artwork by Jamie Mills
One of the few publications to pick up on and write about mini50’s charity record ‘After a Long Dream of Sleep’ a massive thanks has to go to Fred at The Muse In Music who wrote such a lovely article about the project. If you are interested in the project and supporting such a worthy cause you may want to read more about HERE. Please, find the time to read about it, explore the artists, immerse yourself in the music and spare £6 to help an important service. Thank you.
‘And the Tears Washed me Wave After Cowardly Wave’ has an interesting back story.
The record was recorded shortly after Ryan Graveface moved from Chicago to Savannah last year. In the process of this move all his precious instruments including a cello, banjo and organ were damaged, some beyond repair, by the removal “experts”. Calling this a musician’s worst nightmare really would be an understatement. However, rather than dwell on this inconvenience, Ryan simply decided to proceed with recording regardless, using all the instruments damaged in the move and throwing in some makeshift percussion and noise, where required.
The record is also part two in the story of a serial killer’s journey from every day man in the street, through his downward spiral into a grisly world of misdeed and murder, culminating in his death on album closer ‘Final Truth’. Having set the scene in ‘So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite’, focusing on the period of the killer’s childhood through to his first murder, Dreamend now explores the period after the killer’s initial taste for blood has been quenched. It’s a fascinating approach to song writing and the subject matter lends itself beautifully to the music that has been produced. The narrative controls both the context and pacing of the record as the tale of murder and inner torment ebbs and flows towards the final acts, the last moments of the killers’ dark and tortured existence.
The pacing of the record is particularly intelligent, highlighted beautifully on ‘The Face on the Tintype’, an upbeat banjo lead affair complimented by sinister vocals where a sudden change of pace as Ryan sings ‘now you’re getting sleepy and I must tell you the truth/what you drank tonight will ultimately kill you’, ends not only the track but the life of another victim in the process. On ‘Cold & Dead’ ‘I see your face again/it’s cold and it haunts me’, set against the backdrop of acoustic guitar and glockenspiel tells of, in the most chilling of ways, the killers struggle to deal with the images of his victims. Then there is the brilliance of opener ‘Another Day’ where frantic percussion and murky submerged vocals almost suffocate the life out of an upbeat banjo line. Evoking thoughts of My Bloody Valentine crossed with Neutral Milk Hotel this re-acquaints the listener with the killer and his thirst for blood.
Short interlude pieces are scattered through the record at opportune moments, not only allowing breathing space from the subject matter but also creating a pause in the story in which the previous information can seep into the listeners mind. Then the story continues ever onwards culminating with the dreamy lullaby ‘Final Truth’ where the killer has resigned himself to the end that lies in wait for him as his psyche finally unravels completely.
With this record, Dreamend distil the essence of pop music in an extremely surprising fashion. Using traditional instruments but utilising them in non-traditional ways the music is immediate and engaging. When it all comes together Dreamend has created something quite unique and completely compelling; this is pop music, done differently but done extremely well. Dreamend has created something quite out of the ordinary, delving into the depths of the human psyche to create a haunting piece of music that needs to be heard to be believed.
You can find out more about Dreamend and Graveface records HERE
In September this year The Steinberg Principle will be 4 years old. Quite incredible to think that I have managed to keep this blog going for 4 years. Sure, I’ve not always managed to post regularly and the site has been neglected from time to time but life has got in the way and that has been largely unavoidable. But yes, 4 years old I shall be. So I was thinking that to have a wee celebration of the site I would encourage all my musical friends from far and wide to send me some music. If you are a musician and think your music is something I’d love then send me a track and the 30 tracks that I find most enjoyable I will write about and publish on the site for the 30 days of September.
Just an idea. Completely dependent on musicians giving a shit. But if you do then start sending your tracks to firstname.lastname@example.org and if I receive enough tracks that I love then we’ll give this idea a shot come September.
“People who make records are afforded this assumption by the culture that their music is coming from an exclusively personal place, but more often than not what you hear are actually the affectations of an ’alter-ego’ or a cartoon of an emotionally heightened persona,” says Josh Tillman. “That kind of emotional quotient isn’t sustainable if your concern is portraying a human-being made up of more than just chest-beating pathos. I see a lot of rampant, sexless, male-fantasy everywhere in the music around me. I didn’t want any alter-egos, any vagaries, fantasy, escapism, any over-wrought sentimentality. I like humor and sex and mischief. So when you think about it, it’s kind of mischievous to write about yourself in a plain-spoken, kind of explicitly obvious way and call it something like ‘Misty’. I mean, I may as well have called it ‘Steve'”
Josh Tillman is a fascinating musician. As a solo artist he has produced plenty of quality records from ‘A Minor Works’ to ‘A Year in the Kingdom’ and gained such a reputation as a musician that he was persuaded to join Fleet Foxes as their drummer, an association which I now believe he has ended, moving to LA in the process to focus once again on his own music. However, his latest record ‘Fear Fun’ has been released under the quite unusual moniker ‘Father John Misty’, a fact I only picked up on having read the Sunday Times review and thought that the artist in the picture looked awfully liked Josh Tillman.
