Richard Youngs has been making music for over two decades. The Naive Shaman, released in dual format (cd and lp), is his seventh album for Jagjaguwar and is a deeply personal work. Created on a computer at home, it is a high density digital song cycle driven by heavy, heavy electric bass guitar.
The opening “Life On A Beam” combines a modal vocal line with throbbing sonics and non-linear percussion. Elsewhere a plaintive voice threads itself through frosted atmospherics and we hear Richard’s first recorded kazoo work since 1992’s “New Angloid Sound”. At the core of the album is “Sonor In My Soul”, a bass loop on to which are collaged strangulated guitar, singing and more singing. The track climaxes in a hollered plea for “unity”. The second half of the set contrasts “Once It Was Autumn”, a succintly crafted dub chant, with the epic “Summer’s Edge II” whose sprawling 16+ minutes anchor a floating vocal melody and free-flowing drums with fuzzed bass octaves.
If the “musical” real number line is infinitely dense, then the most recent work of Richard Youngs endeavors to fill in all of the holes on it. River Through Howling Sky is Youngs’ latest full-length. It returns to the more meditative and drone-y side of his songcraft (circa Sapphie (1998) and Making Paper (2001)), although this is no true devolution: all of his recordings to date have some measure of these qualities. So what is it that sets River Through Howling Sky apart from its predecessors? It is the density on the recording, both intraspatial and otherworldly. The howling guitar that points unerringly to some imagined horizon line. Throughout, Youngs is the calm and steady wolf, chanting odes to infinity. Expose the ancient Brotherhood of Pythagoras to River Through Howling Sky, and you would find knowing nods, pursed lips, and secret incantations in caves. An unwitting acceptance that not everything is rational or conceptually circumnavigable Our western tonal system relies on ratios, i.e. strings whacked at particular intervals. Young’s howling guitar and circular chants—with the help of a spartan amount of percussion and electronics— may just encompass all the possible ratios and, mystically, more.
Richard Youngs' impressive body of work continues to mount. It resembles, unwittingly for sure, a slow zig zag march towards some Hegelian musical ideal in the distant horizon. Youngs, the leading wizard of droney and minimal psychedelic folk, has unleashed Airs of the Ear, his new opus invoking new magic looking for new ears to ensnare. Building on his esteemed recordings Advent (1990), Sapphie (1998), Making Paper (2001) and May (2002), Airs of the Ear goes beyond merely residing in what is the essential ecology of Richard Youngs — the spiritual nexus between the oft disparate realms of traditional folk and the avant-garde; it now embodies this ecology. Acoustic instruments coexist perfectly with electric ones, while neither class of instrumentation is ever trumped by the other contraptions on the record, namely ring modulation, the square wave or the theremin. Perfect balance is almost achieved. There is harmony, true emotional resonance, even on what is Youngs' most captivating work on the record, "Fire Horse Rising". Despite the ever-escalating nature of this song, where Youngs powerfully and repeatedly invokes "...and I don't understand, ...and I don't want to know...", the listener is never allowed to feel overwhelmed or be pushed out of that special meditative and trance-like space. The spell is never broken.English born and bred, but residing in Glasgow, Scotland (where Airs of the Ear was recorded), Richard Youngs has remained busy over the last two years. In addition to his recent Jagjaguwar offerings, Youngs has remained a very active collaborator (releasing albums with Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple, Simon Wickham-Smith, Neil Campbell, Sunroof!, Vibracathedral Orchestra, as well as being featured on the latest Damon & Naomi live album Song to the Siren on the bonus DVD).
