Little Hours is the patient sheen of stillness after a short, violent burst of intention. The lingering, resonant decay of a nail being hammered into wood. A piano laden marriage of small hopes and quiet violence. In Church Hill, a borough of Richmond, Virginia, there is a small yellow cottage. Next to the cottage is an austere replica of a mid-nineteenth century, white Federal period house. The members of Spokane hand built the structure over the course of 2006 while recording and revising their first new album in four years, Little Hours. The record is both a document of and an aural parallel to that difficult, meticulous process. In the emotional vein of folk singer Jackson C. Frank with the textural emaciation of composers Zbigniew Preisner and Morton Feldman, the songs themselves are hinged on concepts of failure and stillborn ideas, on the conflicted process of building or birthing a cerebral image into the world. There are the echoes of insistent cats running through the skeletal frame of the house, pillaged, infant birds in their mouths, left half-dead at the foot of the hole where the stair would be. Little Hours is packaged in a vinyl sleeve with both record and CD inside, 50 of which are handmade and numbered. It features the core ensemble of 2003's Measurement, which MOJO magazine called "a uniquely enthralling treasure", along with contributions from members of Brooklyn's orchestral, minimalist band Gregor Samsa,
Spokane's second full-length THE PROUD GRADUATES finds quietness abundant in the most unlikely places. Written and produced by Rick Alverson (former frontman for Virginia-based band Drunk), this record, like the CLOSE QUARTERS EP recently released by Spain's Acuarela Records, is a more dynamic expansion of the terse, melancholic and at times minimal compositions explored on last year's debut full-length LEISURE & OTHER SONGS.These eight songs are like visiting the rubble of a home that once held commotion and laughter. Coupling the spare and orchestral, the album draws in tone from influences as diverse as Simon and Garfunkel's PARSLEY, SAGE, ROSEMARY & THYME, Leonard Cohen's SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE, The Cure's FAITH and Galaxie 500's ON FIRE. According to one writer, "like Talk Talk's Mark Hollis, Alverson's lines trigger emotions in your consciousness with the lightest touch."Assisting Alverson in the studio and on the road is Courtney Bowles, who performs backing vocals throughout the record. Also contributing to the record are old and new collaborators, including violinist Karl Runge and ex-Drunk cohort Bill Russell. Recorded mostly at home in Richmond, Virginia, this record was mixed in Los Angeles by Rich Costey.
Not all sediment settles at the bottom of the river. Some dirt stays in the water and becomes dissolved and suspended in the big, shapeless ocean. LEISURE & OTHER SONGS, the debut Spokane full-length, examines this sort of sedimentary existence. Written by Rick Alverson, shortly following his return from Albany, New York, after a failed attempt to find a home in New England, this album is resonant with the inability of finding permanence anyplace but where one finds oneself already: bending over a sink, sitting in a chair to tie one's shoes, or nodding resignedly to greet a neighbor. Musically, it is a lush and uniquely-mixed tapestry, involving a large number of instruments and players. It evokes the songcraft of Drunk, of which Alverson is a founding member, if it were less collaborative and more singularly arranged. It is a very strong work that comes solely from the much harder school of songwriting which strives to commingle music and words without sacrificing either.Spokane is Rick Alverson's new "more solo" project. Having been the principal songwriter for Drunk in the course of their four full-length records and two EPs, Alverson has decided to explore a more personal vision with Spokane. He is touring domestically as Spokane this fall and will be performing with Drunk this winter when the group tours Europe and the U.K. LEISURE & OTHER SONGS was co-produced by Patrick Phelan, who also contributed instrumentation.
Spokane is not for people who want to belong to something. On Measurement, their fourth full-length, a shift emerges from the terse, melodic strings that have marked their previous recordings, to a sparser terrain occupied by long, empty spaces and tenuous ambiences. With the addition of Robert Donne (Labradford, Breadwinner, Cristal) on bass, Rick Alverson and Courtney Bowles reduce their songs to an unsentimental narrative, stripped of excesses, resisting the grandiose crescendo that has become so popular in thematic and orchestral music. On “Temporary Things” Alverson and Bowles hollowly imbue the phrase “Should we talk about something else” with an unsettling domestic familiarity. “Addition”, sung solely by Bowles, searches relentlessly for an accountable presence: “There’s something you’re not saying”. And “Protocol” evolves from dependable clockwork into a harrowing, indecipherable whine. In its subtlety and patience Measurement vacillates between the vulnerable and the cold, between resignation and meek defiance, ultimately assuming its own unique place of surety and quiet definition. On “Cities”, a couple laments “Oh Convention / The willing wait out on the lawn / I never wanted to be one / I never wanted to be one”. Undertaking the sort of fragile examination the “closed-space” novels of Samuel Beckett explored, Measurement takes the minutiae of daily life and magnifies it. Mixed by Brian Paulson (Slint, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco). Recorded by R. Alverson and Bryan Hoffa.
Able Bodies is Spokane's fourth release in the brief space of 2 years. The most accomplished, varied and haunted of their recordings to date, it is a darker, more dynamically textured departure from the subtle arrangements of 2001's The Proud Graduates, all the while retaining the signature stillness that pervades the band's work. Bringing to mind the resonant and brittle ambience of the 4AD label in its heyday, these intricate and deliberate compositions accumulate an impression of what the London Sunday Times calls Spokane's "uniquely sinister beauty".
One night, midway through the production of the record, the band's car lost control and twice overturned on the interstate mid-way between Richmond, Virginia and Indiana. The members of Spokane narrowly escaped serious injury. However, the incident left an indelible effect on the band and their recording. The album title and the title track were conceived and written the following week, exploring a sentiment of displaced vitality, the seeming unpredictability of fortune and misfortune, and the close link between fate and dislocation.
Spokane is composed of songwriter/singer/guitarist Rick Alverson, drummer/vocalist Courtney Bowles and violinist Karl Runge. Able Bodies was recorded by Dan Burton (of Early Day Miners and Ativin) in Bloomington, Indiana in December of 2001. Cellist Molly Kien and violinist Maggie Polk, who contribute to Spokane's string section for this record, also play with Papa M.