out to keep moving on. Both Nicholson and Thomas lost their brothers in the same year, and through that shared vulnerability they all have together that runs deep. Golden Doubt is also a love letter to playing music as a band and processing it all together rather than just carrying it as a weight.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Gutters Of Love
      2. When It Breaks
      3. Hold You Back
      4. Nostalgia Will Kill You
      5. Chinese Medicine
      6. You're Not Always On My Mind
      7. Videostores
      8. Overthinking
      9. Laughing Waters
      10. Golden Doubt

      Ichiko Aoba

      Windswept Adan

        Ichiko Aoba’s albums have only been available as expensive Japanese imports, until now. In November, Ba Da Bing will release Windswept Adan on 2xLP in North America, Europe and the United Kingdom, with deluxe packaging.

        After creating her label, hermine, last year to celebrate her tenth anniversary in music, Aoba released the most complex and rewarding work of her career, 2020’s Windswept Adan. While audiences in the west are only just learning she exists, her accomplishments are unquestionable; she contributed to the soundtrack for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, was cited by Owen Pallett as an inspiration (“I’ve never been so blindsided by a musician as I was by Ichiko Aoba”), and has collaborated with the likes of Haruomi Hosono, Cornelius (who met her only two years after she first picked up a guitar and was blown away), Ryuichi Sakamoto, and recently Mac DeMarco.

        Ichiko Aoba’s iconic voice and classical guitar playing are immediately recognizable, timeless sounds. Windswept Adan, envisioned as a soundtrack for a fictional film, builds its own world with sweeping co-production and arrangements from Taro Umebayashi, which “recall the Wes Anderson scores of Mark Mothersbaugh or the cinematographic swells of American composer Jherek Bischoff” (Bandcamp). It’s the story of a young girl sent to the island of Adan, a place where there are no words.

        While international listeners of Aoba may not understand the words she sings, and despite the central importance of lyrics in her writing, it’s a testament to the power Aoba wields that one can resonate so deeply with her work. No matter the breadth of her sonic palette, and on Adan her scope is as wide and encompassing as Joanna Newsom’s on Have One On Me, Aoba manifests an intimacy that makes one feel in the room with her.

        Ichiko Aoba’s work gained greater exposure in the past year as the need for comfort grew while the world sequestered in solitude. She has a rare musical gift that is matched only by her ability to hone it into meticulous craft. Her music embraces and elevates alone time to a generous and tranquil place. In it, listeners are invited to feel a sense of consolation and possibility. The magic she imparts yields articles like “Ichiko Aoba and the emotion of space during the pandemic;” in other words, her effect is singular.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Prologue
        2. Pilgrimage
        3. Porcelain
        4. Horo
        5. Easter Lily
        6. Parfum D’étoiles
        7. Kirinaki Shima
        8. Sagu Palm’s Song
        9. Chinuhaji
        10. Chi No Kaze
        11. Hagupit
        12. Dawn In The Adan
        13. Ohayashi
        14. Adan No Shima No Tanjyosai

        Sharon Van Etten

        Epic Ten

          Sharon Van Etten’s career since the release of her second album, 2010’s epic is well-known; critically lauded albums, films, and television shows have continually displayed her expanding artistry. Upon its release, epic laid a romantic melancholy over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak without one honest thought or feeling spared. Her songs covered betrayal, obsession, egotism, and all the other emotions we dislike in others and recognize in ourselves. Van Etten's grounded and clenched vocals conveyed a sense of hope--the notion that beauty can arise from the worst of circumstances.

          To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this special album’s release, and to acknowledge the convergence of Van Etten’s present and past work, she asked fellow artists she admired to participate in an expanded reissue, where each artist would cover one different song from epic in their own style. Some are musicians Van Etten herself admired in her early days (Fiona Apple, Lucinda Williams, and Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon of Big Red Machine), some are peers (Courtney Barnett, IDLES), and others are part of a younger generation of innovators (Shamir, St. Panther). What they all share is embodied by epic--a musician frankly communicating themself through the power of music.

          The resulting epic Ten is a double LP featuring the original album plus the new album of epic covers and reimagined artwork.

          TRACK LISTING

          Album 1
          1. A Crime
          2. Peace Signs
          3. Save Yourself
          4. DsharpG
          5. Don’t Do It
          6. One Day
          7. Love More

          Album 2
          1. A Crime (Big Red Machine)
          2. Peace Signs (IDLES)
          3. Save Yourself (Lucinda Williams)
          4. DsharpG (Shamir)
          5. Don’t Do It (Courtney Barnett Ft. Vagabon)
          6. One Day (St Panther)
          7. Love More (Fiona Apple)

          Cassandra Jenkins

          An Overview On Phenomenal Nature

            “Nothing ever really disappears,” Cassandra Jenkins says. “It just changes shape.” Over the past few years, she’s seen relationships altered, travelled three continents, wandered through museums and parks, and recorded free-associative guided tours of her New York haunts. Her observations capture the humanity and nature around her, as well as thought patterns, memories, and attempts to be present while dealing with pain and loss. With a singular voice, Jenkins siphons these ideas into the ambient folk of her new album.
            An Overview on Phenomenal Nature honors flux, detail, and moments of intimacy. Jenkins arrived at engineer Josh Kaufman’s studio with ideas rather than full songs — nevertheless, they finished the album in a week. Jenkins’ voice floats amid sensuous chamber pop arrangements and raw-edged drums, ferrying us through impressionistic portraits of friends and strangers. Her lyrics unfold magical worlds, introducing you to a cast of characters like a local fisherman, a psychic at a birthday party, and driving instructor of a spiritual bent.

