The Greatest Gift is a mixtape of outtakes, remixes and demos from Sufjan's 2015 album Carrie & Lowell. The release is available digitally on October 20th, and translucent yellow vinyl and yellow cassette in November.This collection serves as a companion piece to the Carrie & Lowell Live album released earlier this year (and as an expansion to the original album). In the same way the live show featured re-interpretations of the songs from Carrie & Lowell, the mixtape unveils new remixes by several longstanding collaborators including Roberto C. Lange (aka Helado Negro), Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), and James McAlister (aka 900X). The album also features Sufjan’s own remix of "Drawn to the Blood."The mixtape includes a few alternate and/or demo versions of songs from the original album. The digital release also contains an iPhone demo of the song "Carrie & Lowell."The mixtape features four previously unreleased new songs, "official" outtakes from Carrie & Lowell (they were recorded at the same time as the album). These include "Wallowa Lake Monster," "The Hidden River of My Life," "City of Roses," and "The Greatest Gift." This new material, in its investigation of love, life, death, God, and the beautiful state of Oregon, serves as a contemplative companion to the original album. We hope you enjoy.
Swim Inside the Moon is a record by 24-year-old Angelo De Augustine. This second full-length of Angelo's career captures a sound he’s been looking for since he started playing music a decade ago:
"A sound behind the voice," says Angelo, who recorded all of this record in his bathtub using a reel-to-reel machine and a single Shure SM57 microphone. "I noticed that when you sing off a reflective surface you hear two voices. I was compelled to isolate that voice and bring it more to the front of the songs because in many ways I feel more connected to and comforted by that voice following me."
Listeners might hear Nick Drake's intricate arpeggiated guitar parts, Elliott Smith's pure vocals, or, at times, a likeness to the soulfulness of artists such as Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill, and JosĂ© GonzĂˇlez. But for Angelo's part, he found this sound on his own terms. As to what these songs mean, well, that’s harder to say. "I couldn’t tell you," says Angelo. "I get into this place, and then I wake up with a song instead of a dream."
Private Energy is the fifth album from Roberto Carlos Lange a.k.a. Helado Negro. Written and produced by Lange, the album is an interpersonal communication of sounds about his surroundings past, present, and future.
Private Energy, which follows 2013's Invisible Life and 2014's tour de force Double Youth, continues the work Lange has done as an artist, culminating in the most captivating artistic statement of his career. The music draws from his expansive knowledge of sampling, sound synthesis, recording and history of references, and the album was created as a performance piece in tandem with his Tinsel Mammal dancers. Present at each Helado Negro show, the Tinsel Mammal dancers, costumed head-to-toe in silver strands, are a visual representation of sound and a sensual gateway to profoundly personal lyrics. The Tinsel Mammals are not representative of any human form. They work as a shimmering objects that represent the ideas of genderless and raceless beings and Private Energy’s themes of self-love, pride, and the embrace of constant change.
Island Universe Story is a limited edition of clear, tinsel vinyl compilation of previously released Helado Negro cassette releases.
The previously released cassette EPs have been serving as a subnarrative behind the showcased broadcast of the fulllength release schedule. They are the subconscious whisperings, deep labyrinth of dot-connecting and cartography for the diligent listeners into the innerworkings.
Asthmatic Kitty Records is releasing particular iteration of Island Universe Story on limited edition clear vinyl, which has been stamped with the tinsel used in Helado Negro’s recent live performances.
Psychic Temple 'III' completes the transition from avant-jazz solo project to a working band constructed around timeless songs that draw upon the rich history of classic American soul, blues, and folk. Equally immersed in the sound of California's canyons and the swamps of the deep South, Psychic Temple's cult leader/guitarist Chris Schlarb steps out of the shadows and up to the microphone for the first time with astonishing results.
Maintaining Psychic Temple's affinity for nuance and delicate minimalism, 'III' exhibits a new directness centered around Schlarb's agile guiding voice. While the album places his unfolding vocal melodies and narratives in the foreground, 'III' subverts easy categorization by sustaining the collaborative, exploratory spirit of 'Psychic Temple' and 'II'.
Culled from sessions recorded at home in Los Angeles and the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama - 'III' includes contributions and performances from Spooner Oldham (Neil Young, Bob Dylan), David Hood (J.J. Cale, Aretha Franklin), Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges), Avi Buffalo, Nedelle Torrisi (Sufjan Stevens), Elliot Bergman (Wild Belle, NOMO), Dave Easley (Brian Blade Fellowship) and many more. Coming together quickly and intuitively, the album was mixed over three days with Ronan Chris Murphy (King Crimson).