Tillman explains on Subpops’ – his new label – website that he had “…lost all interest in writing music, or identifying as a ‘songwriter’. I got into my van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse and started driving down the coast with nowhere to go. After a few weeks, I was writing a novel, which is where I finally found my narrative voice. The voice that is actually useful.” He explains that “I was honest with myself about what music actually excites my joy-glands when I was considering the arrangements and instrumentation.” “As opposed to what’s been enjoyable to me in the past – namely, alienating people or making choices based on what I think people won’t like or understand. Pretty narcissistic stuff.”
So does this come across in the music? Simple answer is yes. Tillman has ultimately created an alias to allow himself to grow as an artist without necessarily being judged for doing so. If released under his own name I believe that this album would be seen as a major departure and risk, which it undoubtedly is. However, under the name Father John Misty, Tillman has had the freedom to explore new ground without ever alienating his original audience. As one of those original audience members, I can confirm that this new approach to music is one that is refreshing and exciting and Tillman has lost none of the song qualities that has made him stand out for me for such a long time. Missing him at Nice N’Sleazy’s a couple of years ago is still one of my biggest disappointments, such is my admiration for his abilities.
The voice is still there, the intelligent lyricism is still there, but this record is packed with much more. Much more instrumentation and a much fuller approach to the songs. Not once on the record does a track appear where it is just Tillman and his voice. On the one hand this is a disappointment because not many people can hold the attention with such limited resources in the way Tillman can. On the other hand, it’s brilliant to hear Tillman crank it up a notch and let loose, or as he puts it ‘listen to someone rip their arm off and beat themselves with it.’ Cause at times, that’s exactly how the record feels like especially on the brilliant ‘Hollyood Forever Cemetry Sings’.
This is not Fleet Foxes (thankfully), nor is this anything like his previous work. It’s not fresh of course nodding it’s hat greatly to The Eagles, Waylon Jennings and in particular Roy Orbison but it’s a great new direction for a brilliant artist who continues to grow in stature whether that be under his own name, his current moniker or any other name he chooses to throw into the arena in the future. Definitely one to check out.
It’s been a while since I mentioned what I was up to musically. So It makes sense to write a quick up to date as to all the things that are happening musically for me at the moment.
First up is Graveyard Tapes. For those of you who don’t know, this is a project I have been working on for the past 2 years with my friend Matthew Collings. We met after Matthew came to Edinburgh from Iceland, started working together and have not stopped working together since! It’s been a long, often fractured process due to other committments on both parts, but now have our debut album mixed and mastered. It’s entitled ‘Our Sound is Our Wound’ and we are currently looking for a label who might be interested in releasing it. We have no plans to rush the thing out and have people working on videos for a couple of tracks also, so there should be a lot more Graveyard Tapes news in the coming weeks and months for those interested in what it is we are doing.
glacis. Well, this is my solo piano project. I started this with my record ‘Lost Again on Waking’ released by Fluid Audio last year. Encouraged by the response to this record I released a track on the recent mini50 charity record ‘After a Long Dream of Sleep’ which was described as a “nightmarish sigur ros”. Kind of liked that description. Anyways, I’ve been working on a full length record of glacis pieces which I hope will be complete by the end of 2012. 2 of the tracks for this album will also be used for an animation piece by the brilliant artist Jamie Mills. Jamie has also done the art work for the Graveyard Tapes record so we have formed a pretty strong working relationship over the past year or so – his art work is just brilliant, I own a lot of it! Anyways, hopefully the animation pieces will be released on mini50 along with the animation itself. And then after that the glacis record should be out in 2013 if not before, again on mini50, unless another label wants to bite my hand off for it!
The Kays Lavelle kind of ended 2 years ago after the debut album. But I decided after 8 years of hard work establishing the name that I wanted to do more than just the one record. So I have been working hard on tracks for album number 2. This will be a solo effort of sorts. By this I mean there will be no band. Instead I will be working with friends from around the world, sending them files to work with and getting back the results and then taking it all to the mixing process at the end. It’s been a hugely beneficial experience so far and I have met some wonderful musicians who have been kind enough to lend me their time and skills to add to the tracks. There is a long way to go on the recording front but I do believe that there will be another Kays record finished by the end of 2012, which is pretty exciting given that I thought it was all over 2 years ago.
So, I am busy is really what I’m saying. I am busy and hopefully for those of you who are interested in my music this is a good thing. I will of course keep you all up to date on this blog but you can also follow all my projects, as well as mini50 records, on facebook in the meantime.
The ever brilliant J Tillman.