The Drag City Newsletter - August 26, 2011

posted August 26th, 2011


But there’s no time to crow now – we’re fixing to do it agin’. When it comes to the totally insane half-dozen of new release items thrown down from our Ivory Bunker in July, we’re truly pleased with the effects of all them cumulatively on the human sensibility - and we trust you are as well. But can we really trust you? Did you actually buy the Singer, Carol Kleyn, Joanna Newsom, O’Rourke & Heemann, Nicholas Szczepanik and Crisis of Conformity releases all in one disturbingly psychoactive bundle? If you didn't, you’re missing out on one unforgettable vibe, kid! Puttin’ alla those together in one mouthful will give you a solid case of the schizos faster than a few grams of primo craque (that's fancy crack, you illiterate junkies)! Your jaws’ll ache for weeks, yo (wait, are we still talking about our music? –ed.)! Of course, it’s up to you to provide the spice varieties to your own damn life, and if that includes only one DC record a month, so fucking be it, hipster (we all suffer when that word is used)! But hmmm, you know it’s gotta make us wonder, what if we went all subscription with this shit? What's so wrong with an all-inclusive Drag City care package once a month? Unless you’re one of those hair-splitters who’s into O’Rourke’s pop music but not his experimental jive – dude, don't you know that they’re harmonically one and the same? Don't be naïve!


We've been there and now we’re here. It’s the date that we've been waiting for. Once again, here’s a fat stack of new records from us. Oh, to be you for just this once, and to have you stand inside our shoes. We are green, children – and sadly, not with cash – no, once again, we’re simply tinted with pure, unadulterated envy. What must it be like to look and listen upon the whole P.G. Six Starry Mind album all at once, like magic, or better yet, nature, dropped from the sky? We won't know. We can't – we've been pruning and hot-housing it (and not in the erotic sense), bit by bit, for months now, along with the rest of the August crop. Along with electrical folk rock of P.G. Six, we've been wet-nursing Archives, the 2nd-ever archival extraction of The George-Edwards Group, the return of the return of 1984’s most noteworthy release, the Nig-Heist LP (but ribbed with extras for maximum pleasure), a new mini-chapter in the continuing story of Sic Alps, the “Breadhead” 7” EP, Mickey Newbury’s An American Trilogy 4xCD back in a more affordably consumer-friendly package, the third coming of Susan Howe & David Grubbs, Frolic Architecture – and maybe definitely heaviest of all, a new tome from Sun Araw, massive in every way, Ancient Romans. You shuffle ‘em all together and what do you got? Mayhem! Stimulation! Generations! Shades of the Supernatural! Art! Music! A confused act of transgression! Or you can choose to call it by its mother month’s name: August. If you come up with something different, you know where to find us – working on the next one, jack!


So now we’re an oracle, perceiving the future, including the very moment of our own doom? No thank you – we'll go when we go, until then there ain't no telling. We might already be gone, you might be listening to our doppelganger right now! Listen, you can't believe in that shit, because frankly, we’re all dying already - since the day we were born, people! So wake up to your humanity, and join us in not trying to predict the future. All we can really do is live it, one minute at a time.

…of course, with that said, we’re not above making a few plans for the future as we live minute-by-minute.We’re not trying to change the world, we’re just doing our business! Our business of trying to change the world, you idiots – with music, remember? So check it out. Here’s a few things we've got planned for late September – a veritable (and literal) A-B-C of full-length records: AZITA, Meg Baird and CAVE.

Plus, reissued music from Social Climbers and a new single from Sic Alps! Nice, right? Wait, what? You’re confused? Tell you more? Shit, I shoulda knowed it…


So now we’re an ovate, telling you in the guttural voice of the spirits where the air goes when there’s no more wind? Ca-mon, kids! This is just a humble l’il ol’ record label, maxed to the gills with otherwise unemployable talent both in the office and on the roster – if we knew anything about “seasons,” we'd be selling our ass as a meteorologist on the local Fox affiliate (they pay the best, those poor desperate bastards). As it is, we’re stuck trying to come up with funny ways to fulfill each one of these headlines issued from the front office. And the (tea) leaves tell us that this one’s clearly meant to inspire us to talk about Meg Baird and her lovely new album Seasons on Earth. Which is no problem, we love talking about Meg! And since it’s been five years since her last album, we haven't had a chance to overdo it yet. Ahem -

