From road trips through South America to surfing excursions in Indonesia, Austin-based musician Abram Shook has been fortunate to have the opportunity to absorb more of the world's cultures first-hand than many of us ever will. After leaving Santa Cruz, California where he grew up and studied jazz, Shook spent several years in Portland and Boston playing in numerous bands, and wrestling with an unsettled spirit. Turning to traveling as a means to quell his existential dread, eventually landed him in Austin, TX, where he's been part of the city's rich creative community for over 8 years. Though the music community in Austin is no substitute for the briny air and patient West Coast beaches he still longs for, its vitality and creativity still manage to nourish the soul.
Abram Shook's solo debut, Sun Marquee breathes with the lungs of a man that finally found a new place to call home, while also reflecting upon the circuitous path that led him here. Propelled by Shook's impeccable bass groove, and inspired by artists like Shuggie Otis, Serge Gainsbourg, and Tom Z√©, Sun Marquee distills lessons learned and questions unanswered into an accessible collection of pop songs.
Austin-based musician Abram Shook is a remarkable wellspring of ideas when it comes to songwriting. When he sat down to write his third album, he produced two distinct batches of songs, one very personal collection titled Love at Low Speed, and a darker, more detached collection titled Love in the Age of Excess. Due to time and money constraints, he opted to only record the more personal album, which explores themes of love, loss, and connecting with others, all themes he's been careful to avoid on previous albums. As he explains, "I avoided the subject of love in the past because I thought it was a cliched, overwrought topic. What else could I really add to the cannon? Writing the album directly coincided with some pretty big changes in my life, mainly the ending of an 11 year relationship." Love at Low Speed proves that Shook has plenty to offer on these topics, and that he's at his best when he digs deep, mining his years of experience for confessional tales peppered with hard-wrought wisdom.
The production on the new album is fittingly more intimate and organic than what we heard on his previous albums Sun Marque (2014) and Landscape Dream (2015). Inspired by the unique worlds of sound David Bowie created throughout his career, Shook and close collaborators Christopher Cox and Grant Johnson kept the album's production focussed from beginning to end. "With Love At Low Speed I wanted to use a more consistent pallet of sound to tie things together better than I had on my previous records. A touchstone album for me has always been Club Da Esquinha (Milton Nascimento/Lo Borges). It explores multiple genres but filters everything through the same beautiful production arrangements which lends to its cohesion. I think in the back of my mind I'm always striving to achieve something close to that album's rare blend of unique songwriting and challenging production choices without sacrificing a certain pop sensibility that invites new listeners." Their efforts paid off, and throughout Love at Low Speed the world of sound they created balances Shook's tender tenor with sensual bass grooves, and strings provided by Austin's Tosca String Quartet. Mixed by Noah Georgeson (known for his work with Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Andy Shauf, et al) the album has a clarity and warmth that focuses your ear on Shook's emotional delivery.
Shook grew up in California where he spent his days surfing, studying jazz, and absorbing the rich radiant music of Brazil and West Africa, before moving to Portland, and then Boston, before finally settling in Austin, TX over 10 years ago. "Settling down in Austin for a longer period of time has allowed me to establish a rich community of peers to draw from for influence and support. With time comes trust, and I’ve learned to give over some control to others in hopes to gain a perspective on songwriting that I might normally overlook." In addition to becoming an important part of Austin's creative community, being landlocked for a decade, has helped Shook develop an affirming perspective on his past, which helps him quell his anxiety, and focus on his creative pursuits. "I write about a California that no longer exists in the nostalgic form that I hold in my memory, just as the people that have journeyed in and out of my life are no longer the same either, nor am I the same to them. If everything is malleable at all times that means I am too, and that’s a notion I can take comfort in."
Landscape Dream is Abram Shook's follow up to 2014's Sun Marquee, an album VICE called "...pleasant as fuck." and Texas Monthly called "...compelling, weird, and lovely." Applying what he learned through writing and recording Sun Marquee, Landscape Dream is a natural progression, demonstrating how much Shook's songwriting and production acumen has sharpened over the past year. Sun Marquee was a learning process where songs were often forced out of experiments in recording techniques. As Abram explains, "I had a lot of thoughts I just threw out there, but often I arrived at dead-ends and had to figure out how to make something out of what was available." However, on Landscape Dream he "went back to writing with just voice and guitar and then used arranging, production, and recording ideas pulled from Sun Marquee." The effectiveness of his new approach is clear from the 70's rock of "Find It" and "Chelsea" to the African vibes of "Get Gone", the dreamy Brazilian vibes on "5AM" and "Beach Glass", and the slow-jam soul found on "Perfect", "Jaw", and "Vessel".
