posted April 22nd, 2013


Here comes the sun, anyone? Yes. The ice caps is melting once again - but this time, it means one simple, unsinister thing, and that is Spring. This time, we are not dying, but living anew! Spring, and pitchers and catchers alike are swinging. Spring: the promise of music is on the air, of music in the air - sounds blaring forth from windows and macs and cars and melting into the heat, and the congregation of the many (though, let's face it, you can't spell 'the many' without 'the any') at summer festivals. We're into it, and we like Spring enough to love living through winter, to bloom again (and again and again). Lesson learned, Mothef*****r Earth Earth! Thanks for checking in.


If perchance you haven't read one of our news bullets before, why not start now? Welcome to Drag City! We release LPs and CDs and digital downloads, among other things (like the occasional t-shirt, perhaps? - smilin' ed.). The contemporary and classic artists who make these records derive income from the record sales and downloads. Those who can (and will) will tour around the world and make money from that too, and we promote those shows in the name of selling more LPs, CDs etc. And though music is number one with a bullet for Drag City, we release books and DVDs at least once a year as well, just to keep our hand in (in what? -- perverted nostalgia ed.). Why, we've got a book out right now by acclaimed filmmaker Harmony Korine, with another Hollywood-centric book coming out in June - more on which in a short bit, cineastes! Speaking of pictures, we're promoting and distributing a documentary film release on The Source Family this next month with a DVD to follow. Yeah, booking the film into theaters nationwide and having film critics write about it! We've been doing all these things for years now, and in some circles (or rings, if you prefer), we've definitely earned our propers. But it takes a lot of circles to make a world, and ow! we love circles, so new readers, if you're coming from another circle somewhere out beyond our radius, let's get our sets together and Venn Diagram that shit! Today is a good day for you to get into Drag City, because who knows, right? Today, there's definitely room for one more, honey. And another, and another...


And sure, we mail-order the SHIT out of our catalog - that's been a given since since Day Fucking One (and today is day Day Fucking 8,537, in case you lost fucking count)! The other thing that we've done from the start is make sure Drag City records get into record stores everywhere we can manage to get 'em. These sales paths are the very vessels of lifeblood for a label, you know, and it always has been since the days of Edison and his (racially-biased) Victrola. It's not easy for stores, though - not under any circumstances. They got this thing called 'overhead' - which does in fact include the ceiling and roof and the lights, but in truth is simply the amount of money spent to stage the place and stock it with records and people to sell them. So the nicer the store, the higher the overhead. And what with changing times, stores have always got worry that they're not going to be able to pay the bills at the end of the month. It's always something! It was probably around ten years ago when the shops were worried they were gonna be crunched out by chains. They were scared! Funny all the chains are gone, the shops are more or less still here, and now, they', not happy and content. Now hey're worried that they're gonna get crunched out by the internet! By Amazon, or nations of people downloading music at their free will. So they're scared again. Honestly, we're all worried about that and waiting for it to start being funny at some point. History is funny though, and everyone has to look at it from the vantage point of their own shoes and the ballpoint of the checks signed over to them and the ones they have to write. So everyone's looking at the bottom line and scared and that's what leads to atrocities of alleged goodwill like so-called Record Store Day, an industry-recommended once-a-year where the world at large salutes this 20th century commercial artifact. What kind of atmosphere is that to grow music in on a day-in, day-out basis, you ask? It's OK, really. Remember, the good ol' Great Depression was technically a bad time to try and sell records, but it was also the decade that the kings of swing broke their sounds onto the national charts with big bands of over a dozen people onstage at once! That's a lotta paychecks for one show, you know? The dynamic is not dissimilar today, in that hard times may actually make people sing more than the good times - but none of this matters because Drag City's gonna put records out rain and shine, through Democrat and Republican administrations, until the Revolution comes (and after, until they tunnel into our helium-cooled underground bunker and take our ass into custody as official enemies of the state (at last!)). Capitalist Existential Crisis solved, y'all? Until next time, anyway.


