Lily & Madeleine: Lily & Madeleine
Like truth, beauty resides in simplicity. When it manifests itself, it doesn?t require elaborate arguments or proofs; you can?t debate someone into apprehending it. It?s apparent and all it requires is appreciation, or perhaps even love. Such are the songs of Lily & Madeleine.
Understandably, when their debut EP, The Weight of the Globe, came out earlier this year, much was made of the fact that Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are teenagers: Madeleine is eighteen and her sister is sixteen. Surely, that?s important given the impressive talent on display. On that release as well as on Lily & Madeleine, their debut album, these two young women sing with a spare elegance that?s all the more breathtaking for seeming to come to them so naturally. Both Lily and Madeleine can sing powerfully, but you will find no show-off pyrotechnics here. They are not afraid of fragility or vulnerability.
The songs on Lily & Madeleine trigger profound emotional effects. The shimmering recollections of that summer, that girl, that kiss, the scent of that evening air, the heat of those afternoons, all float in and out of consciousness as these songs play, transporting you to the world inside you that knows everywhere you have been, but that does not know time, or its passage, or its end.
Shannon Stephens: Something Good
Chris Schlarb: Psychic Temple II
Psychic Temple II is a labor of love envisioned by Chris Schlarb to bring his most far-ranging inspirations to life ? as he puts it, ?a dream ensemble that could never actually exist.? The ensemble?s sophomore release was painstakingly constructed over more than a year with the cooperation of some of the most progressive musical minds from a staggering variety of genres.
Psychic Temple II reaches beyond the long-form experiments of its predecessor for a more tightly focused yet conceptually dense collection whose songs are no less exploratory for their briefer durations. Schlarb also includes three cover songs by composers who share his boundary-demolishing mindset: Joe Jackson?s ?Steppin? Out,? Frank Zappa?s ?Sofa No. 2,? and Brian Wilson?s ??Til I Die,? a gorgeous, lesser-known Beach Boys song that features vocals by Sufjan Stevens, Castanets? Ray Raposa, and Cryptacize?s Nedelle Torrisi.
The New York Observer called Schlarb?s debut solo album, Twilight & Ghost Stories, ?40 minutes of avant-garde bliss,? while Interoceans, recorded with experimental jazz duo I Heart Lung, was chosen by NPR as one of the top five jazz albums of 2008. He composed the score for Nicklas ?Nifflas? Nygren?s video game Nightsky and has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Meet the Composer.
Lily & Madeleine: The Weight of the Globe
Written over the course of their summer vacation and recorded in three days, The Weight of the Globe is a musical snapshot by teenaged sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz at a pivotal moment in their lives.
Each song on The Weight of the Globe was written as a discrete, self-contained folk-pop statement, but due to the real-time circumstances of recording it, the EP holds together like a collection of interconnected short stories. Taken as a whole, the songs chart a journey from love to disillusionment to heartbreak; the narrator's weariness in "Tired" persists into "Things I'll Later Lose" ("I've been hearing things, and I've been losing sleep"), while the words to "Back to the River" seemingly return to the same mythic river that flows through "In the Middle."
There's nothing calculated about The Weight of the Globe. As sincere as it is precociously sophisticated, it marks the auspicious debut of a strikingly talented musical family.
Denison Witmer: Denison Witmer
Denison Witmer is Denison Witmer, a culmination of a story that started at the birth of independent music in the early 2000s.
He began his career in 1998 with Safe Away. Three albums, dozens of hard, long tours, and several years later, Denison released his most popular record Are You a Dreamer? in 2005. The industry changed quickly though - losing its focus on singer-songwriter folk music.
Instead of bowing to the pressure to follow musical trends, Denison continued to refine his sound, becoming more confident in creating something subtle and sublime. His music grew up as he did; a couple of years ago, his dad passed away, and in 2012, he became a new dad.
So, since Dreamer, there's been time, craft and perfection, and slow and quiet reflection and production. Now there?s Denison Witmer.
Fans who liked Dreamer, Denison's best-selling record, will love Denison Witmer. They?ll appreciate that Sufjan Stevens, William Fitzsimmons, and Devin Greenwood (Norah Jones, Amos Lee) all appear on this record. They?ll love the way Denison has figured out what works. They?ll appreciate the attention to detail, in songwriting and in production.
And for those new to Denison, they?re not not alone; there?s a whole generation of young songwriters in their early 20s that grew up listening to Denison. They?ve heard and respected a finely honed style that pulls from a tradition of folk singer-songwriters going back 40 years to Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Carole King, Neil Young, and even Woody Guthrie.
Artists only get once chance to self-title a record. Denison chose a good one.
Fol Chen: The False Alarms
Fol Chen make the soundtrack to a future that never was. To listen is to leave the comfort of nostalgia and land with both feet in a bolder 21st century. The False Alarms (Asthmatic Kitty, March 19) continues the band's electro-pop odyssey, now with a honed character and a more distinct palette of sounds. Fol Chen has also traded its cloak of anonymity for defiant confidence featuring Sinosa Loa as its new front voice.
It's pop music for people who aren't sure where or when they are, but who know it's nowhere they've been before.
Helado Negro: Invisible Life
Press play on Invisible Life and you lose your season. Roberto Lange - Helado Negro - is talking to you in Spanish. He?s talking to you, perhaps with more volume, in the language he?s been teaching us all over the past three years through the lessons of the seductive full-length Canta Lechuza, the sub-narrative exploration EP Island Universe Story One, and the all-in collaboration,OMBRE, with Juliana Barwick. This immersive curriculum, paired with our own capacity for feeling, will make Invisible Life visible. At least as much Roberto Lange wants us to see of himself. Translate the name of that first song for the first clue: it illuminates you.
Jon Philpot, The Bear In Heaven frontman, is one of a key few contributions on the album, including more old friends like Eduardo Alonso (Feathers) and Matt Crum (Lange?s longtime bandmate in ROM), as well as kindred and vast spirit Devendra Banhart. Banhart?s guitar on ?Arboles? multiplies the whispered dream of Helado Negro into technicolor parallel existences. Roberto Lange, the conductor, the man alone, has always kept his family close, even if its definition has expanded from his mother?s kitchen to the long-stretching road that sends him from one show to the next.
Sufjan Stevens: Silver & Gold
Who can save us from the infidels of Christmas commodity? Look no further, tired shopper, for your hero arrives as the diligent songwriter Sufjan Stevens, army of one, banjo in one hand, drum machine in the other, holed up in his room, surrounded by hymnals, oratorios, music charts, sacred harp books, paper-clipped-photo-copied Readers Digest Christmas catalogs—singing his barbaric yawp above the snow-capped rooftops.
His song is love; his song is hope; his song is peace, conjuring the fruitcake world of his own imagination with steadfast affection for the unattainable bliss of Christmas Promises -- summoning the company of angels, the helper elves, the shepherds keeping flock, the coupon-clippers, the marathon runners, the grocery store baggers, the bridge and tunnel drivers, the construction workers,the street sweepers, the single mothers, the rich and the poor, the walking dead, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, the Prince of Persia, and all the invisible hosts of heaven to participate in this absurd cosmic adventure, pursuing holly-jolly songs of hope and redemption with a sacred heart for the enduring love for the holiness of Christmas, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Raymond Byron and the White Freighter: Little Death Shaker
Going on five full-length records since 2004, Asthmatic Kitty?s Castanets has given us a wide-lens look at deconstructed Americana. Come September 4th, Castanets? Ray Raposa will debut a new band, Raymond Byron and the White Freighter, and a brand-new full-length, Little Death Shaker.
Where the ?Nets trafficked in improv and avant-country gone coal black, Raposa?s new stuff is pure roadhouse blues. Stripped of all noise influences and focusing on straight-up songs, Little Death Shaker is a record evocative of late nights and dusty parking lots, long drives and boozy hookups. This is the work of a dude who?s spent his youth and young manhood on tour and it comes through in both the music and the lyrics.
One of Little Death Shaker?s real charms is you can close your eyes and see these 13 tracks played live; you can see the drummer leaning over his kit with his brushes, the backup singers standing around the mic, beers in hand, eyes closed, swaying side to side, the lights crisscrossing the stage. In a world of records that bands can?t duplicate live, it?s crazy-refreshing.
Meet Raymond Byron and the White Freighters and their record Little Death Shaker. Here?s to the new.
Dots Will Echo: Drunk Is The New Sober / Stupid Is The New Dumb
?Drunk Is The New Sober? and ?Stupid Is The New Dumb? are the twin subtitles of Drunk & Stupid, Dots Will Echo?s debut album on Asthmatic Kitty, but those aren?t just arch witticisms, they encapsulate the apparent contradictions that power the New Jersey duo?s music. The warmly weird world created by multi-instrumentalist Nick Berry and drummer Kurt Biroc seems simultaneously sacred and profane, edgy and accessible, sad and transcendentally silly. What else would you expect from a group that describes itself as ?dour moralizers and drunken assholes? and identifies its key influences as ?A little bit The Incredible String Band, a little bit AC/DC??
Originally meant to be two separate discs (the vinyl version is a double LP with download codes for bonus tracks), Drunk & Stupid boasts 19 songs overflowing with insanely catchy melodies, endearingly off-kilter arrangements, and a strangely satisfying blend of the divine and the absurd.? As Berry says, ?We try to allow for the will of the universe to have a large part in our music. There must be something sacred in mistakes. This is our explanation for being fuck-ups.?
OMBRE: Believe You Me
A beautiful thing happened when Asthmatic Kitty artists Helado Negro and Julianna Barwick first met: they got to know each other. The result, a collaborative band, OMBRE, and a brand-new full-length record, Believe You Me.
Recorded as the newly acquainted pair were just becoming friends, OMBRE shows Barwick's clear, high harmonies and church choir sensibilities melding well with Helado Negro's rustic-Latin-psyche-folk meets big-city-summer-blockparty.
Tracks simmer with the mellow chording of nylon string guitars, bubbling electronics, and the comely pluck of harps; they rise high and mountainous with Miles Davis-y trumpet and then disappear altogether. There's a very old school jazzy soundtrack air to these sessions. (An inspiration to the sessions was Clu Gulager's 1969 film A Day With the Boys and Egberto Gismonti's fantastic late-'60s compositional jazz.) It has the feel of a hot summer day in Brooklyn, 1971, the sun through the tenements and everyone sitting in the shade watching the world drift by.
Believe You Me's 36:19 minute run is a quiet storm that never puts you in danger?just a beautiful, refreshing summer rain to watch from your front porch, sitting next to a good friend. A new friend? Yes. Perfect. Even better.
