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Damon & Naomi

A Sky Record

    • Iconic indie folk pop duo from Galaxie 500 return with a dreamy collaboration with atmospheric Japanese guitarist Kurihara.

    “With its meditative tempos and enveloping guitar work by Michio Kurihara—‘it’s like this golden net,’ Naomi said of his gorgeous, versatile playing—A Sky Record offers shelter from the squall. If it has the glow of a long-delayed reunion between friends, that’s not accidental: Kurihara hasn’t traveled outside of Japan in some time, so Damon and Naomi hadn’t recorded with him in nearly ten years. When they finally made it back to Japan in November 2019 for a brief tour, they were elated to book some time with Kurihara at the aptly named studio Peace Music.

    “In those long stretches of quarantime, the tracks they returned from Japan with had distinct moods but not yet any lyrics. (Kurihara works best when trying to conjure a specific feeling or natural image—after all, he did once make a solo record, Sunset Notes, on which every song was based on a different sunset he’d witnessed...) How to write about the pandemic? How to not write about the pandemic? Naomi first struck upon the appropriate tone when re-reading the journals of one of her favorite abstract painters, Charles Burchfield. She arranged this found language into the lyrics of the iridescent ‘Season Without Time,’ which also became a tribute to a friend that she and Damon had lost in the last year.

    “From there, the floodgates opened. The wistful and watery ‘Midnight’ (electrified, towards the end, by the slow screams of a Kurihara solo) conjures Naomi’s nostalgia for youthful summers spent at Jones Beach, while the gentle current of ‘Sailing By’ pays homage to those ritualistic BBC Shipping Forecasts and the waltzing, quintessentially British theme song from which it takes its name.”


    1. Oceans In Between
    2. Between The Wars
    3. The Gift
    4. Sailing By
    5. Split Screen
    6. Season Without Time
    7. Midnight
    8. Invincible
    9. How I Came To Photograph Clouds
    10. The Aftertime

    Damon & Naomi

    Within These Walls

    Damon & Naomi have always been a bit more ahead of the curve than is good for them. Galaxie 500 ended before slowcore was a thing. Their psychedelic duo albums with Kramer came out while the Elephant 6 collective were still in high school. They toured the country with an acoustic guitar and Indian harmonium years before there was a New Weird America to receive them. And they made their lushest, most analog album before the vinyl revival. 2007’s Within These Walls came out on CD only, and is only now ten years later being released for the first time on vinyl — the way the duo intended it to be heard.

    Conceived as a DIY tribute to the great “mood” albums of Sinatra’s
    Capitol years, the album was recorded with real strings, real horns, real drums, and a very very real electric guitarist named Michio Kurihara. It’s a chamber record with ebow and wah-wah, featuring some of the most emotional songs of the duo’s career. “Lilac Land” opens the album in a somber mood, which never lets go. The string section — Helena Espvall, Margaret Wienk, and Katt Hernandez — underscore Naomi’s dark lyrics and melodies. The horns — Bhob Rainey, Greg Kelley, and Kyle Bruckmann — answer with wit and even a bit of joy, but they’ll never win the arguments here.

    This album was meant to cast a mood from start to finish, like Sinatra’s classic In The Wee Small Hours, or No One Cares. The album closes with two of its best known tracks: “The Turnaround”, a sweet love song with harmonies; and “Cruel Queen”, a ballad that draws on Damon & Naomi’s respect and knowledge of English folk rock. Sung to a traditional tune, Naomi’s crushing tale of a family gone wrong will keep you guessing till the end, and leave you watching the needle on the outgroove like Frank staring into his glass of rye.


    2. THE WELL

    “Grey day celebration music for meshed afternoons; eleven strums and songs to savor as you wander till spring. Did Damon & Naomi dream them? Did I? Will you?” - Andy Zax

    People talk about Damon & Naomi as if they’re the raw infrastructure that remained after Galaxie 500 fell apart, a steel skeleton stubbornly standing after an earthquake. But when the pair began a new project, they weren’t adjusting so much as starting from scratch. By the time they released More Sad Hits, they had grown enough as musicians and songwriters that they didn’t need to lean on stark sincerity and reverb-drenched emoting. Instead, they reigned in their sound, favoring acoustic over electric, building more complex and specific textures, and exploring smaller sonic spaces. If Galaxie 500 was ahead of its time, Damon & Naomi are prescient in their own way, firmly rooted in the early ’90s but hinting at things to come. The project provided a necessary platform for the pair to focus, hone and build on the groundwork that they laid for themselves, peeling away layers to reveal a shy closeness that Galaxie 500 never could.

    The pair’s latest project, Fortune, is an LP released in tandem with Naomi Yang’s video piece of the same name. She refers to the work as “a silent movie,” though the visuals are so bound up in the music (and vice versa) that it’s more of a long-form music video, a visual poem set to the metronome of a textural score. She conceived of the piece to explore conflicting feelings surrounding her father’s recent passing; Yang was suddenly burdened with a massive archive of his artistic work (her father was a photographer), as well as the ongoing aftermath of flawed parenting. Her use of the term “fortune,” then, is tinged with sardonicism but also with nostalgia-portraits from the 1940s and ’50s painted by protagonist Norman von Holtzendorff’s father (also recently deceased, and who also left his archive in Norman’s hands) feature prominently. An ongoing tarot card motif ties in another facet of the suddenly slippery term “fortune,” using Damon & Naomi’s now familiar brand of close, acoustic warmth to explore the past’s bearing on the future: “I want to be over / To touch and be gone / Forget this amnesia.”

    Fortune-as a film or an album-is itself an expressive portrait, but doesn’t adhere to any obvious narrative; rather, it’s a comfortable space that the viewer can move in and out of, dreamlike and immersive. The eleven new songs don’t require visual accompaniment-Damon & Naomi have constructed the sequence to communicate through sound alone-but at upcoming performances the duo will be presenting them live as a soundtrack to Yang’s “silent” film.


    1. The Seeker
    2. Amnesia
    3. It's Over
    4. Reflections
    5. A Shining Dream
    6. Shadows
    7. Towards Tomorrow
    8. Sky Memories
    9. Hurt House
    10. The North Light
    11. Time Won't Own Me

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