Fans of acoustical songcraft may recall being thrilled with Meg’s solo debut, Dear Companion. We were too! It was an interestingly old-school record where Meg covered a lot of other people’s songs and added a couple of her own just to say “I'm here” and frame it in some small way. She was saying it in big ways with her precise guitar figurations and immaculate singing voice anyway. For Seasons on Earth, the ratio is reversed. Meg wrote a lot of the songs herself and added a couple of covers to say “they’re still a part of me” in some significant way. Meanwhile, she’s still picking and singing like a bird or an angel (an angelic bird?) but her lyrics are colored all which way and lead us into deep water, where we are immersed in thickets of guitar, and the songs work their magic in meditative ways that seem to be her way of fording the chasms that organically grow from between the lines of the lyrics. And the circle remains unbroken! Self-hood is being addressed here, and interestingly, Meg’s new sense of self involves the person that she knows herself to be having grown within the community that she loves and respects, rather than admires from afar as a fan. Symbolically and musically, this community has been invited into her hermetic space, to play guitars with her – like the sliding tones of Marc Orleans on pedal steel and dobro and the electric guitars of Chris Forsyth, Steve Gunn and Willie Lane. These are performers whose sound and playing Meg admired and whose perceptions of her music expand its nature. So hoist one to the ever-expanding life on Earth! Meg Baird’s got one and it gleams in pleasing musical segments all throughout all of Seasons on Earth.


Well now that we’re an ovate, the mysteries of the universe are ever in our mind, clouding our perception as we search for that peace within ourselves. Who has seen the wind, you know? Who knows where the time goes? And then we hear CAVE, and everything becomes clear again. A = A, and all that jazz. Listening to their music, five examples of which are to be found on their new album, ambiguities melt and harden into a certainty that we cannot escape. These four young men have taken their guitar and keyboards and bass and drums and just gone straight ahead with their convictions into musical places that are simply compelling. Of course, they wouldn't be kids if they didn't try to blur reality in some obstinate manner, of course. They’re called CAVE for one – but you couldn't play this music in a cave, no way – at least not without a generator. So that’s kind of weird. Then they take this music and call it NEVERENDLESS. Well, which one is it – neverending or endless? Because that’s a fine line there, CAVE. So there’s some ambiguities being suggested. Next, they'll tell us that their name is pronounced with a soft ‘c’ and not a hard one! Just try it, CAVE. But seriously, this is live music for living people and it comes in all the colors of the art-school rainbow, whether springing at you from vinyl or CD – or even cassette, which this so-called NEVERENDLESS record will be appearing in come September. Or don't forget, live! A normal CAVE show is drenched with sweat, and you will be too when you catch them from coast to coast this fall, with at least fifty shows between now and new year’s. We'd like to claim that this means one for every state, but that’s just not so. Some states just don't rock. Places like Florida, which is so sick and skeezy and awesome that it can't help but rock even in its weirdest moments, get five shows – but our nation’s capital, the so-called DC (how dare they?), doesn't even have one! I mean, even Maine’s got a show out east! So what’s up, DC? And Idaho, you better up your game. There oughtta be a CAVE show in every state, even the ones that don't rock, and every province of silly old Canada, too.

Long story short: CAVE is coming. And it’s NEVERENDLESS. Peace.


Yes, it’s true – we got our A-B-Cs inside out on this little newsletter. And that’s not all! We invented a word or two and inverted one or two too! It’s our newsletter and we'll do what we please. And it pleases us very much to tell you that AZITA’s new record is finally ready for your eyes and ears. Disturbing the Air is the name, and that’s a reference to what music and sound does – it moves the molecules around and the sound of them bumping into each other is what you hear. We’re kidding of course – that’s not what the album title refers to. No, it’s about that awful moment in a relationship when one person is checked out and the other one is almost in shock and denial, afraid to speak or say anything for fear of breaking the spell and letting the rest of life begin, the life you live without each other. Well, that’s our interpretation anyway – but no matter how you slice it, there’s no denying that Disturbing the Air is a bereaved, angry, terrified, and absolutely gorgeous trip through the mirror, reaching for something that’s already gone, hoping for the glimmer of a reflection where one no longer exists. In order to realize the chords and lyrics and songs that she gathered for this record, AZITA made a bare-bones delivery, where the relationships of sounds between voice and piano could vibrate together, creating a togetherness to underscore the poignant lack of togetherness in the words. This doesn't mean that there’s only voice and piano on Disturbing the Air – but it doesn't mean that you’re hear much more than that either. The experience of loneliness and despair is a feeling as rich as it is poor, and within the shimmers and echoes of voice and piano, there are other sounds – some real, some imagined. Disturbing the Air is a haunted record, with ghosts in every song. Their beauty and elegance – and the losses of the lives they've lived – makes for one of the most intense and undeniable listens of the year. Make some room in your air for AZITA this September.


