THE WORDS THAT COULD HAPPEN
Good morning, good morning – and welcome to another day in the life of Drag City Records, here in the only world we’ll ever know. But in this world, we are a vessel, and life pours through us: ours and other lives like it. This is our joy, to be involved in the passage, the way through from on beyond for so many weird and wonderful people’s inspiration. Our dream is to make records. As Weird War said, we live in a dream (sic)! And yes, sometimes it is work, to be attended to like wretched and dreaded math that has to be figured and refigured – it NEEDS to, because our people (and all people) need and deserve to be paid for what they’ve done. Yes, sometimes doing this is tedious work. But sometimes it’s work that just works, who knows how, and then we are grateful to watch the irregular and jumping patterns of energy as they occur. We’re here to keep making it happen, and we hope that everyone from whom we love to hear making it happen carries on – because if they don’t, if we don’t, will those messages, the songs, the sonic relief for so many souls, will it ever come though? Drag City doesn’t want to phase the world without any of this potential information and love left unsaid – and how will we ever know if it isn’t? So we’re staying put, here to regenerate more love as long the Force™ and the Source™ will let Us, Weekly™. Patent pending!
THE TIME OF THE LOVE IS NOW (AGAIN)
Case not exactly in point: Jessica Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again. If we'd've cashed our chips last year and bugged out to Orlando (that was our 90s endgame! – copper-parachute ed.), then we might not have been able to hitch our little red wagon to J-Pratt’s sweet ride in the here and now. Jessica arrives to us rather well-formed already, having made an album that gave listeners the initial impetus to love her way with songs and singing. But now we’re in the mix, and we're sure that there are always more listeners to be seduced, and always another year to seduce them. So, gratitude! Now then...since, as listeners, new music gives us new pause for reflection; it's nice, while listening to Jessica wander down her well-groomed garden path, to not have to choose between the loving the songs themselves and the rich environment that they seem to have grown forth from naturally. That way lies chicken-and-egg (or idiot-vs.-asshole) madness, trying to think that one through – because while of course it’s the songs (idiot), with their sudden turning of melodies and smartly resolving trails of thought criss-crossing the lyric sheet, then there’s the damnable question of evolution again (asshole!) – because, surely the songs came from somewhere, did they not? And perhaps that ‘where’ is the very air upon which the songs drift, as they float through our speakers and into our lives. This, to our mind, is the best that a singer-songwriter can provide us here in the new century – and you can hear Jessica Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again for just a handful of currency, the precise amount depending, naturally, on local rates - but more importantly, upon your preference of format: LP, CD, cassette, mp3 and FLAC. And live, as well – o, when will that be recognized as a format? Jessica will be playing all over the world in 2015 – but only the world. Sucks to be you, moon!
ALASDAIR-WAY TO THE STORES
Roberts is the name – Alasdair Roberts. And Alasdair Roberts is the name of the new album. Alasdair Roberts. He makes an album every couple years, but our Alasdair doesn’t go a day without picking up his guitar or raising up his voice and making music. He’s been doing so since he was a teenager back in the ol’ 90s, when he started out by making folk-tinged indie-rock as Appendix Out. Stop us if any of this sounds familiar – or instead, don’t, since the world needs to look for Alasdair’s music. It's a part of the tradition! In America, we call his music ‘folk’ – but in his native Scotland, he plays traditional music – and Alasdair takes the tradition seriously, studying at the Child, Roud and Broadside volumes while digging back on his own research; going ever-further back, musing on man and music and life and belief as they have resonated in our minds and ears for the last couple thousand years. This makes his discography uniquely compelling, as Alasdair goes places in his music that NOBODY else goes, but doing it via the established traditions of songs and singing that he's absorbed over the years. This approach yielded Spoils, back in 2009; music standing at the intersecting paths of myth, history, philosophy and song without ever becoming less than hum-and-jig-able. Alasdair's way with song is malleable though, and it makes for the sweet and lyrical excursion of his new album as well. Here, he is a pole apart from Spoils: his songs are more easily accessed, absorbed and identified with, while still drawing from his deep well of cultural influences and reflections. A plain-and-simple beauty can be heard AND seen also in the video for “In Dispraise of Hunger,” while the romance therein can be sampled in strict aural terms via “Artless One” – both examples of the penetrating qualities of Alasdair’s music, on sale now everywhere in the world where they know what in HELL they’re doing.
