May 27th, 2014 , by John Beeler
If Chris Schlarb’s new solo album feels like a moment’s rest—a brief retreat, a meditation in solitude—that might be because this is exactly how the album was recorded.
The story of the making of Making the Saint, out today on Asthmatic Kitty Records, is ultimately simple: Chris Schlarb needed a break. As the composer and bandleader of the Psychic Temple project, Schlarb has lately been demonstrating his auteur-like ability to put into place all the details of an intricate musical tableau. Last year’s Psychic Temple II LP set idiosyncratic pop tunes and more abstract musical explorations in highly complex arrangements, and accordingly the ensembles Schlarb brought out to support it were some of the biggest he’d ever wrangled.
After all of that, he felt the need to do something a little more intimate. He gathered up his instruments and headed by himself to a 19th-century cabin in the dusty San Bernardino Mountains, where he proceeded to lay down the tracks that would become Making the Saint.
A four-track, full-length album, Making the Saint is in its own way as ambitious as Schlarb’s recent Psychic Temple work. But this time, the grandeur is less in the layers of musical detail than in the expansive explorations of deep, interior spaces. The album’s two short, bona fide “songs,” the mystical ballad “The Great Receiver” and the jazz standard “My Foolish Heart,” are generous in their own, quiet way—”My Foolish Heart” looks for the sophistication in simplicity, and the negative space of “The Great Receiver” hum with cosmic ambience.
But these tracks alternate with yet more probing meditations, seemingly free-floating improvisations anchored deep down by musical stasis: the overtone-rich, iridescent drone of the opening title track, or the slowly looping, ruminating harmonies of “The Fear of Death Is the Birth of God.” Making the Saint finds freedom in simplicity and, in the emotional and spiritual resonances it evokes, turns out to be not quite so simple after all.
Making the Saint is now available to own as a digital download, on CD, or on an LP record, pressed to white vinyl.
Buy it here.
LA-based Imma Almourzaeva illustrates “The Great Receiver” from Chris Schlarb’s LP Making the Saint. Watch below.
May 26th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Since attracting a ton of buzz for her entrancing live shows and for first EP Hello (released on Merok Records), Mozart’s Sister (aka Caila Thompson-Hannant) has been head-down in her bedroom writing her debut album.
Inspired by Discovery-era Daft Punk, Post-era Bjork, and Betty Davis, Caila produced, recorded and wrote Being using a cheap sound card and Ableton software, approaching it with a do-it-all-by-my-self ideology. “I was into production more than I ever had been,” she remembers, “Listening to sounds I liked and wondering how they achieved it. There was a lot of observing and trying things out.”
“Being is a fracture,” says Caila. “A note between thought and expression. When I wrote this record I was riding a wave of light and dark; I still am. It’s not a twisted path but one that aspires to harmony. In all the little bits that make up the bulk of the ‘songs’ of this album is a jump. Every step in the process of this record felt like, and continues to feel like a jump. From the bass line to the album ‘description.’ So here I am jumping into your mercy, a leap I will never forget. I feel the future can only bring better or worse and definitely not the same. So this record is a thing that will never happen again. I hope you enjoy it.”
Asthmatic Kitty Records will release the record on August 5. Like Caila, we also hope you enjoy it. You can preorder Being CD, vinyl, or digital here.
Hear the first single, “Enjoy,” on FADER.
May 23rd, 2014 , by John Beeler
The new Half-Handed Cloud full-length, Flying Scroll Flight Control, is dropping next month, and the fanfare heralding its arrival is already underway.
In especially good news for fans of cryptic symbolism as well as complex, outsider-esque sacred pop, the official celebration begins on June 1 at 1, when Half-Handed Cloud’s afternoon release show begins at Ohmega Salvage. Not just a venue, Ohmega is also a working antique salvage yard in Berkeley, CA where beautiful old things that have been rediscovered amongst the detritus of the modern world can reclaimed and restored. Those Lavender Whales of Columbia, SC will be opening for a three-person Half-Handed Cloud lineup on the Ohmega stage.
But first, PopMatters is offering a quick preview of the album this week, praising the “sun-kissed melodies” and “quirky instrumentation” of the new track “Festus, I Am Not Out of My Mind” and making it available to stream in full at PopMatters.com.
And Half-Handed Cloud mastermind John Ringhofer has posted his own, high-concept teaser for Flying Scroll Flight Control. A short video conceived and sound-designed by Ringhofer himself, and relying heavily on an important contribution from one Dr. Ralph Kuri, this preview, like the album, is made up of equal parts ingenuity, metaphysics, magic, absurdity, and wit, and features just a few seconds of music from the new album’s “Titus Three.”
Out June 10 on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Flying Scroll Flight Control is already available for preorder on CD, mp3, clear vinyl, and a special LP release with custom slipmat.
May 20th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Making the Saint, the new LP from Chris Schlarb, comes out Tuesday May 27th, but you can hear it – and watch some of it – now.
LA-based Imma Almourzaeva illustrates “The Great Receiver” from Chris Schlarb’s forthcoming LP Making the Saint. Imma, whose forte is more often animated gifs, captures the distinct pacing of the song by showing the flight of a bird from birth to departure.
