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Genre > Rock > Alt & Grunge
The Greatest GiftTranslucent Yellow Colored Vinyl
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 released earlier this year (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 mixtape includes a few alternate and/or demo versions of songs from the original album. The digital release also contains an iPhone demo of the song “Carrie & Lowell.” 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. We hope you enjoy.1. Wallowa Lake Monster
2. Drawn to the Blood — Sufjan Stevens Remix
3. John My Beloved — iPhone Demo
4. Drawn to the Blood — Fingerpicking Remix
5. The Greatest Gift
6. Exploding Whale — Doveman Remix
7. All of Me Wants All of You — Helado Negro Remix
8. Fourth of July — 900X Remix
9. The Hidden River of My Life
10. City of Roses
$19.99Colored Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
This Is My HandThis Is My Hand is a journey beyond the composition of music. “I had this ‘back-to-basics’ moment of reading how humans were making sounds before we were using words,” says Shara.
The opening track on This Is My Hand, ‘Pressure,’ is an invitation. Within seconds of lowering the needle, listeners hear a sharp, drum-rolled call to attention, courtesy of the Detroit Party Marching Band. What follows is a Shara - choreographed whirlwind of horns, woodwinds, beats, xylophones and synths. The ensuing ‘ Before the Words’ (“Before the verse there was the sound”) and the title track are no less direct in exploring and defining the fundamentals of not just pop music, but, well, life. “This is my voice/ this is my heart / this is my choice,” sings Shara. ‘Apparition,’ the final track, is a Tron-like electronic, slow-motion departure from the physical world.
Produced by Shara herself and keyboardist Zac Rae, This Is My Hand is a bold chapter in the unfurling MBD story. Its exploration of music and its rhythmic urgency escort Shara’s chamber-music aesthetic out of the chamber and back into the dance hall and rock bar.1. Pressure
2. Before the Words
3. This Is My Hand
4. Lover Killer
5. I Am Not the Bad Guy
6. Looking at the Sun
8. So Easy
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Carrie & Lowell (Awaiting Repress)Carrie & Lowell sounds like memory: it spans decades yet does not trade on pastiche or nostalgia. Stevens’s gauzy double-tracked vocals wash across the dashboard of long-finned, drop-top Americana, yet as we race towards the coast we are reminded that sunshine leads to shadow, for this is a landscape of terminal roads, unsteady bridges, traumatic video stores, and unhappy beds that provide the scenery for tales of jackknifed cars, funerals, and forgiveness for the dead. Each track in this collection of eleven songs begins with a fragile melody that gathers steam until it becomes nothing less than a modern hymn. Sufjan recounts the indignities of our world, of technological distraction and sad sex, of an age without neither myths nor miracle—and this time around, his voice carries the burden of wisdom. Carrie & Lowell accomplishes the rare thing that any art should achieve, particularly in these noisy and fragmented days: By seeking to understand, Sufjan makes us feel less alone.1. Death With Dignity
2. Should Have Known Better
3. All Of Me Wants All Of You
4. Drawn To the Blood
6. Fourth of July
7. The Only Thing
8. Carrie & Lowell
9. John My Beloved
10. No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
11. Blue Bucket of Gold
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedAWAITING REPRESS Buy Now
FumesFrom the beginning, the Lily & Madeleine's calling card has been the breathtaking and intuitive union of their voices. As the sisters have grown as people and artists, so has their sound evolved. The scope is broadened here. The music is expansive, the instrumentation multi-layered. This is an entrancing production that allows both singers to stretch out in new directions. Like the sun slanting through a window in a Vermeer painting, it's an experience that captures the subtleties of both shadow and light.1. Fumes
3. Ride Away
4. Can't Admit It
5. Cabin Fever
6. The Wolf Is Free
7. Hold On To Now
8. Lips & Hips
9. Peppermint Candy
10. Blue Blades
