Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

Jen Powers on Jan Dukes de Grey – Sorcerers

Over the last couple of years Jen, along with her partner Matthew Rolin, have garnered acclaim for their live sets, issued to cassettes, culminating in an excellent album for Feeding Tube earlier in the year. The pair have also issued a limited run cassette as a trio with Jason Gerycz (Cloud Nothings) that expands into a noisier nook than they hang in on their own. With another tape just released in Trouble In Mind’s new experimental series, its shaping up to be quite a year for the duo. Jen’s hammered dulcimer adds a touch of crystalline beauty to their works and she’s long been a self-professed folk nerd on social media, giving me every reason to reach out and see what gems she has hiding in her collection. Jen’s picked a record that’s long found its way into the hands of obsessive collectors, but has been finally getting a bit of its own due this year. Find out how the debut from Jan Dukes de Grey made its way into her collection.

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Matt Lajoie – “Kuchina’s Dance”

Matt Lajoie announces the third in a planned series of five records focusing on elemental forces, just a few months after the cooling force of Everlasting Spring. The focus this time shifts from water to fire, though in the true spirit of Lajoie, the focus here is on warmth and light rather than the destructive force of the lit flame. The first cut to reach the world’s ears is “Kuchina’s Dance,” a meditative, circular piece that dances through the speakers with the dazzling intimacy of a candle’s flame. Lajoie and Flower Room have proven indispensable over the last few months, offering up a cocoon of calm during times that are anything but. The record lands on shelves January 21st and as usual he’s got a handmade version as well that’s limited but lavish. While its always a rush to light up some of these Bandcamp releases, this one might help us all slow down a bit today and just live in its embrace for seven minutes or so.




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The Left Outsides / Alison Cotton

Over the last few years, Feeding Tube has amassed an impressive collection of works by The Left Outsides, and subsequently solo work by singer / violaist Alison Cotton. The husband-wife duo of Cotten and Mark Nicholas have carried on the psych-folk torch following the dissolution of their previous band The Eighteenth Day of May. This Feeding Tube and Cardinal Fuzz pull triple duty, reissuing the band’s live set cut to CD-R, A Place To Hide from last year. The set culls quite a bit from the band’s previous studio album All That Remains, though they take pains not to merely recreate the album in the live setting. In the room. The Left Outsides can breathe new life into their works — here stretching the songs into haunted dirges that weep with harmonium and dread. The set’s rounded out with a few covers, one traditional and another a rather beautiful take on a 13th Floor Elevators tune, an inspired choice if there ever was one. The lone new cut is the opener “My Reflection Once Was Me,” a song that ties this release to the band’s new record, Are You Sure I Was There?

The song finds its way into the new album, slated for release next week, but its a changed animal. The harmonium drone is gone, replaced by the low growl of guitar, but Alison Cotton’s singular voice still drives the track with hints of deep furrowed sorrow. The album is a departure from the live set that inhabits A Place To Hide, still scarred with the heavy heart and melancholy that’s present in the duo’s work, but fleshed out into a psych-folk landmark that’s acts as a proper follow-up to the scarred and singed landscapes of All That Remains. As the album wears on the clouds pull in tight, blocking the wan moonlight and calling the mists from all directions. Like Espers, Fire On Fire, or most of the Language of Stone roster, this is a band that connects deep to the currents of UK folk and the dark pull of anguish and hope that have long played a part in it’s legacy. Both pull at each other on A Place To Hide, creating rivulets of tension that scar and soothe.

While they hold court evenly, with both Cotton and Nicholas taking on vocal duties within the new album, the labels have found room for one more Cotton related LP on the roster this year and it puts Alison’s solo works on par with the duo’s elemental sadness. Earlier in the year Cotton released a cassette for Bloxham tapes that saw her balancing the stark viola drones with her voce, playing up her Nico tendencies more than any other on the dock this year. The set opens wit the labyrinthine, 20+ minute “Behind The Spiderweb Gate” and delves deep into the darkness from there on out. The song winds her voice through eddies of glacial sadness leading into the layered beauty and stark mourning of the rest of Only Darkness Now, perhaps the most fitting title in all of the Left Outsides-adjacent catalog. Both Feeding Tube and Cardinal Fuzz have done well to showcase what’s so entrancing about Cotton and The Left Outsides and its quite an enticing spread of albums from them this year. If you’re unfamiliar, this trio is an excellent primer on what’s made the band and Cotton’s contributions so vital over the past few years.

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Jennifer Castle

There’s something quite freeing about the latest release from Jennifer Castle. The Canadian songwriter has always had a charming quality of disarmament, but on Monarch Season she’s created a folk masterpiece that slowly peels back the layers of the listener with each song. By the time the last song fades away into the colors of the clouds, the listener can feel the grass growing between their veins. Its such a natural, unfettered vision of folk in 2020 that the record almost feels as if we’re listening across some extra-dimensional echo from the past or a ripple from a future in which the gardens of the Earth are more tended by the caretakers than they are now.

Castle’s rooted this album in the enduring wonder of nature, which against all odds persists in some of the most amazing ways despite what we throw into the mix. It’s an unlikely beacon of hope in a year of uncertainty — an album centered around the migration of butterflies, yet stretching its winds wide to blow through social upheaval, personal tragedy, and stability brought low by the smallest consistencies. With just an unfurnished piano or strum, Castle can captivate. The songs lap at the listener like night waves, entranced by the silver stroke of the moon. Her voice stretches in the headphones — comforting as cashmere and often feeling twice as delicate — but also so enveloping that it seems no force could ever shake it. If a single tear of quiet release had a soundtrack to its fall, this may well be it.