NPR debuted the video last week. You can also watch it below.
SPIN is streaming the entire album on their website as of today. Writer Christ Martin calls it a “wide-armed hug.” Listen here.
The album, out on Tuesday May 27th, is available for preorder here.
May 19th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Fol Chen‘s new video for “Boy in the Woods” captures the flight of a kidnapped anthropogenic rabbit rescued by a host of forest friends. After his escape, he must flee through the woods to escape prowling lions–who actually turn out to be rabbits themselves? It makes sense once you watch.
Nancy Jean Tucker directed and animated of this venture into The False Alarms, which is available now. Says The Line Best Fit, who premiered the video: “Everything is meticulous, deliberately ingenious. It all flows excellently; there’s no disjointed genre-hopping here.”
Check it out over at The Line Best Fit here.
May 9th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Debuting exclusively on Jamaicans Music, Rafter’s new video for “Convertible Jeep” will cause your brain to melt into a pool of reggae-ified gel. The good kind (of brain gel).
Directed by Lizeth Santos, the video features Rafter in an amazing Reggae Robot suit, an army of extras donned with gold future-microphones wearing multi-colored body suits, and pretty much every color possible.
Watch it on Jamaicans Music here, or below.
The album is available now. Allmusic reviewed it, saying “Everyone from Lee Perry to King Tubby, and even more modern producers like Steely & Clevie, would be impressed by the sounds [Rafter] conjures up on the record.” Buy it here.
May 6th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Another transmission has just been received from the Island Universe: Helado Negro’s cryptic, nocturnal Island Universe Story series of EPs has given rise to two new music videos.
Gus Gavino directed “Pressed,” a track from the first Island Universe Story.
“Pressed” is a dark and abstract instrumental drawn from the first tape in the sequence, Island Universe Story One, and Gavino’s footage is dark and abstract to match: chilly, gray and distorted, like a sci-fi dystopia. It matches, in fact, in a one-to-one correspondence between sound and vision: every blip on the screen corresponds to a blip from the speakers.
But something unexpected happens when Gavino’s graphics meet the beats of Helado Negro. By playing out the interaction of the layered sonic elements in “Pressed” as the interaction of minimalistic visual elements, not only does Gavino illuminate the inner working’s of the original track, but the ghostly harmonies lend Gavino’s spare, geometrical visuals an uncanny pathos.
The Zircon Prince takes on “Suntan Overcoat” and “The Elephants Foot” with a jarring collage of images set on a striking visual placemat.
April 10th, 2014 , by John Beeler
For the price of an email address (and an optional tip), you can download Until Now, a concise compilation of the music of My Brightest Diamond since her debut album in 2006.
My Brightest Diamond will be playing in South Bend, Indiana, in Grand Rapids, and Indianapolis over the next few days. In May she’ll be touring a few select cities in Europe. See those tourdates on her website.
Expect more from MBD later this year. But for now, you can download Until Now on Noisetrade here.
April 1st, 2014 , by John Beeler
Rafter’s latest record, out now, is an ode to reggae, fueled by a trip to Maui, lots of late nights, and pure love. Rafter titled the album It’s Reggae. How appropriate! You can buy the album in CD or LP.
Below is the letter Rafter wrote to reggae.
Allmusic.com: “Roberts has crafted a loving tribute to reggae that is steadfastly true to its roots, yet still has plenty of his personality and loads of originality.”
Listen to “Wedding Ring Modulator” below – buy It’s Reggae here.
April 1st, 2014 , by John Beeler
Photo by Carolyn Pickell
Lately, Half-handed Cloud’s John Ringhofer has been paying close attention to Robert Rauschenberg, to Joseph Beuys, to artists and filmmakers and musicians who turn the stuff and debris of everyday life into high art–and it shows. Ringhofer is set to release Flying Scroll Flight Control, his sixth LP as Half-handed Cloud, on Asthmatic Kitty Records in June of this year, and it positively bristles with contradictions like these, of discerning the absolute truths concealed within chaos and ephemera.
The tunes on Flying Scroll Flight Control are pure pop–they were mixed and polished to a shine with Sufjan Stevens in his Brooklyn studio during the first week of September last year. At times the album’s buzzing trunkful of unlikely instruments suggest a rough-hewn, ramshackle aesthetic, recalling Flight Control‘s roots in the bedroom demos that Oakland-based Ringhofer made during a few months abroad, recording with whatever was at hand.
But nothing is disposable in the musical world of Half-handed Cloud: the dizzy arrangements envince the sophistication of Ringhofer’s musical thinking, while the lyrics dig deep into theological mysteries by way of Paul the Apostle.
With Flying Scroll Flight Control, Half-handed Cloud aims to marry the humblest sound-sources and the highest artistic aspirations, the giddiest aural pleasures and the most reverential jubilation, to be at once a confection for the ears and nourishment for the soul.
See the trailer below. You can pre-orders for the pop-bottle-clear vinyl, and CD, here.