Nothing's guaranteed, right? Except death and taxes, huh? Make that death, taxes and new record releases, would you please? Because even if good ol' Drag City isn't the one releasing them, there's not a week that goes by without new releases, and until The Cloud fully descends once and for all, all of us up here in the underground are gonna keep raining down with LPs, CDs, cassettes and whatever else. Happens every week of every month, Why last week, Drag City put out a mini-plethora of titles featuring David Grubbs The Plain Where the Palace Stood LP/CD, The Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy "Solemns," 12"EP (whoops, that should be etched 12"EP, h'yah!), Rich Ristagno What Would It Be Like To Be Rich LP and Harmony Korine A Crack-Up At the Race Riots paperback book (reissued at last, Korine Kranks!). And of course, we got another slew set for 21 May including a new Scout Niblett LP/CD, a new Sic Alps 12"EP, another two sides of OM dubplates and the LP/CD original soundtrack for The Source Family documentary that will be opening in cities across America throughout May and June. There's no shortage of anything! Anywhere! Ever, it seems! And yet, the March date pulling away from us in the rearview monitor still has special flavor for us - Purling Hiss Water On Mars LP/CD/CS, Ensemble Pearl S/t 2xLP/CD, OM "Addis Dubplate" 12" single and Dope Body "Saturday" 7" single. Such rocks of all shapes and sizes were thrown on that day! What hues of rock were brought to bear on that wide and mighty date in March (the 19th, if you intend to commemorate it in years to come, as we do). Lord, a date like that would sustain a lesser label for a whole year. But this is Drag City, and while it will be a secret energy bar for us in the days to come, so will the Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy What the Brothers Sang LP/CD/CS and The Best Of The Howling Hex LP/CD date in February and the Alasdair Roberts A Wonder Working Stone 2xLP/CD, Chris Darrow Artist Proof LP/CD and Ty Segall "Would You Be My Love" 7" single date in January. Sources of great power for us, all of them - and you know what? For you too. A record's release date is only the beginning. The best is yet to come - in all your time remaining on Earth with this music. So join the Drag City march (now in April!) to oblivion! Just pick your spot and start marching to the free-jazz drummer of your choice.


As our old pal William Blake said, the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, which is great - but we're not sure that he was talking about The Plain Where The Palace Stood when he said that. First of all, David Grubbs doesn't seem like the excessive sort - except when it comes to his music. Even then, the lengths that David goes to in order to realize the sound of his vision are discreetly streamlined, framed with a dry elegance that decries the slovenly implications of a word such as 'excess.' Secondly, David's not actually from the plains - Kentucky is a hilly country, with winding roads and rivers and narrow valleys. The plains kick in later - and anyway, since hailing from there, David's spent a lot of time back East, in the more cramped, sharply divided spaces around New York City - so again, the world of the plain is something of a contrefact in the mind's music of David Grubbs. Finally, David was never in Palace, Palace Songs, Palace Brothers,Palace Music - and of that! You're thinking of his fellow Louisipudlian Will Oldham. David's youthful jams were made with Gastr del Sol, Bastro and Squirrel Bait. So this Palace is yet another place within the (clearly gifted) imagination of one David Grubbs. But whatever it is that he's on about with this Plain Where a Palace once Stood, it's coming from his own inner life, which again, is great news, and the record is a darkly evocative set of pieces that dance around David's life as a pop musician (given that we inherently understand that the worlds of 'pop' are, in 2013, a multifarious lot that might include contemporary r'n'b like the hated Rihanna, or singer-songwriter stuff like Cat Power or Fiona Apple or even youth music as obtuse (but danceable) as good ol' Animal Collective. So what is 'pop' is what 'pop' is actually all about, and it has been since the days of The Beatles, which was an era some five decades removed from today, old timers!). David brings some plain-speaking moments of roof-removing space music (read: wide-open) as well as weaving a lattice of his signature stark-brown guitar tone throughout the proceedings. David even sings a bit too, like you do in pop music, and as he always has since the glory days of Gastr, he's got a way with a number that's his way (and the high way). All in all, The Plain Where the Palace Stood seems a fascinating place - and since it's out now, get your own view on LP or CD (or, yes, download) today!


Fans of Bonnie & the Marquis are dancing in their cobblestone-lined world right now, because for the first time since the old century, there's a new EP bearing their royal appellation. That EP is "Solemns," and if it arrives a mere thirteen years after "Get On Jolly" first reached the souls of a new fan base for a new artist named Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, please allow time for the imperial baggage to be transported. Way back then, there was a lot of less for the Bonnie 'Prince' - he'd made a couple singles and then hauled off and slugged the world with a record called _I See A Darkness_. Word on the street was, it was bad! Like, super-bad. Times have proven that to be super-true, and the record continues to have a rich mystery about it to new ears that's never subsided over time. Meanwhile, the newly crowned 'Prince' was working with another young noble, The Marquis de Tren (nee Mick Turner of Dirty Three and Mick Turner fame!), whose work on Drag City at that time (the Tren Phantasma LP) was distinguishing him from the clan he hailed from, the notorious Dirty Three. Now, Tren's Australian and Bonny's American, so reaching their playing hands across the water wasn't easy, but the disconnect allowed a deep soulfulness to soak into the spacey weirdness they concocted - and "Get On Jolly" proved to be a favorite for their shared core of fans who like things spacey and soulful and weird for years and years. Thus it has been! Many of the few wondered just when the 'Prince' and the Marquis would commit their musical quill-pen to digital parchment for another bi-hemispherical pronouncement...and wondered, and wondered. The answer was - NOW! - and now, "Solemns" is available to you: three new songs with a decidedly different spirit-slant, featuring Bonny, Tren and "Filthy" Jim White pounding away as always (in addition to playing drums, natch). Van Campbell, Emmett Kelly and Angel Olson helped complete the picture, and an etching was commissioned to be put on the other side of the record from their three mediations. There'll be more again some day - but in the meantime, don't look so sad! Get "Solemns."


