Joe O'Connell on his new album:I guess the lodestone in the process of making this was the kind of global avant garde mood that's prevalent in a lot of 1980s albums I admire. Things like Joni Mitchell's Dog Eat Dog and Arthur Russell's Calling Out of Context. These records where singers were making really eclectic and outward looking productions - writing *through* the process of recording, and literally *playing* with technologies that were totally new to them.
All the gear that I gathered to make the album was basically discarded or devalued. I got a bunch of stuff from Craigslist that interested me: a cheap FM synth, some Hindustani electronics, and an old three-head tape deck to use as a "poor man's space echo." The icing on the cake is a one-of-a-kind homemade digital synthesizer called "The Mutant". The concept of the synth is parallel to the concept of the album itself. It's an electronic take on "folk" sounds (bends, drones, modal playing) and folk creative approaches (a cobbling together and reformatting of existing elements).
For the past 14 years, Elephant Micah's Joseph O'Connell has quietly self-released his music, sometimes collaborating with the psych-folk imprint Time-Lag Records or other very small labels. Despite the project's almost secretive status, Elephant Micah has repeatedly caught the attention of NPR, and has been championed by an impressive cohort of like-minded artists including Jason Molina, Hiss Golden Messenger, Dark Dark Dark, and Hurray for the Riff Raff. His new album, Where in Our Woods is defined by its limited palette. The arrangements foreground nylon-string guitar and an antique portable pump organ. A stripped down-drum set, a baritone ukulele, a toy recorder, and harmony vocals (sung by Will Oldham, a friend of and key influence on O'Connell) round out the sound. This sparse ensemble leaves O'Connell's voice room to breathe, while elevating and magnifying the poetry of his songs. Throughout the album, O'Connell deftly transforms the stuff of everyday American life into a series of entrancing meditations on culture, nature, religion, and modernity.