Posts Tagged ‘Skygreen Leopards’

Donovan Quinn

Like a star on the horizon, Soft Abuse comes creeping in with some essential late 2019 releases, including the fourth solo album from Donovan Quinn. The California songwriter has been a longtime fixture on RSTB, having anchored Skygreen Leopards, New Bums, and Verdure in the past. His albums are few and far between, bucking a trend of so many lately to work feverishly to amass a catalog that could cripple shelves and wallets alike. Quinn’s measured pace always pays off with songs that constantly recontextualize the past into something undeniably new — like beams of a barn brought to new life in new construction. The ghosts of those beams remain ever present and they seep out slowly into the room to mix with the mites and stir up the senses.

The songs on Absolom are even more haunted than most of Quinn’s works, having evolved from an idea to build songs around the lore of other artists. Ultimately that idea was set aside, but there’s still a feeling of these songs having been lived in, lyrically or otherwise by the ethers and embers of the past. On the long, winding highlight “Satanic Summer Nights” Quinn conjures Nikki Sudden with an ear towards ambitious boundaries. Its Sudden rewriting the The Pretty Things’ Parachute for a new age. Elsewhere Quinn’s tales are rife with loss, haunted not only by his heroes but by feelings just out of reach. He saunters through the rooms, touching each stick of furniture and mourning the dust as much as the lack of inhabitants that let it settle.

On Absalom Quinn’s assembled a rotating cast of performers from his circle but their contributions are just paints in his set. There’s rarely been a record that has more of Quinn’s mark on it. His voice is embedded in the grain of the guitars, the worn spots on the piano keys, the magnetic fields on the tape. Whether or not these tales are his, he’s embodied them with his whole and its an undeniable record, one that stands high in an enviable catalog. Its late in the year, which makes me think that a lot of ears have shut themselves tight, but I hope this one reverberates across the cold air and into the hearts that need it.



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Donovan Quinn – “Satanic Summer Nights”

Has it really been seven years since Donovan Quinn graced us all with a solo record? It seems this is absolutely true, though his collaborative project with Ben Chasny, New Bums, helped to heal the wounds of time in the interim. In that light, news of the upcoming Absalom comes with a sense of excitement and the first cut from the record, the twisting, epic “Satanic Summer Nights” sets the mood just right. The new album sees Quinn reconnect with a heavy cast of regulars in his musical universe – Chasny, of course, is here, lending a hand to mix the record, plus appearances by Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers), Jessica Roberts, Jason Quever (Papercuts), Michael Tapscott (Odawas) and Eric Amerman flesh the album out to one of Donovan’s heaviest hitters yet.

“Satanic Summer Nights” captures the whirlwind feelings of youth, the crushing weight of change, and the sting of betrayal set to a background of humid summer air. The pulsing pop twists and time changes give the song the grandiosity of Nikki Sudden tying together three of four of his best deep cuts into a pounding medley before collapsing to a heap on the stage. Given his roots in Skygreen Leopards, Quinn has remained an inspiration for RSTB since the very first days of the site, and I can say without hesitation that this feels like one of his most affecting records. Take a few spins through “Satanic Summer Nights” and look out for the new record on Soft Abuse December 5th.

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The Reds, Pinks and Purples

Pretty much as long as there’s been a Raven, there’s been music on the site in some form by Glenn Donaldson. From Skygreen Leopards to The Art Museums, Birdtree to Giant Skyflower Band and Flying Canon, there are plenty of hallmarks that have made their way into life around here. Quite a few years ago, when I was putting together a compilation for the site’s third year anniversary, I asked Glenn for something from Skygreen and he put forth a new band he was working on called The Reds, Pinks and Purples. Still jangly, but not as driven to the winds as Skygreeen. The sounds would share quite a bit of DNA with Glenn’s next project, the pastel-hued pop hymns of Art Museums but they wouldn’t fully surface until now.