Time’s getting on for the benighted suits in the DCHQ boardroom – strange, hard men who came into this world childless (save their inner ones, who are still growing) and haven’t significantly improved their lot since then (except for the midwifin’ of 600-and-counting Drag City babies, don’t that count? – DC Geek ed.). What to do then, when what’s done doesn’t get satisfactory results? There’s basically nothing TO do – no answers anywhere, because that’s not how people think! Flipping scripts is nothing but a turn of phrase! This ain’t a problem-solving world – or it wasn’t anyway, until Six Organs of Admittance showed up with his Hexadic system and the album of the same name. What began as an investigation into the shuffling and redealing of the mechanics of habit has turned into an insane new rock approach – as well as a way for us to reorganize our personal approach to life! Since we don’t want to blow your mind all at once, and given that we are still primarily a capitalist outlet with designs on your pre-blown mental allowance, let’s tackle Hexadic as an LP/CD/DL for a start. Having sorted out a set of rules for that aligns a deck of cards to the western musical scale in a relatively open system, Ben “Six Organs of Admittance” Chasny then drew cards and allowed them to set the keys, choose the chords and imply the lyric direction for every song on Hexadic. We've been listening to Six Organs' records for over a decade; we expect weird inspirations from the lost worlds of dusty arcana operating underneath Ben’s keen-and-croon singing style. We expect his encompassing hold on the guitar and flashes of the wizard hand over the strings. Whether played acoustic or electric, there’s always a sense that Ben is taking the listener deep into the eternal, yet invisible world – but with Hexadic, his heavy electrical storm grabs us by our broad lapels and heaves us full-bore into harsh realms of primordial spirituality, with all the tar from exploding volcanos and pre-Miocene abandon fully intact. Of course, this music is set in today’s world, in a world of rules and laws that govern everything from the sovereignty of nations to the way one is expected to play an instrument! So if and when Hexadic hits your ears as quantifiably different music, understand that alternate ways are being bandied about here – no, not 'bandied' – THROWN! – and revel in the power of rock that can be so completely communicated through such an extremity of alternate tongues and tunings! Far be it from us to suggest that anything be the ultimate anything – but shit and verily, Hexadic MUST be recognized as a quintessential expression of Six Organ-ness, and a damn frightening example of music in general! Things'll get a lot scarier when the book on the Hexadic System and the custom deck of playing cards come out in a couple months – then everyone’s gonna have access to the this new form of decision-making and the intense and expressive visual aspect of the System. And even though we’ve dropped a dozen pounds and improved our love life since applying Hexadic lessons to our lives, we’re still frightened about what this is gonna do to the general guitar-playing talent of the nations. What if it – gasp! – makes them better? Hexadic drops today, February 17th; the balance of history will follow.