            Jenkins’ last record, 2017’s Play Till You Win, confirmed the veteran artist’s talent. Evident of Jenkins’ experience growing up in a family band in New York City, the album showcased her meticulous songwriting and musicianship, earning her comparisons to George Harrison and Emmylou Harris. Jenkins has since played in the bands of Eleanor Friedberger, Craig Finn, and Lola Kirke, and rehearsed to tour with Purple Mountains last August before the tour’s cancellation. Her new record departs from her previous work in its openness and flexibility, following her peripatetic lifestyle. “The goal is to be more fluid, to be more like the clouds shifting constantly,” she says. The approach allowed Jenkins to express herself like she never has.

            On album opener “Michaelangelo,” before the heavy drum beat and fuzz guitars enter, Jenkins sings quietly “I’m a three-legged dog, working with what I’ve got / and part of me will always be looking for what I lost // there’s a fly around my head, waiting for the day I drop dead.” Phenomenal Nature thrives in this dichotomy between ornate sonics and verbal frankness, a calming guided tour to the edge. Later, on “Crosshairs,” amid lush strings, she sings conversationally: “Empty space is my escape / it runs through me like a river / while time spits in my face.”

            “Hard Drive,” the third track and album centerpiece, opens with a voice memo Jenkins recorded at The Met Breuer: a guard muses about Mrinalini Mukherjee’s hybrid textile and sculpture works, which were then on display in a retrospective titled Phenomenal Nature. “When we lose our connection to nature, we lose our spirit, our humanity,” she explains. Stuart Bogie's saxophone & Josh Kaufman's glittering guitar make way for Jenkins' spoken word which constellates scenes from her life, gradually building and blossoming as she recreates a meditation guided by a friend who incants, “One, two, three.”

            Sounds of footsteps and bird calls run through the album’s glittering conclusion, “The Ramble.” Meditative and bright, it recalls how Jenkins felt while writing and recording her new material: “Everything else is falling apart, so let’s just enjoy this time,” she said. If Phenomenal Nature has a unifying theme, it’s the power of presence, the joy of walking in a world in constant flux and opening oneself to change.


            TRACK LISTING

            1. Michaelangelo
            2. New Bikini
            3. Hard Drive
            4. Crosshairs
            5. Amibiguous Norway
            6. Hailey
            7. The Ramble

            Wendy Eisenberg

            Auto

              Drawing the connections between Wendy Eisenberg’s releases feels like undertaking a wide-ranging investigation. Albums of wildly inventive guitar, tempo-shifting avant rock and curiously leftfield pop fit together as offerings of Eisenberg’s curious mind. On Auto, their most innovative and inner-reaching album yet, Eisenberg explores emotional, subjective truth, and how it interacts with an objectivity no person alone can grasp. Inspired by the solo work of Mark Hollis (Talk Talk) and David Sylvian’s Blemish, with playing skills that have already seen them climbing Best Guitarist lists and an unvarnished vocal immediacy, Wendy Eisenberg has created an album of subtle display that resonates with maximal impact.

              Auto has multiple meanings. First, automobile: “A lot of these songs were written about and mentally take place when I’m in the car on my way to gigs,“ says Eisenberg. Immediate melodies came to them on these trips, to which they’d later add complex guitar parts. And automata: “I make myself into a machine, which is why everything that’s played is precise.” Finally, they frame their work in the literary technique of auto-fiction, “the semi-fictionalized presentation of the self in a narrative form of growth,” as Eisenberg sees it.

              The album served as a means toward working through emotional conflicts from adolescent trauma and PTSD, and dissects the dissolution and conflict that led towards the breakup of their former band. With much of it written while its events played out, Auto faces the grief of losing what one thinks is their future while experiencing a dramatic reshaping of their past; it delves openly into the limited nature of one person’s narrative.

              After making a few efforts to record Auto, Eisenberg ultimately chose to collaborate with childhood friend Nick Zanca, who contributes electronic elements and production. Mirroring the personal and organic offered by Eisenberg, synthetic sounds form a kind of boundary or context for everything. They “sound like commentary on songs that were written from an organic or subjective perspective,” says Eisenberg. Their place on the album is integral for Eisenberg’s goal “to outweigh the subjectivity of normal singer-songwriter guitar songs with the objectivity of electronic sound.”

              The Dead C

              Unknowns

                Some bands struggle to transcend their initial mythos, those stories that introduce them to the public eye. But The Dead C is a notable exception. They appeared in 1986 under a cloud of mystery, their unconventional location (South Island, New Zealand) helping to fuel their erratic sound. Name-dropped through the nineties by groups like Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo, they gained influence and acclaim but never strayed from their original mainlined performing technique, which can sound like chaos to the casual listener.

                What kind of a world greets them and their new album Unknowns in 2020? New Zealand culture is better known throughout the world, not to mention a low-virus paradise. Yes, isolated as in the past, but this time for being a nation of efficacy in tackling a public health crisis. But what about the rest of the world? The music of Mssrs. Robbie Yates, Bruce Russell and Michael Morley endures, partially because their errant sounds, once so alienating, now feel like they’ve been made flesh in a large part of the modern day world.

                Continuing to delve inwards for inspiration with tin ears towards trends, styles and technique, The Dead C forge onward. Unpolished, dusty and gritty, these three have again taken two guitars and drums, a combo which has less to say than ever, and leave the listener stunned. Unknowns has Morley slurring over spiraling dissemblance, with tracks ricocheting from intense to assaultive to drained, yet consistently magnificent. As reliable as ever, The Dead C are firmly grounded as an unassailable Truth.