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Decimation Blues“Raposa’s lived in San Diego and Portland and New York and probably some other places, too. He’s got friends and family and history. He’s got a record label and a musical career, but for a little while, he let that all go and hid out in the Nevada desert, where I’ve never been, but don’t imagine to be the most positive place to hang out. He did it because he wanted to. Maybe he needed to. To make something great, sometimes it’s worth just giving up.” - Stereogum
The world is loud. 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 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, 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. He’ll lend us his place, or teach us how to fix up our own. Come in out of the rain, put your shoes by the fire. The walls might shake, the wind might howl, but you’ll be safe here a while.1. It's Good to Touch You in the Sunlight
2. Be My Eyes
3. Thunder Bay
4. Out For The West
5. To Look Over the Grounds
6. Blackbird Tune
8. Pour it Tall and Pour it True
9. There is a Place up the Road There
10. My Girl Comes to the City
11. Tell Them Memphis
12. Somewhere in the Blue
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Double Youth“A headphone-friendly, Latin-flavored, hypnotic concoction of deep grooves, tropical textures and warped blips and bleeps compressed into fractured layers.” - Magnet
Helado Negro recorded Double Youth, his fourth LP, in his home studio with a computer, his voice, and telepathic input from a poster he found buried in a closet in his childhood home. Seeing the poster evoked a sudden rush of memories, but also a sense of isolation and separation. Who was this person in the photo? And what else had Helado Negro forgotten? The poster’s impact was so significant, it framed a new recording process for Helado Negro and now serves as cover art, title, and the conceptual framework for the lyrics and song structures.
Helado Negro certainly owes something to his contemporaries, Bear in Heaven, Young Magic, Empress Of, Prefuse 73, and School of Seven Bells, but Double Youth is more a spiritual long-lost cousin to the great masters of funk, like Parliament, Prince, and George Duke, whose finely tuned beats married the ear with the body in new ways. Bass drum machines in Double Youth pulse like a robot dance movement. Bass undercurrents fuzz. Sine waves tickle the brain stem. The melodies weave through the air like a fish. And Helado Negro’s voice, which grows more and more confident with each record, is a cool, clean dance partner to the beat and melody.1. Are I Here
2. I Krill You
3. It's Our Game
4. Myself On 2 U
5. Friendly Arguments
7. Ojos Que No Ven
9. Invisible Heartbeat
10. That Shit Makes Me Sad
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
BeingMozart’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 (aka Caila Thompson-Hannant) 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 sound card and Ableton software, approaching it with a do-it-all-by-my-self ideology.
Being is fundamentally a pop record. But if you’re looking to catalog 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.1. Good Thing Bad Thing
4. Lone Wolf
5. A Move
6. Bow a Kiss
7. Salty Tear
8. Do It to Myself (Run Run)
9. Don’t Leave It to Me
10. My House Is Wild
11. Chained Together
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Making The Saint"Other-worldly sounds of singular vision and exceptional beauty.” – All About Jazz
“Immersive… meticulous and controlled.” – New York Times
Making The Saint is my third full-length record.
I love small records. When I say “small record," I think of Sandy Bull's Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo, Bill Evans trio recordings at the Village Vanguard, Fripp & Eno's No Pussyfooting, or Thelonius Monk's Solo Monk. Each of these albums is simple. They're direct.
Making The Saint is a small record too. I didn't belabor it. The recording and mixing came quickly. I followed my instincts.
This album is also a spiritual retreat for me; a healthy and necessary separation after so many strong collaborations. If you're Sufist, you’d call this khalwa. In Japanese Zen Buddhism, it's called sesshin. The Santerian process of Asiento requires the initiate to dress in white garments and avoid physical contact for one year. Like so many have done before me, I forced myself into a state of inner solitude to find something new.
I hope you enjoy it, and you experience something similar while listening.