The Welcome Wagon: Precious Remedies Against Satan?s Devices
Precious Remedies Against Satan?s Devices, The Welcome Wagon?s second full-length, is an apt sequel to their critically acclaimed 2008 debut, Welcome to the Welcome Wagon. Here, Vito and Monique simply throw those welcoming arms open wider, inviting the listener to join them for 51 minutes of church.
Those who enjoyed the Welcome Wagon?s debut album will notice their distinct sound again here ? loose, jangly, comfortable, a gathering of friends making music together. It?s at times jaunty and toe-tapping, at others quietly contemplative, an alt-folk gem that sounds very much like it comes out of the Asthmatic Kitty camp. But while the first album was recorded over the course of eight years in various venues, this one was done in five days at the library of an old rectory in Brooklyn. And while recording artist and AK co-owner Sufjan Stevens produced WW?s first album, he?s less noticeable on this collection, produced by Alexander Foote, who also plays guitars, organ, autoharp, percussion, and some piano. (Stevens does play banjo and piano and sings in the choir on several songs here.)
Vito says his songwriting is informed by his work as senior pastor at Resurrection Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn?s Williamsburg neighborhood. ?A pastor is supposed to care for people, to help them to love God, to engage with their lives and their joys and their sorrows,? he says. ?I?m only interested in writing music that will speak to that. I?m writing as a pastor, wanting these songs to speak God?s truth into those situations.?
Shannon Stephens: Pull It Together
Pull It Together is Shannon Stephens? third album. Vulnerability has been replaced with a fierce confidence born of experience. Stephens sings out now with a voice free of youthful self-consciousness, filled instead with conviction ? and no small amount of anger at the state of the world. She has always distilled powerful emotions into her music but this time the emotional dial is cranked. From the sweetly swaggering ?What Love Looks Like? to the searing ?Your Fabulous Friends,? she balances cynicism with generous quantities of warmth, humour and empathy. Never is this fine balance more apparent than on ?Faces Like Ours? where Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham) weaves his voice with hers in a duet that wryly dissects the injustice of racial and economic privilege. The result of this new approach is an album that is gritty, fluid, and more accessible than her previous work. Call it pragmatic pop: optimism balanced with the sharp-edged reality of life in 2012.
Denison Witmer: The Ones Who Wait
Denison Witmer?s newest album, The Ones Who Wait, is a reflection of this understanding of self and the growth that comes through life experience. It is an intimate reflection on the meandering path of life, on family and friendships, on death balanced with new life, on endings and beginnings. This ninth album marks a new maturity in Denison?s musical career, new layers of openness and subtlety revealed with each listen. Denison?s guitar and voice sit front and center, evoking a melodic warmth reminiscent of 70s-era singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and Jackson Browne.
Alfred Brown: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Moving in Slow Motion
Music for Moving in Slow Motion is about the slowing, halting, and reversing of the directional flow of linear time. It is about the significance of the possibly infinite space that exists between any two instants. It is about experiencing symmetrical time. At some moments the proverbial arrow for a single event is subtly (or not so subtly) manipulated, while at others, multiple events are frozen and superimposed onto each other, creating a hyper-simultaneity out of what was once sequence, thereby eliminating it. Time is treated as space, as an elastic solid that can be twisted and moved in any direction, and there is an attempt to find the smallest temporal unit, if it exists at all.
Effacer: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Noise Reduction
This album was inspired by the commercial work Effacer does in audio mastering. Effacer figured that different noise reduction processes and audio restoration tools that are usually used to remove clicks/noises from tracks could be used to exaggerate different effects in my music. He started taking a sound with reverb, then use the dry version of that same sound, minus the reverb, and use that as the noise print for the noise reduction algorithm. Thus by removing the source sound, a ghostly sound (reverb) would be left behind. Effacer came up with a formula for this to create further sounds and textures: (source sound + effect) - (source sound) = artifact of effect. By putting these sounds together into tracks, add several years, and these experiments resulted in an album.
Ero Gray: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Your Mouth
Ero Gray was raised in a tent in the Sierra Nevada foothills, lived most of his adult life in San Diego, CA, and Brooklyn, NY, and now resides in Portland, OR. He is a founding member of the bands The Nylon-Coated Cats and Rad Unicorn & the Ecstatic Virgins; has released electronic music under the aliases Professor Kermit and Golden Poultry Error, has recorded and remixed Soul-Junk, Therefore, Bogs Visionary Orchestra, and the Castanets, and plays the ongoing role of producer Papa Alabaster in the Land of a Thousand Rappers project. He adores his wife Suzanne and prefers to always be surrounded by music that he doesn't really understand.
My Brightest Diamond: All Things Will Unwind
All Things Will Unwind is the third, stunning offer from Detroit based experimental pop chanteuse-My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden. Known for her many collaborations with indie rock royalty (Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, David Bryne, The Decemberists, and The National) as well as her extraordinary original material, Worden is coming into her own as an artist and human on this 11 song recording. At once accessible and intelligent, the songs were written exclusively for celebrated chamber ensemble yMusic (Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, The New York Philharmonic & Rufus Wainwright) and they are featured on each track.
The range of influences on All Things Will Unwind are as eclectic as its? author, but listeners will recognize hints of Roberta Flack, Regina Specktor, Edith Piaf and Antony & The Johnsons throughout the album. Inspired by becoming a mother, chats with legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson, presidential addresses, and class warfare, Worden is metabolizing her influences as only she can- with playful, profound originality. All Things Will Unwind is a picture of an artist maturing; considering joy and pain, beauty and horror, yet bravely standing in the tension between the two- and singing about it.
My Brightest Diamond: Be Brave - Single
Roberts & Lord: Eponymous
A supercombo team-up between Simon Lord (ex Simian) and Rafter Roberts, the Roberts and Lord duo present their Asthmatic Kitty debut,Eponymous! Roberts' rough and grimy (yet complexly arranged) analog backing tracks paired with Lord's clean, digitally-recorded vocals, gives these songs a tricky kind of depth that is immediately engaging. This effortless juxtaposition reigns throughout these 35 some-odd minutes. The album begins with “Mosquito,” a perfect example and touchstone of Roberts' loud, garage rocky, blown-outness paired with structure well-thought-out (but never lingered upon). Simon's lyrics tell the story of a man's love for a mosquito, his vocals backed by a crunchy oil-drum thunk of beats (a theme of this record.) Simon's lyric writing on “Mosquito” sets the tone for what's to come—and the tone is FUN. Influenced by nonsense verse poets like Ivor Cutler and Edward Lear, Lord gives us a simple, light-hearted return to innocence, a goodly love for good love, the capital F feel-goodness compressed into a chorus, the sweaty exuberance of a solid dance party with all your friends around you. And thus we present Roberts and Lord's Eponymous!
Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn: MAKE
The documentary, MAKE, is an intimate journey into the lives of four American self-taught artists: Prophet Royal Robertson, Hawkins Bolden, Judith Scott and Ike Morgan. Isolated and struggling with the disabilities life has dealt them, these artists all find their most powerful voice through art. Using the simplest of materials, they each produce work that is both sublime and at the same time completely their own. Primarily driven by scenes of the artists creating, their interwoven stories are told by the artists themselves as well as through family and friends whose lives they have touched. Vintage footage, quiet moments to reflect upon their work, and commentary by scholars and art historians help to round out the film.
Helado Negro: Canta Lechuza
Canta Lechuza is an intimate, personal beast, a solo affair built lovingly from live instruments, percussion, and field recordings, all processed through electronics, computers, and synthesizers. It is an album with very defined songs, its song-structure has been labored over; choruses count bigtime, confident breakdowns and digi-pop bridges are all part and parcel of the greater good. Canta Lechuza is dance music turned inside out?percussion plipping and plapping, basslines smooth and dry as a tube of blue neon. Deep-space micro-drones emerge from hibernation, growling out from a wash of sun-filtered haze?morphing, squeezing, then bending themselves around globular droplets of blood-red electro.
Jookabox: Eyes of the Fly
Jookabox is. Jookabox is from Indianapolis. Jookabox is four albums deep. Jookabox sees the Eyes of the Fly. Jookabox is a bit paranoid. Jookabox is very much paranoid. Jookabox causes paranoia. Jookabox is more than jittery. Jookabox wonders what the hell is going on here. Jookabox looks not quite right. Jookabox makes us shift. Jookabox sounds like Garbage Pail Kids. Jookabox is not clean. Jookabox is music. Jookabox is too busy to clean. Jookabox is busy. Jookabox is without author. Jookabox is not David Adamson. Jookabox is not us. Jookabox is in pieces. Jookabox is not easy. Jookabox is rotting. Jookabox is recursive. Jookabox is slime, writhing, and ooze. Jookabox anticipates danger any minute now. Jookabox is electric and sings. Jookabox does not know. Jookabox is dark. Jookabox is looking into the light. Jookabox will wake up. Jookabox is schizo. Jookabox is whatever the hell you think it is. Jookabox is in a lake. Jookabox is gibberish. Jookabox is threatened. Jookabox cannot wake up. Jookabox is not quite comfortable in this place. Jookabox is threatened. Jookabox is lucid. Jookabox is chemicalized. Jookabox writhes. Jookabox sucks. Jookabox sunk. Jookabox is the Eyes of the Fly. Jookabox is no more. Jookabox lives forever.
InfinitiRock: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Primordial Recollection
By day, InfinitRock is an 18 year old biology student at SUNY Purchase, by night a fuzzed glitch and fump hip-hop producer. In second grade he was digesting The RZA and Aphex Twin and has been making instrumentals since the age of six. As a son to parents from India, he would also hear a lot of classical indian music around the house and since he could not understand hindi, voices became instruments rather than a lyrical tool. His music reflects the conceptualization of sounds, and what makes music music and the world musical. InfinitiRock draws inspiration from the everyday, incorporating their sounds into his music. Music for Primordial Recollection contains a motif of sounds and rhythms that trigger ancient memories. Ambient layers and interludes featuring field recordings of wind chimes, children playing, glass breaking, the chewing of raw pasta, the crumpling of paper bags, and flowing water. The album is an auditory documentation of the evolution of entropic sound, tamed by the laws of rhythm. Everything breathes.
Leb Laze: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Troubled Machinery
What started out as a total bummer--musical sketches and ideas hindered by a conked out machine--actually turned into an album. What you are hearing on Music for Troubled Machinery is the slow and unruly death of Leb Laze's core production tool..the MPC 2000 (R.I.P). When this device begins to die it randomly "freezes" at any given moment, often times wiping out anything that has been created within its path. What is interesting though is when an MPC freezes it begins to uncontrollably spit out all of the sounds that are loaded within it in their raw and unedited form over and over and over. This occurrence is like nothing I have ever heard. The machine begins to have a mind of its own.
