Posts Tagged ‘Abysskiss’

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In the years since Big Thief released Masterpiece, they have become enormously popular, touring at a near-constant clip. Sophomore album Capacity was critically lauded for its ability to tell small stories that spoke to a universal truth, and lead songwriter Adrianne Lenker is now widely regarded as one of the most technically skilled and lyrically incisive musicians to emerge over the past five years. Her affect is often described as “mystical,” and her songs have the predictive quality of an oracle,  she can tell the story of an entire life in under five minutes.

Cycles fascinate Lenker. Her most recent solo album, 2018’s abysskiss, opens with “Terminal Paradise,” a song about energy transference or reincarnation. “See my death become a trail/ And the trail leads to a flower/ I will blossom in your sail/ Every dreamed and waking hour,” she sings. A reworked version of the song appears on Big Thief’s new album, U.F.O.F., as does abysskiss track “From.” This is Big Thief’s first album for 4AD Records and it’s being billed as their most collaborative to date, but the re-imagining of two of Lenker’s solo tracks emphasizes how inextricably tied to her vision this band really is.

Though Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek, and bassist Max Oleartchik all attended the prestigious Berklee School Of Music, both Masterpiece and Capacity favored deceptively simple song structures over noodly, dense arrangements. U.F.O.F. maintains that sense of ease, but it is more impressionistic and more exploratory than the band’s previous work. Opening song “Contact” is slow and somber from the outset, but it descends into chaotic improvisation soon after. This album is, to put it plainly, loose and jammy at certain moments, which is the result of so much time spent on the road. Lenker is prolific, and writing on tour is as much a necessity as it is a method of self-preservation. “I’m not nervous to open up into that place,” she said of writing in front of her band mates during in-between moments on tour. “If I couldn’t write in front of them, I’m not sure how much I would write at all, because I’m always with them.”

It’s a crisis of capitalism that in order to flourish as a musician one must endure a relentless touring schedule, but through Lenker’s gaze, there’s something unquestionably romantic about her vagabondish lifestyle. On “Century,” she captures memories in short, bright flashes while James Krivchenia’s drums pitter patter like a gentle storm: “Dogs eyes/ In the headlights on the driveway/ Cool autumn rain/ Bugs died/ On your windshield on the freeway/ Wonder if you’ll be the same.” Still, transience means saying goodbye over and over again, and there is a sadness underlying many of the songs on U.F.O.F. The title track’s melody shifts with the changing wind as Lenker bids farewell to a “UFO friend,” her words dripping out in rapid succession, like a leaky faucet. Lenker’s best songs can often read as wordy on paper, a little bit overstuffed. When she sings, though, they tumble forth as if conjured from someplace outside of the atmosphere. It’s hypnotic.

That Big Thief were inspired by New Age music while writing this album is no great surprise. The natural world, and the forces that guide it, have always been of interest to this band, and though many of their songs address anonymous women (Jodi, Betsy, Caroline, Violet, and Jenni in the case of this album) they invoke Mother Earth with unrelenting regularity. Single “Cattails” contemplates nature’s steadfast hold, the elements that remain long after someone beloved passes away. In grief, it is only human to seek out places that remind you of the person you lost, and Big Thief lean into that instinct here: “With your wrinkled hands/ And your silver hair/ Leaving here soon and you know where/ To where the cattail sways/ With the lonesome loon/ You’ll be riding that train in late June.”

Death is the only constant, and as much as Big Thief languish in the beauty of the surrounding world, fatalism grounds this album in an unsettling certainty. “Orange” is a love song arranged simply on acoustic guitar that contemplates the inevitable death of a partner. As Lenker’s sights grow darker — hound dogs howl at the stars, pigeons fall like snowflakes — she works herself up to a climactic realization: “Fragile is that I mourn her death/ As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom.” On the hazy “Open Desert,” you hear Meek’s fingers slide across the fretboard as Lenker contemplates another ending, picturing the “white light of the waiting room/ Leaking through the crack in the door.”

These are the preoccupations that keep people up at night, but Big Thief don’t wallow in angst on U.F.O.F. Moments of bliss eclipse the sorrowful. The fact that this album was recorded live off the floor gives some tracks an in-the-moment, improvised quality. “Strange” is a jaunty funhouse of a song that unwinds like a twisted nursery rhyme, as Lenker sings about seeing a luna moth cry “lime green tears/ Through the fruit bat’s eye.” As Big Thief tunnel further into this psychedelia, the accompanying arrangement starts to lose its footing; Oleartchik’s bass bubbles up from below, Lenker’s voice reverberates outward, and a synthetic sighing mist descends. Something similar happens toward the end of the arid, hallucinatory “Jenni,” when Meek suddenly breaks free to play the same sustained chord over and over again, to be eventually overtaken by Krivchenia’s thundering drums.

