posted March 27th, 2013


What is this – we’re all still here? Society and civilization at large didn’t boil over and spontaneously reset theyself? It just doesn’t make sense, people. One week ago today, Drag City dropped a motherfucker of new releases that we felt had mega-devastational hydro-bubonic capabilities. Culturally speaking, that is. Of course, we’re not scientists here – unless you count the science of music, which we do – and according to our calculations, a compound of fizzy and syrupy organic cola (Ensemble Pearl 2xLP/CD), post-teen angst pop-rocks (Purling Hiss Water On Mars LP/CD/CS), a depth-charge of slow-burning mass (OM "Addis Dubplate" 12”) and a pig-tail combustion device (Dope Body "Saturday" 7" single) all have the ability to eviscerate our shared cultural directive and replace it with newer, stronger, yet still sensitive and insightful uber-motives. It didn’t happen, for which we blame you – wrong again, planet! – but the beauty of this dangerous game we’re playing is that we’re gonna give it another shot next month. And it’s gonna be a totally different batch when it happens! You heard it here first.


And in fact, you’ve been hearing from us first good and regular – but that’s not enough for you, is it? You’re part of the every-widening social sinkhole into which we and every other "tech-savvy" business throw a few cents whenever possible. It’s a part of what we do nowadays, whether for good luck or good business. Every day, the stars rotate through the sky and so do we, and time changes everything, and as the shadows fall to the ground and crawl forward, and the night time begins to seem like really the right time, we post up to tell you a little bit more about every minute of life on the Drag City side of the street, from dusk to false dawn to real dawn (the scary one). It’s a precious thing, this existence of ours, and these emissions we sent forth from the Drag City website are a big part of all we got. You and us won’t be here forever, and who’ll walk in when we walk out? We can’t control whatever they might say when time comes, and it will, but we can control this: you’re gonna get an earful (and it’s awesome too) about the 2013 models, their comings and goings and whatever else they might be doing. You need to know! 'Cause we're moving fast, yo - Drag City is like a hybrid Winnebago combining Sly Stone’s rolling recording studio and Walter White’s chemical cook-shop! And like ol’ Hank Snow, we just keep movin’ on. We don’t expect you to roll with us the whole time, but you could at least smile as we jet past in jest!


Slouching into the spotlight, pure of heart but with lotsa rocks in their pockets come Purling Hiss, a Philly band who have yet to stop surprising us with their outrageous-sounding records and stirringly sweet songs. First we wuz astonished at the smashed-up sound of Hissteria and Purling Hiss. Brilliant! Then we were knocked-out by the tuneful classicissity of "Run From the City" and the pacing and (comparatively) low-key charms of the rest of Public Service Announcement. Then we were psyched when the "Lounge Lizards" EP hit pretty suddenly thereafter - because by then we'd become a Purling junkie in need of a quick hit of Hiss. Plus, "Lounge Lizards" had more pure songs per square inch than ever before, with more pop streamlining rubbed into the rough textures that we love about Purling Hiss. Oboy, what next?!? Then Santa dropped through the flue; yes, Drag City, there is a Hiss record you can put out. FUCKIN' A RIGHT! After that, life's been a blur; brief but satisfying. Now their new album Water On Mars is out, and "Mercury Retrograde" is in heavy rotation on radio/video channels and the boys are making ready to tour, starting with the Near East and Total Midwest of the American fart-land. Then it's off to shake Europe down for all of the mirthful month of May. Good thing Purling Hiss has the tunes to make it happen. If they did nothing in concert but play the nine songs on the new record in order, they'd hit you with so much power, you'd probably forget seeing the Warehouse: Songs and Stories show (and GOD, we've been trying!). Playing at a pinnacle of rock-band power and panache, the Hiss vehicle of Water On Mars has had it's corroded old surface thoroughly washed so that the highlights of chrome among the rust are gleaming like diamonds in the night. It's a non-stop hi-fi experience that sacrifices nothing in terms of searing guitar textures or 90s-vintage melodies squeezed out from the cracks in the rock and into the rocks in our head. Now we can't get the hooks out of the crack in the cracks of the rocks in our head! Clearly, it's better to share - so if you haven't yet, find Purling Hiss in whatever form wherever they are. Water On Mars is flowing everywhere that good records are still great.