IN OLD TANGIER TOWN
The world is a vast and unending landscape (right up until you fall off the edge of the Great Ocean and into the maw of Jormungandr – flat-earther ed.), filled with magic and wonder, and while we have mad respect for exotic shit like that PLUS a desire to know about all the people out there and a love for those people and a desire for people to be free everywhere….we just don’t wanna have to go there ourselves, y’know? The Ivory Bunker is fixed up just the way we like it! We always get sick traveling on airplanes! We don’t want to get kidnapped by ISIS (to say nothing of Shazam)! The world is wet and old and scary, and we don't want to have to get shots to protect us from the shots we'll have to get. So we’ll just sit here and release records, thank you. We have plenty of friends who enjoy their journeys of world discovery to live quite vicariously through them. For instance, Sir Richard Bishop – our “Livingstone with a Guitar” (but without the dysentery, whew!). Down the years, Sir Rick’s traveled the world far and wide, as home in Taipeng as he is in Chennai, Damascus or San Francisco, if you prefer (and we don’t!). Half-Lebanese at birth (now, who knows?), Bish has delved deeply into the music of his half-home country and the surrounding territories, working outward to eventually take in the native musics of All Over the Damn Place, integrating them into an awesome and unparalleled personal guitar style. It was back in 1998 that his flights of fantasy began to make their way into the public, and with names like Salvador Kali and Improvika, Richard’s mystical range soon became legendary. We didn’t get into the SRB game until 2007’s Polythestic Fragments, in which every song displayed on a different aspect of Richard’s amalgam, and then again with 2009’s The Freak of Araby, which focused specifically on the music of the Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid and the middle-eastern milieu in general. Now after a few years of further world-traveling and not a ton of new releases, Sir Richard Bishop is back, with Tangier Sessions to prove that the wait was worth it. As the title implies, the seven songs on this record were recorded in Morocco, where Richard had come to play a show. He arrived with a new guitar in tow, a guitar he’d recently purchased for much more money than he’d been prepared to spend. However, this guitar, the origins of which were unclear, was simply one of the most beautiful sounding instruments ol’ Bish had ever heard. And he’s been around. So once he hit town, he ended up perambulating the Old City in the day and spending nights in his room, inspired to play the guitar as much from the signs as the pure sound of the instrument. It is no wonder that these seven songs are some of the most immaculate improvisations you’ll ever hear. They sound well-ordered, even composed as they spontaneously occur, making evident the equilibrium a man and his instrument can generate when they are entirely copacetic. Here, the wide range of Sir Richard’s style is again on display, but the disruptions of Polytheistic Fragments are smoothed over in the playing. This isn’t to say to that there aren’t moments of pure throttling intensity or the odd cliff’s-edge plunge or two – but it IS to say that they occur with the purest sense of inevitability, as only the most dialed-in improvisers can evoke. The songs on Tangier Sessions are sequenced in the order they were conceived, which adds another layer of amaze to the album: as it progresses, the songs increase in their spirit quotient, creating a meditative space in which the fewest movements open up the greatest depth. Tangier Sessions is a very moving experience that goes beyond anything we’ve heard from Sir Richard Bishop. And if you’ve only heard a few minutes of his music in the past, you’ll understand that how insane that really is. Tangier Sessions is out today, February 17th, and for evermore, thank Kali!
THE SILENCE DESCENDS
Holy gee! Between Jessica Pratt,Alasdair Roberts, Sir Richard Bishop, and Six Organs of Admittance, you might think that Drag City had completely spanned the spiritual universe on the back of a multicolored griffin with consciousness-expanding properties (plus the ability to survive in a vacuum). As always, you’re wrong. Your first clue that you fucked up will be our March releases; in particular, the debut release of The Silence. This is an all-new Japanese rock group led by Masaki Batoh, whose twenty years with Ghost contributed massive waves of neo-psych vibes into the life force. Gathering a mighty group of instrumentalists, he’s started down the path once again, fresh, but with the same dream as ever – to play heavy music in a variety of moods, to remind the listeners of humanity and to change minds with songs, singing and playing. Using rock, folk and improvisation with a maximum of chops, The Silence are playing modern psychedelic with strength and power – a classic style of rock in the hands of utterly independent thinkers! The first listen has already landed – “Lemon Iro No Cannabis” is available for undeaf ears to hear anywhere, showcasing not only the flying thunder of The Silence, but also intoxicating chord progressions and a deft, delicate use of melody; qualities that are only expanded upon throughout the rest of the album. Helping to give the music an incense-laden air of authority is its all-analog production – apparently something no Ghost album had (!) (!!) (!!!) – and the soundstage DOES appear to be a relaxed and open place where acoustics and electric share space without suffering our ears. The Silence take their name from meditation, but they fill the room with their sound, with their songs standing tall from the start of side one. Once they’ve broken in our minds with their strength and sense of form, they get into a bit of improvisation music on the second side, the liquidity of the group mind flowing back into more very dreamlike songs. This is an inspiring first album even before considering the most intense version of “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” this side of Patty Waters. Once you hear it, you too will want to hear more from The Silence – and you will too, soon. March 24th - and the Age of The Silence has only begun!