Like many queer women, Nicole Schneit is a warrior by necessity, fighting for basic rights, dignity, and acceptance. Such determination in the face of hardship and injustice runs in Schneit's family; her new album was inspired in part by her mom who was diagnosed with fallopian cancer last year. As she explains, "The doctor told her she had a fifteen to twenty percent chance, and her response was 'I'm going to get this mother fucker.' So the title Warrior and the song are about her. After chemotherapy, surgery, and then more chemotherapy, all the cancer in her body has left and she's currently in remission. I feel like most of the people in my life, including myself, are warriors and have overcome obstacles that seemed impossible to defeat."Understated, subtly sophisticated, and equally empowering and comforting, Warrior launches Air Waves above the apolitical complacency of too many of the group's contemporaries. Schneit proudly declares her mission statement: "I want these songs to be heard by people in my queer community, but also by anyone that wants to feels strong, powerful, and included."
In 2010 Nicole Schneit aka Air Waves released Dungeon Dots, an album Aquarius Records called "...pretty much perfect pop music." For her new album Parting Glances, Schneit enlisted friends from Brooklyn's music community to contribute to the record, including members of Woods, Crystal Stilts, Ava Luna, and Hospitality. Additionally, Jana Hunter of Lower Dens contributes vocals to two songs.
The album's title comes from the 1986 film Parting Glances in which Steve Buscemi portrays a gay man navigating the difficulties of being in a relationship in Reagan-era New York. More than just identifying with the story, Schneit is interested in the in the lasting effect of the parting glances we share with strangers in our everyday encounters. She explains "You see all sorts of physical and emotional traits on the train. From people puking, making out, screaming, crying, laughing, dancing, grooming, etc. We encounter each other in the thick of our complex lives by simply looking at each other all the time. These glances are mundane and fleeting but also powerfully intimate." The lingering impact of those brief moments seeps into the details and imagery she delivers with energizing hooks and a disarming lack of pretense on Parting Glances.
Often when you're in your mid-20's heavy realities start to settle in. Relationships that seemed like they'd last forever lose their spark, your aspirations and self-perception shift, you marvel at friends your age getting married and having babies, and you feel powerless and small, realizing that people you've known and loved for a lifetime can suddenly die. It's a serious psychological shakeup, made even more difficult if your frontal cortex hasn't fully matured yet. It's a beast, a mountain, a wall, or as in Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, a mysterious obelisk that pushes you to evolve‚Ä¶like it or not. For better or worse, parts of us die, new parts come to life, and if we're lucky we emerge smarter, stronger, and more resilient. It's no surprise that for ages we've felt a deep sense of connection with music, art, and films inspired by this metamorphosis. Aisha Burns' Life in the Midwater provides a snapshot of the rough stuff, but with a delicate sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years.
Burns' contributions as the violinist and occasional vocalist for the Austin band Balmorhea belie a nuanced songwriting prowess, and a dynamic and powerful voice. The album's title references a deep dark layer of the ocean that flows far below the surface, and just above what we call the deeps sea. Bioluminescent jellyfish often inhabit this layer of the ocean, emitting mysterious flashes of light despite the risk of exposing themselves to potential predators. Similarly Aisha's songs are dreamlike beacons in the inky abyss‚Ä¶
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and currently residing in Beverly, Massachusetts, violinist, vocalist and songwriter Aisha Burns began playing violin when she was 10 years old, and has been touring and recording since 2006. Soon after moving to Austin in 2005, she gained her start with folk-rock outfit Alex Dupree and the Trapdoor Band, and joined the instrumental ensemble Balmorhea on violin in 2007. After years of secret singing, she released her solo debut Life in the Midwater in 2013. Called "twisting, ethereal...arresting" by Dazed Magazine, and praised for its "delicate intimacy" by NPR, Life in the Midwater explored mortality and relationships with candor and wisdom. Her new album Argonauta, is a collection of songs about her struggle with the grief of losing her mother, while also navigating a new relationship, and ultimately trying to figure out what the new normal is for her life.