But rock is a two-way street isn’t it? There’s the cheap thrills and immediate pleasures of the songs that rhyme, and then there’s the deeper joy of hearing people communicate back and forth without using words. Guitars and basses and drums can do such things! And so, on a day when the sound of Purling Hiss peals out across the land, the wordless language of Ensemble Pearl rumbles the earth as well. Their self-titled album is the first convening of some old friends and a mutual admiration society that includes Boris' Atsuo, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter's William Herzog, Ghost's Michio Kurihara, and Sunno)))'s Stephen O'Malley - and before you dive for your earplugs, let us assert that this ensemble's aim is not for your cochlea but instead the drums of your very soul! Ensemble Pearl have powers - we know it, they know it - but instead of turning up to 12 (the new 11, 'oight?) and "letting it rip", the boys in the band instead listened to what everyone else was doing and provided some space for all to consider what they were doing, feeling their way forward into a sound picture where the playing of the Ensemble blew natural, like weather systems, with their organic relationships forming the pattern. It's a pretty thing, and hypnotic without going all droney on ya, jamming deep into the 'spheres (all of 'em) and dipping their fingers into all sorts of musical streams without ever getting wet, or sounding like a mid-70s Miles Davis record. The Ensemble Pearl thing is their own thing, they own it completely, and once they've gained your trust, they then pierce your ears with a bit of the old meter-pinning white lightning. But only once - or twice. It's all in the flow of something you'll be deeply indebted to know as Ensemble Pearl.


Bringing the heavy to every date they are involved with, OM heavied up even more when they sent a couple of their Advaitic songs to root-dub duo Alpha & Omega for a right remix! Versions of "Addis" soon flooded their ears and speakers and rather than just choose one, both were pressed into 12" vinyl at 45rpm to bring the wordless word to all who seek to hear it. Now they're among you, these 12" singles, and according to our measurements, the earth just got a little deeper. There's not much more we can say. There is music, beauty, the spirit and rhythm, right? Nothing other than that, so far as we can tell. Math and science are parlor tricks, politics a puppet show. OM are on the path and showing us the way, and fortunately, the "Addis Dubplate" is simply the first of its kind - in May, "Gethsemene Dubplate" (also mixed by Alpha & Omega) will bring fresh versions of a different vibe to your ears and mind. And to thanks to Alpha & Omega and Jah, of course - but thanks most of all to OM. Vibration forever, y'all.


Also rocking the foundations are our Charm City favorites - the scamps and skaters known as Dope Body! Creators of two of the best rock records in recent memory, Nupping and _Natural History_, Dope Body are road warriors who never met a gig they didn't choke to death with their gnarled power-trio histrionics and vocalese and general 21st Century Dead End Kids vibes. Their rock is just what we want smashing through our windows, and now that it's a new year, we've got another projectile! This time, it's a 7" single called "Saturday" and both sides do their fine share of ripping, each in its own warped-at-the-edges way, as two sides of a Dope Body record ought to do. And that's basically it for now. "Saturday" is what they'll take on tour with them as they have at some of the United States of America and then when they dive-bomb Europe in May and June. Then they'll get to recording the new album after they've road tested a buncha shit, we figure. If you can't make the shows, sucks to be you! But you can at least be sure to check out the video for "Leatherhead," that'll give you an idea how this whole rock band rules, in pure, simple black and white.


If you know anything about Drag City (and really, why should you? Only geeks follow labels, the rest of us (you) are into the singers! Power to the people.), it’s that we’re in it for the long haul. If we liked someone twenty years ago, chances are we’re still liking them today. Case in point is David Grubbs. We’ve enjoyed his many and varied contributions since before we even put them out! Back in the good old days of Squirrel Bait, the odd nature of that band’s songs had everything to do with the odd nature of David Grubbs, and so we followed him off into the ever-increasing art-rock thicket of Bastro and on from there into Gastr del Sol. At that point, David was in Chicago and so were we, and over a couple of hot nights at the poker table, it was agreed that we’d do the next Gastr del Sol album, a little something called Crookt, Crackt, or Fly with a little somebody named Jim O’Rourke on board for his maiden flight with the band. Next up came “Mirror Repair” (soon to be back on 12”EP for the first time since the 90s!), and *Upgrade & Afterlife* and by then, it was beyond clear that working with David was fun, with or without Jim (and working with O’Rourke is another pleasure verging on 20 years now too!). The Grubbs touch was soon to be found on records by The Red Krayola, Edith Frost, Stephen Prina, Rian Murphy & Will Oldham and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, as well as albums in his own name on Drag City and the Grubbs-curated Blue Chopsticks label. All that time and love is a big part of the reason why it's 2013 and we’re putting out David’s sixth pop music album since 1998. The other reason is, The Plain Where the Palace Stood is just plain great! Just like the onerous nature of his guitar tone since way back in the day (super-present from the git-go of the new album too!), his art is a combination of oblique personal gestures and powerfully convicted choices that add up to records that nobody could or would make but for David. An edition of one, then? Sign us up. For The Plain Where the Palace Stood, David worked closely with Andrea Belfi and Stefano Pilia on a variety of approaches that produced a variety of rough-edged pieces that often seemed to sidestep a vocal approach – but then, that was an aspect of Gastr records back in the day as well: the deadpan Grubbs vocal emerging from a lengthy digress that had taken flight on its own but was now being vocally led by the nose. This is a genre of music unto itself, built over the course of decades now and still evoking new results. The Plain Where the Palace Stood resonates with majesty and the silent qualities of a world that is still young. Sign on for your wildlife safari today, back into the half-tamed world of David Grubbs.