GANG WAR II
Ah, the 80s! It’s easy for yer new generation to feel all warm and spiky when casting back to those days – you never had to live through ‘em! At the time, it was just the latest stillborn decade from a century that had produced three decades in a row where life in general became more difficult and deadly – or worse, failed to live up to the possibilities suggested by persistent cultural fronts of visionaries, dreamers and total drug addicts! One of the hardest parts of the 80s was that it seemed from the very beginning that it was bound to be a total bust. Naturally, lots of things happened over the course of ten years, but the one thing that nobody predicted was that by the the time it was all over (or maybe a minute later), the invention that had ceaselessly fed the age of rock and roll through countless evolutions since the early 1950s had completely died out! As it transpired, these were the final days for this music – but nobody knew it, so it was simply business as usual, which meant that as ever, the deck was stacked against a guy like Freddie St. Jude and his grand dream of rock ‘n roll of the, by the and for the p-p-p-people! Spoken of since then mainly in terms of unknowable myth, his 1982 “Gang War” saga only made it as far as a 7” EP designed to pave the way for the full album. Distributed primarily around Florida, “Gang War” featured four songs that outlined a classic dystopian narrative in miniature. There was plenty more where that came from, but despite a truly heroic self-driven promotional campaign, FM St. Jude was forced to put the whole thing on the shelf, where it’s sat until now. After our initial encounter with FM St. Jude’s vintage material (have you heard Here Am I? We reissued it in 2013, “friend!” - here is it!), the conversation grew to include this record-that-never-was, and upon the merest of cursory listens, we knew that we HAD to be the ones to bring Gang War to the public ear! And ah, such delight it is to the ear! You might well conclude that the 80s were the ultimate decade for rock and roll when you hear the roll-out of sounds on Gang War – all the best kinds of rock as exemplified by the most advanced rockers seem to be referenced here! Rush! Styx! Journey! ELP! Zeppelin! Songs of struggle scored with driving rhythm sections, gleaming guitar leads, choruses of wind-blown voices and soaring synthesizers, with Frederick Michael standing atop it all, his dessicated Bowie-esque yowl providing the perfect voice for a tour through APOCALYPSE! Episodes of funk and uncompromising hard rock riffage are countered with power ballads, all of which tell a tale of tribulation and triumph in a land ruled by GANGS. By the Gods, this story might have changed the path of rock when things were at the grimmest. But whatever. We’re not here to rewrite history. We’re here to reaffirm that everything you’ve learned IS A LIE. On March 24th, we’ll show you what the future was supposed to look like, when Gang War comes out exclusively on CD (the format of the future back in the early 1980s) and digital download. Look for it. Live it. At last!
THIS IS THE NEW END, UNCOMFY FRIEND
2014 was a big year for a lot of things – but probably none bigger than Dead Rider. After the release of Chills on Glass, which changed the way a lot of people thought about music, Dead Rider toured the US and Europe, which changed the way a lot of people thought about live music – including Dead Rider! With a newfound respect for life, Dead Rider came into 2015 promising big things, but warning us it might take a little minute for these big new things to show – like maybe at least six months? Fine, Dead Rider – if it’ll take you all of six months to come up with Chills on Glass II, you got it. Then the next day, we got the master for this little piece in the post – a new single from Dead Rider, and they didn’t even mention it to us in their 2015 plans! Dear Lord, please don’t let it be true that some things are better left unsaid; if that’s the case, we’re clearly going all the way to Hell. Anyway, as far as we can tell, it’s a GOOD thing to let you know in advance to look out for this little record, as it is an exceptional demonstration of Dead Rider’s appeal in the short format, with all their tics, sagas and mini-triumphs intact. Look for the picture sleeve with loads of extra eyes! “New End” b/w “Uncomfy” be hitting the 45 racks on March 24th.