Leb Laze began to record and embrace these freakouts, using them as a basis for the majority of the songs on this album..adding to them, enhancing them and/or sculpting around them. Two shorter pieces, Revelations and Dial In/Dial Out were actually created entirely from these freakouts. Think of this record and, most importantly, these two tracks, as my MPC's last words--a testament to the idea that the nonliving world is actually very much alive.
B Lan 3: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Hunting and Mapping
B Lan 3 is a solo project by musician and visual artist Michael Diekmann. A resident of New York City, he also records and performs with the minimalist cold-wave formation Ike Yard, and the pioneering experimental hip-hop group Death Comet Crew. He has also composed soundtracks for video and multimedia installations for multimedia artists including Gretchen Bender, Robert Longo and Marcello Mazzella; and also contributed music with Death Comet Crew to the audio book version of ?Neuromancer? by William Gibson. The compositions on Music for Hunting and Mapping were developed with a focus on the mapping of an imaginary realm and were largely inspired by a consideration of a collision between high and low culture; specifically by exploring stylistic conceits from anime and video gaming while drawing upon ?high art? examples from literature and cinema. For example, how would director Hayao Miyazaki interpret Thomas Pynchon?s novel ?Mason & Dixon? as an anime film? Or, what would a single-player, RPG video game of director Andrei Tarkovsky?s film ?Andrei Rublev? look like? Or a multiplayer video game based on Herman Melville?s ?Moby Dick?? The strategies employed in composition and production imbue the recordings with sense of fantasy?or at least a synthetic version of reality, much in the same manner of more highly developed video games and anime.
Chris Schlarb: NightSky Soundtrack
Jib Kidder: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Hypnotized Minds
Jib Kidder is the performing moniker of Californian audio/visual artist Sean Schuster-Craig. His 2008 debut, All on Yall (States Rights), fused regional-rap idiosyncrasies with everyday sounds and otherworldly noise, resulting in something too sincere and interested to be filed away as "mash-ups". Unusual tracks find unusual homes and like this AoY became the inspiring stuff of Texas highschool pep rallies and network television reality dance competitions. Meanwhile, the always-restless SSC wasted no time exploring new forms, adding miniature guitar origami, frenetic youtube splices, C&W vocal pop, digital dream re-enactments and slow drone video meditations to his already head-scratcher oeuvre. For his Library Catalog release, Jib Kidder limited his sound pallette to the existing AK catalog, using only turntable manipulations, respatializing effects (echo, reverb, EQ) and splicing to create new mood-based shorts. As in the artist's past works, "Music for Hypnotized Minds" draws on the dream-logic ideas of hybridization, dislocation & temporal simultaneity. The results are the perfect record for meditation in motion like reflective, solitary walking or summer highway cruising with loved ones.
Rafter: Quiet Storm
Julianna Barwick: The Magic Place
The Magic Place is the third record from Julianna Barwick, and the first to be released by Asthmatic Kitty.This nine piece, 43 minute album is a cinematic journey through glacial pacing and drifting drones. The occasional icy down-plink of piano, Julianna's gorgeous churchhouse sigh of a voice, a swell of a dozen voices rising in harmony?this is music from the inside of the fortress of solitude, the work of a solitary creator, a message from a crystal palace of reverb and avant-choral bliss.
Prefuse 73/Jaytram/Epstein: Prefuse 73/Jaytram/Epstein
This remix record wanders through the minds of Jaytram (Yeasayer Drummer) and Prefuse 73. They were both asked to plunder and ravage the entire Epstein catalog as the source material and pass it through their respective creative processes. These two creators are less worried about a notion of sanctity of the original and instead are visionaries with the material, engineering something previously unimaginable. There are about 1 million adjectives needed to try to cartograph a tangible roadmap to where this record leads, but we would rather you just take your own journey.
Epstein: Sealess See
Sealess See is the sound of the world. It's like Epstein's (aka Roberto Carlos Lange) MPC sampler is strung up on every telephone wire, duct taped to every bus stop, hidden in every mailbox and wire-tapped to every telephone in an 800 block radius of his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment. It's a gushing, forward-surge into the mics and sampler. And what comes out? Bass, beats?soundscape dance jams. It's noise-influenced but structurally tight?a slow wash of drones and percussion morphing into hot, humid, end-of-summer blockparty music. Over the course of 17 tracks and 37.7 minutes, Sealess See is a beachy landscape of summer sound. The key word here is?of course?sea. This new full-length is Lange's dissertation on ideas of swimming and drowning, of awesomely weird sea animals and full psychic immersion. It's a record that feels like a thing born from water?a warbling undersea journey from tropical surface to sun-filtered depths. (Imagine an octopus' garden party only with DJs instead of Beatles.) These are collages (Lange likens Epstein music to graffiti, a direct mind-to-mics recording experience) where a whole prismatic spectrum of sound comes through your speakers, a colorful bouillabaisse of influences, samples rising up out of the broth, surprising drum breaks, and hyper-visual, gently blown-out noise asides. Meet the new Epstein album, Sealess See! Turn it up loud and hear the whole world!
Liz Janes: Say Goodbye
Asthmatic Kitty is super stoked to announce the release of the Say Goodbye full-length, the first Liz Janes music in five years! Previous Asthmatic Kitty releases, the Sufjan Stevens produced Done Gone Fire (2002), her 2005 collab with LA free-jazz collective Create(!), and her second full-length Poison & Snakes (2004), saw Liz kickin' down the avant Americana, the dirty psyche boogie, and the busted-up blues deconstruction. This time around she's teamed up with Asthmatic Kitty artist and über producer Rafter Roberts to give us her own version of a soul record—as seen through the lens of a lady who cut her teeth in the fertile Olympia noise and improv scene. Say Goodbye is a 11-piece collection of unpretentious life and philosophy paired with Rafter's space-pop backing, Jason Crane's (Rocket from Crypt) soaring Motownian horn arrangements, and Chris Schlarb's smooth as chocolate gelato guitar work. Rafter and friends give new life to Liz's beautiful, spacious voice and her attempts at making sense of the world. (In that respect this is a very goodhearted record, a universal gesture, a rope tossed in a storm. Liz is lookin' out for you even while she plumbs the existential depths.)
Sufjan Stevens: All Delighted People EP
The EP, All Delighted People, is built around two different versions of Sufjan’s long-form epic ballad "All Delighted People," a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s "Sounds of Silence." The song was originally workshopped on Sufjan’s previous tour in the fall of 2009. Other songs on the EP include the 17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers "Djohariah," and the gothic piano ballad "The Owl and the Tanager," a live-show mainstay.
Various Artists: Export
The health of any economy is in large part measured by the amount of import and export that crosses its borders. The cultural economy is no different. In celebration of this concept Asthmatic Kitty has decided to highlight the Indianapolis music scene via Jookabox, looking at both local and non-local musical companions. The first in this two volume set of 7"s, EXPORT is a collection of four songs by four Indianapolis native bands. Here the raw post-industrial sound of beautifully messy rock-n-roll is examined from four distinct points of views. The artwork for this limited edition 7" celebrates the Indianapolis city flag.
Various Artists: Import
The health of any economy is in large part measured by the amount of import and export that crosses its borders. The cultural economy is no different. In celebration of this concept Asthmatic Kitty has decided to highlight the Indianapolis music scene via Jookabox, looking at both local and non-local musical companions. The second in this two volume set of 7"s, IMPORT is a collection of three songs by out of town bands, plus a song by Indianapolis native Jookabox. Here the otherwise seemingly disparate styles weave together and hold hidden messages of similarities in their approach and attitude. The artwork for this limited edition 7" celebrates the Indiana.
Trumans Water: The Peel Sessions
At the request of the legendary John Peel himself, this collection of songs were recorded in a variety of places and times and includes appearances of the various pantheon of Trumans Water drummers, Will Prentice on Bulgarian pipes, Dean Pritchard on exhaust pipe, and covers of Sun City Girls and Nation of Ulysses. Tracks 1-5 were recorded September 26, 1993, tracks 6-11 were recorded may 10, 1994, and tracks 12-16 were recorded may 11, 1995.
Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz
The Age of Adz (pronounced Odds) is Sufjan Stevens’ first full-length collection of original songs since 2005’s conceptual pop opus Illinois. This new album is probably his most unusual, first, for its lack of conceptual underpinnings, and second, for its extensive use of electronics. The album almost entirely eschews the songwriter’s former tools of the trade: namely, acoustic instruments that accompany an expansive narrative scope. While the sounds on this record are distinctly “artificial” (drums machines and analog synthesizers reign supreme), the proclamations of the songs are unabashedly visceral, sung loudly, with a backdrop of insistent orchestration. The result is an album that is perhaps more vibrant, more primary, and more explicit than anything Sufjan has done before, incorporating themes that are neither historical nor civic, but rather personal and primal (if even a little juvenile). Love, sex, death, disease, illness, anxiety, and suicide make appearances in an aggressive (and sometimes danceable) tapestry of electronic pop, conveyed with the urgency, immediacy, and anxiety of primary colors.
Various Artists / Encyclopedia Asthmatica: Encyclopedia Asthmatica Vol. 2
Released in 2008, the first volume of Encyclopedia Asthmatica captured a chapter of Asthmatic Kitty's lifespan, a golden-era DIY video spontaneity but in other ways rough and untried. The second volume of the The Encyclopedia Asthmatica, which the label will release later this year, picks up where the previous volume left off, but demonstrates a new level of sophistication in its visualizations. It blasts off into space to chart the boundless cosmos of the World of Asthmatica. Previously uncharted constellations are revealed in their strange and complex beauty. The Denture Nebula, the Totem Grandus, Camp Fire Tangle, and many others are mapped to capture the ethereal sounds and sights the Asthmatica family. Equal parts celestial guide and family photo album, Encyclopedia Asthmatica Vol. 2 shows the growth and maturing of each family member in their musical efforts while upping the ante on its visual representations. We hope you will add this to your collection as a reference resource for audio and eye delights. This collection includes videos from most of the Asthmatic Kitty family, including Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond (including new previously unreleased video), DM Stith, Fol Chen, Castanets, Jookabox and more!
Comic Wow: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Mysteries of Mind Space and Time
Comic Wow are sonic illustrators, alchemists, designers, dilettantes', poets, teachers, Socialists, and outdoorsmen whose advocacy of affordable colored cod pieces helped influence the look of thirty-third century America. Incidentally, they’ve also released music as Feathers. All pieces composed, performed, mixed and recorded by Eddie Alonso, Eric Rasco, John McEntire, Chris O’Malley, Ken Champion, Roy Silverstein, Paul Mertens, Tim Iseler, Jeremy Lemos, and Matt Crum.