May, recorded at various times in Harpenden, England, is Richard Youngs' solo meditation. His music is magical, but not in the sense that it merely conjures up fantastical imagery or "transports the listener to another place". None of that is really happening. Richard Youngs' spell lies in the transformative qualities of his music. From so little we get so much. It is minimalism without pretense, songwriting that abhors artifice. It resides in the spiritual nexus between the oft disparate realms of traditional folk and the avant-garde.Following in the same spirit of his more celebrated solo works, Advent (1990), Sapphie (1998) and Making Paper (2001), May is, like Sapphie, just acoustic guitar and Richard Youngs' voice. Like the others it has an unmistakable "drone-like" quality that has, over time, become one of Youngs' trademarks. But what sets May apart is that it is almost a conventional record; six songs, just over 36 minutes, no song over 8 minutes. If you listen carefully enough to the plaintive, stripped-down and gentle rumbling of the songs on May (and squint hard enough), you can almost discern a semblance of verse-chorus-verse structure. And, for sure, May derives much of its glory from the traditional and the hymnal. If there is a "psych" or "trance-like" quality to Youngs' music, it is charged only by internal endorphines, natureês most underrated drug-mechanism at work. Richard Youngs treats his body of work very much like his own body. He is very careful with what he lets in.
Richard Youngs' first three-song "full-length" release shone down like a beacon from above. It opened with a chorus of tape hiss and a patently English-sounding piano. Eventually there was a British man pleading in song for mercy, for pardon, or, at the very least, for conviction to a lesser charge. This was ADVENT and it was 1990. Youngs had just introduced himself to the universe at large through his No Fans label.Fast forward to the New Year, 2000. Youngs is back on the stool, this time in Edinburgh, Scotland, with long-time collaborator Brian Lavelle engineering. Youngs has another three songs in him, and they show him to be a much wizened, more patient man. Distilled to only piano and vocals, the album is epic to say the least. Opening with "Warriors", a 19-minute journey the size of Scotland, the song pleads, "Warriors see through battle lines." The second song, "The World Is Silence In Your Head", is vintage Youngs fare, offering further evidence that there is significant kinship between him and the ranks of the late-60's to early-70's progressive rock set such as Peter Hammill and his Van Der Graaf Generator, as well as first wave Yes and King Crimson. The song is as sprawling and imaginative in its mythology as the most inspired of prog's deep canon ever got. Yet it tells the tale in less than three minutes and with only one phrase and one instrument, with unprecedented clarity and precision -- not to mention poesy. Certainly it warrants that Youngs be crowned the king of the progressive minimalists. He preys on the most meditative tendencies in each of us, and he finds the essence in each of his songs (throwing out the rest) which endeavours to put erstwhile listeners in a trance-like state.
Jagjaguwar is proud to announce the reissue of one of the most important unheard treasures of the last half decade of the twentieth century. Originally issued in 1998 by Oblique Recordings (its second and final release), SAPPHIE was Richard Youngs' fifth solo full-length and quite a unique album in his already unique oeuvre.Made up of three acoustic tracks -- spanning over 37 minutes in length -- featuring just classical guitar and voice, SAPPHIE is quiet and introspective. The songs feel like an intimate journey by hand through a song cycle of loss and renewal. Within the context of his massive and ever-growing body of work, SAPPHIE is his most song-based and arguably his most personal. Fans of reclusive sages like Nick Drake, Anne Briggs and Robert Wyatt will most appreciate the timeless quality inherent in Youngs' songs.In regard to his more experimental work -- with collaborators Brian Lavelle and Simon Wickham-Smith, for instance -- Melody Maker has called him no less than the "grand-meister of contemporary British improv, spiritual son of Eddie Prevost and Maddy Prior; gentle manipulator of English hymn-notics and religious incantations; protege, challenger and radicaliser of folk, blues, rock, minimalism and improvisation; translator for the sea and the rain and the sky; ambassador to war and peace, to love and anguish," and "poet-seducer of souls."
Following an Irish immigrant carpenter from coastal Queens to the Catskills and beyond,The Builder is an American existential portrait that explores the gulf between the idea of a thing and the thing itself. Having set off to the New York countryside to construct a reproduction of the earliest of American cape houses, the protagonist (Colm O’Leary) finds himself overcome by an inexplicable fatigue. Debts and expectations mount alongside the crudest and most naive of deceptions, that of both self and of family. As the chasm grows the Builder finds himself confronted by the unnerving ambivalence of the world around him.
