Posts Tagged ‘Big Red Machine’

Sharon Van Etten’s career since the release of her second album, 2010’s epic is well-known; critically lauded albums, films, and television shows have continually displayed her expanding artistry. Upon its release, epic laid a romantic melancholy over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak without one honest thought or feeling spared. Her songs covered betrayal, obsession, egotism, and all the other emotions we dislike in others and recognize in ourselves. Van Etten’s grounded and clenched vocals conveyed a sense of hope–the notion that beauty can arise from the worst of circumstances.

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The resulting epic Ten is a double LP featuring the original album plus the new album of epic covers and reimagined artwork.

Epic” laid a romantic melancholy over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak without one honest thought or feeling spared. Her songs covered betrayal, obsession, egotism, and all the other emotions we dislike in others and recognize in ourselves. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this special album’s release, and to acknowledge the convergence of Van Etten’s present and past work, she asked fellow artists she admired to participate in an expanded reissue, where each artist would cover one different song from epic in their own style.

Released April 16th, 2021

Fiona Apple

The music of Sharon Van Etten offers this strangely familiar ethic and aesthetic. She is Patti Smith finishing a pint of Pilsner as the pool cue cracks in the back of the dive bar. 

Van Etten’s newest release, “Epic Ten”, is unlike any other. In one sense, it’s a reissue of her 2010 sophomore record, Epic. But it’s also much more. The reissue includes covers of each song from the original release from such heavyweights as IDLESLucinda WilliamsCourtney Barnett, and Fiona Apple. In this way, “Epic Ten” is two albums at once in a compact 14 tracks, ranging in creative impact from Van Etten’s ghostly harmonies to IDLES’ industrial wallop. 

The record begins with the acoustic-propelled “A Crime.” The lyrics, saturated with anger and remorse, are also breathy, dreamy. But through the sonic lens of Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Big Red Machine, the song is more electric, like a Radiohead song played through a spotty AM radio connection in a beautiful contrast. “Peace Signs” harkens to ’90s rock ‘n’ roll, part Smashing Pumpkins, part Melissa Etheridge. All the while the kick drum bangs. When IDLES take hold on the record’s flip side, that kick portends guttural screams, an explosion. 

On “Save Yourself,” Van Etten sings over slide guitars. There’s a new eeriness to her voice now—she’s the last person in the Dust Bowl, and she has one last song to sing. Lucinda Williams understands this mood, she was once that person, too. And her rendition is elongated, patient, dark. By “Dsharpg,” Van Etten has become the breeze through cracked slats in the attic. She is the sound of one’s own personal church. Shamir laser focuses this vibe and offers a neon blue candle to pray to on his cover.

Mid-album track “Don’t Do It” is reflective. It’s a gritty electric guitar with an angel moaning in the distance. Van Etten is low-eyed, fed up at the heft while also acknowledging there are better days ahead. It’s bad, but not all bad. When sung by Courtney Barnett and Vagabon, the song is up front, close, in your ear. It’s as if Barnett doesn’t feel the song itself is enough at this point. 

On the album’s penultimate track, “One Day,” Van Etten seems to be remembering the important days now in her rearview mirror. It’s a song she might sing in the tour van, the rest of the band strumming guitars, playing tambourines as the highway stretches past. St. Panther takes the song in the direction of bedroom pop, made with a laptop and the buzz from caffeine at three in the morning.

“Love More” has a solid perspective—it’s the song of someone who’s accepted adulthood and the very personal ups and downs that inevitably come along with that. Friends leave, loved ones pass, but the strength to sing can still grow stronger. Though life is dangerous and dramatic, there is hope, if only borne from your own voice. Perhaps no one knows that better than Fiona Apple. For the one who told us to “fetch the bolt cutters,” fame has been painful. Growth out of that is the only medicine, escape. 

Sharon Van Etten’s “Epic Ten” anniversary reissue arrives on digital platforms tomorrow, and now she’s shared the final advance single: a cover of “Love More” by recent Grammy winner Fiona Apple.

The double-disc “Epic” reissue has already spawned several thrilling updates to old songs: Big Red Machine’s “A Crime”, IDLES’ “Peace Signs”, Shamir’s “Dsharpg”, and Courtney Barnett and Vagabon’s “Don’t Do It”. “Love More” is the closing track to both Epic and Epic Ten, and Fiona Apple puts her mark on the song right from the beginning with newly-added claps and hand drums. Where the original derived its atmospheric power from pulsing synths and the sparing use of percussion, Apple’s take comes with gentle pianos and insistent heartbeat drums.