DM Stith / Inlets / Silje Nes: Spirit Ditch EP
To commemorate DM Stith’s first US tour, Asthmatic Kitty released a limited edition one-sided LP featuring three exclusive recordings from Stith, as well as songs from tourmates Inlets and Silje Nes. The opening track, “Spirit Ditch”, a song by Sparklehorse, has become a favorite at Stith’s live show. Stith’s version opens up from a cryptic pastoral folk song into billows of slippery choral curlicues, but takes a dark turn after the final chorus into groaning bass peals. Also included is a demo of Riverbody and Lacuna D, the fourth in the Lacuna series of instrumentals begun in Heavy Ghost Appendices. This beautiful LP is limited to 300 copies and designed, signed and numbered by DM Stith.
William Ryan Fritch: Library Music Catalog Series: Music for Honey and Bile
William Ryan Fritch is a film composer, recordist, songwriter, and multi -instrumentalist living in Oakland, Ca. He records under the moniker Vieo Abiungo for Lost Tribe Records, is a member of the trio Skyrider, the experimental post-hop outfit Sole and the Skyrider Band, and is a go to guy for a number of other recording artists and producers. Since 2008 he has scored nearly thirty films, several of which have premiered in film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, Los Angeles and Copenhagen.
Music for Honey and Bile is an album of filmic works in which unfettered optimism is loomed out of spectral melancholy, and the unflattering ruddy of such sanguineness stands naked in the midst of the noxious ether.
Half-Handed Cloud: As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth
Asthmatic Kitty Records presents the fifth Half-handed Cloud full-length album: As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth, or Stowaways for short. Connected with the lyrical tradition of 19th Century American hymns such as ?Shall We Gather at the River?? ?Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?? and ?There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,? these tunes splash about in cavernous spaces opened up by irregularly measured rhythms and pocket-orchestra arrangements integrated with creaky pianos, sound-loops, a tugboat of a church organ, guitars, and billowing banjos.
Half-handed Cloud?s John Ringhofer recorded this album on his half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine in the sanctuary and custodial quarters of a church in Berkeley, California, where he?s lived and worked as a custodian for the past seven years. He played most of the parts himself, joined by friends on cello, clarinet, violin, trumpet, and flute. Brandon Buckner, one-third of Ringhofer?s former band, Wookieback, is behind the drum-kit for the duration of this record. The album was mixed with Daniel Smith (Danielson) at Familyre Studio in Clarksboro, New Jersey.
Jonathan Dueck: IN TRANSIT Presents: 16mm
IN TRANSIT Presents: 16mm? is a series of 20 short, beautiful, color saturated, hand-painted 16mm films created by Canadian artist Jonathan Dueck in collaboration with I Heart Lung, Chad VanGaalen, DENEIR, and Son Lux.? These films were created using old 16mm documentaries that Dueck was given when the Calgary Science Centre was purging itself of obsolete media.? Part or all of the existing film was scratched/scraped off and layers of ink were painted, stamped, dripped, and splattered over top.? The resulting visuals follow in the tradition of abstract/experimental film-makers such as Norman McLaren and Stan Brakhage. ?
Shapes and Sizes: Candle To Your Eyes
It’s one of the first days of spring here in Montreal. The sun feels warm, and new green is imminent. ? There’s a buzz all around on days like these. The winter was cold and long, but it makes the spring sweeter. ? Shapes and Sizes settled here three years ago. I say "settled" because prior to their arrival here they kept a rigorous touring schedule. Touring with the National, Yeasayer, opening shows for the Silver Jews, Sufjan Stevens; too many shows to get into specifics. So when they arrived in Montreal, there was a feeling of resolution, maybe even hibernation. They carried out their daily chores: one sold books, another records, one studied music and perception while delivering groceries at night, and another never kept her eyes too far from the road. But all this while, the band was quietly tinkering. You see deep down, Shapes and Sizes never really settle. Each record starts where the previous left off, and forays into new territory. Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (A Silver Mt. Zion, Tim Hecker) recorded the album at the Hotel 2 Tango, and it was mixed at the Pines by David Bryant (Growing, Set Fire to Flames).?
Instruments of Science and Technology: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Paradise Armor
Instruments of Science & Technology's Richard Swift (born Ricardo Sigilfredo Olivarez Swift-Ochoa, 1977) is an artist who lives in the Northwest region on the United States of America. He's made lots of different music. He normally sings, but doesn't at all on this recording. "Music for Paradise Armor" was made on varying recording mediums, such as a Tascam 4-track cassette player/recorder, an Otari 50/50 - 8-track half-inch recorder, a 16-track 2-inch machine constructed by Studer, and a computer made by Macintosh. There are a lot of what Swift calls "modern clickity-clacks" and "zzzoops s s s", as well as the occasional "bleep bleep blaaaaap" found on this disc. These sounds apparently reflect our tech-centric lifestyle in the West. We have magnet trains, remote control car door locks, and affordable robotic limbs, yet we still flush our toilets with drinking water. Guard yourself.
Kristin Miltner: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Dreaming and Playing
Kristin Miltner is a composer, video and installation artist, and sound designer living in Oakland, California. She most often performs music live with versions of her custom software. She has designed this to scan sound files and live input, allowing her to instantly restructure the sounds into sequenced arrays of units of varying lengths. This scanning idea is like imagining a giant octopus in a long thin hallway with continuous windows on each side. One can touch both sides of the hallway with one’s fingertips (if one is an octopus). The length of the hallway is infinite. So the octopus runs up and down the hallway opening and closing windows, letting a little bit of water in here and there, but never stops moving back and forth, and some windows stay open for longer than others. But there’s a rhythm to it; it’s an efficient octopus. The ocean is the sound source, the hallway and octopus are the scanners, the windows determine what gets in, and the octopus’s rhythm is the sequencing mechanism.
Kristin has performed at Noise Pancakes, 964 Natoma, the San Francisco Tape Music Festival (SFTMF), 21 Grand, and the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival (SFEMF). She is the sound designer for many well-known games and toys, including Leapfrog’s Leapster and Didj, Electronic Arts’ Sims 3 and Sim Animals, Mattel’s Xtractaurs, and a number of Facebook and iPhone games. She is the production manager of the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, and an active member of the festival’s steering committee. Her debut solo recording, “Grains”, can be found at www.praemedia.com
Shannon Stephens: Shannon Stephens
Asthmatic Kitty is proud to announce the re-press of Shannon Stephens' self-titled debut (2000). ? Produced by Stephens and her former Marzuki band-mates Sufjan Stevens and Matt Haseltine in 2000, this superb collection of Shannon's own songs includes contributions by Marzuki cellist Jamie Kempkers, Kenny Hutson (Vigilantes of Love) on pedal steel guitar, "Mews" and "Mews Too" contributors Roman Bolks and Jason Brouwer, and folk mainstay Jason Harrod. ? With new artwork and two previously unreleased bonus tracks, this release will delight newcomers and faithful fans.
Fol Chen: Part II: The New December
For its second album, Highland Park sextet Fol Chen presents Part II: The New December, songs of malaise and miscommunication set to dark pop and glitch-riddled chamber funk. Since the band?s inception, Fol Chen has remained a mysterious entity ? its membership disguised by masks and aliases, its lyrics appearing as transmissions from a fictional world. Fol Chen?s wildly eclectic 2009 debut, Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune?s Made, spawned some healthy praise (from NPR, no less), a remix album (featuring No Kids and Junior Vasquez, among others), a BBC session, and a video collaboration with the Laker Girls. Fol Chen?s bent, blackened takes on the pop eccentrics of yore provided fresh context for its own kaleidoscopic songs, and The New December shores up the group?s slippery identity further still. This is Fol Chen?s most focused work ? as consistent as it is consuming, as enjoyable as it is unusual.
DM Stith: Heavy Ghost Appendices
Heavy Ghost, the debut album from DM Stith, cast an almost supernatural effect on reviewers and fans when it was released in March of 2009. Both groups acclaimed it as a stunning debut unlike anything else they'd heard. Stith's peers received it well too: Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear twittered about it calling it a "lovely album," and Bat for Lashes picked Heavy Ghost for her New York Times playlist, saying “It traverses all these magical landscapes? almost like Alice through the looking glass. Like you’re being sucked into a secret world."? Heavy Ghost Appendices revisits this secret world and adds to its cartography a series of hidden coves, unexplored forests, and new landscapes. Heavy Ghost? was also mystifying and intertwined to David when he wrote it; the Appendices were a means to sort the thing out in his mind.? They physically collect the digital trilogy of EPs released over the course of the summer and fall of 2009 into a beautifully packaged limited edition double disc set.? The EPs were an exercise in exploring the boundaries of the music contained on? Heavy Ghost, revisiting songs, reinterpreting, and displaying some inspiration and influences through covers of other artists. The Remixes (remixes by Bibio, Son Lux, Ensemble, Clark and more) helped provide new context and deconstruction of his songs in a way that unearthed the songs' roles and relationships to one another.
Rafter: Animal Feelings
Following the pop-leaning lead of his last EP, Sweaty Magic, Rafter's latest longplayer, Animal Feelings, is a Technicolor pop blow-out that recalls Nintendo composer Koji Kondo leading a fantasy camp super-jam with Cody Chesnutt, Justin Timberlake, and the Tom Tom Club. Rafter's history and influences, his dreams and ambition, and his love for love, all come together as a sweet, fun, speaker-blowin', beat-busting ride into the inner-core of pop and R&B music. Ask him to drop names for his latest work and he'll say Justin Timberlake and Sublime Frequencies' Radio Phnom Penh without batting an eye. He'll tell you Animal Feelings is "a marriage record, a lust record, a death and sex record." Animal Feelings, his fourth LP for Asthmatic Kitty, is an idea-packed picnic of philosophies and fears, of affirmations and questions. Like all of his work, this record is a very personal piece of music and Rafter has a lot to tell you. Whether you choose to listen or not is the difference between you getting down on the dancefloor or simply standing outside the club, listening to the beats, muffled and gutless through the walls.?
My Brightest Diamond: Shark Remixes
The music of My Brightest Diamond lends itself well to remixes. Shara Worden's exquisite voice provides the perfect lead (or backing track) for any sort of deconstructing or restructuring of her original music. My Brightest Diamond and Asthmatic Kitty desired to create a cohesive and conceptual project as opposed to a mere remix album. They brought on four remixers (Alfred Brown, DM Stith, Son Lux and Roberto Carlos Lange (Epstein, Savath and Savalas, ROM) and commissioned them to each create a separate EP of remixed material. The EPs are beautifully packaged and hand numbered (edition of 1500) and signed by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond.