As long-time readers of the space have heard us say in not so many words before, history is an odd thing, so often written to provide succor for the present day society than more correctly posited to represent the serpentine, often chaotic paths on which that history originally traveled. Control freaks that we are, we’re naturally inclined to untie and retie history’s boot-laces to suit our own sense of “justice.” And until the money runs out (sometime next summer, according to our calculations), that’s just what we'll continue to do, dammit! So without further adieu, welcome to our latest attempt to right perceived wrongs through capricious whim, the reissue of the Social Climbers LP. In order to understand the climate this record was born into, you have to cast your mind back to the end of the 1970s! The year was 1981 – for as we've often asserted, the sociological essence with which we recall a decade generally begins and ends askew of what our foolish western calendars would measure as the starting time of a decade – the 60s not really beginning until 1964 and the 70s in ’72 etc. And so it was! The 1980s didn't fully become that which we recall as “the‘80s” until 1982. So the world of the Social Climbers was that hot-house environment of the end of the 70s in downtown New York. An art ghetto in its day, this was a testing ground for all sorts of emerging cultural poses. For music, this meant various punk and new wave trends-to-be were brewing in the practice spaces of the next generation after the already-proven work of Television, Ramones, Patti Smith and all those other hippies. Social Climbers weren't no-wave, by any means. They were next-wave new wave, with drum machine intact and another layer of irony shellacked on. Their self-titled LP combines that vibe with an faintly-industrial post-puckishness that doesn't sacrifice fun on the dance floor no matter how dire the implications. It was either ahead of its time or behind, but given how fresh it sounds today, we’re inclined to say it was the former. Fusing a variety of styles over nine songs, Social Climbers is a non-stop party album with room for even the brooding loner on the fire-escape. And now that it’s back in print (thanks in major part to the fine folk(s) at Yoga Records, with whom we are releasing this megajam), and in print for the first time ever digitally, there’s a couple of previously-unreleased songs tagged on the CD for you Social Climbers freaks. There'll be more of you after this, no question.


Didja hear about the new Sic Alps single? Oh, you preordered “Breadhead” right before you read this? That’s nice. But that’s not the new Sic Alps single. Naw, the new Sic Alps single is coming out next month. Yes, it’s the carrot and the stick! You, the Sic Alps enthusiasts, are constantly craning forward, hungry for the next sonic snack that we’re rumoring your way. Anyway, the singlet’s called “Battery Townsley” and it’s a whole new thing in the world of Sic Alps. By which we at least partially mean, “whole new single.” But that’s enough advance information, kids – everything you need is right here on the site – sic ‘em, bwah!

…so there you go: September in a (coco)nutshell. AZITA, Meg Baird, CAVE, Sic Alps and Social Climbers. Whew! But we’re not done yet. That’s just not how we roll.


Actually, when it comes to October, we’re not talkin’. There’s something happening there, but we can't say yet. WHICH MEANS IT'S AMAZING! Right? Stay tuned, kids! And check your local bumper-stickers (winking emoticon!).


It’s November, and we’re not gonna blow all that right now. But here’s your comment-free checklist for November: 200 Years, Dwarr, Carlos Paredes, Royal Trux, Alan Lomax’s Scottish recordings and a split single from Alasdair Roberts and Drew Wright. Word!


Don’t forget, another reason to think/thank Drag City now and for the rest of time is the return of Mickey Newbury’s An American Trilogy. When we heard that proper masters had been rediscovered for three of our fave Newbury LPs, Looks Like Rain, ‘Frisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help the Child, we did everything we could to be involved with the project. It came to fruition in May with the deluxe CD box set edition featuring all three records plus a fourth disc of alternate mixes and a radio session from the same early-70s setting. In addition to the limited box, we did fairly slavish vinyl reproductions. It has been awesome selling these records everywhere in North America. Too awesome, really – we sold through the deluxe CD box so fast, we didn't really have a back-up plan ready to go! So the summer passed as we got together a new, less-elaborate (yet somehow equally satisfying) edition of An American Trilogy. Now it’s ready – and really, it’s pretty damn nice all on its own. We will commemorate this new development with a series of celebrity testimonials in the weeks to come, and we hope that you'll commemorate it by buying one or two or more of these on the account of the gift-giving season coming up. Go on now – step right up! The yellow eyes of Drag City are upon yew!


As the fall approaches, so does the increased chance of your sharing a room with your favorite Drag City anti-hero/heroine! You didn't click the Tour link before you settled in to read this? Shame on you! The news on European dates for Baby Dee, Bill Callahan, The Red Krayola and Sic Alps can be found there – and what’s more, the North American wanderings of Bachelorette, Meg Baird, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Sir Richard Bishop, CAVE, Faun Fables, David Grubbs, Susan Howe & David Grubbs, Sophia Knapp, P.G. Six, RTX, Laetitia Sadier and Ty Segall are all extensively documented. That’s right, they’re all descending upon us, sometimes within days of each other, sometimes sharing the same evening in the same damn town. It’s gonna be a clusterfuck – but the search for the best and freakiest is always like that. So cinch it up and let’s go.

OK, kids – you’ve been playing hooky with ol’ Drag City long enough – it’s back to school with you.

See you in the boys room (where we'll be smoking! In a non-sexual way! Jesus Christ, wrong innuendo!),

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.

August 2011