Off the heels of a recent announcement that Hiss Golden Messenger have been signed to the very copacetic North Carolina label Merge (home to William Tyler, who lends a helping hand frequently) with a new album slated for September, and on the cusp of a run of live dates in Europe we are treated to a new Hiss Golden Messenger song, “Brother, Do You Know the Road?” Available this week on iTunes.
Recorded in one take— the song encapsulates what is so enchanting about the HGM sound– seemingly autobiographical, vaguely spiritual, undertones of lost hope, revelatory appearances of joy, all wrapped in stunning musical performances which draw influence from early 70’s folk rock. At $0.99 for over six-minutes of music it is a heck of a deal, and belongs on everyone’s digital player.
In the last year or so it seems that a few groups that I follow have chosen as a template for their recent albums the genre-defining and game-changing 1969 Miles Davis album In A Silent Way. In the Davis oeuvre, In A Silent Way represents his first full-step into electric fusion jazz and the precursor to Bitches Brew. The album itself is two compositions– on the LP, one per side– which are made up of edits of a much longer recording session by legendary recording engineer Teo Macero.
In 2008 musicians gathered in Chicago to collaborate on a new work. The group consisted of Rob Mazurek of Isotope 217 and Chicago Underground, Jeff Parker of Tortoise and Isotope 217, Dan Bitney of Tortoise and Isotope 217, Matt Lux of Isotope 217, Brian Keigher, Jonas Munk of Causa Sui and Manual and Jakob Skott of Causa Sui. A joining of bands from Chicago and Odense, Denmark named Chicago Odense Ensemble.
In Spring of 2010, I started hearing about this album from the folks at the boutique French record label AdLuna. AdLuna makes very-small-run releases with gorgeous packaging– all labors of love. The label had releases by Thrill Jockey alumni, including Rob Mazurek’s solo work Abstractions on Robert d’Abrissel, and Jeff Parker (on Doug Scharin’s Activities of Dust project) and now Chicago Odense Ensemble. The ambitions of the label for the release matched the promise of the recording. This album was going to represent AdLuna’s first venture into vinyl– a media befitting the importance of the album, and would give them the ability to stretch their packaging chops with the larger canvas.
An undertaking of a project this size was going to be a stress on the small label, so they reached out to the fans with a pre-order campaign in June. By November, the packaging and other details of the release were ready and they were only going to press 250 180g LPs and 500 CD’s making this a very limited release and very desirable for collectors. Today, out-of-print Thrill Jockey titles can fetch around $40, and those are usually limited to 1000 LPs per pressing. I can only imagine the future value of this release!
In April 2011, the album was finally completed and ready to ship the pre-orders. The folks at AdLuna felt especially generous and decided to give away six sets of the test pressings to some lucky fans who pre-ordered the release. These six sets required some special packaging and shipping materials, so the winners had their releases shipped a bit later. As it turned out, I was one of the lucky six! The package included the LPs as expected and also included the test pressings which were wrapped in very special paper and were personalized with a letter of ownership as well as each of the records having the owner’s name written on them. As I write this, I’m still astonished by the effort and personal touch put forth for this!
The test-pressings were wrapped in a special Himalayan paper called lokta paper made from the bark of the lokta bush or Daphne bush. The included letter says this:
The lokta paper has been made in the Himalayan region for over 1200 years. Handcrafted, the paper is made from the inner bark of the bush which grows at a high altitude of 6500 to 9500 feet. It is very strong and is an incredible eco-friendly choice. The Nepalese claim that the lokta paper lasts for 1,000 years if protected from sunlight.
The Chicago Odense Ensemble album is the result of a coming-together of two camps of musicians from seemingly different genres. The album is more about the exploration of groove and improvisation than it is about strict composition. In fact, this album is partially inspired by the aforementioned work done by Miles Davis, if not the resulting proto jazz fusion that followed. In a similar way to the Davis albums Chicago Odense Ensemble was created by marathon recording sessions followed by Monk taking the recordings back to his studio and editing and massaging the recordings into the resulting tracks.
Taken in whole, Chicago Odense Ensemble is an impressively cohesive work, no doubt supported by the very fruitful original sessions recorded in 2008. Considering the improvisational nature of the original tracks, the editing brings these tracks into individual compositions with unique moods and movement.