Lowell Brams: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Insomnia
Tracks 1-7 written and performed by Lowell Brams and Sufjan Stevens on Harmonium, Little Casio, Little Korg, Big Prophet, Prepared Piano, Unprepared Piano, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Autoharp, Drums, Bass, Reedless Woodwinds, Bells, Shakers, Tambourine, Hair, Duct Tape and Keys. Track 8 written and performed by Lowell Brams, Harmonium and Korg, Bryce Dessner, Electric and Acoustic guitar, and Sufjan Stevens, Piano, Casio and Percussion. Many thanks to Bryce and Sufjan, and, Ed N., The Lone Ranger, and the dudes of Con Los Dudes, who may be heard riding into the sunset on "Alpha to Theta." For Sara, the Asthmatic Kitty, 1993-2008.
Roberto Carlos Lange: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Memory
Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro, Savath & Savalas) offers up his contribution to the Library Catalog Music Series. Music for Memory is like one giant crossfade going from one idea to the next in long rhythmic patterns. Its broken tape delays and found reel to reel tapes comprise the beats and the long drone music made from orchestrations that became re-assembled from short ideas to long ones.
Yuuki Matthews: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Savage Tropical Imagery
Yuuki Matthews is a Seattle-based freelance musician and owner of 2 cats. Originally from Hollywood (Burbank), California, Yuuki moved to the Northwest with his mother and brother in the mid-nineties. He recorded the songs that make up "Music for Savage Tropical Imagery" at home between tours, odd jobs, and major milestone events. With this record, Yuuki sought to expand upon the nostalgia of subtle sound degradation.
Half-Handed Cloud: Cut Me Down & Count My Rings
Cut Me Down & Count My Rings is a collection of rarities, singles, and b-sides by indefatigable DIY pop musician John Ringhofer, AKA Half-handed Cloud. Until now, these songs were only available on vinyl, as a cassingle, with a zine, as a couple limited-edition CDEPs, or among the tracks of a few compilation albums. The themes are accordingly diverse: they include sheep, Psalms, werewolves, list-making, bees, stories from scripture and Christmas. Some of the songs served as transitions between previous Half-handed Cloud releases or built upon themes from the full-lengths. Lending a helping hand on assorted tracks are Brandon Buckner, from Ringhofer's former band Wookieback, Sufjan Stevens, Yoni from WHY?, and Nedelle and Chris from Cryptacize.
Jookabox: Dead Zone Boys
Dead Zone Boys, the third album from Jookabox (Indianapolis-born David "Moose" Adamson and Co.), is love story meets psychedelic zombie-musical. The zombie part came easy: Moose grew up on the east side of Indianapolis in the 90s, an area plauged by constant recession, pandemic homicide, and racial tension. It was this frantic energy and violence that infused itself into the Jookabox experience while musically nodding to early Ween, Black Sabbath, and fellow Indiana native, the King of Pop.
Sufjan Stevens and Stephen Halker: Super Teenage Hooper Heroes
Sufjan Stevens' The BQE further extends its mythology by anthropomorphizing the expressway and its theoretical conceits into a 40-page comic book (cover by Matt Loux, masthead by Christian Acker), in which three extra-terrestrial superhero sisters (Botanica, Quantus, and Electress) use hula-hoops to combat the "the Messiah of Civic Projects," Captain Moses, and his totalitarian social architecture. The comic book., written by Stevens and gorgeously drawn, colored, and inked by longtime friend and collaborator Stephen Halker, visualizes in graphic form many of the political motifs of the movie and soundtrack: mid-century urban theory, modernism, post-modernism hoop dynamics, and the spiritual practice of Subud
Sufjan Stevens: The BQE
Sufjan Stevens is proud to present The BQE, a cinematic suite inspired by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Hula-Hoop. Commissioned by Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), The BQE was originally performed in the Howard Gilman Opera House in celebration of the 25th anniversary Next Wave Festival in October of 2007. The BQE is available as a double-disc format (CD/DVD), which includes the original 16mm/8mm film (in widescreen "triptych" display), the original motion picture soundtrack, a 40-page booklet (with extensive liner notes and photographs), and the stereoscopic image reel (playable in all View-Master® viewers). The limited edition vinyl is available as a double gatefold and includes the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl, a large-scale 32-page booklet with liner notes and photographs, and a black-and-white version of the 40-page Hooper Heroes comic book.
Sufjan Stevens / Osso: Run Rabbit Run
In 2001, Sufjan Stevens followed up his debut album, A Sun Came, with Enjoy Your Rabbit, a series of fourteen instrumentals programmatically inspired by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Much later, in 2006, Bryce Dessner (The National, Dark Was the Night compilation, Clogs) suggested that Sufjan re-arrange the entirety of Enjoy Your Rabbit for Osso, a string quartet that had previously contributed strings to Sufjan’s Illinois and My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse. The result is Run Rabbit Run.
Castanets: Texas Rose, The Thaw and The Beasts
With Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts Castanets' Raymond Raposa keeps one foot in the rustic country, folk, and blues of past records while taking it—everything—to the next level. Straddling the line between “out” and accessible, the Rafter Roberts-produced Texas Rose is a full-band affair, a bent noise-country terrain of dissolving interludes and spaced-out electronic pop tracks up against songs that wouldn't be out of place on a Merle or Willie record. Texas Rose, Raposa's fifth for Asthmatic Kitty, is a statement of stoic subtlety and grandeur, an equal balance of the big and the humble, the disparate and the cohesive. It is nearly 39 minutes of stride-hitting, potential-reaching, and pure big epicness.
Shannon Stephens: The Breadwinner
Crouching in her backyard garden, Shannon Stephens is poised for greatness. Although she ran from music for almost a decade, she’s not hiding now. Recorded in her living room over the last year, The Breadwinner belies its humble roots; with themes of love, home, family, and a vision of the end of the world, the lush and exquisite sound of this album is anything but domestic.
Helado Negro: Awe Owe
Drawing from a rich variety of influences from the cradle to his crate digging years, Lange cites influences such as Funkadelic, DJ Premiere, South American 60's pop, Arthur Russell, Ecuadorean ballad singer Julio Jaramillo, and Adrian Sherwoods's production style in the early ON-U Sound releases. But when asked about his contemporaries, Roberto references all the players on the album, adding the names of visual artists David Ellis and Christian Marclay, two artists who use elements of DJ culture in their work. This is apropos when listening to the record, which it seems as if the songs have been sculpted or painted.
900X: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Lubbock, 1980
900X is the moniker for James McAlister. James has released the first 900X record, titled Lubbock, 1980 as the first in an instrumental Music Library series for the Lander, WY based record label Asthmatic Kitty. Lubbock, 1980 is a collection of songs recorded both at home an on the road, in numerous environments and non-environments from 2004-2008. James continues to do remix work and original film music under the 900X umbrella with such artists as My Brightest Diamond, Slavic Soul Party, and Sufjan Stevens. 900X can also be heard on the Asthmatic Kitty-curated Habitat compilation.
Casey Foubert / James McAlister: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Drums
"Music For Drums" is the first in a series of records conceived by Casey Foubert and James McAlister using drums, percussion, and user designed software effects as the sole sound source. Foubert and McAlister drew from both improvised drumming and pattern-based sequencing with samplers to create themes molded into songs. While the concept excludes harmonic and melodic conventions, atonal "melodies" present themselves alongside the groove centered songs.
Law of the Least Effort: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Measurements
Law of the Least Effort is the name under which Casey Foubert records and performs his instrumental compositions. This collection of songs, "Music for Measurements", is an homage to 60's and 70's session bands like The Meters, Booker T and the MG's, The Funk Brothers, the JB's, and guitar players like Clarence White, Link Wray, JJ Cale and John McLaughlin. Casey Foubert is a freelance producer/engineer/sideman living in the Seattle area.
Royal City: Royal City
For a generation of Guelph music fans, Royal City was something akin to a supergroup. From his early teens Aaron Riches had been a figurehead of the city’s hardcore punk scene, fronting numerous politically charged punk bands and promoting DIY gigs (including one of Fugazi’s first Canadian shows). Tracing punk’s spiritual heritage back to Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Aaron found himself drawn to the acoustic guitar and began writing softly strummed songs about streetlights and Shakespeare and dogs and broken hearts, all sung in his creaky, distinctive voice. This previously unreleased collection of songs tells the story of Royal City.
Hermas Zopoula: Espoir
Hermas Zoupula is many things. He is the youngest of 36 children. Born in a small village named Yoro, he is Burkinabe, a citizen and resident of Burkina Faso, West Africa. He is a moped enthusiast, orphanage volunteer, and internet cafe proprietor. Hermas is also a psalmist, and Espoir is his first international recording. Hermas sings in four different languages on the album: French, English, Dioula, and Sissali (Hermas' mother tongue). The only way to introduce Hermas' sound was to release Espoir as a two disc set. The first disc, recorded in a government studio in Burkina Faso, presents a refined and practiced Hermas. But the Hermas on the second disc is the one most Burkinabes know, just him and his guitar in his backyard. Comparisons to singer/song-writer Seu Jorge are inevitable, but listeners will find Hermas' voice sweeter and warmer. Other audible influences in Hermas' music are Afro-pop pioneer Thomas Mapfumo and Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra.
Jookabox / Dosh: Unusual Animals Vol 5
This is the fifth in a series of vinyl-only releases. The series, entitled Unusual Animals, pairs Asthmatic Kitty roster artists with friends and sometimes-unlikely bedfellows. Each record includes a beautiful rendering of one of Mother Nature's stranger inhabitants by illustrator Jared Chapman. This limited-edition series expands the Asthmatic Kitty family to include some unexpected folks.
Cryptacize deals in the unforgettable melody, the forsaken chord and the extravagant sentiment. Nedelle Torrisi's surefooted and richly nuanced vocal arabesques, like a modern day Freddie Mercury or Ronnie Spector, strangely complement Chris Cohen's guitar, maniacally sped-up a la Les Paul or staccato and funny like Roy Smeck or Adolph Jacobs of the Coasters. Michael Carreira's syncopated drum corps rudiments and pit-orchestra rave-ups propel the songs with a refreshingly buoyant touch that never lapses into rock music cliches. There are also widescreen cinematic moments that take on a mournful and otherworldly pathos, like Henry Mancini's "Experiment in Terror" but with vocals by Cambodian 60's pop legend Ros Serey Sothea - or like Arabic diva Fairouz singing along to a psychedelic film score by Popol Vuh.
DM Stith: Heavy Ghost
Heavy Ghost communicates a startling range—from earnest yearning to heartbreak, shimmering hopefulness to the brink of existential despair. David Stith’s ethereal voice communicates the unfathomable—mysticism, the commingling of water and fire, waking dreams, spiritual torment—with such reckless abandon that is rarely seen in many albums, let alone a debut work.
Rafter: 10 Songs
This pop gem has been buried in the rough since 1998, when Rafter put the finishing touches on his garage-built masterpiece and called it “10 Songs.” You can float along on top contemplating the slowed-up folk crunk of “My Friend the Crow,” improbably perched soundwise between Neil Young and M.I.A. (with a bit of Pascal Comelade thrown in for good measure), and thus forget that impulse to define and measure and relate everything down to it’s perceived place in the history of time. This is an album to lose your way in, headphones pumping and toes tapping and mind swimming in the rich environs authored by a persevering love-seeking dude.