Also out in April as in RIGHT NOW, is Rich Ristagno's long-belated masterwork, What Would It Be Like To Be Rich. If you don't know the name, don't worry. It's taken this long to get to this point, we're sure you're ready to spare another moment's explanation. Rich's record was first conceived in the early 1970s, after he'd come back from Vietnam to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan with full intentions of continuing the music career that he'd had playing in local bands before he left. A single he waxed at that time didn't make any waves with radio stations around the country, and so nothing else happened until about 1980, when Rich decided enough was enough and booked some studio time right out of the Yellow Pages. He chose a studio that advertised its own band, which makes sense, right, two birds with one rockin' rollin' stone - but the house band, dubbed Soular Flight, was more inclined to play in a range of late 70s r'n'b styles, running the gamut from funk to Quiet Storm. Rich was a rocker, with a moody yet caustic lead guitar style and an almost cerebral vocal approach. This mightily evident lack of cohesion stopped absolutely nothing from happening, and in a very short amount of time, the album was recorded, mixed, mastered and pressed - but what about the cover?!? 100 copies in white paper sleeves were stored in the basement, waiting for the day when the budget allowed for the artwork that Rich envisioned completing the album. For those 100 copies, that day never came - but weasel-eyed collector-types showed up eventually, wanting to hear the record based on the merit of the 7" single that had actually made it into the world. If you know anything about the cult of the private press, you know what's next: message boards, USB transfers on file-sharing sites and a cult of personality springing up around the few white-label pressings that were purloined by those bottom-feeding musical bounty hunters. That's about where Drag City came in. A copy of the record was bestowed upon us, and with no information whatsoever, and sounding so weird and timeless as is did - combining elements of the late 70s with elements of the late 80s in ways that seem completely inadvertent, ending up sounding freakily, freshly like a post-millennial pop (that word again) record than anything else - well, almost instantly, we were determined to give this album the cover artwork that Rich Ristagno had always dreamed of! Plus the title! We did that, it's an LP only, and it's not getting any less weird. Seek out What Would It Be Like To Be Rich at an actual record store near you - or mail-order it direct from the DC Mothership - like we said before, that's part of everything that what we're here for.


2013: the light's turned Korine and that means GO! Now that Spring Breakers is the go-to pre-summertime jam for the post-teenage set, the name Harmony Korine is the just the kind of household name you always never thought it could be! This means it's a great time to be sitting on unsold stock from the varieties of the Korine katalog. Which means it doesn't suck to be us! Drag City's got the OST LP/CD for Harmony's Mister Lonely film and both paper-backed and box set versions of The Collected Fanzines, plus the Trash Humpers DVD (which strikes us as a fascinating companion piece to the Spring Breakers experience, hore hore!). Also too completely one-of-a-kind CD copies of the Trash Humpers soundtrack, all of which were trashed in custom fashion by Harmony himself! But all of this is just back story to the return of the lost Harmony Korine novel, A Crack-Up at the Race Riots! Commissioned by a major publisher back during Harmony's First Fame of the late 90s, this book came and went, victim to the fickle designs of the old regime during Harmony's silent years in the mid-aughts. Now that he's back to turning out regular work and gnawing through the stomach lining of America's have-nots and have-tos, we're straight awesome about putting A Crack-Up at the Race Riots back onto the book shelves. If there is a narrative in there, we have yet to divine it - but every page will freak you out in some way or another, and that includes the freak scene of laughing. Whether filming or writing Harmony likes to push the wrong buttons at the wrong times for the maximum absurd results, and A Crack-Up at the Race Riots is chock-full of these kinds of moments. It's been a decade at least since this book was in circulation; now it is again. What more do you need? The light's Korine: go, muthafucker, GO! OUT NOW.