Here are my listening notes for each of the songs:
1. Parallel Motions (9:50) – dual improv of cornet and guitar over repeating and building bass, guitar and percussion.
2. Emanuelle (9:23) – almost a dub track with the rolling echo. In the last two minutes of the song it switches to a more organized finish with brushes on the eights and chiming clean guitar chords underneath a trumpet melody.
3. Spirals (1:36) – Melancholy little interlude. Arpeggio clean guitar and coronet with a bell mute.
4. Glide Path (4:30) Bongos and atmospheric guitars. Lots of Isotope 217 and Tortoise influence on this track. Pretty, if a bit incidental
5. Soup (6:19) First song previewed from album. Starts with a marching snare and circular guitars builds in a circular fashion adding in frenetic cornet runs and guitar to the end.
6. Spine Dots (3:20) Ominous and unstructured, atmospheric and swelling fragments of instruments a lead-in to “Delivery.”
7. Delivery (11:59) African rhythms – shakers and guitar and bass playing same notes. halfway though the rhythm becomes more loose/more jammy. Becomes more frenzied in last two minutes and cacophonous
8. Pretty Nice (6:35) Appropriately described by the song title which is in-turn inspired by the studio chatter included at the end. Nice bright track. mellow percussion. nice way to wrap up the album.
At the time of this writing there are less than 100 of the LPs remaining. Visit the Chicago Odense Ensemble website for ordering information. You can order the CD here as well. For any order, they have immediate digital download, too.
Aside from the face-melting live performances delivered during their marathon touring schedule and the growing catalog of evolving studio albums, one aspect of Chicago band Umphrey’s McGee that continues to amaze me is their ability to constantly keep their finger on the pulse of their fanbase and use that to deliver performances and products that are tailored to the fans.
We asked our fans to weigh in on their favorite live versions of the year and this lengthy record showcases their best of the best. Caressed and remastered into a seamless two set show format, this album contains many of the definitive UMLive moments of 2010. These versions are the essence of live: raw, inspired and imperfect. Available in digital, vinyl and uber fan bundles, this release has something for everyone.
Pre order now to get your hands on the first live vinyl we have ever pressed or snag an extremely limited copy of a hand drawn, customized test pressing from Jake Cinninger. Crank it up and get after it.
The fans have the choice of three (well, at this moment two…) options of purchasing Hall of Fame : Class of 2010:
Analog remastered download of 16 live tracks (3+ hours), available in premium DRM-free 320kbps MP3s ($11.99), Apple Lossless or FLAC formats ($14.99).
2 LP Analog Remastered Limited Edition Black Vinyl featuring the best of the best of the best of the Hall of Fame selections. Which also includes the analog remastered download of 16 live tracks (3+ hours), available in premium DRM-free 320kbps MP3s ($29.99), Apple Lossless or FLAC formats ($33.99).
(SOLD OUT) One of 25 Vinyl test pressings with Jake Cinninger personalized, one-of-a-kind hand drawn sleeve. Plus the 2 LP Analog Remastered Limited Edition Black Vinyl featuring the best of the best of the best of the Hall of Fame selections, and Analog remastered download of 16 live tracks (3+ hours), available in premium DRM-free 320kbps MP3s, Apple Lossless or FLAC formats. $99.
For the pre-order, all three bundles include an immediate download of “Partyin’ Peeps” from the Huey Lewis & the rUMors Summer Camp rehearsals + Hall of Fame Artwork PDF PLUS the new, unreleased UM original song “A.M.” (Read about this new track HERE)
Automatic digital delivery will happen on street date 6/28/2011, with the standard vinyl shipping on or around 7/11. The test-pressings with the Cinninger sleeves will ship later and the uber-fans will be contacted about a special customized note to be included.
There are some interesting things to note about this release. First, there is no CD version! Only digital download and vinyl. UM has provided digital content for a long time and for most of their releases will provide a lossless version. The band further supports this by providing the nifty USB Stick of their entire catalog. Secondly, VINYL!! This is the third vinyl release from the band– Safety In Numbers and Mantis are also vinyl releases.
Analog purists in the crowd might take exception to the “analog remastered” description of Hall of Fame : Class of 2010, since the band records every show digitally as a matrix from the soundboard and house mics to be able to offer the shows for sale. This is technically accurate as they would have had to take the higher-resolution digital recordings and master them to analog to make the resulting LPs which have loudness limitations that digital does not. But, it isn’t like they were rolling tape to record the shows. The digital downloads are also referred to as “analog mastered” which must mean that the digital downloads are a different mastering than what you would get from downloading the individual shows from UMLive.