Ah, the upper classes! How we peasants long to be like you! You are our gods, the models by which we clothe ourselves and adjust our goals. But some royalty are less inclined to share their mojo with the rabble. Perhaps they are afraid of losing their soul? This must be the reason we haven't heard from The Marquis de Tren & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy since the release of "Get On Jolly" back in old millennium. Their kingdoms aren't at war - we would have gotten something about it in our feed. We have heard as well that, unlike other aristocracy, they're not water-polo enthusiasts - too fond of the horses to let them drown, no doubt! As ever, the answer as to why we're only finally now getting a new missive from the Marquis and the 'Prince' lies within the question. A little matter of soul, it would seem. Fans of "Get On Jolly" are deeply aware that the libretto of that record derives from inspiration received from Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali verses. Indeed, the work of Tren & Bonny communicates the same comic ecstasy that Tagore's atavistic poems do, and many fans have lived by these songs in the long years since their release. Cutting off all their hair, sitting in trees and learning to play the flute was only the beginning for these acolytes - and now they're ready for another dose of spirituality so intense that it could only be meted out one-EP-length side of vinyl at a time (with an etching providing the obvious flip-side)! Such is the new release "Solemns," which derives its visions from biblical psalms. Get your faith in order because Bonny and the Marquis are bringing the light - and as before, they've got "Dirty" Jim White setting the traps for them, as well as Emmett "The Cairo Gang" Kelly, Van "Black Diamond Heavies" Campbell and Angel "I am in this band too" Olson. "Solemns" is a spiritual mini-trip that begins on April 16th - and like "Get On Jolly," one that will stay lodged in your soul for years to come.


One, start a teenaged rock and roll band called Rich Ristagno and the Midnight Riders - what else is a poor boy from Detroit to do? All the other names are taken! Two, get drafted and go to Vietnam, breaking up the band in the process! Three, when you come home, take a nowhere job and plan out your solo career! Four, make your first record, a single, in 1971, and distribute most of the copies to radio, to try and make your name - the world will soon know of Rich Ristagno! Five, when absolutely nothing happens with your single, get into an industry far removed from rock, something nice and secure. Six, spend ten years doing that. Seven, suddenly it's 1981 and there's still that solo career to take care of! Finish the plan for your record and find a studio. Eight, the studio's got its own backing band - hopefully they can play with you the way your old band used to? Nine, go to the studio and play with the band. They sound nothing like your old band, they're kind of a post-disco funk-soul band, but it doesn't matter as long as you play the songs exactly as you've rehearsed them IN YOUR MIND for the past decade. Ten, the Rich Ristagno solo album is finished! It's a woozy, half-erased sounding piece of work that won't be in vogue until some kid named Aerial Pink starts sending cassettes around in a couple decades. But you can't know this! All you know is you've got a title and a cover design (in your MIND), now send the tapes off to the plant to have some copies pressed! 100 sounds good! Eleven, get the finished record back and realize that you don't have the money to realize your cover. Whoo, depressing. Twelve, without the youthful vigor that pushed you to service radio stations everywhere with your single ten years earlier, decided instead that the career in rock isn't going to happen - put the records in your parents basement and move on. Thirteen, welcome to the rest of your life! Live every day as if it were the last - because it's over already, isn't it? No career in rock. Fourteen, the years go by and a whole new generation of collectors' scum is fertilized and born and raised. Fifteen, they're into your single! Sixteen, they hunt you down and ask you, what's your story, Rich Ristagno?. Seventeen, you tell them about your record and one or two of them are unearthed from your parents' basement as proof of this claim. Eighteen, the private press collector market is rocked by this revelation! Dudes are playing this for other dudes (and the odd babe - very odd) and the word is getting onto chat boards leading to further interest. Nineteen, one of them wants to reissue it and they know just the label to do it! Twenty, it's got an official release on Drag City on April 16, 2013, with the cover and title it was always meant to have - What Would It Be Like to Be Rich by Rich Ristagno. Well, we got Rich here in twenty moves - but it still took thirty years! If you want to know what it's like, you know where to go on April 16th. Don't wait for record store day, it's a hype, bitches!