- Chris Schlarb1. Making The Saint
2. Great Receiver
3. The Fear of Death is the Birth of God
4. My Foolish Heart
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Enjoy Your Rabbit“This may just be Sufjan Stevens' Magnus Opus. Forget Michigan, Seven Swans, Illinois . . . Enjoy Your Rabbit is a masterclass in doing everything that logic tells music not to do.” – Sputnik Music
“Sufjan Stevens proves himself adept of both long and short forms; downtempo and high BPM; glitches, scratches and ambient drones; blips, bleeps and bloops.” – Pitchfork
“The underlying guiding principle is wide-eyed exploration that fills nearly every track with a sense of playfulness.” – All Music
Originally released in 2001 before Michigan and Illinois, Sufjan Steven’s Enjoy Your Rabbit foretells his 2010 electronic Age of Adz. Though overlooked by many, there are fans who regard Enjoy Your Rabbit as Sufjan’s greatest work.
Departing from the singer-songwriter format of his debut Asthmatic Kitty Records album, A Sun Came, Rabbit is a collection of fourteen colorful instrumental compositions combining Sufjan’s noted gift for melody with electronic sounds to create an unusually playful and human- not to mention humane- electronic experience. Great for dancing, driving, writing, cooking, painting, running, walking, and of course, eating Chinese food, Rabbit features nearly eighty minutes of music that will truly soothe the savage breast, whatever that means.LP 1
1. Year of the Asthmatic Cat
2. Year of the Monkey
3. Year of the Rat
4. Year of the Ox
5. Year of the Boar
6. Year of the Tiger
7. Year of the Snake
8. Year of the Sheep
9. Year of the Rooster
1. Year of the Dragon
2. Enjoy Your Rabbit
3. Year of the Dog
4. Year of the Horse
5. Year of Our Lord
$22.99Colored Vinyl LP - 2 LPs SealedBuy Now
Flying Scroll Flight ControlHalf-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 home-taping 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.1. Pneumatic Mystery Envelopes
2. Sensei Says
3. What Spins, By Your Hand Was Spun
4. Debtors To Greeks & Barbarians
5. Titus Three
6. We Toil and Struggle
7. He’s Already On Everyone’s Side
8. Psychic Failure, Utmost Patience
9. Enlightenment in the Way
10. Even if Angels Arrive With Plausible News
11. Fetus, I Am Not Out of My Mind
12. He Can’t Deny Himself
13. We Speak of What We Know
14. Live As the Children of Light Inside of You
15. Secret Wisdom Intervening
16. Tablets Breathing Their Last Breath
17. Now the Veiled Faces Can Breather
18. Flying Scroll Flight Patrol
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Little Death ShakerStripped of all noise influences and focusing on straight-up songs, Little Death Shaker is a record evocative of late nights and dusty parking lots, long drives and boozy hookups. This is the work of a dude who's spent his youth and young manhood on tour and it comes through in both the music and the lyrics. Where Castanets’ lyrics gave us Ray Carver-ian fragments and it's-what-you-leave-out-that-counts minimalism, here we see Raposa back from the battleground with stories to tell.
This is the most lyric-heavy Raposa's been and it's also the most playful and humorous, and you get the feeling some of these songs would be the ones that would go down best near 2am at some weird sports bar dive in southeast Alabama/Iowa/Mississippi. (We can just see some big biker dude/fallen NASCAR star/Gary Busey lookalike sitting back-to-bar, Bud in hand, having a good-natured laugh over the punchline from "Some of My Friends" or the WTF premise of the Dan Reeder penned "You'll Never Surf Again.")
The record begins with fighting spirit. "Allegiance" comes on with a punch of electric guitar and Raposa singing "I woke up feeling/bold as shit." It's his rowdiest and most confident song to date, a real knockabout that'll take you by surprise if you're used to Castanets. Up next the title track verges on Queen (Flash Gordon soundtrack?) and "Some of My Friends" is a barnburner with the ghosts old Sun Studios players holding court.
Highlights are many. The dark-as-Skoal interstate roller "Whippoorwill," the slowly ramping "Some Kind of Fool," which rolls easy and pretty with backup vocals from Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent before building to a shitkicking rock 'n' roll peak where we find Raposa delivering some of his best and most racy lyrics, singing the very un-indie-rock, "I could spend this good money wherever I care to/taste all the honies that I choose /lay myself down beside anyone's flower/all alive in the morning with the dew." It's a song about libertine freedom and heartbreak ignored and taking the bull by the horns and being, well, kind of a bastard.
