In the distance the land kisses the sky. If you squint just right you can see Minus Story in flux there, somewhere between earthbound and ethereal, making sunspots on the horizon line with their noisy & melodic headphone pop. Reared together in America's Midwestern cradle, Minus Story speak their own codified musical language as only childhood friends can share. Tirelessly artistic yet unpretentious, they are unafraid of abject noise, folk, soul, or straight-up pop rock.
My Ion Truss is Minus Story's Studio Album. It was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago with John Congleton (Explosions In the Sky, The Polyphonic Spree). Having a producer behind the controls for the first time allowed them to work more collectively as a band, giving them the freedom to record the primary tracks completely live. It is the closest thing to Minus Story's cathartic live show that they've put to tape to date. The result is an epic & anthemic cross between Pearl Jam, Queen, Brian Eno, and Roxy Music.
If we could hear the angels singing about us, they would be in harmony with the chosen sons of Boonville,Missouri. With No Rest for Ghosts, their second full-length record for Jagjaguwar, Minus Story have arrived. Their heavenly racket shuffles, flutters, crashes and bangs all about us. Their reedy artistic voice nears multi-octave range. Their rhythmic presence delights us in a sublime collision of the conventional and the experimental. And while their trademarked “Wall of Crap” sound is still present to some degree, No Rest for Ghosts has transcended the earnest collage aesethic of sounds battling it out for attention and now fully exhibits a depth and subtlety of performance not found on their critical darling The Captain Is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance (their first full-length for Jagjaguwar, released in 2004). No Rest for Ghosts is a portal to a richly imaginative Minus Story universe, where the band sings about a narrator being eaten and regurgitated by his/her own baby in order to feed its own monstrous young, the chasing of a cloud that eats souls, the jumping off of a cliff like lemmings after employers are laid waste to, the dreaming of a Nazi invasion of their hometown, God sadistically laughing at them, and their respective minds being invaded by undead celebrities. The emphasis is on either structure over hooks, or the willingness to enjoy a story in words unfolding over a set of chords without any unneccessary “window dressing” getting in the way. Minus Story is influenced musically by the solo work of John Frusciante, the tenderness of Bjork, the melodic interplay ofTelevision, and the directness of late period Tom Waits. The band is also conceptually influenced by the brutality of JerzyKosinski's The Painted Bird, the sweeping and ambivalent authoritarianism critique of Jason Lips (the provider of cartoon drawingsfor the album art, and the creator of the Opera and the Blond Stalin character), and most of all by the idea of the invisibleenemy and the erosion of the soul by unknown outside forces.The isolation and boredom of small town life has led Minus Story to put the love of art and best friends before career, fashion andprofessionalism. The writing and recording process for them is one of festivity and trying to capture inspiring moments in theirmistakes. They will never hit their mark, but, in failing, they arrive transported somewhere else. A driving aesthetic force withinthe band is their conviction that they are only different from their musical idols in that they are dependent on shitty jobs to fundtheir art. Only the rich and privileged are truly independent. Minus Story feel that they and their peers are bound by a commonlack of funds as “budget artists” playing “budget rock”.
Minus Story’s debut record for Jagjaguwar from a year ago, The Captain is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance, drew rave reviews and solidified the band’s standing as young sonic provacateurs on the brink of widespread notoriety, as fertile crafters of mystical melodies and harmonies that dig truly and deeply under your skin. Drawing from the spirit of The Captain is Dead… but looking unflinchingly towards the future, Minus Story have now created a new shorter work that will inspire the same kind of fervent (and sometimes hyperbolic) reaction as did their Jagjaguwar debut. Listening to the Heaven and Hell CDEP, one is left with absolutely no doubt that this band is special, that they are especially privy to the fundamentals of great music making, that they are becoming in more and more proximate league with the likes of Smile-era Beach Boys, Circulatory System and Neutral Milk Hotel. The first two songs on the CDEP are a couple of years old. The third and fourth songs are newer, the fourth (“Misery is a Ship”) being written just a week before recording occurred. Along with a Misfits cover and the recital of a “true” ghost story, these four Minus Story songs contained on the CDEP are about death in one way or another.
Minus Story's mystical third full-length, The Captain is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance, is fuzzy and full of sunshine but also full of dark clouds and cold rain and is wistful and billowing, much like the music of The Zombies, Smile-era Beach Boys, Circulatory System and Neutral Milk Hotel. It also embraces those indefinable qualities found on records like Mt. Eerie by Microphones or Fragile by Yes. It is experimental pop, through and through, with all the attendant haunted edges, including a storyline about some young boy who rallies together an army of children, some black cloud that eats birds, and some girl who comes back as a ghost in a marching band. A masterpiece that will creep into your consciousness and lay anchor for some time.
