Posts Tagged ‘American Primitive’

North Americans

Aiding an expanded focus at Third Man on another side of guitar based records, North Americans’ Patrick McDermott follows up 2018’s Going Steady with his most transcendental work yet. The previous album was rooted in American Primitive, with a bubble of outre synth and experimental touches rising just below the surface. He drew in Julliana Barwick, Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings), and pedal steel player and fellow Driftless alum Hayden Pedigo into his orbit and the resulting record had an immediate feel like a woolen blanket for the soul. For Roped In he’s extending the comfort and calm, spending the majority of the record elevating the serene with pedal steel player Barry Walker, though this time friends Mary Lattimore and William Tyler add harp and guitar respectively. Largely, this is a landscape built and maintained by the gentle lap of Walker and McDermott and the world they envision is radiant, rippling in all directions with the slow pick of strings and painterly melt of slide passages.

That Tyler appears on the album is fitting as Roped In evokes many of the same communal cares as his own aching entry from 2019, Goes West. Every song feels like it might have beamed from the players to tape fully in tact as dawn rose over the hills. The playing is nothing if not verdant — alive with a natural fragility and reverence for the meditative state. Every opportunity the record hits the speakers time and trouble seem to melt away. McDermott roots the album in the same American Primitive that brought him to focus in the past couple of years, but its now mixed with a New Age thrum that’s slowing the fingerpicked pace, buoyed by Walker’s weeping slides that land somewhere between harmonious drone and mournful sigh. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible, too. This is the kind of new age that Laraaji is born from, the true believer strain that smooths the edges of angst. While Walker has his own gem of a record on the way later in the year, here he and Patrick have pushed North Americans towards a bliss that cannot be ignored. Quite simply there may not be more beautiful records than this in 2020.



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North Americans – “American Dipper”

Another gorgeous slip into the grooves of North Americans’ upcoming LP for Third Man lands today and its just as elegiac as their first bits that found their way out a couple of weeks back. McDermott and Barry Walker diffuse all the tension in the room with the hushed huddle of “American Dipper.” North Americans’ past work captured the golden hour glow of natural surroundings, but the addition of Walker’s slides make this an even more aching and tender portrait of complete calm and aural transcendence. The video adds a nice touch of mountain air to the song, giving it the right context to radiate serenity to the very core. The record is out October 9th.



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North Americans – “Furniture in the Valley / Rivers That You Cannot See”

The last outing from Patrick McDermott’s North Americans was a meditative, pastoral record that found the artist pulling in contributions from Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), Julianna Barwick, and Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings). Focused more on McDermott’s prowess with American Primitive, the record proved to push North Americans into a larger stage that seems likely expand only further with his upcoming record for Third Man. Perhaps inspired by their last outing in pedal steel, the venerable Nashville label hooks in McDermott and North Americans for a new LP that pairs him with Northwest pedal steel player Barry Walker, who also released a record on North Americans’ former home Driftless.

The first taste of Roped In comes with a long, somber video that pairs album tracks “Furniture in the Valley” and “Rivers That You Cannot See” with a narrative of Mennonite travelers, eclipse viewing, and plains states desperation that feels like Noah Hawley might have a hand I there somewhere (he doesn’t just to be clear). The two tracks scratch at the heart of loss, quivering with sadness, sobriety, and human frailty. The album boasts further contributions from Mary Lattimore and William Tyler, and the feel of this is not so far off from the latter’s own First Cow score that was released earlier in the year. The record lands October 9th wrapped again in gorgeous art from Brian Blomerth.

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Zachary Hay

Zachary Hay’s the latest to join up with the excellent Scissor Tail stable and his debut is a case study in American Primitive full of vulnerability, patience, and careful contemplation. Where some fingerpickers dash through runs and flash a virtuoso’s brand, Hay’s a more restrained player. His songs pick out a path through the forest that’s purposeful and meditative. He doesn’t ripple n’ run so much as saunter, eyes on the grey skies and a hint of rain already in the air. With the muted hiss of tape spooling in the background, Hay’s eponymous long player gives the feeling of having been recorded in the field, the soft wisp of wind bringing smells of autumn decay flooding to the senses. His dissonance gives a sense of unease, a quality of feeling lost that rings anxious through the records, perhaps feeding into that need to slow down and weigh the options lest doom befall the listener. There is joy too, but, again, Hay keeps the emotions close to his chest with each new offering as the needle winds its way around the plate.

There are plenty of touchstones that Hay hits upon with this record, his first fully under his name after years spent playing as Bronze Age and The Dove Azima. Hay maps out the same doomed terrain as Steven R. Smith (albeit more with a more barebones approach). There are touches of Tashi Dorji, Bill Orcutt, and Scott Tuma filtering through the stringwork. Hangovers from the Tacoma class, of course, but Hay seems to reflect them off of the more modern players’ continuations of its legacy. Hay finds footing in Roy Montgomery’s sense of wonder in the face of foreboding odds. Over the top of all of these touches there’s more than a slight shadow of Loren Connors’ tectonic pacing. More than any other, this seems to be Hay’s rudder, building atmospheres of ash and letting them slowly wind away on the wind. While this is certainly not Hay’s debut, it’s a great new chapter in his work and one that fits well among the vaunted stringwork at Scissor Tail.



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Zachary Hay – “3”

It’s always time to stop and listen when a new one rolls down the roster from Scissor Tail and today’s no exception. The label is releasing the debut from Zachary Hay under his own name. He’s previously stayed tucked behind the monikers Bronze Horse and The Dove Azima, but this time he’s stripping it all back and letting his own name hang on the door. The album is a sparse slice of American Primitive folk – cut from the cloth of Fahey and Basho, but tied tight with the discarded threads of Loren Connors, Tashi Dorji, Bill Orcutt, and Scott Tuma. There’s not the same type of fluidity that would befit a Fahey acolyte, but there’s more movement here than Connors usually lets take hold. Hay falls somewhere between the ripple-pickers and the 4AM dirge hunters. There’s a couple of tracks up now, all equally haunted and hollowed so it bodes well for the full release when it slips out on November 22nd.




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