More highlights: Castanets collaborator Talia Gordon taking main vocals on "You're Not Standing Like You Used To" (Kate Wolf); the after-afterhours minor chord jam "Stateline," Little Death Shaker's most ruckus track of all, a late-night spent trapped in the stripclub/rig cab/country bar/tour van/your own damn head. At 10 minutes it's a tale of drugs and wayward love, a real red-lit kind of aloneness, backed by a legit live crawl, with high and ghostly organ and distorted vocals crackling like a bad CB connection.
With "Meridian," Raposa and Houck bring back the vibe of "Some Kind of Fool" and take it on a humid trip through the deepest South, gators in the water, snakes in the sand, a stormhead looming over the sun-dappled river. When Raposa sings "oh honey here comes the storm" you can just FEEL the weather breaking.
One of this record’s real charms is you can close your eyes and see these 13 tracks played live; you can see the drummer leaning over his kit with his brushes (and sunglasses on?), the backup singers standing around the mic, beers in hand, eyes closed, swaying side to side, the lights crisscrossing the stage. "Meridian" is no different. You can see this band. You can see these people playing together, and in a world of records that bands can't duplicate live, it's crazy-refreshing!
The album's closer, "Allegiance 2," brings backlongtime Castanets collaborator Bridgit Jacobsen (née Decook) for a hushed and barely-there apology. "Oh lord be kind to me/after all these devils I have kissed." As a prayer, a shrug, and an exhausted offering, it's a fitting way to end an album so concerned with sin and vice. It's also a fitting end-introduction to this new band. So meet Raymond Byron and the White Freighters and their record Little Death Shaker. Here's to the new!1. Allegiance
2. Little Death Shaker
3. Some of My Friends
5. You'll Never Surf Again
6. Don't That Lake Just Shine
8. A Little More Credit
9. Some Kind of Fool
10. You're Not Standing Like You Used To
12. Meridian, MS
13. Allegiance 2
$19.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Drunk Is The New Sober/Stupid Is The New DumbDrunk Is The New Sober and Stupid Is The New Dumb are the twin subtitles of Drunk & Stupid, Dots Will Echo’s debut album on Asthmatic Kitty, but those aren’t just arch witticisms, they encapsulate the apparent contradictions that power the New Jersey duo’s music. The warmly weird world created by multi-instrumentalist Nick Berry and drummer Kurt Biroc seems simultaneously sacred and profane, edgy and accessible, sad and transcendently silly. What else would you expect from a group that describes itself as “dour moralizers and drunken assholes” and identifies its key influences as “A little bit The Incredible String Band, a little bit AC/DC?”
“I can see the carnival lights from here,” sings Berry in a half-crazed, half-elated tone at the beginning of the opening track, ”I Like It,” sounding like either a psychotic infatuated with his own attractive fantasy world or a genius inventor marveling at the luminous landscape he’s created. It’s up to the listener to decide which, but either way it’s 100% Dots Will Echo.
Everything on Drunk & Stupid was played by Berry and Biroc, with the basic tracks recorded in a single marathon, three-day session. “I meant this to be a very raw recording, capturing the way we sound live,” says Berry, who plays everything from guitars and keyboards to Autoharp, glockenspiel, and Andean charango over the course of the album, as he and Biroc build their own beautifully ramshackle universe from the ground up before your very ears.
“A poorly played violin can sound better than a well played piano,” says Berry half-jokingly of the organic, offhand feel of the tracks. From the first moment, Drunk & Stupid makes the listener a fly on the wall for a day in the life of Dots Will Echo, with snatches of goofy studio chatter interspersed between tunes. The bit that leads into the crooked campfire singalong “I’m a Monkey” is particularly telling, as Berry spontaneously announces, “I want to try a song I dreamt the other night,” Biroc disapprovingly asks, “In the studio?” and Berry blithely counters, “Yeah, why not?”