In October 1999, Monroe Mustang were invited to attend the Crossing Borders Festival in the Netherlands, an annual musical gathering organized by the VPRO (Dutch Public Radio) that tries each year to unearth all the best kept secrets in independent music internationally. For Monroe Mustang, the motley crew of Texan / Oklahomans who reside in Austin and prefer to record at home and rarely travel to perform, this was a special treat for two reasons. Not only did they finally experience the joy of performing in unfamiliar territory, but they were also afforded the opportunity to be recorded live in VPRO's studios -- their first taste of third party production of their music. Engineered/produced by Berry Kamer, Jan Hiddink and Maurice Woestenburg, the result is almost a full-length's worth of largely acoustic, perfectly paced music that culls together the best moments of this youthful outfit's career -- songs from their post-psychedelic masterpiece THE ELEPHANT SOUND and from their glorious debut full-length PLAIN SWEEPING THEMES FOR THE UNPREPARED (Trance Syndicate, 1998). Also, in the mix, are new, previously unreleased songs that are their strongest material yet.
the Monroe Mustang, still first in spaceThis band has cool charm and mystique to spare -- the least of their qualities. They are from Texas, for crying out loud. And they are resolute, having put together a special session of musical embroidery that sounds like nothing else. Still, sonically-speaking, you can't help but think that Monroe Mustang have been around since 1971, session-guitarists, perhaps, for Ziggy Stardust. Or openers for that unfortunate T. Rex stateside tour. Maybe they were simply in the background, hanging out during Syd Barrett's last stab at it, watching him slowly melt away. There is some lineage that is inexplicable but apparent. And with THE ELEPHANT SOUND, Monroe Mustang have created an epic, post-psychedelic masterpiece -- on equal footing with any of the works of their erstwhile predecessors.
Following up the stunning Julia With Blue Jeans On, Spencer Krug delights us with five more majestic tunes, newly written and never before released.
Released physically on vinyl only, this EP is the perfect collectible for all Moonface audiophiles.
Moonface is not a band, just plain half-old me, in any solo or collaborative projects I'm involved in from now until whenever. In early 2010 the first EP was released on Jagjaguwar. It was called Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums, and sounds as the title suggests. This past winter, trying to keep sane in my snowed-in Montreal home, I recorded another solo record. This new one is an LP called Organ Music not Vibraphone like I'd Hoped and is due out August 2nd, 2011. -Spencer Krug
This is physically available only in the vinyl format (approximately 20 minutes of music on a single side of a 12-inch record). It is also available in digital formats. The vinyl edition and some digital editions will be accompanied with a dream journal, on which the music is based.
I called this thing My Best Human Face not only because that's one of my favorite lines on the album, but because I sometimes don't know who I am, or if I'm as kind and generous and happy as other people. The title speaks to the vague theme of identity-confusion that is loosely woven into the songs - a reoccurring theme I recognized only after the writing was done. It’s a confusion which I think exists for most of us, sure, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the campfire in the middle of our circle; we don’t have to stare into the flames. It’s simply not that important. At end of it all, these are good-time songs, meant to inspire good times in the listener. They were made joyously, with a stubborn love of music at their centre. And while some of the content might be dark or sad, the memories of making these songs brings only gladness and gratitude, and it's their construction, not deconstruction, that I want to celebrate now.
- Spencer Krug
The lyrical theme of Moonface's With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery, recorded with Helsinki prog kraut rock band Siinai, is heartbreak. According to Krug, it was not planned, but became obvious halfway through the writing process. Some recently battered, still mildly swollen heart snuck its way into the first lyrics written, so he went with it. He wrote songs based on his own experiences with heartache, stories told to him by friends, and drummed up scenarios of ill-fated love that were absolute fiction. Altogether, the inevitability of life's flawed and failed relationships, the shitty feelings we feel as a result, and the people we become (ugly, brave, violent, crawling like babies back toward the womb) while trying to deal with those feelings are the ideas explored in these songs. It is not a particularly original theme, but one Krug felt worth digging into, perhaps deeper than he ever has before.