Don't forget, Drag City isn't just a record label that puts out all your favorite books to burn! We are also a movie distributor, thank you very much. Over the past couple years, we've helped the films Trash Humpers and Dragonslayer get screen time in cities across North America. Now, we're breaking out the reels once again and preparing to open The Source Family on 30 screens and counting in just a couple weeks! The Source Family is a documentary film by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulous that considers the life and times of our favorite cult-leader/yoga instructor/polygamist/rock star, Father Yod and his 100-plus disciples, The Source Family! In the hippified world of early 70s LA (and later, Hawaii), they made an unforgettable impression on people, whether serving them food in their restaurant, The Source, preaching at local high schools, or just hanging at the Father House making music, which they later packaged and sold on LP in their restaurant. The best of all belief systems, eastern therapies, philosophies and of course, drugs, were available to them, and life was entirely about enlightenment.

Naturally, it didn't last - and the film takes you on the whole crazy ride. It's a really sweet documentary look at their experience, and not only are we distributing the film, we're also putting out the Original Soundtrack for The Source Family, which contains loads of their previously released greatest hits as well as a few totally unreleased things all of which communicate their unique worldview. See the movie at your local cinema and get the record for at-home listening! Coming in May - and FOR THE REST OF TIME AS HUMANS KNOW IT....


Also in May! It's the grand return of Scout Niblett. Back in November of aught-12, we promised this to you when we dropped the "No More Nasty Scrubs" single. We probably thought we meant sometime before May of 2013, but you know what? There's some people out there, big fans of The Calcination of Scout Niblett, who thought she'd NEVER make a record again! And every time she came to town, they went there to party like it was 1999 and tomorrow was Y2K and it'd be all over. That's just how intense Scout's music is. But you know what? It's three years later and here's a new record, called It's Up To Emma - nice, affirming title there ('Emma' = 'Scout') and - OH MY GOD, this record is EVEN MORE INTENSE than fucking Calcination was! And that one was about cooking the bad parts of you right out of your body! Oh, shit...but Scout has a way of taking her lonely, bluesy licks and her keening wail and backgrounding them with glittering velvet black swath that sweeps the whole picture so beautifully. Here, where there's torch songs galore, all burning bright, the feeling of ballads offsets the brutal riffage and the combination of the two makes for a truly spiritual night of the soul. It's Up To Emma is the name of it - but come May, it'll be up to you to ride the coaster into one of the darkest wild rides we've taken in awhile. We expect you to be up for it - you'll be a better woman and a better man for it too.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the jukebox, Sic Alps are also back and soaring high with the with what appears to be their forte: the short-play record. Whether covered with reverb, or scum or the glitter of guitars, basses drums etc, Sic Alps are about the song, which makes the fewer the better, as we can really focus our ADD-damaged attention on the song at hand and not have to think about anything too challenging like a whole album. That said, their albums have that wonderful impact, as the songs pile up on top of each other, each sinking its needle into your neck, each time giving you that next lift - ah, ecstasy! Fans of their self-titled masterpiece from last fall, stand to the right. Fans of the string of singles that led up to that album - "Breadhead," "Battery Townsley," and "Vedley," line up on the left! It's a blindfold test, and we think you're all gonna win this one. This three song EP, "She's On Top," comes spread luxuriantly over twelve inches of vinyl, so yer album-oriented types can kid themselves while the singles kids get in and out fast. Each song is a gem polished to high, wild perfection with Sic Alps in fine-tuned garage mode as only they know how to be. These three songs will hit you hard and rock you Wicked Sic! As the Alps head for an Alps-spanning tour of Europe in June, this EP is just what the doctor ordered - more Sic-ness! Get "On Top" in June.


The Earth isn't just getting weaker - it's getting wider! And no, this ain't a "fat rant" about American's disgusting children. Sure, they're disgusting - but we're an Earth half-full kind of record label - and this widening is for the better! Basically, it's all because of OM. It was less than a year ago that they issued their greatest record to date, Advaitic Songs. Every minute they'd recorded up to then (which we can know) informed what happened in an entirely new way on Advaitic Songs, but so did every minute that OM had lived (which we can never really know). All of it was poured into the songs and it all dripped down to the bottom, making it the fattest bottom OM had ever had scratched into wax (yes we know, a compound of plastics, actually. Well, at least we didn't say shellac! How out of touch would that be?). The record came out and rocked phonograph needles everywhere and continues to - but OM's quest for the bottomless bottom led them to roots dub heroes Alpha & Omega, who remixed a couple tracks with requisite wack. The first results have already hit with mega-force, and the "Addis Dubplate" is currently sold out, with more being pressed as we speak. But that's only the beginning - in May, the "Gethsemane Dubplate" joins the expansion effort with a mighty blast. So get ready for the atmosphere to be relocated another couple miles further out.