In fact, Berry dreams a large percentage of his songs. “Some are stupid, but I let ‘em fly anyway,” he says self-deprecatingly, “but the really stupid ones, nobody’s ever gonna hear.” By the time they enter our waking world, Berry’s tunes bear trace elements of psychedelia, power pop, field-recording folk, DIY post-punk, and tantalizingly trashy garage rock (the duo does in fact rehearse in Biroc’s garage). “What You Tryin’ To Do,” for instance, comes off like Sister Lovers-era Big Star recording for Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, while the giddy blastoff of “Rocket Girl” evokes early XTC covered by Guided By Voices, and the fragile, almost-ominous beauty of the hushed, acoustic ballad “Gates of Eden” feels like the greatest song Neil Young never wrote for Galaxie 500.
The black humor that inhabits an impressive amount of real estate in the Dots Will Echo neighborhood isn’t the whistling-through-the-graveyard variety, but rather the kind that finds all of creation to be a bit of a knee-slapper. Like the great writers in every medium, Berry finds the human dilemma a source of endless hilarity, even though you can always hear the big, gently bruised heart beating at the core of every song on Drunk & Stupid. Berry sounds like an amphetamine-fueled tour guide as he walks us through a field of mankind’s folly on “Seven Deadly Sins,” his loopy lyrics punctuated by Captain Beefheart-esque bursts of six-string cubism.
Even when things get apocalyptic, as on the minimalist stomp of the cautionary “Shitstorm,” Berry exhibits so much obvious glee in announcing the impending arrival of the titular phenomenon that you can’t help singing “there’s a shitstorm coming” right along with him and bobbing your head randomly to the track’s triumphantly spastic anti-groove. The deceptively mellow-sounding anthem of global dystopia “History’s Grave” was written in early 2008, but Berry notes, “Since then many of the events mentioned or alluded to have come to pass. This made me feel a little bit like a character in a Stephen King novel.”
At the same time, Drunk & Stupid sports songs like “Be a Friend” and “So Deep the Night,” lambent, low-key ballads that balance between bittersweet and unabashedly sentimental without ever turning mawkish. On these tracks, the Lennon-like undertone in Berry’s voice rises to the top of the mix, tapping into an almost spiritual vibe and making for some of the most undeniably poignant moments on the album.
Berry and Biroc, who also work together at the same day job (the drummer is Berry’s boss), have been making music together since 2004, hashing out their ideas in Biroc’s garage and documenting them in Berry’s basement studio. Along the way, they’ve made unofficial micro-pressings of their work, mostly for passing around to friends and admirers in an ad hoc fashion, but Drunk & Stupid represents the first time the duo’s freewheeling work has ever been properly presented to the public at large as a full-on album. With all the material the prolific pair has been stockpiling, they had a huge tally of tunes to haul along with them for this project, and hearing it is a little like stumbling for the first time into a lost world with a long legacy of its own rituals, relics, regalia, and history. But once you wander in, you can’t imagine how you ever existed without it.
Originally meant to be two separate discs (the vinyl version is a double LP with download codes for bonus tracks), Drunk & Stupid is a wild ride that clocks in at just under 80 minutes and boasts 19 songs overflowing with insanely catchy melodies, endearingly off-kilter arrangements, and a strangely satisfying blend of the divine and the absurd.” As Berry says, “We try to allow for the will of the universe to have a large part in our music. There must be something sacred in mistakes. This is our explanation for being fuck-ups.”1. Untitled
2. I Like It
3. Untitled II
4. I'm a Monkey
6. Be a Friend
7. Whatcha Tryin to Do
8. Rocket Girls
10. Run Away Anna
11. History's Grave
12. Sweet Sweet Sanity
14. Who Left You Here
15. The Future
16. Untitled III
17. Peace in Your Life
18. Our Little Part of the World
19. Untitled IV
20. Gates of Eden
21. Visions of Light
22. Seven Deadly Sins
23. So Deep the Night
$24.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs SealedBuy Now
The Weight Of The GlobeWritten over the course of their summer vacation, The Weight of the Globe is a musical snapshot by teenaged sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz at a pivotal moment in their lives. Madeleine’s off to college, Lily will soon follow, and both sisters find themselves pulled in opposite directions—between a love for the hometown they’ll be leaving behind, and a burgeoning wanderlust, turning their backs on the comforts of the past to step into an uncertain future.
