guided-by-the-sound-of-a-howling-wind

Wisdom for Debris, Eluvium

Ghost Trees is a blog with (apparently) 2 posts per year. Prolificacy has always been the specialty here.

I’ll cut the crap. Last year on my blog I wrote about lists. I still do not like them.

I was asked to contribute to Decoder Magazine’s end-of-year features again this year (Last year I wrote an ode to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia. You can find the feature here: “More Yellow Birds and Lunch Box Blues“), which I did. And when my feature is posted, it will be clear that I again skirted the actual topic of commenting on a list for 2014. So here I go and post a list on my blog anyway. I don’t know. There is a sixteen-year-old in me still following through on some kind of silly tradition that I started.

Rank Artist Album Label
1 Swans To Be Kind Young God Records
2 Grouper Ruins Kranky
3 Eluvium Wisdom For Debris (self)
4 The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream Secretly Canadian
5 Have a Nice Life The Unnatural World Enemies List Home Recordings
6 Fennesz Bécs Touch
7 Dads I’ll Be The Tornado 6131 Records
8 Owls Two Polyvinyl
9 Maxwell August Croy and Sean McCann I Students of Decay
10 Horseback Piedmont Apocrypha Three Lobed Recordings
11 Fire! Orchestra Enter! Rune Grammofon
12 Adult Jazz Gist Is Spare Thought
13 Thee Silver Mount Zion Hang On To Each Other Constellation Records
14 Orcas Yearling Morr Music
15 Inventions Inventions Temporary Residence
16 Rivulets I Remember Everything Jellyfant Records
17 Christopher Willits Opening Ghostly International
18 Wolves of the Throne Room Celestite Artemesia Records
19 Alex Cobb Marigold and Cable Shelter Press
20 Sun Kil Moon Benji Caldo Verde

That Swans record is a monster. For other people who have read my blog before, you might see some familiar faces like Owls, Horsback, Fire! Orchestra, Rivulets, Grouper, etc.

The year was an interesting one in listening to music for me. I got hooked on a lot more older stuff, and did a good deal of traveling with the day job and on vacation. This meant fewer times with a computer or plugged in, limiting my music carrying capacity to a few old apple products and somewhere in the range of twelve GB. Great new musical seductions – that War on Drugs one surprised me!

I’ll look forward to doing more writing for Decoder Magazine in 2015. And the other news for me is that I’m leaving Berlin to move back to San Francisco, so my music access points will change again, and I’m sure my list(?) next year will be quite different.

Adam

Dear faithful devoted blog readers,

The passage of time between blog posts is just a matter of reality at this point. I do not intend to make blogging a more central part of my life. Lately the purpose of keeping a blog has become more apparent to me – to fill in the gaps with what I do not have a chance to say on Decoder or what might not be appropriate in other avenues.

Two

2014 has been a great year for finding new music releases. I have blogged before about Owls’ self-title record (Jade Tree, 2001), and so the reformation announcement was pretty exciting to me. Good news is that the new record really hits my buttons. It’s a strange thing, though – I would call it more “middle of the road” indie rock and certainly not as immediately striking (and probably also will not be as influential, ultimately) as its predecessor. But the hooks are bigger and mathy arrangements are less impenetrable. I have this secret hope that “I’m Surprised” becomes popular enough that I could slip it on in a Friday evening setting and not completely freak out the general public. I’ve spent a lot of time with TWO so far, and I am so pleased that it’s met my (very high) expectations, in its own little way.

Piedmont Apocrypha

Another really special record that I’ve been appreciating this year has been Horseback’s Piedmont Apocrypha, which was released on Three Lobed Recordings in March. Horseback is led by Jenks Miller, an astoundingly talented and versatile guitarist who finds himself recording and collaborating across styles, from noise to folk to black metal and back. Apocrypha sounds a little bit more mellow than some of its older siblings under the Horseback name, but that doesn’t mean it’s less compelling. Particularly gorgeous is the 10-minute-plus ambient second track. Apocrypha is a mix of dynamics, beauty, and exploration that I can only highly recommend to fans of vision quests in the woods, or other Miller projects. I attempted to write a review of the record in greater detail, but I realized I don’t actually understand the tradition of psychedelic music from which it has descended, and quite honestly, the review written alongside the Three Lobed release is just perfect.

Cian NugentI’m still going to shows. Above is a particularly artsy (and accidental) photo I took of Cian Nugent, who played with his band, The Cosmos (No Quarter Records), here in Berlin a few weeks back. It was an aurally rich, complex, and consonant folk-rock blowout orchestra. The droning organ and violin bowing, coupled with the driving rhythm section, created the dense bed of warm sound, over which the Irish guitarist could work in dreamy licks and dustbowl landscape painting. There is really not enough praise for Mr. Nugent and his troupe of open-hearted explorers.

Who knows when I’ll post again on the blog, but maybe someone at some point will find something new in this post. Umbrellas into the future,

Adam


Tim Hecker's 2013 release, Virgins

Another year and it’s time for another snapshot of my music favorites. Lists seem such an evil to me at times – they feed into the hype cycles and can direct and redirect attention in a way that may be harmful to smaller artists. Awards are distributed in some bizarre frenzy of groupthink (look at the film industry), and who is to say that we shouldn’t frame our reference window seasonally, or monthly, or decennialy? But in the same breath, I think documenting personal preferences can be valuable to mark growth, guide future investigations, and reflect on what has been meaningful in my world.

There are never “final” lists or finalized versions of anything in life. We can spend hours in the studio perfecting music or years thinking that a marriage will finally work once it gets over a certain hump. Like photographs, life is a series of snapshots or moments. Making a list is like taking a polaroid picture of a specific year of music and what it meant to me as it was ending.