Soaring above some similarly synthetic beats, The RP,&Ps take more of a sauntered pace to their pop paradigm. These are the fruits of an artist who’s spent years in the jangle-pop portfolios of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Those colors don’t seem so arbitrary once the record gets spinning. The songs glow with rosy hues, beautifully bittersweet and hummably heartfelt. Like fellow West Coast jangler Business of Dreams, Glenn’s scratching n’ sniffing the discarded tears from the Creation and Sarah catalogs (with nods to Jasmine Minks, Sneetches, The Field Mice) but also leaning on South-Hemi heavies like the The Go-Betweens and The Bats. Glenn seems to ascribe no heavy debts to the songs. He mentions, “They are fiction and non-fiction. I recorded them in my kitchen, but we live in the future now, so some of them are coming out on vinyl in Spain. To me, they are straight pop songs with not much of a filter.”

Seems a bit modest to me. Glenn’s the filter and he’s caught all the filler and left an album that’s filled with charms, swoons, aches, and tears. We do live in the future, so people will probably break these into fodder for their personal playlists, but any track here would just as easily fill out the crucial crux of your crush’s mixtape or be heard between the crackled static of dorm radios late into the night on the campus station. The songs here are timeless reminders that pop can heal all wounds and bridge decades. Straight pop songs for sure, but remarkable ones to say the least.




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The Reds, Pinks, & Purples – “Ahead of Their Time”

After a lengthy gestation period the first Reds, Pinks, & Purples LP is on its way out this year. The band first appeared on Raven way back in 2009 on my first compilation, marking the three-year anniversary of the site. Since then Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Ivytree) has had several records come through, but The Reds, Pinks, & Purples has always lingered in the background. That is, until late last year when demos began popping up regularly on their Bandcamp, promising a fully formed record to come. That LP arrives via Spain’s Pretty Olivia Records. Entitled Anxiety Art the record wraps up a full set of RP&P’s amber-hued jangle-pop with just a slight lap of syncopated drums. The band has always been a close cousin of Art Museums, but where that band’s locked beats and pastel strum skew towards bliss, The Reds, Pinks & Purples scrape the heart with a pang of melancholy. Check out the lovely “Ahead of Their Time” below and nab one of the 150 copies of this gem.



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43 Odes

Eiderdown revives the spirit of the long languished Jewelled Antler, if only for a moment with a new cassette from 43 Odes. Comprised of Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Ivytree) and Steven R. Smith (Ulaan Passerine, Hala Strana) the band brings the pair back together for the first time since they ground out noise rituals in Thuja. While 43 Odes is certainly landing softer blows than Thuja, there’s a communal spirit. Steeped in the moss n’ fog feelings that led the compass point of Jewelled Antler, the record builds an atmosphere of trepidatious wonder. From the outset the pair summons the ceremonial atmosphere – dub-struck drums patter in the background, Donaldson’s bass slithers with controlled menace, and sawed strings chase smoke rings into a trance.

There’s a clear-cut vision of sound here, no dabbling or cross-pollinating pet genres. This is psychedelic infinite, dripping with sweat and blood, rolled in linen and soil. The two players have spent years building their catalogs and the practice is palpable. The songs on their eponymous tape don’t sound so much studied, though, as uncovered, unearthed on sonic digs through the remains of crumbled cultures. There’s beauty in the stately, breath-baited “Majha” or the soft glow of “Veema” and “Myr Vehrt.” There’s celebration and relief in the cool climes of “Braspt” and there’s danger in between the bars of “Gryvk.” The whole album laps at the listener with a freeform flow – folk that’s free from song, left to explore the incontrovertible truths that lie between the drops in an unending cycle of storm and solace.



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Mixtape: We Bleed Love

Its been a few months since the last mixtape and seems about time for another genre dive. This time the recent reissues of Ivytree and Skygreen Leopards material had me nostalgic for some of the very records that started this site over a decade ago. At the time the unfortunate ‘freak folk’ term got thrown around a lot by, well mostly writers who just couldn’t think up a better term. The ensuing resurgence of psychedelic folk and free folk (see that’s better) delved into the CD-r and small press worlds to see several of the home taped community elevated to indies like Jagjaguwar and Drag City, while carving out new ground for Young God, Language of Stone, 5RC, Gnomonsong and Three Lobed. I’ve scooped up an overview of some of my favorite moments from this movement of the early aughts and a prefect primer to the oncoming summer months. Check out the tracklist and listen below.