I would be very interested to hear about the process used to master the LPs and the downloads– maybe Kevin Browning could do a post on the band’s blog– or I’d be happy to include his comments here, if he reads this.
Update 6/28/2011: Kevin Posted an article on The Floor about the process which resulted in the analog mastering of the album as well as how he approached editing the pieces into the album.
When most people think about Moby’s career, they are probably aware that he is an artist of the electronic variety– samples, beats, synths, dance music, techno. In 1999, when Moby released Play, songs from it were everywhere due to some very innovative licensing of every song to movies, television, and for use in commercials. At the time he was criticized by his peers for what was then seen as artistically and literally selling out. I remember some comments from DJ Shadow at the time in an open chat forum where he commented along those lines (I can’t find my backup of the chats, and Solesides.com doesn’t have them linked). Moby said at the time that he did this so that people could hear his music. Considering that he wouldn’t get any radio play in most markets it was a smart move to gain exposure. Looking at it these days licensing is really de rigueur with any release, and DJ Shadow as well as many other acts have resorted to some licensing.
Since the release of Play, Moby has recorded four more albums– 18— released in 2002 could be considered a continuing of the formula Moby established with Play, and indeed enjoyed the same success– 2005’s Hotel which was recorded with live vocals and instrumentation, Last Night which was a tribute of sorts to 80’s and 90’s techno, and Moby is currently touring in support of his latest album Wait For Me. Wait For Me is a mournful, introspective record. His goal was to make a “very personal, very melodic, very beautiful” record, and I think he’s achieved that. On most of Moby’s records he will throw in a slow emotional track or two– “God Moving Over The Face of the Waters” is one that comes to mind for me as a favorite– so it isn’t much of a stretch to have a full album of these songs.
In 2008 following the release of Hotel and the subsequent tour, Moby formed a band called The Little Death with singer Laura Dawn and guitarist Daron Murphy and drummer Aaron A. Brooks. Laura provided lead vocals on Hotel and was part of the Hotel tour with Murphy. Since the album had live instrumentation the tour had a full band. My wife Sherry and I saw the Hotel tour show at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Laura Dawn was sick and couldn’t perform that night, but the show was high-energy and I felt that Moby’s catalog really translated well to live instrumentation.
The first thing that I noticed with The Little Death’s self-released debut album was that it sounds very little like a Moby album. It is funky and bluesy with Laura Dawn pulling out her Dusty in Memphis blues belting. The album kicks off with a nice guitar lick carrying Laura’s opening monologue, “Love can be the most beautiful thing in the world… but it can also tear your heart out…” which kicks into a groove that would sound at home on a Black Crowes album. “Children gather round ’cause I’m going to tell you how it works out” a cautionary tale of love’s blinding effect. “Raise your hand if you’ve known love,” she commands.
“All basic tracks were recorded in one or two takes, live in the studio to 2-inch tape, with the whole band playing together in one room. No songs were harmed by auto-tune, click track, or multi-band compression in the making of the album” — from the liner notes to The Little Death.
In a recent interview with TapeOp Magazine (#73, p. 32) Moby said, “When I recorded Hotel, I really wanted to record everything the ‘right way.’ Everything was recorded flawlessly. Unfortunately it had very little character.” It seems to be this reaction by Moby which provides the modus operandi for The Little Death. The whole album builds with a constant groove built of the great catalog of R&B riffs delivered like a band with years of time together. The albums payoff comes from the immediacy of the performances captured directly to tape.
This album is at its very core tales of love from a woman’s perspective, and we get the whole picture from lifting, hopeful wishes to biting, cursing (literally– if you don’t like colorful language and innuendo you may want to avoid this release), scornful warning , to hot impassioned eros all surrounded by throwback guitar bass and drums and the supporting harmonies of The Death Threats (backup singers Jamie Rae and Cherie Martorana). A symphony of the female condition, perhaps.