Their songs are about growing up in Indianapolis, but they could be about anywhere. When they sing about “the mountain,” they could be singing about any mountain, literal or figurative; the “city” could be any city. They know they’re not the first young people to come of age in Middle America, or anyplace, and songs like “In the Middle” strive to tell a universal story.
The arrangements are no less timeless, with lyrics that cut into the sweetness to reach the core of lives in transition. They express this with uncommon acuteness: Madeleine’s voice may be lovely and soft, but possesses a worldliness and focus one would expect of an older woman; paradoxically her younger sister’s voice is clearer and worldlier still. As sincere as it is precociously sophisticated, The Weight of the Globe marks the auspicious debut of a strikingly talented musical family.1. Inside a Boy
2. Ice and the Storm
3. If I Were Queen
5. From the Top of the World
6. Black and Costaud
7. To Pluto's Moon
8. Bass Player
9. Goodbye Forever
10. Like a Sieve
11. Diamond, The
$12.9910" Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Psychic Temple IIIt may seem hard to imagine a place where indie rock visionaries like Sufjan Stevens and Castanets’ Ray Raposa could meld minds with the genius of Brian Wilson, where death metal pioneer Paul Masvidal might wield his legendary six-string chops on a blissed-out soul ballad, where adventurous young jazz players like Kris Tiner and Devin Hoff share credit with Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens and singer/songwriter Aaron Roche.
Long Beach composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist (not to mention truck driver) Chris Schlarb has not only imagined such a place but has now made it manifest for a second time. Released by Asthmatic Kitty, Psychic Temple II is a labor of love, envisioned by 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.
“I love interesting juxtapositions, where you bring together people from different communities,” Schlarb says. He cites iconoclastic predecessors like Bill Laswell’s ever-changing group Material, which once brought together a young Whitney Houston with jazz legend Archie Shepp and future Soundgarden and Red Hot Chili Peppers producer Michael Beinhorn to cover a song by Hugh Hopper of English prog-rock pioneers Soft Machine. On 2010’s Psychic Temple, Schlarb assembled a 29-member ensemble that included Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, vocalist Julianna Barwick, and pianist Mick Rossi of the Philip Glass Ensemble.
“It seems like a crazy combination of people,” Schlarb says, “but they’re all just musicians. Why not bring them all together? It may not always work, but it’s always worth reaching further.”
Psychic Temple II reaches beyond the long-form experiments of its predecessor for a more tightly focused yet conceptually dense collection whose songs are no less exploratory for their briefer durations. “I never see the point in continuing to regurgitate,” Schlarb says of the new album’s unique direction. “What was natural at that time would now feel contrived. I have to keep moving forward.”
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, Castanets’ Ray Raposa, and Cryptacize’s Nedelle Torrisi.
Psychic Temple had its origins in Create (!), a large improvising ensemble with which Schlarb used to perform. The free-form group would often incorporate multiple drummers, a concept that Schlarb decided to pursue in a more composition-oriented setting. No matter how much Psychic Temple mutates from track to track, the rhythmic possibilities of its two drummers (in this case, Tabor Allen and Andrew Pompey) remain intact.
Schlarb’s imaginative leaps are evidenced from the outset of Psychic Temple II, on the intoxicating opening track, “Seventh House.” Featuring the sinuous vocals of Sarah Negahdari, who recently served as touring bassist for Silversun Pickups, the song weaves together lyrical and musical references to Neil Young’s “Will To Love,” to the Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers album Pisces, and to Sheena Easton’s notorious Prince-penned pop hit “Sugar Walls.”