HEAR THEIRS IN EVERYWHERE
So yeah – the first quarter of Drag City and we’ve got bad-ass shit from Jessica Pratt, Alasdair Roberts, Six Organs of Admittance, Sir Richard Bishop, The Silence,FM St. Jude and Dead Rider. That really is supposed to be enough, but because we’ve got amazing friends with amazing records that are also fun to put out, we did LPs with Streamline onPlastic Palace People (From the Host of Late-Comers) and OORUTAICHI (Drifting My Folklore) in January – respectively, out-sonics from O’Rourke and Heemann and out-pop songs from an inexplicably unknown (to western ears) Japanese artist. Then in February, GOD? called with Axis: Sova’s Early Surf, a flowing underground river of utter blackness, where the dead of rock bob up pyrelessly among the miscellaneous detritus of former days, all of which is restored to glory with the paranoia of Axis’ undertow. Also in February, Ethereal Sequence brought forth from the internet the debut album of Cryptacize’s Nedelle Torrisi, Advice from Paradise. Sure, the internet rules, but Nedelle’s synthy ballads never sounded as good in the stream as they do in the groove. So get with it. Thank you friends, for making it all so fucking serious!
Grasp onto your spy-glass, will you? There’s some things on the horizon we need to call to your attention. Now, traditionally, April’s a good month to release records, who knows why – good weather coming on, school still in session but not yet finals time, August timeshare advance not due yet so still some mad money a-pocket? That’s the tradition, those are the guesses, but now we’ve got Record Store Day fucking it up for everyone, causing stores to hold back money so they can be sure to make guaranteed sales - but to who? Pink-eyed, fish-fleshed scalpers whose hoovering up of the “product” is the definition of pyrrhic sales if there ever was one! Where is the love? the regular customers ask. Look no further. In April, we’ll be selling it in both record and book form. First and foremost, the 21st century iteration of proto-punk legends Death have reared up and made their official second album, after ...For the Whole World to See. It’s called N.E.W. (no, we don’t know what it stands for) and it carries their tradition forward with might, joy, and LOADS of tangled riffs! Oh SHIT! Also in April, we go hypocrite, with our very own slavish concession to the ideals of Record Store Day. Yes, the regurgitation of previously released material - we can do that too! Get in line, John and Jane Q. Sucker! This year, we're offering The Red Crayola. Yeah. Specifically, Corrected Slogans, Black Snakes, Malefactor, Ade and “Amor and Language” – Prime 70s, 80s and 90s Krayola, some of which are being pressed for the first time in America! And not limited for price-gauging purposes, either – WEIRD. Are we fuckin’ Socialists? One listen to a couple of these records might tell you what you don’t want to know. On the book side, we've got a release one might think natural for a day celebrating record stores and the culture they propagate: a book called White Glove Test: Louisville Punk Rock Flyers, 1978-1990. There’s rich history there, and a nice alternative to the utterly played narratives of old New York/San Francisco/Los Angeles (Chicago: you STILL weren’t there). Flyover country had strong scenes going on in special places too, and this book showcases the evolving Louisville scene in fantastic and fun detail. And last but not least of all, we’re getting Ben Chasny’s Hexadic book and playing-card deck together for then too – guitar players, get ready for the next phase! All this is for the store of our rock and roll fantasies to sell on their greatest day of the year! ….anybody? Hel-looo?
THE WORD IS NOT ENOUGH
Yes, sometimes we hate you. Sometimes you hate us. It’s all in the game. We can’t make it without you and we love how we love how you love us – and by "us" we mean, all the artists on Drag City and their various and sundry contortions in the name of entertainment without limits. Thanks always for listening, and a long life to everyone. We’re the greatest -
Drag City Inc.