Okay - so we like weird things and funny stories. So? We're not so different from everybody else. We wake up every morning-afternoon, we put our pants on two legs at a time and just like the rest of you, we wonder how it is that Harmony Korine is one of the top-grossing filmmakers in America this week and not dead in a ditch somewhere. And we're pretty sure Harmony's wondering too! But whatever, his non-loss of life is everyone else's gain. As Spring Breakers fever spreads across the land, we're reissuing his 1998 anti-novel, A Crack-Up At the Race Riots, to suck at the teat that's currently feeding him so kindly. We'll see how his newly-minted fanbase takes to this baby - it's more towards the raw-veined savagery of Gummo, with plenty of verbal snapshots of teenage abuse victims and their abusers, as well as a string of suicide notes, scraps of disembodied dialogue, lists, loose line-drawings, found photos and...wait a minute, is this an old Dave Eggers book?!? Whoops, our mistake - Eggo was still sketching out his heartbreaking work when this hit the racks. There was definitely something in the air back then - and now it is again, and we're thrilled to have it in our Korine Kollection, which includes the DVD for Trash Humpers, individually customized Trash Humpers soundtrack CDs, the specially-signed boxset version of The Collected Fanzines (back in print soon in paperback!) and the Mister Lonely Original Soundtrack, now back on LP and of course CD and featuring the music of Jason Spaceman and Sun City Girls, just as it did when we first issued it five years ago. Yeah, we got a lot of Harmony around here, and as the days go by, we'll likely only acquire more. We're tight like that. So turn Korine, suckers - with all the fine Harmony Korine products available through the Drag City web store - including the brand-new reprinting of his classc novel, A Crack-Up At the Race Riots!.


Cripes, still snow on the ground and we're already planning out your summer! Let's not jump the gun, shall we? We'll talk about May first - because nothing sets up a slam dunk of a summer like an alley-oop of a Spring. So, we've got it, in four quick moves. First up - Scout Niblett! We served warning that she was returning to the land of the long-players, but you didn't listen. You bought the single, but you didn't know what it might mean. If you don't get your shit together, you're not gonna be ready. It's Up to Emma is carrying a heavy load, and it's gonna take some strength to get your hands on it. The payoff is that it will give some strength to you once you've got your arms around it. Word. Also in May, a 12" EP from Sic Alps, who've been eerily silent since the release of their self-titled album and subsequent world tour last September etcetera. Well, this EP ain't silent, it's loud, with three full-blown (but not over-blown) songs that join the Alps annals of pop hits - except these might be even more hit-tastic than ever, with bright, gleaming edges and rock-solid rhythm-making. It's called "She's On Top" - and trust us, you can't wait. As we mentioned above, May 21 also marks the date where you get your second dose of OM dub, the "Gethsemene Dubplate." Too much! And to coincide with our filmic distribution of The Source Family documentary (opening in 27 cities -- and counting -- nationwide!), we're hitting the shops with The Source Family Original Soundtrack, available on LP and CD and featuring a few old favorites and a few new extracts from the archives of Isis Aquarian. All of this coming in May! Here comes the sun...


Fans! Friends! Collectors! You got the _Ensemble Pearl_ LP/CD and your shelf is once again full. So why is your heart empty? Do you wish there were more you could do? Well, Ensemble Pearl won't be touring - they're scattered all over the globe and coming together would take some doing. And there's no video - not for this release anyway. If you really must buy something, there is the Ensemble Pearl Poster - a special version of the inner spread of their gatefold album, screened, signed and numbered by the artist himself, Simon Fowler! It's printed on a fine paper stock and features the Ensemble Pearl** logo in ultra-subtle white-on-off-white. Truly suitable for framing! Given that there's only a hundred, you might ought to jump at these - they're only $20 per and that includes being mailed in a tube (orders outside the US will have additional shipping added).

See, this is why we know you're counting on us! When the dust from the music has cleared, we're here for you - with a poster. A t-shirt. A bumper sticker. A record bag. A patch. A button. A bandana. A birdcall. A sketch book. Simple things that allow one to say to the world in some different way, I love music. That's what we're here for. We do it every day - alright, except for Saturday and Sunday, but even then, we're thinking, you know?

And we'll be doing it again a month from now. See you before, during and after then.

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc

March 2013