Fol Chen: Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made
A Transmission from Fol Chen: "You know that mysterious black object that the creepy family is staring at on the cover of Led Zeppelin's "Presence" album? Fol Chen sound like that. But we don't sound like Led Zeppelin. (We actually do a little.) Instead, we sound like Prince with Amon Duul II and a children's religious revival, not to mention Hot Chip, Pink Floyd, Gwen Stefani, Pere Ubu, Danielson Famile, Scritti Politti, Boards of Canada, The Blow, and Pulp. (Mostly.) We are using secret powers and the guidance of legendary DJ Donna Donna to combat our nemesis, John Shade. We are cryptic and joyful and we would like you to dance."
The Welcome Wagon: Welcome to the Welcome Wagon
This debut album by The Welcome Wagon unveils a ramshackle sing-a-long enterprise of a Presbyterian pastor (the Rev. Vito Aiuto) and his wife (Monique) wrestling out the influences of folk music, religion, popular culture, and church tradition in a collection of songs that is as soulful as it is good-humored. Thisgorgeous brew is reflected in the group's repertoire, which unflinchingly consolidates a vast history of "sacred" song traditions: from old Testament psalms, to Presbyterian Psalters of the 17th century, to iconoclastic pop innovators of the 1960s (The Velvet Underground), to charismatic catholics of the 1970s(Lenny Smith), and even into the melancholy lovelorn pop of the 1980s (The Smiths).
DM Stith: Curtain Speech
After hearing only two demo songs, and with no performance history to speak of, Asthmatic Kitty Records invited David Stith to write and record an album. Stith's debut on the label comes in the form of Curtain Speech, an aptly titled EP that serves as an introductory tease for his forthcoming debut full-length, Heavy Ghost (due in early 2009). The music calls to mind contemporaries Antony and the Johnsons, Grizzly Bear, and sometimes the explosiveness of Animal Collective. However, a handful of other influences cloud the comparison as hints of the dissonance of Sonic Youth and Henryk Gorecki, expressive vocal techniques of Caetano Veloso and Mary Margaret O'Hara, and the romance and textures of Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar underpin even the simplest of gestures.
Castanets vs. Ero: Dub Refuge
Dub Refuge turns a minimalist folk record (Castanets' City of Refuge) into a ghostly dub, subverting dub tradition while still nodding in the direction of King Tubby, Scientist, Burning Spear, and Sly and Robbie. Dub Refuge works because Castanets and Ero Gray (aka Papa Alabaster, sometimes bass player for Castanets, and member of Brooklyn-based Rad Unicorn) are both preoccupied with ghostly, ephemeral and messy sounds. Ero and the Castanets share a haunted quality in their music, a unique dedication to risk, and a reverence for accident in folk music. (Stray string squeaks, cracking voices and odd echoes can be more rewarding than intentional harmonies or suavely competent riffs.)
At it's best, Castanets music accomplishes an eerie and very difficult balancing act between the disaster-surfing of experimental and noise music, and the sort of calm competence shown by classic country singers. The City of Refuge sessions exemplified this balance, and here on Dub Refuge, Ero has emphasized both aspects without destroying either.
Castanets: City of Refuge
Largely recorded in a motel room in Overton, Nevada, City of Refuge is an uneasy, asymmetric weave of sung songs, chants, electronic noise solos and spaghetti-western guitar interludes. City suggests a film soundtrack, with overture, mood-setting and plot-development songs, intermission, character studies, and themes of resolution and reconciliation. A narrative propelled by yearning, passion, dislocation, ambiguity, regret, false redemption, possible true redemption, cryptic symbolism and other art film obligatories, this time you’re liable to sit numb and silent through the credits as the theater empties. The difference between Raposa's landscape and more familiar backlot scenes might be this; you believe what you've heard and seen because your third ear intuits that he didn’t contrive any of it. City, then, is no longer only music, but emotional catharsis, and we, too, long for a City of Refuge.
I Heart Lung: Interoceans
On Interoceans, I Heart Lung blends first-take methods with Oblique Strategies: carefully composed, meticulously recorded pieces rooted in improvisation, revised and augmented over time. The results are a compelling vision of chaos and beauty as Chris Schlarb's electric guitar drones and Tom Steck's free-jazz drumming hold and flutter with shimmering acoustic guitars, soaring pedal steel and beautifully captured field recordings. When Kris Tiner's trumpet follows Nels Cline's electric sitar three minutes into "Interoceans II," it's like Don Cherry's loving spirit doting on universal music drones.
Rafter: Sweaty Magic
Sweaty Magic is the ultimate booty cap to Summer Oh-Eight's globally-warmed love-exhaust festival. Listeners taking a break from the floor to get another organic mojito-flavored energy drink might hear swirls of Tom Zé, Prince, Clipse, Zapp & Roger, Mr. Fingers, and D'Angelo staying up late in some non-exclusive beach rave with glowing extraterrestrial energy spheres.
My Brightest Diamond: A Thousand Shark's Teeth
Two years after the world formally met her via her acclaimed debut, Bring Me the Workhorse, Brooklyn, NY’s My Brightest Diamond ? spearheaded by Shara Worden ? has been established as one of independent music’s most vibrant, creative and original voices. And with A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, Diamond’s incredible, breathtaking sophomore release, we are all instantly reminded once more of Shara Worden’s undeniable talent.
Charming, playful, daring, foreboding, graceful, eclectic, exciting and visceral: these are all the first words that come to mind after a full listen through A Thousand Shark’s Teeth. Originally meant to be a more classical, string quartet affair, the work slowly evolved and refined itself over a period of six years. The record, which was mixed by Husky Höskulds (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), was recorded in Berlin, Los Angeles and New York City, and features twenty different players all contributing little bits of musical magic. Influenced by artists such as Tricky, French composer Maurice Ravel and Tom Waits, in addition to the star exploration themes of Anslem Kiefer’s paintings, the imaginary landscapes of photographer Robert ParkeHarrison, films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Alice in Wonderland, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth is a musical snowglobe that sparkles each time you touch it. The songs, whose themes broach intimacy, kisses by moonlight, laundry, lost friendship and more, marry vast instrumentation ? marimbas, harps, clarinets, French horns, rabid guitars, vibraphones to name a few ? to create an unequaled amalgamation of style and color. In simple terms: it’s beautiful, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
This video document, created by Mia Ferm, serves as a snapshot of a particular moment in time surrounding Raposa and Castanets. It is a meditative reflection on the mesmerizing motion of water, the beauty of natural light, and the spontaneity of friends. Responding to the thickness of the songs on In The Vines, here the songs are stripped bare and presented by new voices that further reveal the lyrical beauty of Raposa's songwriting. It is equal parts home movie (ala Jonas Mekas), Downtown 81, Pull My Daisy, and audio-visual collage.
Various Artists / Encyclopedia Asthmatica: Encyclopedia Asthmatica Vol. 1
Nearly all of the Asthmatic Kitty Records' roster, and many of their friends, make an appearance somewhere on this DVD: from the playful choreography of the Think Dance Collective frolicing in shoes made of bread to the music of Half-handed Cloud, to the lovely abstraction of Sufjan Stevens' projectionist, Deborah Johnson; from the haunting and raw post-apocalypse video fuzz of live Castanets, to the crisp color footage of My Brightest Diamond at Northsix, there are visual pieces that hopscotch the chasm between the professionalism of a music-visual DVD to the rabid eccentricity of a five-copy, underground video-zine.
Cryptacize: Dig That Treasure
Every song on Dig That Treasure is a miniature journey, a free fantasia, a dreamy habitat built out of the minimum of material. Sudden rhythmic gestures and frequent key changes will leave you feeling pleasantly disorientated in a song. But trust your tour-guides! You might feel as if you've come across a small tribe that speaks an unstudied language, and miraculously, find that you can speak it too! Dig That Treasure is humbly inspired by the larger-than-life emotions of West Side Story, the joyfully percussive guitar gospel of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Wizard of Oz's bittersweet escapism, the other-world sentimentality of Sun Ra's Spaceship Lullaby, and Henry Cowell's ethereal piano string strumming.
Rafter: Sex Death Cassette
Inspired by influences as diverse as Guided By Voices, R Stevie Moore, Fela Kuti, Lightning Bolt, Fushitsusha, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Cody Chestnutt, SEX DEATH CASSETTE is an album full of hope, determination and chaos. It'll leave you with sweat dripping down your face onto your swelled lip; fresh, liquid salt, the quintessential flavor of late night post-disco parties and booty slinging good times. After dancing to this album, you're heavy with it, like too much cough syrup on a stomach full of hi-quality sushi. Rafter executes the helter-skelter boogie-down production so gracefully that it is no mystery why those in-the-know recruit him, including the likes of Fiery Furnaces, The Rapture, Arab on Radar, The Album Leaf, Rocket from the Crypt, Danielson, Black Heart Procession, The Peppermints, Hot Snakes, his own band Bunky, and fellow Asthmatic Kitty artists (Castanets, Liz Janes, and Sufjan Stevens).
Chris Schlarb: Twilight and Ghost Stories
A work of personal identity and deep catharsis, Twilight & Ghost Stories is a dense 40-minute modern composition featuring a disparate cross-section of musicians from the avant-garde, independent folk, jazz and electronic communities (including Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Walter Kitindu, Castanets, Parker Paul, Bhob Rainey, and Mick Rossi). A creative and accomplished jazz guitarist, Chris Schlarb cut his teeth producing hip-hop tracks, teaching music workshops and co-founding the free music collective Create (!). Chris Schlarb is also one-half of I Heart Lung, which Tiny Mix Tapes called "some of the most energetic free-jazz to spit out of America." Spanning all of these endeavors, Twilight & Ghost Stories finds Schlarb playing acoustic piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar as well as tapes and percussion.
Castanets: In The Vines
Ray Raposa of Castanets had almost finished his follow-up to First Light's Freeze (2005) when three men in strange masks mugged him at gunpoint in front of his home in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. Stealing Raposa's rent money, iPod and security, the three thieves climaxed a year of depression and nomadic, nocturnal dislocation. Not long after the mugging, Raposa completed In The Vines. Appropriately, the album he was struggling to complete is based on a Hindu fable about being trapped in an inescapable fate, with death and the limitations of our physical lives closing in from all corners. In the fable story, “The Well of Life”, a giant net stretched out by a giant woman surrounds a Brahman lost in the forest. The frantic Brahman runs in circles attempting to escape until he falls halfway down a pit and is entangled in vines. He discovers some beehives halfway between the flesh-hungry six-faced elephant at the top of the pit and the waiting serpent at the bottom. As bees buzz around the Brahman and rats gnaw at the vines holding him up, all he can do is gorge on the sweet honey. Heavy stuff, yes, but it isn't all peril, and darkness. The songs are sung with such intimacy and earnestness that In The Vines "sways" somewhere between the serpent, elephant, bees and rats, the honey representing a strange sense of hope and delight in the brief moments of beauty that sustain our lives.