                TRACK LISTING

                1. Grunt Machine
                2. Still
                3. The Sky Above
                4. Glitterness
                5. The Field

                Noveller

                Arrow

                  Creating what Iggy Pop described to Jim Jarmusch as “symphonies for people that don’t have a lot of time,” Sarah Lipstate has emerged as an innovative and defining voice in the world of music under the name Noveller. Wielding a guitar as her main instrument, Lipstate has pioneered a transcendent approach to composition through her mastery and integration of effects pedals and technology. Forming unexpected sonic routes, her songs are vivid and cinematic, telling intricate tales with each tone and swell.

                  Raised on a strict piano technique, the discovery of the guitar late in her teens allowed for an escape from formalism and unlocked the hidden realms of her creativity. Taking an antitheoretical approach, suddenly music was no longer a series of notes, rests, and time signatures, but a means of intuitive expression. Her deepened interest in experimental music, fuelled by the discovery of the bold noise of Sonic Youth, the epic scope of Glenn Branca, the delicate formularies of Brian Eno and the no wave discordance of Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, only furthered to inspire.

                  A yearning to explore and feed that creativity took her from Louisiana to Austin, then Brooklyn to LA. Arrow is her first album since the move to the edge of the canyons of Los Angeles, and one can hear the destabilizing effect this had on her in the music. Out of her comfort zone in a new city, with a rolling expanse in front of her and an urban sprawl over her shoulder, Lipstate built her new album as she contemplated this change in her life.

                  With her ability to add such unique sounds and textures, Lipstate has been sought out as a frequent collaborator, recently writing songs with Iggy Pop and performing as a member of his band on his worldwide tour. Past partners in crime have ranged from JG Thirlwell to Lee Ranaldo and she has performed as part of Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Army, Nick Zinner’s “41 Strings”, Ben Frost’s “Music for 6 Guitars”, and Glenn Branca’s 100 guitar ensemble. She has also toured in support of big fans in St. Vincent, Wire, U.S. Girls, The Jesus Lizard and Helium.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. Rune
                  2. Effektology
                  3. Zeaxanthin
                  4. Pattern Recognition
                  5. Canyons
                  6. Pre-fabled
                  7. Thorns
                  8. Reminde

                  Youbet

                  Compare & Despair

                    The thirteen songs on youbet’s debut hit like relentless bursts of color. Musically adventurous and lyrically intimate, writer Nick Llobet’s vocals lilt, hiss and command attention. His vision is fully Formed on Compare & Despair, driven by equal parts humor and melancholy. Its bright, shocking cover art depicts a cast of psychotropic cartoon characters, each representing a different song. Raised in Davie, Florida, by his Cuban immigrant father and firstgeneration Italian American mother who divorced, Llobet sensed chaos lurking around every corner. youbet’s sound captures that disorder, a backwards world where the adults act like children and kids are on their own to maintain any semblance of order. Compare & Despair sounds like returning to your hometown to rewrite the narrative of your youth with attitude and a confetti cannon. Recently arriving in New York, Llobet discovered music as a creative and therapeutic outlet. He began writing obsessively. “It’s my way of getting lost,” says Llobet.

                    Depositing what he made on a Bandcamp page, the result was an assortment of disparate ingredients: the sound of his laugh tape-sped to surreality, a birthday song about carnitas for his step mother, fuzzed-out rockers that snuff out before they seem to begin. And then there were these beautiful, complete compositions that recalled the ingenious simplicity of Big Star or Elliott Smith. His page caught the attention of Ava Luna drummer and engineer Julian Fader (Frankie Cosmos, Mr. Twin Sister), who shared it with collaborator Katie Von Schleicher. Katie contacted Llobet, offering to help him produce and release a full-length album. A core group was formed of Llobet, Von Schleicher, Fader and Adam Brisbin (Sam Evian, Molly Sarlé), all of whom contributed over the next year to Compare & Despair. youbet makes the music of idealized youth and time-bombed birth. With a pure aim of freedom, but forever hindered by encroaching adult reality, Compare & Despair thrives in creative conflict. A stunning debut of intent, youbet sets loose a hyperactive imagination that rides the rainbow into a black hole. 

                    TRACK LISTING

                    1. Endless
                    2. Volcano
                    3. Bite
                    4. Nice Try
                    5. Alligator Talk
                    6. My Side
                    7. Deb
                    8. Mental
                    9. Glass Hill
                    10. Cycle
                    11. Discovery
                    12. Little
                    13. Cloud

                    Brian Crook With The Renderers

                    The World Just Eats Me Up Alive

                      While recording a group of songs that would end up being part of
                      This World Just Eats Me Up Alive, Brian Crook took a break outside
                      with his bandmates. A small girl nearby ran up to a woman saying
                      “Mommy, mommy! There’s a vampire here!” The mother asked how
                      the girl knew it was a vampire, and the girl said, “He talks like this,”
                      and proceeded to do a growling impression of a New Zealand accent.
                      At the time, Brian was in a dark suit and had super long hair, and was
                      playing badminton….

                      Crook’s new solo album comprises eight years of recording, so
                      perhaps his undead appearance is not surprising; it comprises a span
                      of inspiration that seems almost vampiric, with themes suggested
                      by Greek mythology, a favorite 1960s author, to the abstract
                      electronics of Aphex Twin and Arca as influences. The album came
                      together in parts, slowly assembled with various contributors and
                      recording locations, the earliest trace having lyrical origins from 1991,
                      and was done during during sessions for The Terminals, Crook’s
                      other band (you can also add NZ legends Scorched Earth Policy and
                      Flies Inside The Sun to that list).