This 10th anniversary edition of Sufjan Stevens 2005 Illinois replaces balloons (which themselves replaced Superman in 2005) with rising comic book Chicago-born superhero Blue Marvel. The special colored edition includes "Antimatter Blue" and "Cape White" colored vinyl. Pressing is limited to 10,000 worldwide.
"I Had Grown Wild" is the culminative EP in a series of releases that began in 2014, and is the followup to the success My Brightest Diamond's 2014 full-length "This Is My Hand." This EP of five tracks includes two new original songs from MBD, and a remix of "This Is My Hand" in both English and French.
The EP begins and ends with a minimalist but driving remix of the LP's title track, "This Is My Hand," first sung in French, then in English. "Say What", inspired by a poem by Staceyann Chin, recontextualizes images from Billy Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and issues a challenge to compare and contrast the experience of black and white Americans. Continuing on the subject of children, "Bronze Head" lets off the steam with text taken directly from William Butler Yeats' poem by the same name. Birth, the body, and the afterlife all take their places on this EP, with the concluding song "Apparition". Since first singing Stephane (2 accents needed) Mallarme's poem set by Claude Debussy for the song cycle "Quatre chansons de jeunesse" in college when she was studying classical voice, Shara fell in love with the image of the ghost who with glowing hair who leaves behind a trail of white bouquets of perfumed stars.
Carrie & Lowell sounds like memory: it spans decades yet does not trade on pastiche or nostalgia. Stevens's gauzy double-tracked vocals wash across the dashboard of long-finned, drop-top Americana, yet as we race towards the coast we are reminded that sunshine leads to shadow, for this is a landscape of terminal roads, unsteady bridges, traumatic video stores, and unhappy beds that provide the scenery for tales of jackknifed cars, funerals, and forgiveness for the dead. Each track in this collection of eleven songs begins with a fragile melody that gathers steam until it becomes nothing less than a modern hymn. Sufjan recounts the indignities of our world, of technological distraction and sad sex, of an age without neither myths nor miracle - and this time around, his voice carries the burden of wisdom. Carrie & Lowell accomplishes the rare thing that any art should achieve, particularly in these noisy and fragmented days: By seeking to understand, Sufjan makes us feel less alone.
Taking a selection of songs from their latest LP, Fumes, Lily & Madeleine have recorded acoustic versions for their new EP, Blue Blades. These acoustic songs highlight the sister-duo’s ever enchanting blood-harmony. Blue Blades includes five tracks from their sophomore LP, Fumes, as well as their version of Alex Turner’s, of the Arctic Monkeys, “Stuck on the Puzzle.”
From the beginning, the Lily & Madeleine's calling card has been the breathtaking and intuitive union of their voices. When the two come together in ecstatic and seamless "blood harmony," it's a sound that continues to haunt long after the songs are sung, leaving an electrical charge behind like a sparkling tracer in the air. When they step out individually as vocalists, Lily's warm, smoky alto is the counterpoint to Madeleine's crystalline, bell-like soprano. Those who first fell in love with the disarming beauty of Lily & Madeleine's voices on their debut EP "The Weight of the Globe" and their full-length follow-up "Lily & Madeleine" will find the same otherworldly harmonies on their new release "Fumes". With ten dazzling tracks, this record finds the sisters once again teaming with esteemed producer and manager Paul Mahern and stellar songwriting collaborator Kenny Childers. As the sisters have grown as people and artists, so has their sound evolved. The scope is broadened here. The music is expansive, the instrumentation multi-layered. This is an entrancing production that allows both singers to stretch out in new directions. Like the sun slanting through a window in a Vermeer painting, it’s an experience that captures the subtleties of both shadow and light.
This Is My Hand is a journey beyond the composition of music. "I had this 'back-to-basics' moment of reading how humans were making sounds before we were using words," says Shara. The opening track on This Is My Hand, 'Pressure,' is an invitation. Within seconds of lowering the needle, listeners hear a sharp, drum-rolled call to attention, courtesy of the Detroit Party Marching Band. What follows is a Shara-choreographed whirlwind of horns, woodwinds, beats, xylophones and synths. The ensuing 'Before the Words' ("Before the verse there was the sound") and the title track are no less direct in exploring and defining the fundamentals of not just pop music, but, well, life. "This is my voice/ this is my heart / this is my choice," sings Shara. 'Apparition,' the final track, is a Tron-like electronic, slow-motion departure from the physical world. Produced by Shara herself and keyboardist Zac Rae, This Is My Hand is a bold chapter in the unfurling MBD story. Its exploration of music and its rhythmic urgency escort Shara's chamber-music aesthetic out of the chamber and back into the dance hall and rock bar.