Land of a Thousand Rappers: VOL. 1: Fall of the Pillars
Three years in the making, Land of a Thousand Rappers: Vol 1, The Fall of the Pillars, will land on August 7, 2007 via Asthmatic Kitty's new imprint for conceptual and electronic projects, Unusual Animals. This complex and obsessively-detailed sci-fi epic utilizes the medium of recorded hip-hop as a fundamental construct, not just as a shtick connection to the fiction of science. The album's commitment to narrative detail is exhaustive, like a zealous Dungeon Master for suburbanites weaned on Choose Your Own Adventure books, Yo! MTV Raps and noise cassette culture.
Cathedral, the first nationally released album by San Diego's Castanets, introduced a unique voice of avant-country. From somber love ballads to haunted tales of frustrated redemption, Cathedral illuminates architecture where faith and doubt clash in an often ambiguous search for the divine.
Shapes and Sizes: Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner
Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner is proof that Shapes and Sizes aim to please the while not pandering. Imagine a soulful top 40 Thinking Fellers playing songs for the prom.Lyrically Split Lips is at once celebratory and derogatory; among other things, a peculiar but calculated meditation on naive nationalism and potent protest ("Victory in War, oh what a bore"). "High Life" focuses on benign habits turned scabrous, and "Alone/Alive" casts an existential strobe on freedom and dependence minus the pretension that usually comes along for that ride. Split Lip's harmonious discord is also technical: the band recorded with JC/DC Studios (Destroyer, New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara, etc.) and mixed with Asthmatic Kitty's own Rafter Roberts (Fiery Furnaces, The Rapture, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower) to forge a pristine decomposition. Don't try turning it down- the overdrive provides the framework for equally aggressive lyrics that combine sensuality, violence, and social critique.
My Brightest Diamond: Tear It Down
My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden has decided to set loose her bobby pins and let her hair fly on the ambient dance floor. Her latest semi-collaboration with 13 different remixers, entitled “Tear It Down”, reworks songs from the highly acclaimed album, “Bring Me The Workhorse” featuring tracks by Alias, Lusine, Murcof, Stakka and Gold Chains. Oh, it’s international too! With diplomatic representatives from Belgium, France, Mexico, The UK and America (East and West Coasts baby!), the remixes range from drum-n-bass, to glitchy ambient, minimalism, and get-your-booty-on-the-dance-floor club music.
Rafter: Music For Total Chickens
Music for Total Chickens is built from bits of pop architecture nailed together in odd forms; it is structurally sound (no pun intended), but at the same time it defies the conventional laws of (pop) physics. There are twisty-turny time signatures, swaddled in chunky guitar fuzz, sweet strings, harmonized "ooo"s and direct lyrical love-notes sometimes riding percussive trails all the way up great crescendos to pinnacles of bang-crash (like if Deerhoof recorded a self-help album).
The Curtains: Calamity
The cryptic musical logic of CALAMITY might be recognizable from Cohen's past projects (both Deerhoof and Natural Dreamers), but this record is brimming over with what was only hinted at before. The singing and lyrics have at last brought The Curtains vision into a clear and recognizable focus. The enigmatic mood and seemingly unfounded optimism of The Curtains' music have never been so sharply contrasted, and the sounds and playing (CALAMITY is self-produced and almost entirely performed by Chris) have never been so uncompromisingly personal and eccentric. Casually veering from melodic pop ballads ("Go Lucky" and "Old Scott Rd." ) to unclassifiable stylistic mish-mashes ("Invisible String" and "Calamity") to unabashed bubble-gum and garage punk ("Green Water" and "Fell On a Rock") to mysterious and brooding art-song ("Roscomare"), CALAMITY continues the Curtains' project of poker-faced genre disobedience. But this time Chris's singing and newly discovered interest in song form has pushed to the Curtains music to a new level of immediacy - on CALAMITY The Curtains have become what they've always hinted that they really were and in fact, it's almost a whole new band.
Sufjan Stevens: Songs For Christmas
In December 2001, Sufjan Stevens set out to create a Christmas gift for his friends and family. The result was a 7-song recording that he called, Noel, Vol. 1. Over each of the next few Christmas seasons Sufjan would create a new EP to add to the collection. As he was recording Peace : Volume V (in the summer of 2006), he considered how best to ?officially’ release this music. He said he was, “determined to present the EPs in their original form ? flaws, blemishes, mistakes and all. A compilation would have been a cumbersome compromise. A “Greatest Hits” would have been heartbreaking (How to choose?).” In addition to the music he wanted to add a ?lavish display of ornamentation’ to coincide with the spirit of excess and overindulgence that is the hallmark of Christmas. Enclosed in the box you will find essays, a short story, song chords & lyrics, photos, stickers, a family portrait, and wishes for a Happy Christmas.
My Brightest Diamond: Bring Me The Workhorse
My Brightest Diamond is Shara Worden, a trained opera singer turned pop songwriter. Her debut album, Bring Me The Workhorse courageously gathers all the essential elements of classical and pop music to fashion an album that reflects upon the sublime elements of both worlds. These songs are simultaneously gentle and urgent, evoking moments of tremendous joy and sorrow with the magnitude of Italian opera and the modesty of a Japanese haiku. The songwriting blurs the lines between rock show and recital, incorporating the contrapuntal elements of a baroque love song alongside love ballads and rock anthems. Her vocal lines reached for Puccini, while her guitar style is more akin to Blonde Redhead or PJ Harvey. The center of gravity here is the workmanship of a woman whose imagination has no limits.
Shapes and Sizes: S/T
Shapes and Sizes self-titled debut album brings together an unlikely assortment of sounds. Placing smart, catchy pop hooks beside chaotic experimentation, slower, more melancholy songs, and even flirting with straight up rock, the quartet juggles contasting moods with ease. Caila Thompson-Hannant commands vocal range and control uncommon in the world of indie-rock, a purity perfectly balanced by Rory Seydel's raw, emotional voice. The quartet is rounded off by the drums and bass of Crellin and Gage, long time professional musicians whose experience brings elements of textural complexity to a band that can build castles in the air, then reduce them to atoms.
Sufjan Stevens: The Avalanche
The little secret behind Sufjan Steven’s acclaimed Illinois is that it was originally conceived as a double album, culminating in a musical collage of nearly 50 songs. But as the project began to develop into an unwieldy epic, common sense weighed in—as did the opinions of others—and the project was cut in half. But as 2005 came to a close, Sufjan returned to the remaining songs on his 8-track. What he uncovered went beyond the merits of nostalgia. Sufjan gleaned 21 tracks from remaining material; some songs were in finished form, while others were merely outlines. Most of the material required substantial editing, new arrangements or vocals, and much of the work was done at the end of 2005 or in January the following year. As the title song “The Avalanche” bemuses, "I call you once my friends,” Sufjan took in the odd musical misfits and gathered them together like a party of good friends.
Half-Handed Cloud: Halos & Lassos
Armed with the psalms of David, an acoustic guitar, and the electronic Omnichord, Half-handed Cloud assails nineteen new pop songs outside Eden’s gates on Halos & Lassos, the latest album on Asthmatic Kitty Records. With hints of fitness music and video game soundtracks, Halos & Lassos tromps through 19 songs like a mostly-sunny afternoon in Berkeley, California—home of bandleader John Ringhofer. With the modal purity of Moondog, symphonic elements of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the ancient art of punning, the album boasts pop melodies arranged around the ambidextrous Omnichord—a vintage 80’s kidney-shaped electronic auto-harp/drum machine/synthesizer.
V/A: Asthmatic Kitty Compilation: MEWS TOO
This new compilation from Asthmatic Kitty Records acts as a social mix-tape tracing the particular relationships that make up the extended Asthmatic Kitty family and friends. The compilation gathers musicians, friends, colleagues, and collaborators from the label’s seven-year history, presenting an odd, exciting, and idiosyncratic family tree in which kinship and musicianship are thankfully confused. Joining the choir are mainstays of the Asthmatic Kitty roster, as well as old band-mates and friends, and a few artists who’ve made their mark outside of this label.
"Mews Too" continues the musical conversation begun in 2001 by Asthmatic Kitty’s first compilation "To Spirit Back the Mews" by including many of the contributors to that album, and by inviting new friends as well. The twenty-four tracks include contributions from Asthmatic Kitty’s current roster--Sufjan Stevens, Half-handed Cloud, Liz Janes, Castanets, and Bunky--as well as indie luminaries Danielson, Royal City, Denison Witmer, Jim Guthrie, and Steven Lambke of the Constantines. Like its predecessor,“Mews Too” weaves various genres and eccentric individual visions to form a testimonial to the uniqueness of Asthmatic Kitty’s musical community.
Castanets: First Light's Freeze
With First Light's Freeze, Castanets return with a dark mutant-country sound infused with strands of free-jazz and a late-seventies Nashville big-radio strut hijacked by post-post-punk unravelers. The result is a beautiful mix of somber reflection, destination-unknown travelogue, and subversive anti-war boogie. Castanets' unrelenting creative pioneering delightfully befuddles, as they simultaneously honor and dismantle “New Americana”.
While Cathedral (Castanets' debut) explored the themes of domesticity and the architecture of conflict, First Light's Freeze confronts the mythology of war and friendship. Morphed from a strictly literal and chronological song-cycle to a more broadly sketched reading, the wraith of narrative structure still lurks in the shadows, creating an eerie tale with shifting perspectives and evading resolution. The story ends up resembling an ancient documentary on relationships (others loved, feared, distrusted yet needed), the close proximity of things painful and pleasurable, and the complications of this as a paradigm for the world.
Half-Handed Cloud: What's the Remedy?
Many years ago, Sufjan Stevens and Half-handed Cloud's John Ringhofer got together in Dan Smiths (Danielson) parents' basement--not to play tabletennis--but to record five of John's songs, which were about some funny things: medicine and tablets and letters and graves. At first glance, Sufjan thought, oh no! John's really gotten into this rock star lifestyle, LSD, drug use, psychedelic prose poems, motion sickness, hospitalization, etc. Should he be worried? Well, it turns out, he was all wrong. John Ringhofer doesn't even take Aspirin! The kid drinks a gallon of water a day. He does 55 sit-ups. He parts his hair to the side. The songs, it turns out, were about much greater, eternal things. You know, things like Friendship, Kinship, Sons and Fathers, and Broken Promises, and Reconciliation, etc. John does all the great things he does so well--and he wrote and played most of the instruments while Sufjan pressed the record button. Sufjan also plays some drums, some piano, some recorders, some banjo, some guitar. The songs add up to the shortest musical epic in recorded history. An entire mini-series that fits on a 7-inch! This is also the first 7-inch released by Asthmatic Kitty, featuring glorious prints by John Ringhofer, a self-portrait with a bloody gash on hischin. Oh gross, we like it! We like it!