                      A near decade provides a lot of material for reflective songwriting.
                      In Crook’s revelations about life in New Zealand and his tenebrous
                      lyrical style there is more than a touch of comedy, albeit of a blackly
                      humorous, “South Island New Zealand” nature. The lyrics and music
                      come from a similar place as New Zealand painters Bill Hammond
                      and Tony de Latour, evoking a kind of ceremonial primitivism.

                      TRACK LISTING

                      1. Black Mariah
                      2. Dragged Both Ways
                      3. This World Just Eats Me Up
                      4. The Smoking Singularity
                      5. Sissyphus
                      6. Poisoning The Well
                      7. Joyce Carol Oates

                      The Dead C

                      Rare Ravers

                        Disguised as the meandering outpourings of vacant thought and activity dialed simultaneously from zero and ten. Formed in the cauldron of a fevered mistake resolute. Surrounded by ignorance, dis-interest, and the attention of the carefully self-selected. Recorded and burned through a thousand galaxies of dust and doubt and endless infinite wonder, transforming both time and space. Forever exiled to the very bottom of the world to reflect on the struggling desperate pile above. Recognizing any contribution as miniscule and insignificant when placed within the greatness of the other, the dominant insolent preening satisfied, continually shouting the pre-eminence of the first world order.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1. Staver
                        2. Waver
                        3. Laverl

                        Jon Porras

                        Voices Of The Air

                          One of the most incisive comments on how best to appreciate art came from the Indian musician Gita Sarabhai. In a recorded conversation with John Cage, Sarabhai described art’s effect as serving “to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences.”

                          Some of the best exploratory music incorporates this approach, and Jon Porras adopted it as a conceptual foundation for his new album, Voices Of The Air. The sounds Porras creates intend to provoke contemplativeness beyond expressing a concrete idea. As half of the duo Barn Owl, Porras composed intricate dual guitar improvisations that would shift and shimmer through multiple mutations within any singular piece. At the same time, his voyages into minimalism were served by Elm, his solo act. His focus has now shifted from guitar to synthesizer, narrowing in on the intersections between sound and neurology.

                          Taking the Yamaha DX7 as his main instrument for this solo work, Porras read and incorporated John Chowning’s frequency modulation synthesis, the result being a nuanced and multidimensional sound with endless possibilties. Porras stacked, arranged and adjusted these sounds through digital synthesis and effects. “The process felt like mixing paint to get the right color and texture, then laying down a brushstroke, each day returning to the canvas to build on something I left there from the day before,” says Porras. Voices Of The Air broadcasts these intricate balances of sounds that slowly set together, creating an album of delicacy and power. 

                          TRACK LISTING

                          1. The Glass House
                          2. Colors Passing Through Us
                          3. In A Window
                          4. Peach Fire
                          5. Winter Bloom
                          6. Cold Spring
                          7. Hymn To Light

                          Anmlplnet

                          Fall Asleep

                            Nobody is more surprised about having created a full ANMLPLNET album than the group itself: Slothrust leader Leah Wellbaum and drummer / singer Mickey Vershbow. The two met while they were both immersed in the Boston music scene, and then went on to pursue separate musical careers on opposite coasts.

                            Their debut album Fall Asleep truly displays their magnetic musical bond, even while withstanding physical distance and hectic schedules. The band was formed originally on a number of rules, including writing lyrics that are antonymic translations (meaning nouns, adjectives and verbs were replaced with their antonyms) and playing songs straight through as one giant piece, no breaks. The band seeks to create dream-like soundscapes, both epochal in scope and melodic. Their goal is to explore the space between songwriting and improvisation, and the result is an uncontrived melding of their personal styles and technical mastery of their instruments. Wellbaum and Vershbow basically plan, dig, then embark on a fresh road towards rock brilliance.

                            TRACK LISTING

                            1. I Was Fucked By A Cloud
                            2. 20,000 Leagues Underneath The Serpent
                            3. Ride
                            4. Elephants Aren't So Big
                            5. All The Butterflies
                            6. What I Saw In The Field That Day

                            Hawthonn

                            Red Godess (Of This Men Shall Know Nothing)

                              The music of Hawthonn is dense and atmospheric, but not inaccessible. Experimental electronic techniques fuse with doom-laden organ riffs, crystalline piano, elemental drones and haunting vocals. Largely guided by their own unconscious muse, the band’s chief inspirations lie outside of music, in Romantic poetry, dreams and reveries, esoteric symbolism, the history of magic and witchcraft, folklore and the English landscape.

                              Hawthonn is Leeds-based duo Layla Legard and Phil Legard. Having previously collaborated in music, as well as text and photography, they officially formed in 2014 to deepen their uniquely imaginative approach to musicmaking. Often developing from obsessive explorations of a particular theme, their work precipitates dreams and imaginative journeys, which inform the direction of their music. Their earliest music explored the afterlife mythos of Coil’s Jhonn Balance through the image of the Hawthorn tree and Cumbrian landscape where his ashes were scattered. Their approach draws lyricism from the psychoacoustic phenomena of “phantom words”—sonic textures translated from geographical space into droning sound spectra, and verbalized dream imagery.

                              The prime symbol of Red Goddess (Of This Men Shall Know Nothing), is mugwort. An herb associated with dreaming, travel and menstruation, mugwort particularly favors edgelands: those abandoned, untended places, part man-made, part rural, where nature begins to reclaim what humanity has left behind. The music here unfolds a mandala of symbolism from these liminal spaces, drawn from a web of fascinations which unfolded during the recording process.