Jagjaguwar Correspondent is proud to announce the release of a new recording of the internationally renowned poet Robert Creeley. Captured on tape at his home in Waldoboro, Maine in the summer of 2000, the poet reads a selection of new and previously uncollected poems. This marks the first occasion in which Mr. Creeley has appeared unaccompanied on a CD, his work read in all its bare and vital intimacy.His landmark importance as a modern and uncompromising voice in the 1950`s and 60`s has continued through subsequent decades with work as crucial and innovative as in those formative years. He has been a distinct and relentless documentarian of age and its changing perceptions. From the tender, inquisitive addresses of a father to his growing children to meditations on growth, memory and reality, these fifteen pieces reveal a poet in maturity. Among them is a 25-part poem in response to the paintings of Francesco Clemente.
William Carlos Williams said of Creeley, "The subtlest feeling for the measure that I encounter anywhere except in the verses of Ezra Pound." Michael McClure wrote, "He is a genius of the sensorium as Kerouac was and a master of the ear as is Miles Davis." Listen and you'll know why.A 32-page booklet of text, photographs, and author's note accompanies the CD.Among his numerous books are The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1945-1975 (University of California Press, 1982) and Life & Death (New Directions, 1998).
At its heart, Hundred Acres - the third full-length from Wisconsin singer/songwriter S. Carey - finds him grounded and confident, writing the strongest songs of his career. More direct than ever, there is a wellspring of confidence in this new batch of songs that allow for ideas to remain uncomplicated while laying bare the intricacies of life.Written in between touring schedules and the growth of his family, Carey produced Hundred Acres at April Base in Fall Creek, WI with support from his regular crew and contributions from the likes of Rob Moose (yMusic), Casey Foubert (Sufjan Stevens) and Sophie Payten (Gordi). He employed a smaller, more focused scale of instrumentation than on his previous albums while writing mostly on guitar instead of his go-to piano. Using more traditional song structures instead of the Steve Reich-ian repetitions of his past work, a new balance is struck that creates something unique. The result is a collection of poetic yet clear-eyed songs that both stand brightly on their own and tightly weave together to create a powerful album.
Recorded primarily during the perigee-syzygy (also known as the super moon) of August 2014, the Supermoon EP from S. Carey is a study in scale, space, and proximity. These songs are a new and closer look into existing works from both S. Carey's renowned full-lengths, 2010's All We Grow and 2014's Range of Light. With Supermoon, Carey has broken these songs down to their essential, acoustic parts with his forever humming vocals laid over top, lilting yet percussive piano, and a subtle swath of harmonic strings. You can hear Carey's breath between words and the pat of his fingers on the keys; you can hear the living room in which his family's baby grand piano sits. These songs are beautiful, intimate and so potently personal. This collection is a stark presentation of S. Carey laid bare, an open invitation for the listener to climb into his world.
One particularly poignant piece is the re-imagined Range of Light closer, "Neverending Fountain," perhaps an apt metaphor for the life of the songs themselves. Says Carey, "The longer you spend with a song, the more you can see it in its pure form." Supermoon also features a heartrending cover of "Bullet Proof.. I Wish I Was" from Radiohead's classic album The Bends, and a new song, the EP's namesake, "Supermoon," which takes its inspiration, like much of Carey's work, from the natural world around him.
Another source of inspiration quoted by Carey is the excitement of working out arrangements for pre-existing songs on the spot, for various sessions on tour. He brought that spirit to the recording of Supermoon, which took place over the course of a single weekend. Already known as an artist of impeccable craft, S. Carey worked with long-time friends and collaborators (Mike Noyce played viola, Zach Hanson engineered, mixed, and mastered) to add a chapter to the still unfolding story of Sean Carey as an artist. We can hear the songwriting, singing and performance for what it truly is; understated, true and pure beauty.
