The new Calvin Johnson album A Wonderful Beast [KLP269] is an experiment in sound. Using the theory "Rock'n'roll Will Never Die" as a starting point, Calvin entered the Audio Eagle Studio in Nashville, TN. Working closely with Producer Patrick Carney and Chief Engineer Marc Whitmore, the team tested the resiliency of such time honored materials as the electric guitar, modular synthesizer and trap drum kit, combining them in various ratios with elements like musical chords A, C and Dm. The results are a Frankenstein's monster of an album, A Wonderful Beast. Michelle Branch, who score many hits in the early double-0 decade as a solo artist and as a member of the Wreckers and lives next door to Audio Eagle, provides back-up harmony vocals on three songs. Following in the tradition of such Brill Building songwriting teams as Leiber-Stoller, Greenwich-Barry and Goffin-King, all the songs on A Wonderful Beast are a collaboration between Calvin Johnson and Patrick Carney. Carney, best known for his work as a member of the Akron, OH powerhouse The Black Keys, established Audio Eagle to further exactly this type of rock'n'roll workshoping, allowing the music and songwriting of NOW to rocket launched into the FUTURE.
In 2003, K recording artists Khaela Maricich (the Blow) and Jason Anderson had a vision. "What if Calvin Johnson played all his best songs from over the years, with a band of real music-making people?" This was their vision, and they decided to make it happen. Jason formed a band of other K music stalwarts that included Kyle Field (Little Wings) on bass with Adam Forkner (Yume Bitsu, VERSION) and Jason sharing the guitar and drum playing duties. Dubbed by Jason the Sons of the Soil, they set out to modernize the primitive. Khaela designed a graphic image that perfectly captured the Sons of the Soil's transcendental vibe. A tour was arranged that crossed paths with other fine Olympia types, including Rebecca Pearcy and Mirah. Songs were chosen that spanned the years and various combos, including songs originally recorded by Halo Benders ("Love Travels Faster"), Dub Narcotic Sound System ("Booty Run") and the Go Team ("Sand"). Rehearsals commenced, and then it was off across the Western United States for a rollicking, rockin' good time. This album was recorded at the Dub Narcotic studio in July, 2003, immediately following their return to Olympia, Wash. It features a good cross section of the material from the tour and includes a few live snippets from the Sons of the Soil performance in Spokane, Wash.
Ten new songs from Calvin Johnson, compiled on his second album as a solo artist. Calvin's first album, What Was Me (KLP117) is a Spartan kalang of guitar and voice; Before the Dream Fadedâ€¦is a collection of collaborations, with a slate of guest producers including Khaela Marricich (the Blow), Mirah yom tov Zeitlyn, Johnny Jewel (Glass Candy) and Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) liveningthings up the with their ideas about arrangements and textures. Other guest players, including Adam Forkner (Yume Bitsu, VERSION), Jona Bechtolt (Y.A.C.H.T.), Warren Lee and Devin Welch (Chromatics, Shoplifting) add a psychic twist, dramatizing all that is unholy in the Olympia undergroundschematic.This album was recorded at the Dub Narcotic studio in Olympia, Wash., except "I am without",recorded by Johnny Jewel at his D/E/A/T/H D/I/S/C/O studio in Portland, Ore., and "Delverance",recorded by Phil Elverum, Nowhere, Anacortes, Wash.Calvin Johnson is the founder of K and operates the Dub Narcotic Studio, where he has recordedsuch stalwarts as Mirah, Tender Forever, Yume Bitsu, the Gossip. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, OldTime Relijun and Fitz of Depression. He has released numerous records with the bands BeatHappening, Dub Narcotic Sound System and the Halo Benders, and toured across the United Statesscads of times, and will continue to do so after Before the Dream Fadedâ€¦ is released.
The first of what promises to be many posthumous solo albums from Calvin Johnson, culled from the extensive archive of tapes left behind by the prolific songmaker and performer. Calvin Johnson made up songs about the feeling inside for over twenty years. What Was Me collects ten bits of lifeness and spreads them thickly with voice and acoustic guitar; a capella 40% of the time. There are patches that are worn and threadbare but the overall effect is gutty and moist. The affect is also noteworthy. Calvin is joined by the K divas Mirah on “Ode to St. Valentine” and Beth Ditto (the Gossip) on “Lightnin’ Rod for Jesus”.