                              TRACK LISTING

                              1 In Mighty Revelation
                              2 Misandrist
                              3 Lady Of The Flood
                              4 Eden
                              5 Dream Fugue

                              Secret Pyramid

                              Two Shadows Collide

                                Amir Abbey follows up Secret Pyramid’s previous album, Movements of Night, with Two Shadows Collide, an even deeper exploration of the sounds between consciousness and transcendence. Carefully built and fluidly performed, the record expands Abbey’s relationship with modern composition and abstract songcraft. Cosmic awe fuels exploratory immensity, basking in a dreamlike presence. These works move slowly, like shifting and morphing monoliths. Ligeti’s string works, combined with field recordings, inspire “Possession,” while the Badalamenti-esque “In Wind” pays cinematic homage to the Pacific Northwest. The singular ondes Martenot floats and glides through several tracks, including the hazy and beautiful title track. Each song’s main inspiration comes from the notion behind the album title, the intersection and attraction of forces and worlds, clashing of sounds, and the dualities within our lives. Such a meditative release built upon conflict is ironic, but therein lies the perfect way to listen.

                                TRACK LISTING

                                1. Touch
                                2. Two Shadows
                                3. Lost
                                4. A Dream On Third
                                5. Possession
                                6. Memory Within Memory
                                7. In Wind
                                8. Collide

                                Laura Baird

                                I Wish I Were A Sparrow

                                  With a musical timeline dating back to her early childhood, Laura Baird is an exceptionally talented multiinstrumentalist and singer-songwriter, best known for her projects with her sister, Meg, as The Baird Sisters, and guitarist Glenn Jones. Baird’s own sound stems from the Appalachian folk tradition, and she connects to it via family lineage—her great-great uncle I.G. Greer’s folk recordings for the Library of Congress are a large influence. Also woven in are classical composers like Bach and Satie, and modern day musicians such as Opal and Yo La Tengo.

                                  With this debut solo album, I Wish I Were A Sparrow, Baird plays odes to the traditions from which she learned, combining Appalachian balladry and the roughness of old field recordings, but there is also a dose of dreaminess and solitude that captures sleepy central New Jersey. This is where she departs from tradition, leaving the communal origins of folk music to capture the singular self. The lyrics also present an amalgam of old and new, with half of the songs, including “Dreadful Wind and Rain” and “Pretty Polly,” being passed down from the folk tradition, and the other half, including “Wind Wind “and “Love Song From The Earth To The Moon,” coming from Baird’s own hand. While the most salient part of her previous Baird Sisters project was the melding of familial voices and various instruments, Baird’s solo effort is centered around the combination of her virtuosic banjo playing and prominent but airy vocals. 


                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                  Barry says: It seems now that winter is drawing in, the record labels think we all like to put a blanket on, have the fire blazing and listen to some lovely folk music. Now that I mention it, it sounds lovely, and even moreso if Laura Baird can be the music in question. Not too frantic, but driven and melodic plucking banjoes flicker over pulled strings and Baird's haunting vocals.

                                  TRACK LISTING

                                  1. Wind, Wind
                                  2. Dreadful Wind And Rain
                                  3. Cuckoo
                                  4. Love Song From The Earth To The Moon
                                  5. Pretty Saro
                                  6. Bats
                                  7. Did You Come Here Alone?
                                  8. Pretty Polly
                                  9. Hay In The Wagon
                                  10. Home Is Were You Are
                                  11. Poor Orphan Child
                                  12. Twin Sisters

                                  Simon Joyner is among America’s best songwriters, so says Gillian Welch, Conor Oberst, Kevin Morby, and others. With his new double album, Step Into The Earthquake, he strikes for the personal while acknowledging that the times they are a-changin’ around us again. Things are leaning shitty right now, and the characters in Joyner’s songs experience the dissolution of comfort amid anxious concerns regarding our turbulent times. To record, Joyner’s band, The Ghosts, holed up with longtime collaborator, Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble), in Omaha’s ARC Studio, developing songs from skeletal foundations to full-on group efforts. Joyner’s vision may be dark but it stops short of nihilism. Where do we go from here? The best move toward answering that question is knowing where we stand right now. This expansive album offers a poet’s truthful view, however disconcerting, that to survive whatever is coming for us, we have to confront and understand it first. So, go ahead and step into the earthquake.

                                  “Omaha has given us the reigning heir to Henry Miller’s dark emotional mirror, Townes Van Zandt’s three-chord moan, and Lou Reed’s warehouse minimalism: his name is Simon Joyner.” - Gillian Welch.

                                  “Pound for pound Simon Joyner is my favorite lyricist of all time.” - Conor Oberst.

                                  “Simon’s always been a secret handshake amongst me and my peers. He’s a pioneer.” - Kevin Morby.

                                  TRACK LISTING

                                  1. Hail Mary
                                  2. Annie's Blues
                                  3. Another Midnight Special
                                  4. I'm Feeling It Today
                                  5. Atlanta Bypass
                                  6. Flash Forward To The Moon
                                  7. Earthquake
                                  8. Illuminations
                                  9. Galveston Blues
                                  10. Daylight
                                  11. As Long As We're In Danger
                                  12. I'll Fly Away
                                  13. I Dreamed I Saw Lou Reed Last Night

                                  The Terminals

                                  Antiseptic

                                    The Terminals are the best rock band New Zealand has ever produced. Period. There’s heavy competition, but believe it. No group has lasted over three decades and maintained such intensity, structure and mood better than the core team of Steven Cogle and Peter Stapleton. Cogle’s voice is a quavering incantation of deep spell-casting, throwing more dirt onto already gritty guitar squalls. Stapleton’s rhythm section propels songs through lightning charges of tempo and energy. Age has only embedded the band’s mastery of deep sonic realms. The ten years between their last album, Last Days of the Sun, and the release of Antiseptic whip by in a flash when these records are played next to each other—they never disappoint, they never relent.