As an accomplished 12-string guitarist/composer, Alexander Turnquist was naturally alarmed when the ulnar nerve in his left hand seized up in 2013, but after a surgical procedure he gratefully started the process of learning to play guitar again. His recovery was cut short when not long after the surgery he was hospitalized with meningitis. Though his recovery is ongoing, and he continues to struggle with a weakened immune system and memory loss, he was inspired to soldier on, rather than being deterred by his physical struggles.
Turnquist's latest full-length Flying Fantasy confirms the idea that out of great hardship can come great art. As he wrote the material for the new album it became clear that his sensitivity had sharpened, his empathy magnified, and his sense of purpose blossomed. The unfortunate circumstances he endured ostensibly forced his metamorphosis from a remarkable guitar player to a truly great composer. Much like the butterflies that adorn the album cover, he seems to have changed form and taken flight.
A Portrait of John Entwistle is the fourth installment of the WesternVinyl portrait series, which has included Bonnie Prince Billy, Papa M, andAppendix Out, and is scheduled to include Robert Lippok, Mick Turner, andKohn. The Anomoanon have chosen to develop a portrait of John Entwistle,former bass player for the Who, after his death in 2002. The four tracks,each pulsing with the energy of the late Entwistle, include threeoriginals and one cover. In the end, the album leaves the listener with asense of warmth and longing and a renewed perspective on the absenceEntwistle has left behind
Blast Off Through the Wicker documents Art Feynman looking for life in the lifeless, questioning what it means to be living. There is a calm, disciplined pocket to be felt in everything Feynman does; krautrock slink, staccato bounce, and pentatonic bursts of Nigerian Highlife fuzz pour on the temporal canvas with unquestionable ease, never falling in the wrong place. Even more admirable is, that his "canvas" is a four-track tape recorder, and that Blast Off features no loops or drum machines despite its aesthetically faithful motorik and afrobeat underpinnings. Nowhere is this fact more surprising than on album standout "Slow Down" which pulses along infectiously with a crunchy backbeat, and deftly arpeggiating bass lines that are so locked-in that it would be hard to fault an unknowing ear for assuming the whole thing is tediously programmed.
There are gentler sides to Blast Off that conjure the spacey tenderness of Arthur Russell inventively and respectfully, without adopting their muse's palette wholesale. In this regard Blast Off is an endearing collection of songs that capture the ear with warm-yet-clear cassette aesthetics and spot-on musicianship, both of which form an angle that points lovingly to Feynman's deep and varied influences. Make no mistake-- this one truly is alive.
Having played in various bands including Swords of Chaos and in Jónsi’s touring band, White Mountain is √ölfur Hansson's debut under his own name. With influences ranging from cult cinema, esoteric literature and contemporary music, √ölfur presents a unique twist on the supernatural.
In his own words: "Every track is a collage of field-recordings made while travelling. I met so many interesting people on the road (for instance, Alexandra of Mountain Man who did amazing vocals for "So Very Strange") and I always carry my tape recorder with me like a camera.
The title is a homage to Rene Daumal's Mount Analogue, as well as Alejandro Jodorowski's film Holy Mountain, but also something else‚Ä¶.Each individual sound has a very special memory attached to it, so the album creates these nostalgic nonexistent spaces, hidden places - an amalgamation of instances, situations that couldn't possibly exist. I imagine this White Mountain, an invisible imaginary place - a sacred place on the horizon. Maybe like a connection to the the universe above. An analogy of the journey of Man."
On Moon 2 Ava Luna's de facto band leader Carlos Hernandez steps back, leaving space for the rest of the band members to step up and step into roles they hadn't occupied on previous albums. Felicia Douglass (now a touring member of Dirty Projectors) worked with percussion and sampler, Julian Fader experimented with synths, nearly every band member ran the computer during recording sessions, and Becca Kauffman (aka performance artist Jennifer Vanilla) composed her first song for the group "On Its Side the Fallen Fire," a deeply layered orchestral piece of Kate Bush grandeur meets Julia Holter reverie. Compared with previous Ava Luna albums, Moon 2 has fewer sharp turns into dissonance, fewer celebratory guitar parts, none of Hernandez's signature screams. Nevertheless, the infectious buoyancy of "Deli Run" and "Walking With an Enemy," are warm and bright, and songs like "Centerline" and "Phoebe (Set it Off)" venture confidently into pop territory. The title track, painting the elation and tumult of a crush, is set against a swaggering reggae bassline and warbling Kraftwerk synths. "It's like, every sci-fi movie has a nightclub," says Kauffman. "These are the songs in that nightclub."