Big Thief get weird on U.F.O.F., to great effect. On the earlier Masterpiece and Capacity, they were making folksy rock songs U.F.O.F. isn’t an outlier, not exactly, but it isn’t as conventional, and it’s exciting to consider the directions Big Thief might go in from here. Lenker has been putting out music since she was a teenager, and while it’s long been established that she’s a formidable songwriter, U.F.O.F. documents a band coming into their own, messing around with new ideas and having fun doing it. Listening to it feels like sharing in that experience.

U.F.O.F. is out 3rd May via 4AD Records.

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Lenker

Adrianne Lenker has been writing songs since she was ten years old. Her “back story” has been well documented in various interviews and profiles for Big Thief over the last three years. Despite, or more likely because of the constant touring and studio work, the last few years have been some of the most prolific for Lenker as a writer. Songs pop out at soundcheck. They pop out on late night drives between cities. They pop out in green rooms, hotel stairwells, gardens, and kitchens around the world. In the hands of Lenker songwriting is not an old dead craft. It is alive. It is vital. With little regard for standard album cycle practice or the idea of resting at all, Lenker set out to make a document. Songs can be slippery and following a 2+ years on the road with Big Thief, Lenker felt a growing need to document this particular time in her life in an intimate, immediate way. The result is her new album, abysskiss.

The Big Thief singer Adrianne Lenker excels by tapping into the core of the human soul in the most tender, gentle and vivid way possible and her new solo LP, absysskiss, is no exception. Through just vocals, acoustic guitar and intermittent keyboards, Lenker conjures up something magical and weighty with so few elements. The 10 songs that make up abysskiss toggle from intoxicating love to somber grief and it spans many feelings in between. Lenker uses nature metaphors to tackle heavy subject matters like mortality, love, birth, friendship and youth, but she doesn’t hide behind these metaphors. She uses them to boil down complex topics into something familiar, immediate and sentimental.

The album’s two singles, “Cradle” and “Symbol,” are highlights with the candid, understated beauty of the former and the haunting, hypnotic mysticism of the latter. Fans of Big Thief should latch on to this record as Lenker’s evocative storytelling, oneness with nature, unique vocal tones and her ability to arouse grandeur from the mundane are all apparent on this record. Lenker has proved herself to be one of the most captivating songwriters, not just in indie-folk, but of the present day. Providing newfound comfort and warm familiarity, abysskiss is a record that will quickly find its way into your heart and slowly caress your soul.

The rise of Big Thief has been a charmingly old-fashioned one, built on hard work, word of mouth and wonderful music. The band have become one of the alternative-scenes most loved acts, and done it entirely on their own terms. Continuing that theme of doing things your own way, the band’s vocalist Adrianne Lenker has this week announced, not a new Big Thief record, instead a return to her solo career. Adrianne is set to release “Abysskiss”, the follow-up to 2014’s, Hours Were The Birds, in October and has shared the first taste of it, Cradle.

While much of Adrianne’s work has dealt with her youth, her past if you will, for Abysskiss, she has set out to document the here and now. Much of this record was written on the road and in studios as Adrianne lived the musicians life. It serves as an intimate and immediate documentation of where both her songwriting and life currently stand, in her own words, an attempt to, “archive the songs in their original forms”.Listening to Cradle, you feel like you’re almost listening to a demo, a song still having the life breathed into it as it’s performed; it’s not lo-fi per se, in fact it sounds lush and perfectly unadorned, allowing her unmistakable vocal and gentle backing plenty of room to breath. Lyrically, it seems to dance with half-finished images; there’s an underlying feeling of discontent, yet it seems to be more with an inability to accept the potential for happiness than any underlying sadness. As a snapshot of a songwriter at the peak of their powers, Cradle suggests Adrianne Lenker remains one of music’s most vital voices.

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Releases October 5th, 2018
Performed and written by Adrianne Lenker “Abysskiss” via Saddle Creek Records. 

We are happy to share some nice news with you. Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief has made a stunning new solo album and Saddle Creek Reords are proud to be releasing it. A songwriter who has undoubtedly made an impact on many lives, Lenker set out to make an intimate and immediate document of a particular time in her life after 2 years on the road with Big Thief. ‘Abysskiss’ is the result it is out on October 5th.

Adrianne Lenker, is the lead singer of Brooklyn based rock band Big Thief,  To coincide with the news, Lenker has also shared the single from the forthcoming album, it is called ‘Cradle’. “I want to archive these songs in their original forms every few years,” Lenker said in a statement.

“My first solo record I made was Hours Were the Bird. I had just turned 21 and moved to New York City where I was sleeping in a warehouse, working in a restaurant and photographing pigeons. Now five years later, another skin is being shed.”

Adrianne LenkerCradle From the album Abysskiss – Out 10/5/18