                                    This latest album does mark some changes, however. Longtime guitarist Brian Crook now lives in the California desert, so Nicole Moffat has replaced him, providing violin and vocals. Mick El Borado thickens the atmosphere with his improvisational keyboard playing. A group that has stayed together so long knows instinctively where a song can go, although it is often the maverick pieces—ones that at first don’t seem to belong—that end up on the records. Their work together has become only more sagacious, and The Terminals don’t waste an intended or improvised note. This is a peerless rock album—think of another group who’ve stayed as heavy, as broke, and consistent for this long.

                                    TRACK LISTING

                                    1. Antiseptic
                                    2. Edge Of The Night
                                    3. Runaway Train
                                    4. The Rain Has Come And Gone
                                    5. Days Of Silver
                                    6. Glass Walls
                                    7. To Be Lost
                                    8. Light Years Away

                                    Since the release of her sophomore album Life On Earth, Seattle-based musician Jesy Fortino has become a civil engineer. While studying at University of Washington to pursue a wholly new life direction, she wrote and recorded Tiny Viper’s Laughter. Although it seems like a deviation from the singer-songwriter albums Fortino released on Sub Pop, it continues early works such as Empire Prism, and later instrumentals such as her 2015 contribution to the Ambience series (Box Bedroom Rebels) and her collaborations with Rafael Anton Irisarri and Liz Harris (Mirrorring / Grouper).

                                    Though previous works like Hands Across the Void and Life On Earth are collections of songs, just underneath their façade simmers a raw emotional expression that goes beyond words. Laughter is the result of experiments deconstructing pop tropes. Fortino takes inspiration from early electronic pioneers like Florian Fricke of Popol Vuh, as well as the raw experimentation of ’80s proto-industrial tape culture. Additionally, she carries the seemingly disparate influences of Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky soundtrack and Meredith Monk’s exercise in turning the human voice into a spectral instrument. The apprehension that comes along with attempting something new and challenging is captured in the fragile structure of these compositions, which threaten to fall apart almost as soon as they come together.

                                    TRACK LISTING

                                    1. Boarding Charon?s Boat
                                    2. Crossing The River Of Yourself
                                    3. Living On A Curve
                                    4. K.I.S.S.
                                    5. The Summing Of Moments
                                    6. Laughter

                                    Gailes

                                    Seventeen Words

                                      While they’ve released records on their own, and even collaborated in the past (Orcas), Rafael Anton Irisarri and Benoit Pioulard have never made music quite like they do with Gailes. This is a pure winter doldrums soundtrack, when the stillness after a snowstorm ends elongates into deep contemplation.

                                      It’s not surprising that Seventeen Words was conceived, composed and recorded as the duo weathered a brutal winter squall, the remains of which can be viewed on the album’s artwork. This is bottomless music, minimal in sound yet majestic in presentation. Snow slows, time freezes. This is the world of Gailes, just a fragment of our own writ large for eternity.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. Requiem For An Airport Television Newsreader
                                      2. That Name (Again)
                                      3. Surface Variations In The Snowfall
                                      4. On Distant Fields

                                      Greyland, Tiny Hazard’s debut, is a raw, jagged treasure— a testament to the group’s masterful intuition for pop songs in chaos. This jagged, unpredictable, celestial music is filled with terrestrial pain.

                                      The Brooklyn-based five piece, who formed when the group met at The New School, is anchored by the vocals of songwriter Alena Spanger. She recorded the vocals in the solitude of her bedroom, carving out a space that allowed her to explore the nuances of her voice. Her songwriting process began with gibberish and stream-of-consciousnessstyle thoughts sung over melodies, eschewing the clumsiness of real words in favor of tone or timbre. Then she focused on the language, a slow process, to “try and get it just right.” Trained in opera, Spanger prefers “voices that are not perfect,” and was moved to explore vocal possibilities when she heard Meredith Monk.

                                      Spanger plays keyboards, Ryan Weiner wields a guitar that is often sonically unrecognizable, while Ronald Stockwell’s drumming and Derek Leslie’s bass playing are painterly in softer moments, but drop unexpectedly into immense grooves, while Anthony Jillions colors Spanger’s vocals with synths and occasional effects. The album was produced by Jillions under the creative direction of the group, and recorded in studios and bedrooms, in an organic, all-hands-on-deck fashion. Each song is its own vivid capsule independent from the next, but they unite on Greyland to convey something viscerally human.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. Sesame
                                      2. Like A Child
                                      3. Sharkwhirl
                                      4. Lynx
                                      5. Baby
                                      6. Ekon
                                      7. Little One
                                      8. Thirsty Sponge
                                      9. Ink
                                      10. Greyland

                                      “There’s a reason why our relationship with The Dead C is Ba Da Bing’s longest running. It’s not because they are the hardest working band we’ve ever met. It’s not because they are the largest selling band we’ve ever released. It’s not because we’re inspired to support our local music scene. “Yes, there’s definitely a reason... please give me a minute... oh, ok, I got it (just put on this record). Like every time I hear their recordings, I’m reminded that they are one of the greatest rock bands to ever pick up a guitar and attempt to play it wrong. Listening to The Dead C causes me to think differently. It brings up emotions with which I’m otherwise unfamiliar. It strikes to the essence of my being and reveals what otherwise remains hidden. I take solace in knowing that one out of every thirty of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.