Moses Sumney evades definition as an act of duty: technicolor videos and monochrome clothes; Art Rock and Black Classical; blowing into Fashion Week from a small town in North Carolina; seemingly infinite collaborators, but only one staggering voice. A young life spent betwixt Southern California and Accra, Ghana — not so much rootless as an epyphite, an air plant. The scale is cinematic but the moves are precise deeds of art and stewardship. Sumney’s new, generous album, græ, is an assertion that the undefinable still exists and dwelling in it is an act of resistance.
To try to pin Sumney down on a sound — and really, on any matter — is to end up with a hand full of fog, but his genius is never allowing the set to sound like a hodgepodge. His forthcoming double album expands upon the sonic universe built in Sumney's critically-acclaimed debut LP Aromanticism and subsequent EP Black In Deep Red, 2014. The songs on grae may be divergent, like the visceral, Smashing Pumpkins drama of "Virile" and the intoxicated, outro jazz of “Gagarin." There’s the kinky, ambiguous bop of “Cut Me” countered with the sweeping, amphitheater-ready “Bless Me.” But there’s that voice, always unknowable and penetrating, threading these pieces together: a heavenly rasp, a whale call, Miles' horn, a soulful snarl. It all works to create a paradox, keeping art and artist somewhere between any one sure thing — but surely something that demands your attention affixed and your breath bated. All of this is grae.
There’s probably a biblical analogy to be made about a person who just happens to be named Moses, who flees the binary, splits a massive body into two pieces, and leads us through the in-between — holy and wholly rebellious. By breaking up grae into two multifaceted, dynamic pieces, Sumney is quite literally creating a "grey" in-between space for listeners to absorb and consider the art. Not strictly singles, not strictly albums, never altogether songs or spoken word segments on their own. It's neither here nor there. Neither/Nor, if you will.
Written in Montreal, Los Angeles, Asheville, Topanga, Laguna, Big Bear, coastal Nicaragua, and on a sleepy ship traversing the Pacific ocean, making Aromanticism was a 3-year adventure into the parts of the self that society encourages us to silence for the sake of our sanity.
The album title was chosen before any of its songs were written. The not-yet-in-the-dictionary definition of an "aromantic" is simply someone who doesn't completely feel romantic attraction. I'm just trying to get it out from over the red squiggly line.
Aromanticism features performances and production contributions from Matt Otto (Majical Cloudz), Thundercat, Joshua Willing Halpern, Paris Strother (KING), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Rob Moose, Ian Chang (Son Lux), Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders), Nicole Miglis (Hundred Waters), Ludwig Gorannson, Cam Obi and more. All of the lyrics and vocal arrangements were written by me. Genre is shirked while choir-inspired vocal layering is employed in order to explore the multiplicities that are contained within a single person. - Moses Sumney, June 2017
Guitar virtuoso, songwriter exemplar, former Songs: Ohia collaborator and now Chicago everyman Dan Sullivan (aka Nad Navillus) is back with his most accomplished work to date, Iron Night. But this time the concept of Nad Navillus has been expanded. For starters, Nad Navillus has bloomed into a full band accompanied by various instrumentalists, including a full-blown string section. Sure, Sullivan still writes all the songs and leads the charge with his incredible lead guitar work and vocals. But this isn't your albino brother's indie-rock label's singer-songwriter anymore. There are collaborators in Dan's midst--a team Nad Navillus, so to speak. And they are, dare we say it, making sure the rock gets out.Recorded at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio in Chicago in the blazing summer heat with Rob Bochnik and Greg Norman at the helm, Iron Night is the Nad Navillus full-length avant rock record we've all been waiting for. Lyrically flirting with both the spiritual and the macabre, Iron Night encompasses a large range of themes and moods but never fails to project a unified tone. It is not quite a concept record, but it feels like one. And, musically, Iron Night reads like a "what if..." manifesto found in the used bin of some second-hand book store catering to music-types...what if Low had teeth or what if Gastr del Sol committed itself more steadfastly to the song form or what if the members of Fairport Convention regained their youth and plugged in for one last hurrah on the rooftop of some midwestern pizza parlor. A band can rest its laurels on being impeccably referential, or it can go about embodying a vastly superior parallel universe. Iron Night demonstrates that Nad Navillus does the latter.