After that far too off-topic ramble, it’s time for the list where everything’s made up and the rankings don’t matter.

1 The Appleseed Cast Illumination Ritual Graveface Records
2 Wooden Wand Blood Oaths of the New Blues Fire Records
3 My Bloody Valentine M B V self
4 Tim Hecker Virgins Kranky
5 Lumerians The High Frontier Partisan Records
6 Disappears Era Kranky
7 Kurt Vile Wakin On A Pretty Daze Matador Records
8 Wooden Wand and the World War IV Wooden Wand and the World War IV Three Lobed Recordings
9 The National Trouble Will Find Me 4AD
10 Lucrecia Dalt Syzygy Human Ear Music
11 Jenks Miller Spirit Signal Northern-Spy Records
12 Esmerine Dalmak Constellation
13 Julianna Barwick Nepenthe Dead Oceans
14 Aidan Baker Already Drowning Gizeh Records
15 Mountains Centralia Thrill Jockey
16 Thee Oh Sees Floating Coffin Castle Face Records
17 Chelsea Light Moving Chelsea Light Moving Matador Records
18 Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse Fat Possum Records
19 Gnod Chaudelande Rocket Recordings
20
Gabriel Saloman Soldier’s Requiem Miasmah Recordings

What a wonderful year of music it was. See you in the new year,

Adam

On a weekend trip to Leipzig, I stumbled into a Julia Holter show unexpectedly at UT Connewitz. My friend Laura took some nice photos and I got a setlist after the show. I parlayed this into another feature for Decoder Magazine. It was a great show and a lot of fun to put this concert review together.

Though the set certainly focused on The Loud City Song material, Holter also threw in a healthy dose of 2012’s Ekstasis. At one point in the evening, she revealed that it was the first time she was playing her keyboard – probably the result of the not-so-glamorous life of touring. “I shouldn’t have told you that,” she laughed. “It’s not bad… I just need to tame it.”

So that’s just a little taste of the feature. Even if my contributions aren’t your cup of tea, Decoder has some great writing that is very worth checking out.

Adam

Set list:
1. “Green Wild”
2. “Maxims I”
3. “Horns Surrounding Me”
4. “Marienbad”
5. “Four Gardens”
6. “City Appearing”
7. “This is a True Heart”
8. “Maxims II”
9. “In the Same Room”
10. “Goddess Eyes” (Encore)
[Photos by Laura Figueroa]

“I was there with all these pedals and I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I said, I don’t give a $#*&, let’s start making noises!” – Torsten Kinsella

God Is An Astronaut merch table at C-Club Berlin, Sept 2013

Welcome to part 2 in a series of interview podcasts, called “A Touring Daze,” in which I speak with musicians on the road, while I, myself, am living in a foreign space. Back in September I visited the C-Club in Berlin to see God Is An Astronaut light up the stage. The Irish (formerly) instrumental rock band had dotting across Europe in support of their recent album on Rocket Girl Recordings, Origins. In addition to some great stories of being on tour, guitarists Torsten Kinsella and Jamie Dean shared the unique songwriting process on the recent record of sculpting sounds into songs. This month’s piece is called  “Post-Pop Tart Rock.”

The band prepares to wash the audience away during soundcheck.

The audio piece first aired on KZSU Stanford 90.1FM on December 2nd, 2013.

Many thanks to Torsten and Jamie in the band, and Vinita at Rocket Girl for making the interview happen. The next podcast will arrive January 1st and feature Canadian collective Esmerine.

Adam

From my last post on ghosttrees, I subtly referenced that I was contributing to Decoder Magazine. I am quite happy about the opportunity to more formally direct my music ramblings into forms like reviews and features that people may read.

With “Dirt Beam,” we are introduced to a staccato, multi-layered Casio horn chug that contrasts with an Eastern, chiming guitar (or is it keyboard?) riff. By the time we can mentally adjust to the contrast and slightly off-kilter guitar/key tones, Kumo launches into a frenetic The Name of this Band Is Talking Heads-like world-funk groove, while spaced-out squiggly synths lurch in all directions. And before we can even figure out what’s happening, the song has pivoted eight more head-spinning times, mixing all the UFO-isms, flickering trumpets, and tapestry of samples into a soaking, twisted, frenzy before ebbing back toward calm. It’s surely a representative end to a chaotically joyful listen.

This is a short blog post pointing to my recent review of Gushing Cloud‘s 2013 LP, Beat Wings In Vain on Intangible Cat. It’s really an impressive mix of styles for getting down to headphone grooves from the comfort of your living room. Check it out.

More Decoder-related and “A Touring Daze”-related news soon.

Adam

“When you’re singing a song, it needs to be the only thing happening in the world right now. You need to believe it and you need to make them believe it.” – Jon DeRosa

Welcome to part 1 in a series of interview pieces, called “A Touring Daze,” in which I speak with musicians on the road, while I, myself, am on the road. To kick off the series, I had the opportunity to speak to Jon DeRosa. DeRosa has worked professionally as a musician for the last twenty years under different guises, names, and projects, including Dead Leaves RisingVlor, Aarktica, his own name (solo), and Pale Horse and Rider. In the Berlin alternative mainstay Wild At Heart, we caught up before a gig in September. We spoke about his recent work, touring with Lydia Lunch (in support of his recent 7″ single, “Signs of Life“), and who has armed him with artistic inspiration as of late. This piece is called “Crossing over from Ambient into crooner-pop.”

DeRosa

Recently, Decoder Magazine also published a feature I wrote about the interview. The audio piece first aired on KZSU Stanford 90.1FM on October 21st, 2013.

Many thanks to Jon and Rocket Girl Recordings for the opportunity. The next podcast will arrive December 1st and feature Irish rockers, God Is An Astronaut.

Adam