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The Skygreen Leopards Archival Compilation

More great news filters out of the Skygreen Leopards camp today. After the release this month of archival Ivytree material for Recital Records, news comes today that former Skygreen home Soft Abuse will round up some early material from the band’s CD-r days. Culling from I Dreamt She Rode On A Pink Gazelle & Other Dreams, The Story Of The Green Lamb & The Jerusalem Priestess Of Leaves, and One Thousand Bird Ceremony, the new LP gives an overview of the band’s pre-Jagjaguwar days of live to tape captures and 3-minute folk-pop that beamed like the California sun. If, like most, you missed out on a lot of this material, then the release comes as an indispensable primer. Plus, this is the first time any of these recordings have found their way to vinyl. Just in time to usher in summer. The record is out June 22nd, right before they hop on a few dates with Frog Eyes on the West Coast.



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The Ivytree

Back in the spring of 2006, when this blog was just finding its footing as a flyover mp3 site on Blogger, the blossoming psych-folk boom was a large inspiration. In particular the works that huddled together under the Jewelled Antler Collective felt like they needed amplification. A homespun collection of works that eked out in small press formatis (CD-Rs and the problematic yet enticing 3” CD) in the years prior to the site’s creation, the label was a hub of folk scuffed by field recordings and softened by tape hiss. At the center of that hub was Glenn Donaldson, who’d recorded as The Blithe Sons, Thuja, Giant Skyflower Band, Birdtree, Ivytree and, at the time was gaining ground with Skygreen Leopards. Donaldon’s, plaintive falsetto and filmstrip grained folk embraced the home/field recorded aesthetics that summed up much of the best psych-folk of that particular era and he helped dozens of likeminded artists find a home.

Seems that composer and label head Sean McCann would agree with the impact Donaldson had around the time and he reached out to publish a compilation of some of Ivytree’s best moments. What he wound up with instead, as Glenn dug through his archives, was a collection of unreleased Ivytree songs that present a whole new slew of material that’s just as captivating as the existing works (which are largely relegated to an EP, album and one side of a split 12” with Chris Smith). Ivytree has always stood as the coinflip to The Birdtree – both visions of Glenn’s solo folk captured in harmony with nature and seeping through the speakers as fragile and warm as a sunbeam and alternately cool and humid as deep forest moss.

The songs here pick up the tradition of earlier works, conjuring bittersweet moments of solitude, echoing around headphones and speakers like cave walls and tree canopies. That these sat in storage seems an injustice that’s just now being righted. After all these years, the Ivytree songs still have he same ability to transport the listener to open fields with soft breezes and I’m grateful to Recital for bringing this out to the world. If you’re unfamiliar with the original works do yourself a favor, start here and then tumble down through Ivytree and Birdtree’s early records for some of folk’s most unheralded gems.




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The Ivytree – “All The White Plumes”

There are a lot of things that propped this site up from the beginning but the works of Skygreen Leopards and the Jewelled Antler Collective were legion among them. In the pantheon of great, but sorely overlooked members of the Collective, The Ivytree has always stood as a particularly sad casualty. The band’s humble, human, creaky and calm LP Winged Leaves has long been a gem in the psych-folk / field recordings boom of the early aughts. Alongside The Birdtree record (which could stand more attention as well) the record culls together some of Glenn Donaldson’s best work outside of Skygreen proper. So, its with some excitement that news of a “new” Ivytree LP is on the horizon.

The Recital Program is culling together a collection of unreleased Ivytree recordings from Glenn’s archives, a time-shifted collection of songs that’s bringing back the rush of mossy folk from ’04 like a welcome pang in the stomach. First track, “All The White Plumes,” is a foggy, cold amble into the same caves that always marked the band’s sound and reason to believe that the rest of the record is full of gems rightly pulled from his archive by luck and luster.


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Glenn Donaldson on The Television Personalities – The Painted Word

Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. The kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle. The ones that got away. In the first installment I tapped Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Jewelled Antler Collective) to have his pick at a record that fits the bill. Glenn’s Twitter feed alone is full of enough overlooked classics to fill this feature ten times over, so needless to say I was intrigued. He’s picked Television Personalities’ fourth album, the darkly shaded, The Painted Word. I asked him how the record came into his life and how its affected him and his music.

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