Castle’s never come this close to hearth songs. These feel at times like homecomings, a soft whistle in to the family to gather from all corners, and the inclusion of a book of sheet music with the LP speaks her feeling of weaving this LP into the fabric of sing-a-long comfort that comes from closeness. Its a bygone pastime to gather loved ones and sooth through song, but Castle makes a good case here.

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Mike Wexler – “After”

Songwriter Mike Wexler assembles a crack backing band versed in jazz, though they find footing between their improvisational past and his autumnal shades and verdant verse. Its a subtle shift, but the players, including David Lackner, Adrian Knight, Max Zuckerman, and Mike Advensky, give Mike’s work a scrubbed up sheen. the The first taste fro the upcoming Mike Wexler with Synthetic Love Dream is the loping, gently swirling “After.” The band here is restrained — a touch of bass thudding like a rudder, a patter of percussion and the driving wheel ramble of guitar pushing against a swell of organ. Wexler is as assured as ever, delivering a song that hangs on the air like breath in December. The new album comes out via his old hangout at three:four records this week and this track is just a small peek into the band’s well-oiled simmer.


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Woods release archival collection Reflections Vol. 1

More Bandcamp goodness today with a new collection of archival material from Woods. Dubbed Reflections Vol. 1 (which bodes well for a volume 2), the comp picks up unreleased tracks, refined demos and live material that showcases the band’s tender folk. The collection includes a track recorded spontaneously on the roadside in the Arizona desert, a previously unreleased live jam from the band’s stint at Party in the Pines, put on by Mexican Summer, and a Brian Jonestown Massacre cover. The material’s quality feels far from b-sides and throwaway tracks, giving the collection the feel of an alternate reality album of Woods tracks that somehow went missing. Check out “Midnight Moment” below which was recorded during the sessions for With Light and With Love and finished this year in their home studio.


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John Kolodij

Just after a split release with Ezra Feinberg, John Kolodij embarks on his first true solo release away from the High Aura’d name. The release, which sees light thanks to Jazz imprint Astral Spirit’s more freeform sister label Astral Editions, is an album of two minds. Representing multiple sides of Koldij’s oeuvre. Each half contains a sidelong composition and on the a-side we’re thrust into the depths of “First Fire.” Built on gnawing drones and frothing static, the track is menace come to inhabit the recesses of the mind. Anxiety is at the forefront and its all encompassing with Kolodij’s drones rising up like insurmountable edifices in the dark. Here his collaborator Anna Rg provides just a touch of violin, but its lost in the onslaught of darkness that permeates the track.

It’s the second side that brings back the light. After the hurricane of howl that side one brings, Kolodij swings pastoral for the flip, paring field recordings with banjo, guitar, and a much less imposing drone for one of his most calming offerings to date. With a light lope of repetition, “At Dawn” makes good on the promise of its title, feeling like the world just waking — a dew dusted respite from the chaos that comes once the light reaches the top of the mountain. Rg’s fiddle returns and here she’s given much more space to maneuver, driving the song with a refreshing breeze of sound that’s cold, but forgiving. On the whole this is a nice addition to the High Aura’d helmer’s catalog, but if it is indeed a new dawning of works under his given name, it works well as a statement of purpose.




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Jennifer Castle – “Monarch Season”

Been a bit charmed by this new single from Canadian songwriter Jennifer Castle and it lands quite gently on a crisp fall day. With a bit of Judee Sill and Kath Bloom in her approach, Castle’s latest album is wistful and reserved, letting melancholy sit on our hearts with all its weight. “Monarch Season,” the title track to her upcoming LP, is a song that lacks even a whiff of jadedness, which in our current climate seems almost impossible. Castle depicts being so struck by the beauty of natural cycles that its overwhelming. With just a slight tumble of piano, a faint whisper of hiss, and her strident voice Castle can stamp out the most fervent doubts that while the world would conspire to crush us under a mountain of madness, there’s still an innate ability for it to also enrapture us with just one or two quiet moments. The song seems to streak down the skin in the wake of a tear, and like that simple indulgence, its gone with gust of the afternoon wind. The album is out October 16th from Paradise of Bachelors and Idée Fixe.




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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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Farmer Dave Scher – “Ocean Eyes”

Been a while since ‘Farmer’ Dave Scher popped up on my radar, but for a good swath of time he was a constant around here from Beachwood Sparks and All Night Radio to The Tyde for a stretch. He’s lent instrumentation to a good couple of dozen more than I can count and he’s swept back into view with The Violators and The Skiffle Players lately, but now he’s back with his first solo songwriter works since his ’09 LP and 7” for Kemado/Mex Sum. While the cosmic folk, gauzy psych, and earthen country remains, there’s a renewed focus on breathing life back into a dying planet its all swept into a dizzying whirlwind of reverberating sound on “Ocean Eyes.” The song’s got a heart that has one hand in the glorious cacophony of Akron/Family and another cradled around his compatriots in Mystic Chords of Memory. Though the tethers don’t keep this one locked anywhere for long — a chorus of voices rises and falls, waves crash, and circular piano swims around and around the song with a comforting cadence. The EP features drop-ins from friends Kurt Vile, Cars McCombs and Dan Horne and it arrives October 2nd on Spiritual Pajamas.



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