S. Carey's work is hugely beatific, restorative panorama or beauty - perfect given how landscape and the wonder of nature inspire much of Carey's imagery. His new album 'Range of Light' takes its title from the name that 19th century naturalist John Muir gave to the Sierra Nevada, and follows suit with a dazzling array of musical light and shade, drawn from Carey's love of jazz, modern classical and Americana. Like a weathered mountain range changing shadow form and color, or the ebb and flow of a river's current, S. Carey's music is simultaneously restful and rhythmic, complex and simple, and always evolving.
Hoyas by S. Carey is a hospitable statement about love, longing and the celebration of knowing it well. You will find the familiar S. Carey modern classical repetition pushed into the vernacular of electronic music and beat making. This is the warmest electronic music you'll ever meet. The beats swing, stutter and pulse while each instrument retains a heightened awareness of its form and function within the larger family of voices.
Hoyas was mixed and produced by the Grammy Award Winning team of Justin Vernon and Brian Joseph of Bon Iver.
The debut album from S. Carey, All We Grow, is the result of a young lifetime immersed in music. As a band member of Bon Iver, Sean Carey witnessed a flip of his formal training to step firmly into a worldwide-touring rock band. His performance degree in classical percussion and his love for jazz drumming prepared him for a central role in the inspiring force of the Bon Iver live show.
All We Grow is a convergence of Carey's Waltz For Debby-era Bill Evans inflected jazz tendencies, and traditional rock band experience, taking leads from Talk Talk. It also retests the waters of modern classical composition, investigating the moodiness generated by percussive repetition in a manner familiar to fans of Steve Reich.
Sarah White lives in a postal address area outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, called White Hall. She has lived most of her life in either Virginia or West Virginia, never more than a stone's throw away from the Blue Ridge Mountains. But she isn't a hermit. She isn't a disconnected member of society living in a wood shack evading technology or a person of poor length of bone who was found under a rock and is now being pushed on you as the poster child for "the new and truly authentic," as a reminder of what American music "really" is at its roots. Sarah went to college. She lived for some time in San Francisco and has travelled the world many, many times. And maybe why her music immediately strikes a chord is that it is informed by so many, many different, disparate musical traditions. BLUEBIRD isn't a folk record, although at times it makes you feel like Sarah has in her collection Hazel Dickens' or Smithsonian-era Lucinda Williams' records. It isn't a country record, but it makes you think maybe she was raised listening to Emmylou Harris. Finally, it isn't something that comes close to what you would consider rock, although the "rock" or "pop" sections of record stores is where it will end up. Like Marianne Faithfull's BROKEN ENGLISH record, BLUEBIRD is a fish out of water. And perhaps on this record Sarah has become, in one body and mind, the communion of Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, ala FULL MOON.
Transferred directly to CD straight from an audio cassette tape received in the mail one day, ALL MY SKIES ARE BLUE is an unpolished, naked collection of songs recorded to four-track over a three year period. It covers a wide gamut of moods and sounds, moving quickly from the dense, rumbling tones of "dredge" and "halloween," through the ugliness-embodied in "shit," to the well-orchestrated, slightly more hopeful and extremely beautiful "I'm down." It hits full stride with "acres," a song as vast and grand as its title suggests. A remarkable debut by an artist who is truly a diamond in the rough.
From the soundtrack of the documentary "Tig".
One of music's most astute cartographers of the heart, able to squeeze enormous sentiments into especially small spaces, Sharon Van Etten offers up documents of surrender and disappointment, admission and longing with this 5 song EP, I Don't Want to Let You Down.
For all the attention that was paid to her 2012 break-through Tramp, Sharon Van Etten is an artist with a hunger to turn another corner and to delve deeper, writing from a place of honesty and vulnerability to create a bond with the listener that few contemporary musicians can match. Compelled by a restless spirit, Van Etten is continuously challenging herself. Now, the result is Are We There, a self-produced album of exceptional intimacy, sublime generosity, and immense breadth.