As with anything that Moby works on, The Little Death doesn’t escape his mark. In addition to all of the passion conveyed, there is an underlying spirituality and gospel delivered by The Little Death. The torchy ballad “Won’t Ever Let You Down Again” would sound at home on Play if the vocals were delivered by a scratchy old 78 of field recordings made by Alan Lomax. Certainly its love-during-the-apocalypse theme has that timelessness about it. “Let me hold you while the ground shakes,” Laura sings, “the buildings keep a coming down.”
The Little Death isn’t breaking any new ground with their first release– there are a number of strong-female-lead bands with their roots in the ground where Janis Joplin once stood– Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals come to mind– but for The Little Death coming out of the gate with such a strong and clear declaration of purpose and with the experience and guiding hand of Moby only great things can come.
The Little Death’s album is available now as a digital download from their website and out on 1/26 in physical release.
This week had the ‘Net a flutter with news of Ryan Adams’s re-launching his website and re-launching his Pax Americana (PaxAm) record label with a downloadable “Digital Single.” Pre-orders went up mid-week with a promise of the songs shipping on Friday, September 11th.
What you got for $1.49 was a .zip file with the advertised two songs “Lost and Found” and “Go Ahead and Rain” (which is mislabeled “Sunflower Rain”) in both FLAC (YAY!) and 128Kbps mp3’s plus a so-called “Free Jam” of the demo to the Cardinology song “Sink Ships” in 160Kbps mp3 format. Plus “cover art” (shown above) and what appears to be considered the label art.
“Lost and Found” is an official release of what had surfaced in November 2006 along with 11 albums of other unreleased songs under a bunch of pseudonyms including DJ Reggie, The Shit, WereWolph, Warren Peace, Rhoda Ro, Ghetto Birds and Sad Dracula. Most of the albums seemed like Ryan recording every possible inspiration– listenable or not. However, the most compelling of these releases seemed to fall under Sad Dracula and Warren Peace. “Lost and Found” was a song on Fasterpiece. The version released as part of this single doesn’t seem very much different from that track which would lead me to believe that this song was actually recorded for release.
According to threads on the ryanadamsarchive.com boards “Go Ahead and Rain” surfaced as a demo and video a while back. Ryan (posting as Wolfhunter) said that he had recorded four versions of “Go Ahead and Rain” including one which was considered for the Cardinology album. He says that Jamie (Candiloro?) plays drums on this take. Jamie Candiloro worked on the hotly-debated Rock N Roll album. He says that “Johnny T. (Yerington) played drums on ‘Oblivion’ and I played drums on the rest. ” Oblivion” is a track on Fasterpiece as well. So, probably we will see some kind of Sad Dracula release in the near future!
Ryan also says this:
Thanks for supporting Pax-Am. Though I know many of you have lot’s of tracks from over the years many don’t. The glitches and kinks are being figured out and soon enough it will be time for some bigger projects. Also with new work there will be a whole new slab of folks trying to tear down the whole thing but, fuck em- this is gonna be great, I am excited for all this shit yall never heard to come around AND I am happy to get some really badass stuff out there once and for all.
The plans for Pax-Am at the moment is to continue to release some of these “lost” albums and songs in digital and vinyl formats! There will also be other things for purchase like t-shirts. I think if any artist can make a go of this, it would be Ryan as he has the right formula– a rabid fanbase who will purchase just about anything and the fact that he’s very prolific would provide a lot of material to choose from.
I became a fan of Ryan’s because of Rock N Roll and the two Love is Hell EP’s. Rock N Roll was very much a departure from the Americana-leanings of his other releases and really the one that my wife prefers out of his catalog. I hadn’t really gotten into the three Cardinals releases from 2006 until I heard about the eleven albums he posted to his site. I found a suitable bit torrent from someone who snagged the tracks and made mp3’s of them. When I heard the Sad Dracula tracks, I was hooked– where had these songs been? These were more songs in the vein of Rock N Roll. Was this the Rock N Roll 2 that was rumored? Certainly based on what Ryan said on the board, these were the same session players.
Both tracks are of the same kind of guitar rock established on Rock N Roll. Kind of the slighty ramshackle, slightly unpolished guitar pop established by bands like The Replacements and their predecessor Big Star. I welcome more of these releases for sure!
I guess I prefer this approach of pumping stuff out on a number of releases– digital or vinyl rather than going the Neil Young Archives approach. Well, for a number of reasons– I would hate to wait 20 years for a compilation to come out of this stuff for one thing. But, also not making this a $300 purchase by releasing this a decade at a time makes it easier to budget.