Then there’s “The Starry King Hears Laughter” and “She Is the Golden World,” two songs that pay simultaneous homage to poet William Blake and jazz legend Bill Evans; or “Solo in Place,” Schlarb’s attempt to filter classic soul through his own “weird prism,” a missing link between the Isley Brothers and the Alan Parsons Project that features guitar wizard Paul Masvidal of the death metal bands Death and Cynic.
Despite such a mind-blowing array of talent from the farthest reaches of the musical spectrum, Psychic Temple II is a surprisingly cohesive album, a testament to Schlarb’s clear controlling vision. “One of the fundamental flaws of modern music is the idea of the record as a pastiche,” he says. “With hip-hop and R&R records starting in the ‘90s, you had ten tracks with ten different producers so every track sounded completely different. There was no aesthetic where you could just put on a record and listen to it beginning to end. I admire people who are control freaks.”
Schlarb has wielded control over a number of vastly different projects himself. The New York Observer called his debut solo album, Twilight & Ghost Stories, “40 minutes of avant-garde bliss,” while Interoceans, recorded with experimental jazz duo I Heart Lung, was chosen by NPR as one of the top five jazz albums of 2008. He composed the score for Nicklas “Nifflas” Nygren’s video game Nightsky and has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Meet the Composer. In 2001, Schlarb founded the eclectic Sounds Are Active record label, which has released music by the likes of Nels Cline, Mike Watt, and Castanets.1. Seventh House
2. The Starry King Hears Laughter
3. Solo In Place
4. Bird In The Garden
5. 'Til I Die
6. She Is The Golden World
7. Steppin' Out
8. All I Want Is Time
9. Sofa No. 2
10. NO TSURAI
11. Hyacinth Thrash Quarter
$19.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Lily & MadeleineLike truth, beauty resides in simplicity. When it manifests itself, it doesn't require elaborate arguments or proofs; you can't debate someone into apprehending it. It's apparent and all it requires is appreciation, or perhaps even love. Such are the songs of Lily & Madeleine. Understandably, when their debut EP, The Weight of the Globe, came out earlier this year, much was made of the fact that Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are teenagers: Madeleine is eighteen and her sister is sixteen. Surely, that's important given the impressive talent on display.
Of the music, American Songwriter asserts, “Their voices can pierce through the chaos of everyday life and actually make you stop what you’re doing, if only for a second, and truly listen,” while TeenVogue.com praises, “Sister duo Lily and Madeleine almost sound too good to be true—on paper and on our speakers—because they're so young, so stylish, and so talented.” Additionally, in June, Vogue.com premiered the music video for the song “Back To the River” proclaiming, “This isn’t the first time we’ve become enrapt with two sisters harmonizing, but it’s a bell we never tire of hearing ring.”
Produced by Paul Mahern (John Mellencamp, The Fray), the 11-track album was recorded in Bloomington, IN and was written by the sisters and longtime collaborator Kenny Childers (Gentleman Caller). Of the project, Madeleine comments, “The new album reflects on our experiences as we grow as artists; looking both back to the places we’ve visited growing up for inspiration, and looking forward to our hopes for the future. This project really feels like our own, and we’re so grateful to those who helped us create it.” - Direct Current1. Sounds Like Somewhere
2. Devil We Know
3. Nothing But Time
4. Spirited Away
5. Disappearing Heart
6. And Tonight
7. I’ve Got Freedom
8. Come to Me
9. Goodbye to Anyone
11. You Got Out
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Alternative rock first emerged in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s, but it didn’t really hit its stride until the 90s with the arrival of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and
Alternative rock first emerged in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s, but it didn’t really hit its stride until the 90s with the arrival of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction. That was also right around the time that Nirvana and Pearl Jam fueled the grunge rock explosion.
And when you want the full and real alt rock experience, you’ve gotta try it out on vinyl, and SoundStage Direct is your one-stop shop for all the best alternative rock vinyls.