The material embodied on Songs From Purgatory was recorded in vans, dank basements and tiny apartments in Grand Forks & Fargo, North Dakota using crappy microphones on an even crappier 4-track machine. This body of work showcases a songwriting and producing talent that perhaps was only commercially held back by its medium - one which he initially embraced as a matter of necessity, but eventually grew to deliberately embrace with the zeal of a lo-fi revolutionary. According to June, "Over time, I came to appreciate the sounds I was getting, and it dawned on me that recording in an expensive studio is not somehow inherently superior to 'lo-fi' recordings - it is simply a different medium."
Originally released as cassette-only albums on his own label 3 Out Of 4 Records, June's master tapes were almost destroyed in the Great Flood of 1997 that consumed Grand Forks. Over 200 master tapes sat submerged under the murky Red River water for several days in his parents' basement until saved through a painstaking cleansing process that is hilariously documented in the liner notes to this collection. Brought into this world by June, taken out by the Flood, then brought back by June, these songs have been re-mastered by the able hands of the iconic KRAMER.
Anyone who's followed June Panic's body of work over the past decade has had the interesting opportunity to chart the path of a thinking man gone sacred. Early works were Bowie-esque pop albums made with a Homestead-like DIY aesthetic. Then came his opus Horror Vacui (2000), a blissed-out documentation of the epiphany and the ecstasy of a man in the process of surrendering to a higher power that had previously been unknown to him. Last year's Baby's Breadth was a more sober affair — a meditation on rebirth featuring the same central character. His latest, Hope You Fail Better, continues the story of Panic's "hero". Thematically, it comes after the after-glow of Baby’s Breadth. The uncharacteristic optimism and fresh perspective on life which characterized June’s previous works is gone, as it's obvious June has finally stepped out from the warm indoors and realized that he lives in Grand Forks, North Dakota. To make Hope You Fail Better, June enlisted Daniel Smith as producer/guru and as his band he chose players with whom he's been playing for over a decade from his home of Grand Forks, eye of the '97 flood. Nothing was sacrificed in terms of the playfulness and freshness of production for which Smith has become well-known as primary songwriter and brain-child behind his band the Danielson Famile. On the album, June's written word is still in philosophy-speak, his melodies are still haunting, and his trademark vocals — about which he's previously remarked that he sometimes finds himself “singing in harmony with god, while most people hear this as an off-key whine" — have never sounded better. At this juncture, while looking at June’s body of work, one could likely draw comparisons to that of mid-period Dylan (from motorbike wreck to Christian rebirth).
June Panic was young when he started making babies. Baby's Breadth is already his eleventh - a bouncing baby girl! According to June, she had a longer than average gestation period, leaving him plenty of time to picture what she was going to look like once she was birthed. But babies never look like you think they will. When she was first conceived, it seemed she would be darker in temperament (moodier, say, than her older brother Horror Vacui), but instead, Baby's Breadth is a bit schizophrenic, an odd hybrid of rock, folk, lap-steel driven country and a white-boy from North Dakota's version of R&B. He is backed once again by the Indianapolis session militia that June has dubbed his Silver Sound, featuring members of Marmoset, Emperor Penguin, the Pieces, and Brando. He comes across like a gospel-period Dylan, or a Marvin Gaye/David Bowie lovechild fronting a late-60s Byrds which has been mellowed and stretched across a codeine canvas.On "The Song Is Singing Us" he sings, Well, we're drivin' the train and we don't even know what's in it. And the further we go the less we even think to look - the implications of which are boundless, coming from a fellow known for his well-documented habit of taking long strolls around town with his nose tucked in a book. A restless & inquisitive soul by nature, June takes on the role of prophetic drifter with the philosopher's stone on his back, weighing him down like an aching yet necessary paperweight in one place just long enough to make a record with some old friends.
Release date: 08/20/02
A reissue of June's epic seventh solo album. Originally released as a cassette on June's 3 OUT OF 4 RECORDS in December 1995, it shows a more raw side to Grand Forks, North Dakota-native June Panic than his previous solo albums or his earlier work with Free Jesse.