While dealing with these 12" EPs and singles, it's easy to find yourself wishing for the days of the good ol' 7" single, right? Right! That's why we were so psyched when Dope Body phoned home with their "Saturday" 7" - two songs, two sides. We didn't even care that neither of the songs were called "Saturday," really - because a) 7" single; b) Dope Body; c) new Dope Body songs on a 7" single! So that happened back in the month with all the rock and sometimes it seems like it's all over - but not only do we have a few singles left to sell, but Dope Body are flying their way through the Universe far from here (Baltimore - can you handle it?) and getting ready to fly even farther, when they head out to Europe later on in May! Dope, Europe. Don't fuck it up! But that's not it for Drag City artists spanning the planet in May - we've also got the fond return of Faun Fables, for just about two months of shows across America, actually. Plus there's a couple weeks of Bill Callahan shows, what's up with that? Think Pre-Construction people. By the time Bill gets to Phoenix - er, Nashville, the Masaki Batoh Brain Pulse Music tour of America will also be underway, and we're excited to get our own waves into the mix if we can when he gets to town. On the other side of everywhere, OM will be vibrating their way across Australia in May, and at the end of the month, Dawn & Bonny bring the songs the Brothers sang up north - way up north, to the Swedes! More of this kind of action coming from them later in the summer. And Alasdair Roberts is gonna play EVERYWHERE in the UK that he can, as a solo, a duo and then in full-blow "Friends" mode too. And that's just not it either! Keep yourself alert for more signals in the air...


It's been a month and counting since the mega-force blast of a new album from Purling Hiss lept out of the gates, but Water On Mars is denting radio playlists around the world and blowing heads with their live rock show. They've just wrapped up their first pass through America, with a month-long tour of Europe set for all of May. Then it's back here and get some more shows to take Purling Hiss all the way out west, where their laconic rock delivery will certainly inspire among the ho-dads and ho-kids of the far country. It's no joke, but it's not un-fun: the slow boiling of their show eventually explodes into a frenzy of guitar outbursts that either never end, or you never want them to (or both!). It's a highly satisfying night at the club no matter how it's sliced and it has a nicely distinct quality when stacked up against the sound of Water On Mars - and all the rest of Purling Hiss's catalog. It's probably the primo rock happening of 2013, but you have to see it and hear it for it to happen to you too. Don't miss the Hiss!


Summer's coming! But first, a little snow. Shit, eventually it'll be June, and that's gotta be fine, right? For us here in the Ivory Bunker of Solitude, June's just another month, another amalgam of modern entertainment in the form of vinyl, CD and the category you might want to call "not-records." We've got a 10" record from Al Cisneros! Al of OM of like, everywhere else in this newsletter y'know? Yeah, there's just too much music coming through him right now to wait for OM to get it together! With "Ark Procession" b/w "Jericho," Al's spaced out a couple rock-steady grooves that stretch and travel effortlessly into the land beyond OM with but a twitch of their dubby bottoms! Also in June and also on short-play, we've got another jewel from the condemned mine of Royal Trux, the summer of '98's "3-Song EP" - showcasing yet another other side of Royal Trux just a few months removed from the glass-ceiling shattering Accelerator LP. On the "not-records" side of the street, we've got The Source Family DVD for those of you who didn't make the theatrical run in May (which hasn't happened yet; welcome to our wormhole!). There's a book too, one without any musical connections whatsoever, thank God. Did you ever just want to watch a movie? Nice Guys Don't Work In Hollywood is the memoir of Hollywood lifer Curtis Harrington, who started on the outside, making avant-garde films in the age of Anger (Kenneth Anger, that is) before working his way into the studios and bringing his eye for weirdo-horror to screen with a bunch of B+-movies like the classic "Night Tide," "Games" and "What's the Matter With Helen." Curtis wrapped up on the small screen, directing things like "Charlie's Angels" and "Dynasty" all while longing to return to the silent days of yore and Poe. It's a fascinating story filled with compelling encounters, and it will be available with all the other equally compelling Drag City encounters on June 18th.


As we mentioned way back in the beginning (of time? - eyesore ed.), there's a release date every week out of every month of the year. But why wait until then? There's a whole world of good waiting for you today, and your ears aren't getting any bigger on their own. Don't waste this precious time - inform the energy that will one day, sooner than you think, exit your body and your life and the lives of everyone you know. Give that energy a spin before you send it back into the Universe. Future generations you'll never know will thank you. Well, they probably won't - but somewhere inside, they'll know.

Speak to you in 30-ish (in 30-ims!) -

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.

April 2013