Show Your Face is Nad Navillus' second album, its first for Jagjaguwar. The record combines Chicago-native Dan Sullivan's John Fahey-esque guitar playing with his beautiful voice and timeless lyricism, which brings to mind classic early-period Jackson Browne. Throughout much of the full-length, the songs demonstrate the happy marriage of a minimalist approach to songcraft with traditional fingerstyle guitar. The result is a meditative and layered work built on simple melodies and rhythms. While it is the guitar that drives these songs--something that won't surprise those who know Sullivan primarily as the guitarist for Songs:Ohia prior to this album--it is the vocals that anchor them. Lyrics focus on paradoxes: earnestness and cynicism, sensitivity and callousness, innocence and wisdom. The songs on Show Your Face occupy the unresolved conflicts of our conscience. Drawing equally on Sullivan's experiences performing classical choral works, bluegrass, barbershop, and Metallica covers in a Japanese metal band, Nad Navillus will appeal to fans of Gastr Del Sol, Archer Prewitt and Low.
It's been four years since the release of Nagisa Ni Te's previous album Dream Sounds, and now - after much work - their seventh album Yosuga has been completed. Jagjaguwar is once again very proud to deliver the band's most recent work to North America and Europe. Yosuga also marks the first time that Jagjaguwar has released a Nagisa Ni Te title on vinyl (not to mention the still popular compact disc format!). The Japanese duo of Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda deliver an album that consists of both beautiful arrangements and soft melodies. Yosuga - the meaning of which refers to the source or grounds upon which the body and mind rely - is one of Nagisa Ni Te's finest efforts.
Dream Sounds may be the closest Nagisa Ni te ever gets to a greatest hits record. And although there are only four tracks on this compact disc (some previously released, but all re-recorded, re-mixed and re-mastered for this special edition), the record clocks in over forty minutes, runs the whole gamut of the sounds and moods of Nagisa Ni te’s songcraft over the years, and contains their most moving moments. This full-length record is the perfect introduction to the dreamy and nature-obsessed universe of Nagisa Ni te. Nagisa Ni te is Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda, and they are from Osaka, Japan. This is their sixth album.
Nagisa Ni te (aka Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda) are back. Their new record The Same As A Flower, recorded between 2002 and the beginning of this year, is the third to be released by Jagjaguwar. Much like on previous records, the songs on the new record by this Osaka, Japan-based group are about nature, about the singularity of two people immersed in nature together, and about experiencing life as “being”, not “becoming” or “recovering from”. And like their previous full-length record, Feel, The Same As A Flower still brings to mind the very best of sixties’ and seventies’ psychedelic, progressive and folk rock (i.e. middle-era Roy Harper, Pink Floyd, 13th Foor Elevators and early Neil Young). Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s Tori Kudo may describe Nagisa Ni te best when he says: “Nagisa Ni te’s naked Progressive rock-based worldly songs, which are sung not so much deliberately as seriously, on their love beach, now fill a blank somewhere between underground hi-fi and overground lo-fi.” Also of note, Dominquie Leone of Pitchfork wrote: “Well before mystic folk became fodder for VW commercials, Shibayama was conjuring up the spirits of Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin to the delight of the Japanese psychedelic scene.”
Here is the Nagisa Ni te story: in the beginning Shinji Shibayama performed "hyped up dada-psych" in the early 1980's as part of Idiot O'Clock and then the more toned-down Hallelujahs. He also founded and still runs Org Records, the label responsible for bringing Eastern psych powers Maher Shalal Hash Baz to the world. With Maher Shalal Hash Baz's help, with the musical contributions of many of their collective friends, and with the assistance of Shibayama's now full-fledged cohort Masako Takeda in all things Nagisa Ni te, Shibayama recorded and released On The Love Beach, a beautiful, slow and entrancing work pulling equally from American and British rock traditions. Thus was born Nagisa Ni te, which means "on the beach" in Japanese, an homage of sorts to Neil Young's 1975 masterpiece. Their psych folk tendencies notwithstanding, Nagisa Ni te also did well to take cues from the avant rock world around them at the time, comfortably implementing the minimalist credo "less is more" throughout this record.Though On the Love Beach was Nagisa Ni te's debut, it is the second Nagisa Ni te record brought to the United States and Europe by Jagjaguwar. It follows Feel, their most recent endeavour, which garnered significant critical acclaim in the press. And like Feel, it does bring to mind the very best of sixties' and seventies' psychedelic, progressive and folk rock (i.e. early to middle-era Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Crazy Horse, and Roxy Music). Maher Shalal Hash Baz's Tori Kudo may describe Nagisa Ni te best when he says: "Nagisa Ni te's naked Progressive rock-based worldly songs, which are sung not so much deliberately as seriously, on their love beach, now fill a blank somewhere between underground hi-fi and overground lo-fi."