                                      “On the spectrum of The Dead C’s sound output, Trouble could very well be seen as springing from the same realm as the massive “Driver UFO,” one of the band’s greatest tracks ever, off Harsh 70s Reality. There’s a youthful aggression here, a churning anger, deadened by pounding drone. Much like H70s, this record serves as a gateway drug— if you were ever looking for an album to play to a newbie curious about experimental rock, this would be it. The visceral strength of their performance trembles out of the speakers. The magnificence of their stamina survives each album side.

                                      “We are in a creative highpoint for the trio at the moment. Bruce Russell has just released a captivating solo album on Feeding Tube, while Michael Morley’s solo project Gate just put out a release on MIE. Robbie Yeats has been performing of late as backup for Alastair Galbraith. The fact that there are still means to commute between Lyttelton and Port Chalmers on the South Island of New Zealand means these three can still find time to get together, and allows for what we have here today. And it’s fucking glorious. ’’ - Ben Goldberg, Ba Da Bing.

                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Barry says: Fuzzed-out psychedelic drone has never sounded so good. Mesmerising feedback over longform progressive jams, swirling psychedelic solos and wah-wah chords stop and start in a (presumably) calculated but seemingly random manner while Drum fills judder around the stereo field. Progressive rock structure with a noise-drone makeup, one for the headphones.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. One
                                      2. Two
                                      3. Three
                                      4. Five
                                      5. Four

                                      Ben Chatwin begins his new album with an instrument you’d least expect - a dulcitone. Created in the late 19th century, the keyboard hits tuning forks with felt hammers, sounding like an ornate music box. It serves as the perfect lead in to Heat & Entropy, whose title refers to how introducing heat (energy) and entropy (chaos) into any given system can create life, exploring the blurring lines between man and machine. The first Chatwin album to be recorded domestically, Heat & Entropy starts a new chapter for the Queensferry, Scotland-based musician. Under the name Talvihorros, Chatwin is known for his innovative combination of electronic experimentation and modern classical composition. However, last year’s The Sleeper Awakes took a left turn and exchanged vanguard minimalism for enhanced melodics. Heat & Entropy delves further into this world. The result is an ornate exploration into future possibilities.

                                      On Heat & Entropy, Chatwin originally intended to use only strings, forcing him to explore lesser-known instruments. For “Standing Waves,” he attached pieces of metal, rubber and tape to the piano strings. “The Kraken” uses Terry Riley’s repetition as a starting point, but leads to distorted vocals and an intense, hammered dulcimer climax. “Euclidean Plane” incorporates a bowed mandolin and a three-stringed didley-bow, along with acoustic guitar and metallophone by Ben’s brother, Jordan Chatwin, who has had no formal training and learned guitar by ear, playing with unconventional tunings and chords.

                                      Despite the unique sounds and textures Chatwin found among the strings, the lure of electronics proved too great. “The album then became about the tensions between the acoustic, or natural world, and the electronic world” he explains. “For me this is where the excitement lies…. It creates a unique world of contrasts and conflicting relationships.” Chatwin calls Heat & Entropy “an album of contrast, conflict and chaos, but also of complex relationships.” Melody rises above the maelstrom in these compositions. It’s an album of experimentation, of delicately contrasting the organic with the artificial, and ultimately of great beauty and sophistication. Heat & Entropy marks the emergence of an incredibly exciting and visionary Scots composer.

                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Barry says: Pulsing ambient electronic fuzz meets spacey synth sweeps and industrial clanging rhythms. This, juxtaposed with the traditional strings make for a stunning and contrary coalition. Though initial furtive melodies are the basis of these compositions, they are soon challenged (and often overcome) by the impending electronic fog. Throughout, all these pieces maintain a balance rarely seen in electro-acoustic compositions, and end up being not only one world or the other but a beautiful and harmonious marriage of the two.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. Inflexion
                                      2. Gravitational Bodie
                                      3. Standing Waves
                                      4. Phantom Lights
                                      5. Oscillations
                                      6. The Kraken
                                      7. Surface Tension
                                      8. Euclidean Plane
                                      9. Corpseways

                                      Came Down a Storm is an album that creates a world. Through Claire Cronin’s deep, intimate voice come songs of wreckage and redemption. A published poet and English Ph.D. student as well as a musician, Cronin uses images and symbols to craft songs that reach beyond the personal. She sings of death in a field, death at sea, dreams of dying, and a vision of a future where death is no longer allowed. Yet the music is not depressing; even in its darkest lines, these songs aim to float. The album is a collaboration between Cronin and Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich, who met by chance at a Los Angeles show and began writing songs together long-distance. After sending recordings and ideas back and forth over email for a year, Cronin joined Dieterich at his house in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to record Came Down a Storm. It was mixed with Jay Pellici at New, Improved Recordings in Oakland, California, where the full instrumentation was put in place. The album features Pellici and Chris Vatalaro on drums and Ezra Buchla and Heather Trost on strings. The spare, melancholy style of Cronin’s previous self-released work is evident in this album, but the music created with Dieterich takes Came Down a Storm beyond the folk genre. Cronin’s voice recalls Karen Dalton or Jason Molina in its sincerity and ache—plaintive and burnished with a kind of dark gold throughout. The instruments build around her singing: breaking to crescendos, driving emotional currents, or providing lively counterpoint to the lyric’s funereal themes.Cronin will tour this Summer and Fall with Buchla, performing pared-down arrangements of these songs and others.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. The Unnatural
                                      2. In The Field
                                      3. Valentine
                                      4. Meet Me Undertakers
                                      5. Dark Water
                                      6. Dreamt The Sea

                                      Kane Strang’s first proper album, Blue Cheese, picks up on the rough disaffection of his earlier demo collection, A Pebble and a Paper Crane, which he recorded in a WWII bomb shelter in Germany. Back in his hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand, Strang spent two curious months alone, housesitting for his parents. Re-nested, yet still isolated, Strang composed all of Blue Cheese over those quiet days. Lead-off track “The Web” channels pummeling bass lines punctuated by a twinkling synth that calls upon microscopic pop principalities of restlessness (“Yeah, I met someone else / Without leaving my little house / No, I haven’t held her yet / I met her on the internet”). Its abrupt ending parallels Strang’s own disconnect.