Liz Janes and Create: Liz Janes and Create
After working with Sufjan Stevens and Rafter Roberts on her first two full-length albums, Virginia native Liz Janes takes on a collection of dramaticallyre-arranged public domain songs with Los Angeles based free-jazz collective, Create(!). Recorded and produced by Create(!)?s Chris Schlarb in a one room shack without the use of any electric instruments, Liz Janes & Create(!) features some of Janes? most inspired singing. A lo-fi lullaby of century oldblues, folk songs and prayer music, Liz Janes & Create(!) adds new wrinkles to well ironed standards.
Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
Asthmatic Kitty announces the second installment of Sufjan Stevens' 50 State Project, llinois, a 22-track anthematic tone poem to The Prairie State. Following the 2003 collection of songs for his home state, "Michigan," Stevens presents an emphatic answer to the question: Can a songwriter express the spirit of a state he's never called home? With his most enterprising project to date - the result of extensive research, travel, meditation, and countless days and nights in the studio - admirers of his previous work and first time listeners will agree that the answer is yes.
On this second state tour, Sufjan weaves variegated musical styles (jazz, funk, pop) and instrumental textures (from oboe to church organ) into a tapestry of persons famous, infamous, and anonymous, and places iconic, obscure, and ghostly.The musical road trip takes you through ghost towns, grain mills, hospital rooms, and the City of Broad Shoulders, with guest appearances by a poet, a president, and a serial murderer, to name a few.
Bunky: Born to be a Motorcycle
Finally, after three years of legendary performances in their hometown of San Diego, the amazing Bunky- Emily Joyce, Rafter Roberts, who has been featured in Tape Op, and friends- unleash their debut album, “Born to be a Motorcycle." “Motorcycle” will surprise even those who think they’ve heard it all; this eclectic collection of weird pop bliss blends punk, art-pop, and ballads with chugging horns, absurdist humor and bulls-eye production by veteran musicians/engineers Roberts and Joyce. The result is an album as lively as an armful of eels; Bunky rocks and croons with equal skill, sometimes in the same song. Joined by a cast of San Diego all-stars (members of Rocket from the Crypt, Castanets, Pinback, and others), Bunky blazes from the underground full-grown and ready to burn up the road.
Half-Handed Cloud: Thy is a Word, and Feet Need Lamps
Half-handed Cloud’s third album for Asthmatic Kitty, “Thy is a Word and Feet Need Lamps” delivers an enlightening new collection of signature songs by singer/songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist John Ringhofer. HHC’s first two full-length albums, “Learning About Your Scale (2001)” and “We Haven’t Just Been Told, We Have Been Loved (2002)” left critics struggling to draw comparisons with other artists, but there is really no one quite like HHC. “Thy...” features guitars, cellos, pianos, breathy church organs, woodwinds, brass, non-instrument sounds, an eight-person choir, and various percussion, recorded almost entirely in a church sanctuary. The narrative songs of “Thy is a Word?” revisit Bible verses and stories- mostly Old Testament- that you may not have heard in Sunday school. Why recount the murder, mayhem, and sordid situations in The Book? Because as a whole it covers the entire spectrum of life, good and bad. Ringhofer, never didactic in his work, refrains from drawing conclusions, but subtly and cinematically directs listener’s eyes and ears to the space between the words, leaving interpretation up to them
Liz Janes: Poison & Snakes
The long awaited follow-up to Liz Janes' acclaimed debut, Done Gone Fire (2001-produced and arranged with accompaniment by Sufjan Stevens), Poison & Snakes combines punk, gospel and country music elements to document Liz's progression as a seasoned singer, songwriter and performer. Her mellifluous blues-tinged voice and unexpected phrasing are set against eclectic and unpredictable arrangements in collaboration with producer Rafter Roberts.
Sufjan Stevens: Michigan
Asthmatic Kitty and Sounds Familyre announce the vinyl edition of Sufjan Stevens’ “Michigan.” On two disks, this special edition includes alternate versions of “Vito’s Ordination song,” “Romulus,” and five out-takes not included on the original CD release. Also new to this edition is an essay on the songs by Sufjan Stevens.
Composed as a geographical tone poem, MICHIGAN follows a Metaphysical expedition through the idiosyncrasies of middle America. Drawing from personal anecdote, regional history, and state heritage, Stevens mixes social and political grievances with songs about snowmobiles, Henry Ford, the Detroit riots, and love.
Liz Janes: Done Gone Fire
Liz JanesDone Gone FireAsthmatic Kitty Records: AKR005 (CD)Originally released 2001 Re-release July 20, 2004UPC# 6 56605 92252 2
Liz Jane's mellifluous vocal gifts are revealed for the first time in this surprising collection. Done Gone Fire strikes a delicate balance between bluesy folk, avant-rock, gospel, and orchestral influences; Liz carries a fresh, shining ambiance unique to an artist who has not allowed the conventions of live performance to undermine the intimacy of one-on-one-communication.
Liz came of age musically in Olympia, Washington, as a horn-squanking member of the Northwest punk-improv scene, where she played in such bands as Toro Sec Toro, and Cat, the Distributor II. Her secret lullabies and gospel tunes remained unheard until her future husband played them for acclaimed singer-songwriter-producer Sufjan Stevens (Michigan, Seven Swans), and a full album, produced and arranged by Stevens, soon became a reality. Liz? upcoming release, Poison & Snakes (Asthmatic Kitty, October, 2004), documents her growth as a performer and writer, and will receive international promotion and distribution.
Liz Janes: guitar and vocalsOther musicians: Sufjan Stevens, Matt Haseltine, Megan Smith (The Danielson Famile)Produced, engineered, and arranged by Sufjan Stevens
Tracks: Martyr?s Grind Up Guitar Guitar 2 am Proposition Honeybee Monkey Song Fall Down Mountain Jag Done Gone Fire Jerusalem Tristeza Ocean Jig
Recommended for fans of: Cat Power, Tara Jane O?Neil, Shannon Wright
On Done Gone Fire:
?Falling somewhere in between the bluesy sounds of John Lee Hooker and the unpolished growl of Tom Waits, Liz Janes has created a wonderfully melancholy but simultaneously euphoric album in Done Gone Fire. (Done Gone Fire)?is a wonderfully constructed and executed blues album??º - Fineprint Magazine
Liz Janes' voice is hypnotic in its intensity. It has the soulful depth of Macy Gray, the bluesy muse of Tracy Chapman, and the alternative grit of Alanis Morresette. It is the most addictive quality of Janes' music, and along with the unconventional cadences that guide it into unexplored musical frontiers, has an eerily intoxicating effect on the listener. - The Phantom Tollbooth
Sufjan Stevens: A Sun Came (reissue)
Asthmatic Kitty announces a new edition of "A Sun Came," the 1999 debut album by Sufjan Stevens. Widely acclaimed for "Michigan" (2003), and "Seven Swans" (2004), singer/songwriter Sufjan Steven's first solo collection has been skillfully remastered, with two previously unreleased tracks and new art by Stephen Halker. Recorded on 4-track while still in college, "A Sun Came" first demonstrated Sufjan's eclectic instrumentalism- he plays over a dozen instruments here- noted production skills, and heartfelt songwriting. Though little known until listeners and reviewers discovered "Michigan" last year, "A Sun Came" foreshadows Sufjan's later work, and stands on it's own as an expression of his unique talents. A stunning blend of 60's psychedelic pop influences with middle-eastern and east Indian musical touches and a trace of experimental noise, "A Sun Came" grips the listener from the very first notes and doesn't let go until you've reached the end of Stevens' 72 minute opus.? -Opuszine
Various Artists: To Spirit Back The Mews
Independent artists from every corner of the North American continent gathered together for To Spirit Back the Mews (AKR 004), a homegrown collection of rejuvenating tunes by the Asthmatic Kitty family of friends; 80 minutes of unique art pop, including contributions by AK artists Liz Janes, Half-handed Cloud, and Sufjan Stevens (Michigan, Seven Swans). Stevens offers four tracks unavailable elsewhere, and adds his production and instrumental skills to seven songs by other artists. Other contributors include Royal City, Shannon Stephens, Jason Brouwer, and Matthew Haseltine.
Sufjan Stevens: Enjoy Your Rabbit
Sufjan Stevens departs from the singer-songwriter persona of ?A Sun Came,?º ?Michigan,?º and ?Seven Swans,?º with fourteen instrumental compositions based on the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Combining his widely acclaimed gift for melody with electronic sounds, ?Enjoy Your Rabbit,?º deftly demonstrates Sufjan?s versatility with an unusually playful and engagingly human electronic experience. XLR8R enjoyed their Rabbit, calling it ??a transgressive, majestic album conjuring an academic jam session of Stereolab and Luke Vibert conducted by Steve Reich.?º
"Enjoy Your Rabbit sounds like it could be released on Mego or Soniginstead...tracks like "Year of the Ox" and "Year of the Tiger" suggest aMouse on Mars influence with their noisy squeals rubbing againstlighthearted melodies." -Grooves
Half-Handed Cloud: We Haven’t Just Been Told, We Have Been Loved
With twenty-five tracks crammed into twenty-four minutes, Scale charmed and amazed reviewers and unaffiliated listeners alike with unexpected instrumentation (trombones, talking books, and an air conditioner) memorable melodies, and a dizzying funhouse vision of The Meaning of Life. With haiku-like clarity and substance, Ringhofer’s concise songs reflect a playful spirit unafraid of following the muse wherever it may lead. Committed but never pedantic, his unique fusion of the silly and serious simultaneously stimulates both reflection and giggles. Once again, Asthmatic Kitty and Soundsfamilyre join together to present a new collection of sonic diamonds by John Ringhofer and friends. We Haven't Just been Told, We Have Been Loved, produced by John Ringhofer and Daniel Smith (The Danielson Famile), offers a new satchel of visionary vignettes, placing a delightful oddball narrative over a fractured soundscape.
Half-Handed Cloud: Learning About Your Scale
With great joy, Asthmatic Kitty and Soundsfamilyre announce the reappearance of Half-handed Cloud’s Learning About Your Scale. Originally released by Corner Room Records, the reissue of multi-instrumentalist John Ringhofer’s crazy quilt collection of divinely-inspired miniatures is certain to delight all seekers of the fresh and different.