The world is loud. The wind blows hard. We need songs for shelter, and Raymond Raposa can build a shelter from almost anything: the sun-bleached bones of a drum track and a couple spare organ chords; a carpet of creeping synth arpeggios, a scaffolding of multi-tracked harmonies, a few scraps of alto sax to prop up the whole structure. Decimation Blues, Raposa's sixth release as Castanets, marks a decade of scavenger architecture.
Decimation Blues sees Raposa stepping out in front of the hermetic persona he's crafted over ten years. There have always been shards of pop songs glinting in the dark corners of Castanets records. Here we get whole gleaming edifices. Decimation Blues is the music of a man who's learned to live and build among the wreckage - twelve seemingly offhand, secretly meticulous tracks that we can hunker down in. "Still always good to be alone in someone else's home," Raposa sings. He'll lend us his place, or teach us how to fix up our own. Come in out of the rain, put your shoes by the fire. The walls might shake, the wind might howl, but you'll be safe here a while.
Helado Negro recorded Double Youth, his fourth LP, in his home studio with a computer, his voice, and telepathic input from a poster he found buried in a closet in his childhood home. Seeing the poster evoked a sudden rush of memories, but also a sense of isolation and separation. Who was this person in the photo? And what else had Helado Negro forgotten? The poster's impact was so significant, it framed a new recording process for HeladoNegro and now serves as cover art, title, and the conceptual framework for the lyrics and song structures.
Helado Negro certainly owes something to his contemporaries, Bear in Heaven, Young Magic, Empress Of, Prefuse 73, and School of Seven Bells, but Double Youth is more a spiritual long lost cousin to the great masters of funk, like Parliament, Prince, and George Duke, whose finely tuned beats married the ear with the body in new ways. Bass drum machines in Double Youth pulse like a robot dance movement. Bass undercurrents fuzz. Sine waves tickle the brain stem. The melodies weave through the air like a fish. And Helado Negro's voice, which grows more and more confident with each record, is a cool, clean dance partner to the beat and melody.
Since attracting a ton of buzz for her entrancing live shows and for first EP Hello, Mozart's Sister (aka Caila Thompson-Hannant) has been head-down in her bedroom writing her debut album. For anyone who's been following her work - and for new listeners - Being is Mozart's Sister expressing macrocosmic ideas about life with panache and abundant hooks.
Inspired by Discovery-era Daft Punk, Post-era Bjork, and Betty Davis, Caila produced, recorded and wrote the album using a cheap sound card and Ableton software, approaching it with a do-it-all-by-my-fucking-self ideology.
Being is fundamentally a pop record. But if you're looking to catalog her music more than that, you're going to have a hard time; Caila describes Being as an intentionally fractured album. "It was far reaching. Things didn't always connect, but that was part of the whole idea," she says. Which is representative of the best music, and maybe the best of life: looking for order in chaos, not always finding it, and living with whatever happens next.
You know. Just, being.
The more influences My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden absorbs from the world around her, the less she sounds like anybody else.
Still, It's worth noting the strange paths these five new tracks took on their way to None More than You, My Brightest Diamond's latest EP. The lullaby "Dreaming Awake" was originally performed as a duet with circular-breathing sax titan Colin Stetson. It opens this disc in a tense, minimal Son Lux Mix, but Lux's raw electronic treatment only draws more attention to Worden's achingly tender vocal performance. Meanwhile, the layered orchestral arrangement on the flipside's Mason Jar Mix was created for an improbable guerrilla recording session that brought the cops to a decaying power station in Yonkers - but this richly detailed accompaniment only brings out the raw urgency of her songwriting.
"Dreams Don't Look Like" originated as silent movie music, an extract from Worden's score for The Balloonatic by Buster Keaton. "That Point When," a song Worden initially arranged to sing with the Orchestra for The Next Century, defies gravity too: musically and lyrically ambiguous, majestically lighter-than-air.
In fall of 2014, Asthmatic Kitty Records will release My Brightest Diamond's fourth full-length, This Is My Hand.
Originally released in 2001 before Michigan and Illinois, Sufjan Steven's Enjoy Your Rabbit foretells his 2010 electronic Age of Adz. Though overlooked by many, there are fans who regard Enjoy Your Rabbit as Sufjan's greatest work.