While on a writing retreat in the sleepy southern town of Benton, Mississippi, the members of New York's Ava Luna came across an abandoned house while on a walk through the woods. Overgrown, rotting, and littered with evidence of its past inhabitants, the maze-like dwelling would haunt their psyches throughout the writing and recording of their third full-length Infinite House. Like Borges' "Library of Babel", the seemingly endless rooms and hallways in the old house felt like a metaphor for the invisible, internal labyrinths, which the band explores lyrically and sonically on their new album.
Recorded by drummer Julian Fader and vocalist/guitar player Carlos Hernandez, and mixed by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Spoon, MGMT), it is safely their most polished recording to date. But their trademark intensity, mirthful humor, and angularity remain resolutely in place, the burnished surfaces illuminating the stories beneath like never before. By questioning, or maybe just forgetting the rules of the real world, on Infinite House the band has grown beyond the "nervous soul" descriptor they've been tagged with in the past, delivering an album on which nightmarish moments can phoenix into revelations that help us reconnect with the surreal magic in our everyday lives.
After years of writing and performing, Ava Luna has refined their doo-wop soul meets punk-as-fuck aesthetic into something bold and glaringly defiant in today's indie music landscape. Following the release of their critically lauded first proper full-length Ice Level, the band spent an intense 2-week period writing and recording in upstate New York. Unlike previous efforts that were meticulously mapped out, the songs that would become Electric Balloon were "... a family effort." according to frontman Carlos Hernandez. For the new album, former Columbia composition student Hernandez relinquished the reins a bit, opting for a more organic approach to writing the material for what would become Electric Balloon.
In the wake of Ice Level, Ava Luna's sharp edges have melted away just enough, making it easier to connect with their no-wave grooves and soaring harmonies. Distilling everything from James Chance and ESG to contemporaries like Dirty Projectors and Of Montreal, Ava Luna have landed on an aggressively unique sound that still manages to be accessible.
On Stranger Balmorhea continues the cosmic dialog they began with their eponymous debut in 2007. Though the spirit of Texas' early inhabitants and the weight of the night sky inspired previous albums All is Wild, All is Silent (2009) and Constellations (2010), Stranger shifts the focus from the celestial to the terrestrial, or more accurately, it begins to explore the celestial resonance in all things terrestrial.
Balmorhea's music has always been guided by the experience of living in Texas, but with Stranger the band moves beyond contemplative reverence for the land and the history of their home state. The most forward-leaning of their catalog, Stranger presents worlds of tenderness, aggression, estrangement, and freedom using an expanded sonic palette including guitar loops, vibes, synthesizers, ukulele, and steel pan drums. In addition to these new sounds, electric guitars and percussion take the stage once occupied by piano and acoustic guitars.
Opening with the electric guitar loops, synths, and steel drums of "Days", the band invites us to move forward with them as they explore without pretense or expectation. "Pilgrim" provides the perfect ending, blurring alpha and omega...a concluding gesture taking us back to our beginnings.
In 2008 we had the honor of releasing our first Balmorhea record Rivers Arms. Though the band’s sound and size has grown, the soulful collection of songs on Rivers Arms continues to resonate with listeners. From the contented isolation of "The Winter" to the hazy heat and hopeful longing of "San Solomon," their music captures the indescribable feelings of living and growing in Texas.
Now, 4 years later, we’re excited to make this limited edition vinyl version of Rivers Arms available with 4 bonus tracks and updated artwork. Still wearing their bathing suits, Rob Lowe and Michael Muller recorded the first two bonus tracks as children jumped and splashed in San Solomon Springs (Balmorhea State Park) in the background. These two sunny guitar pieces are followed by a powerful live version of “Theme” recorded in Vienna, Austria. The final track is a version of “San Solomon” featuring live drums, recorded in 2008 for their very limited tour E.P.