Most musicians are quite happy to leave the production end of things to someone else. It’s enough to live your music without taking on the role of producer as well. Yet Van Etten knew it was time to make a record entirely on her terms. The saying goes “fortune favors the bold” and yet this boldness had to be tempered. For this, Van Etten found a kindred spirit in veteran music producer Stewart Lerman. Originally working together on Boardwalk Empire, they gently moved into new roles, rallying around the idea of making a record together in Lerman’s studio in New Jersey. Lerman’s studio expertise gave Van Etten the freedom to make Are We There the way she imagined. Van Etten also enlisted the individual talents of her band, consisting of Heather Woods Broderick, Doug Keith and Zeke Hutchins, and brought in friends Dave Hartley and Adam Granduciel from The War on Drugs, Jonathan Meiberg (Shearwater), Jana Hunter (Lower Dens), Peter Broderick, Mackenzie Scott (Torres), Stuart Bogie, Jacob C. Morris and Mickey Freeze.
It is clear from the opening chords in the first song, Afraid of Nothing, that we are witnessing a new awareness, a sign of Van Etten in full stride, writing, producing and performing from a place that seems almost mythical, were it not so touchable and real. Always direct, and never shying away even from the most personally painful narratives, Van Ettten’s songwriting continues to evolve. Many of the songs deal with seemingly impossible decisions, anticipation, and then resolution. She sings of the nature of desire, memory, of being lost, emptiness, of promises and loyalty, fear and change, of healing and the true self, violence and sanctuary, waiting, of silence. The artist who speaks in such a voice is urging us to do something, to take hold and to go deeper. Living in this way, the questions of life remain alive, as close and steady as breathing. Many of the ballads of old are as dark as pitch, and people for whom the issues of life and death were as vivid as flame wrote them. You could turn off the electricity, remove all the instruments and Sharon’s voice and words would remain. They connect her to the mystic stratum which flows just beneath the everyday, which is rarely acknowledged as the forces of distraction sweep our attention away.
Leonard is the second single from Tramp, the new album from Sharon Van Etten.
The shimmering sound of Sharon Van Etten’s Jagjaguwar debut album, Tramp, both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. Throughout the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Van Etten was without a home -- crashing with friends and storing her possessions between varied locations. The only constant in Van Etten's life during this time was spent in Aaron Dessner's garage studio.
The shimmering sound of Tramp both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. During the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Sharon Van Etten was without a home - crashing with friends and spreading out her possessions between various locations. The only constant during this time was when Van Etten returned to the garage studio of The National’s Aaron Dessner.
The resulting album is an assured and strident one, and Tramp showcases an artist in control of her powers, incorporating vivid arrangements and instrumentation into the songwriting. It is a startling collection, filled with as much defiant rock as pious, minimal beauty. There are declarative hymns and remarkably sultry numbers. Tramp features many stupendous guests, as well, including Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, Julianna Barwick, and Beirut’s Zach Condon, and Dessner himself.
For Simon Joyner's tenth proper album, he's joined by his working Omaha band, the Fallen Men. What they've created is a dark, rock-and-roll, beginning or ending of an era, seven leaf catalogue of people (skeletons) and their troubles (blues). Sounding like Doug Yule-era Velvet Underground, Dylan with the Band (or is it Neil Young and Crazy Horse?), and Sister Lovers damaged Big Star, this is unlike any other Simon Joyner record.
The song cycle begins with a cobblestone street inviting a man in an open window to splash the bricks below, to the cadence of It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), and ends with a man walking down the street waiting for the rain to wash him clean. In between is all the news fit to sing. Joyner knows it takes a worried man to sing a worried song and the songs here are certainly worried, peopled by bruised lives, but make no mistake, this is not hopeless music