                                      “She’s Appealing” weaves Day-Glo guitar motifs into distant, detached ’80s garage pop vocals. “Never Kissed a Blonde” is driven by a slapping delay on both vocals and guitar. Strang’s path toward a melody is always surprising, and he never misses a hit-on-the-head-obvious-in-retrospect memorable line. Strang amassed a band and has started playing his distinct psych-pop live. He will tour the United States in 2016.



                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Darryl says: Hailing from Dunedin, New Zealand Kane Strang delivers his amazing debut album proper. 'Blue Cheese' is classic and familiar indie-psych rock that touches on Flying Nun's past glories, the spacial melodies of the Pixies in their prime, and a cool detached vocal style to die for. You need this in your life folks!

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. The Web
                                      2. Things Are Never Simple
                                      3. Full Moon, Hungry Sun
                                      4. Run Rings
                                      5. What's Wrong
                                      6. The Canyon Her River Carved
                                      7. She's Appealing
                                      8. Never Kissed A Blonde
                                      9. Scarlet King Magnolia

                                      On the same day Ba Da Bing releases an album by Dunedin legend Hamish Kilgour, the label is honored to present the city’s current artists.

                                      The tiny city of Dunedin, located in the Otago Region of New Zealand, is synonymous with smart bands, incredible melodies and a wholly distinct and innovative music. Thanks to The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, The Verlaines, and The Dead C, Dunedin has amassed a worldwide reputation for innovative music.

                                      Local label Fishrider Records has taken on the mission of compiling and producing an album that casts a light toward the Dunedin of today. These bands have all created their own sound away from the shadow of their city’s past, yet like many of their predecessors they retain the air of slightly disturbed melancholia along with a sense of space and distance from the rest of the world. Whether it is dark synth-pop, teen angst noise pop, guitar-and-organ jangle, or all-out psychedelic weirdness, these songs all come from a place on the edge of the world where the young still read books in abundance and fend off boredom by creating music and art in cold houses. Yet again, an extraordinary number of incredible groups are populating the scene, and the songs on Temporary are the best of the best—a Dunedin Double Plus Good, if you will.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. Mavis Gary - Dim The Droog
                                      2. Death & The Maiden - Flowers For The Blind
                                      3. The Prophet Hens - All Over The World
                                      4. Males - Dead Aware
                                      5. Mr Biscuits - My Plums Are Ripe
                                      6. Opposite Sex - Supermarket
                                      7. Strange Harvest - Amnesia
                                      8. The Shifting Sands - All The Stars
                                      9. Astro Children - Gaze
                                      10. Kane Strang - Winded
                                      11. Bad Sav - Buy Something New
                                      12. Scattered Brains Of The Lovely Union - Party To Your Om
                                      13. Trick Mammoth - Home Video

                                      "Patience" is both appropriate and inappropriate as a title for the latest release by The Dead C—inappropriate because it’s been only two years since the last album, which in Dead C Time is but the flicker of a candle; appropriate since the key to enjoying their sounds is willingness to sit down, listen and let the music take over your mind. These four unforgiving and intense tracks will not be confused with the work of any other band. Recorded in Dunedin over the Southern summer of 2009/10, "Patience" captures a restless band that never settles into any form.

                                      The trio of Michael Morley, Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats makes their improvised music sound like the most substantial ever recorded, no matter in what direction they go. Here, vocal-less, thick and thundering electric drones compound and retreat like a Pacific Ocean of noise. Morley once again provides the artwork and continues in his color palette of late. Its circular, flowery texture provides the perfect mandala for contemplation while lost within the deep meditations that "Patience" inspires.

                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Darryl says: Nobody else does improvised avant-rock as well as the Dead C, psychedelic drone fuelled mantras of the highest order.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      1. Empire
                                      2. Federation
                                      3. Shaft
                                      4. South

                                      After Comets On Fire played Auckland, Utrillo Kushner met one of his idols, the legendary DIY producer and songwriter Chris Knox. The following day Knox invited Kushner and his band mates over to his house for conversation and beers. The afternoon was spent in the kitchen drinking while Knox spun stories of the New Zealand music underground of yore. From this experience, Kushner conceived of the initial idea for the second Colossal Yes album. Inspired by the Kiwi indie-pop formulas of Tall Dwarfs, The Clean, and The Verlaines, Kushner set out to write his own songs using piano as the main instrument. The end result is unique yet similar to the epic pop bands of the past. "Charlemagne's Big Thaw" combines simple melodies and basic structures with lyrical territories such as expired youth, grand betrayals, overdrawn faculties, and dissolving empires.

                                      Devon Williams

                                      Carefree

                                        "Carefree", Devon Williams' debut album, has a melodic complexity that belies its immediacy, and descends from a lineage of great music. Those yearning for a return to intelligent pop music — songs as gratifying on their 1,963th listen as they are memorable after their first — need look no further. Over the course of a year and a half, Williams recorded at three different studios around Los Angeles, walking away with a handful of songs each time. Laying down multiple guitar tracks — making as many as ten different mixes for some songs — Williams scrutinized every moment to achieve his ideal sound. Songs such as "A Truce" or "Honey" presumably come from a lifelong fan of greats such as Nilsson and Chilton, Cope and Downes, Lennon and McLennan.


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