Departing from the singer-songwriter format of his debut Asthmatic Kitty Records album, A Sun Came, Rabbit is a collection of fourteen colorful instrumental compositions combining Sufjan's noted gift for melody with electronic sounds to create an unusually playful and human - not to mention humane - electronic experience. Great for dancing, driving, writing, cooking, painting, running, walking, and of course, eating Chinese food, Rabbit features nearly eighty minutes of music that will truly soothe the savage breast, whatever that means.
Half-handed Cloud's Flying Scroll Flight Control presents Dada interior-architectural songs, in the mode of Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau, the sound of Robert Rauschenberg's cardboard combines, interrupted by Futurist noise intoner music of collision. They're integrated with the radiant flicker of Stan Brakhage's domestic/personal 1960s art films, the mechanized music of Conlon Nancarrow, Mister Rogers' avant-garde children's operas, and the methods of grunge-era home-taping alchemists Eric's Trip, with scriptures giving voice to the unknown. Particularly encouraged by German Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys' desire to unite spirit and science, Half-handed Cloud's John Ringhofer identifies Flying Scroll Flight Control's arrangements with the most basic building blocks of life, the structures of atoms: mostly empty space and a dense core, around which thinner layers wind - tiny, slippery, whirring, fly-by electrons, perpetually in motion. The lyrics are primarily based on the most ancient, foundational, and audacious of Christian texts (possibly early hymns), quoted in the letters of Paul of Tarsus. The album features a 5-person female choir, manipulated recording tape, fuzz bass, clarinet, some piano, a child's Magnus air organ, rhythmic zipper, trombone, a cushioned stylophone stick, and intermittent backpacker guitar.
Making The Saint is my third full-length record. I love small records. When I say “small record," I think of Sandy Bull's Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo, Bill Evans trio recordings at the Village Vanguard, Fripp & Eno's No Pussyfooting, or Thelonius Monk's sublime Solo Monk. Each of these albums is simple. They're direct. Making The Saint is a small record too. I didn't belabor it. The recording and mixing came quickly. I followed my instincts. This album is also a spiritual retreat for me; a healthy and necessary separation after so many strong collaborations. If you're Sufist, you’d call this khalwa. In Japanese Zen Buddhism, it's called sesshin. The Santerian process of Asiento requires the initiate to dress in white garments and avoid physical contact for one year. Like so many have done before me, I forced myself into a state of inner solitude to find something new. I hope you enjoy it, and you experience something similar while listening. - Chris Schlarb
Island Universe Story Three, out now, is the third in an ongoing series of EPs from Roberto Lange, a.k.a. Helado Negro. Not designed to "tease" or "build up to" or kill time between the Helado Negro albums, these releases shadow the LPs, moving darkly alongside them - and, like a shadow, may be more easily described by what they aren't than what they are.
They aren't outtakes or afterthoughts or byproducts or B-sides. These are fully filtered, distilled, unified recordings, chapters in a continuous narrative. They're less like the flipside of a record than they are like the dark side of the moon: always present but (until now) just out of sight. "It's a parallel to the continuum of the album," explains Lange. They're "something next to the albums, on kind of their own timeline," a second stream, offering an alternate glimpse into Helado Negro's ongoing process. Says Lange, "This is more of what I do. I'm really making music every day."
"SauvĂ© Par Sa Grace" - Hermas Zopoula
"Saved by His Grace." The album, like the title implies was a miracle in its completion. Recording began in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso almost 3 years ago and when the original producer started taking too much control, Zopoula fired him and went on a search for someone who he could work with more collaboratively. In a popular studio in the city, Hermas found Ilboudo Sylvain and Nadie Boureima. These two producers brought more live instrumentation into the heavily programmed sound that is so popular in West African pop music. Where most musicians would want synths and computer pre-sets to fill in their sound, Zopoula wished to include a little bit more raw-ness and use live balafons, guitar, and piano. That isn't to say that the synthetic sound of Zopoula's first release has disappeared, in fact it is still very much present. But the inclusion of more live instruments has created a more textured and nuanced sound.
Late last year the team had recorded ten new tracks and were ready to mix them when a jealous or angry fellow musician also recording at the studio snuck in one night and deleted the producers hard-drive! The only song that survived those sessions was "Venez Danser." Between shifts working for the national airline, Air Burkina, Zopoula was finally able to re-record and mix the remaining songs that are presented in the final version of "SauvĂ© Par Sa Grace." Despite the adversity and struggle that Zopoula endured throughout this recording these songs are filled with joy and gratitude. Enjoy!