In a statement, Van Etten wrote about the darkness that inspired “Love More”, and how Apple’s version reframes the song with “the hope it deserves.” She said,

“The emotional rawness and visceral angst and honesty of Fiona Apple’s music was first met by my teenage years, sharing a bedroom with my little sister — who so patiently studied for school as I tried to write, sing, and play guitar in a way I wasn’t ready for yet. Fiona made me want to be a better player. She made me want to have something to say. Although music has always been an important outlet for me, I knew I hadn’t lived like she had. Having no concept of age, I heard her voice as experienced and wise and someone that I wanted to be or to know. I carried her with me.⁣⁣

“The closest we came to meeting was when we played SXSW at Stubbs back to back in 2012 and I teenagerly posed in front of her road case. I dared not overstep the line of comfort at a festival… but her set was incredible. New, and true to herself and vulnerable…⁣⁣
⁣“Love More is the most revealing song about one of the hardest times in my life, and the mark of change. When I admitted I needed help. When I leaned on others and acknowledged my weaknesses, when I was accepted at my lowest of lows, with support, and was able to move on. I was in a dark place when I wrote this song, I was in a safer space when I was able to record it, and now that Fiona’s version will exist in this universe, it helps me feel even farther away from the darkness I had to experience in order to write this song. She brings it life and light. She has given me her hand after all these years… and it is with pure joy to finally share this song in a brand new light by someone I always wished I could be.⁣⁣

“Thank you, Fiona. I admire you so much and now I wish for everyone to hear this song with the hope it deserves. It is so nice to meet you. Xoxo”

In total, Van Etten’s reissue of Epic Ten is a success. She’s achieved the relighting of her past release while doing so with a fresh torch. With hope, the album will burn long and in many hearts.

You can listen to “Love More” below. Epic Ten makes its digital debut tomorrow, April 16th, with physical versions arriving June 11th via Ba Da Bing Records. Besides that, Van Etten will stream an Epic Ten documentary and full-album concert on April 16th and 17th, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Los Angeles venue Zebulon.

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“No Time For Love Like Now” is the first song from Big Red Machine since the release of their critically acclaimed self-titled debut in 2018. Big Red Machine began as a collaboration between Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon in 2008, and has grown into a multi-artist collective. When the group got together this year to begin working on new music, this particular song made a detour and ended up with Michael Stipe.

We’re so pleased to share this powerful new song from Michael Stipe & Big Red Machine, out now on 37d03d. The collaboration came about when Aaron Dessner shared a folder of new Big Red Machine music with Michael last year. No Time For Love Like Now was written last fall but when the reality of the COVID pandemic and social distancing and self-isolation descended the words felt like they were written about this time. The song features orchestration by Bryce Dessner,  Justin Vernon, Brad Cook, JT Bates, Thomas Barlett, Clarice Jensen and Yuki Numata Resnick also perform on the track. 

Michael Stipe & Big Red Machine have also designed a “No Time For Love Like Now” t-shirt and tote. All proceeds from the sales will go to the Equal Justice Initiative and COVID-19 Protest Relief Fund.

Written by Michael Stipe and Aaron Dessner, produced by Aaron Dessner, with Orchestration by Bryce Dessner, and lyrics by Michael Stipe

Out now on 37d03d

Big Red MAchine

Big Red Machine was a decade in the making, starting with the sketch of a song The National’s Aaron Dessner sent Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for the Dark Was the Night charity compilation and culminating with recording sessions with a host of friends. Anchored by Dessner and Vernon, their guests include vocalists like Lisa Hannigan, Phoebe Bridgers, This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, and string arrangements from Rob Moose and Dessner’s twin brother Bryce. In all, it includes more than two dozen contributors from the minimalistic PEOPLE music platform created by Vernon and the Dessners to encourage collaboration and sharing. Side projects like this often seem tossed off, but Big Red Machine feels like the opposite—something remarkably ambitious, a labor of love that sees two of indie rock’s most talented and creative minds pursuing a passion without pressure, or limits.

The resulting music can sound at times like a National album with Vernon’s echoing, manipulated falsetto serving as a stark contrast to the warm, intimate baritone of Matt Berninger, and at other times like a Bon Iver album with more complex and inventive chordal patterns and rhythmic structures. It’s experimental but affecting with Vernon’s snippets of heart-on-sleeve vulnerability popping up screaming from a cloud of otherwise opaque lyrics. You can hear the influence of Vernon’s work in the hip-hop world in both the underlying beats and his vocals on tracks like “Gratitude” and “Lyla.” Polyrhythms and the odd time signatures Dessner loves to employ with The National abound, and combined with Vernon’s recent sonic exploration on 22 a Million and sometimes incomprehensible word salads, immediate accessibility isn’t really the goal here. But those complexities and sonic risks are also where the music is most rewarding. Neither The National nor Bon Iver does “happy music,” and the themes running through Big Red Machine are rarely uplifting, but there’s unmistakable joy in the music here, a deep care and love for what they were creating and how they got to create it—among friends who also happen to be overflowing with talent. Fans of either band are likely to share in that joy.

Big Red Machine is a project born out of love for downsized collaboration from two architects of stadium-sized indie-rock bands. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner (the National) have on this project for years and 2018’s self-titled release is their most expansive recorded output. This is an ethereal listen, straight up; a record to get lost in. You’ll gravitate to new territory upon every subsequent spin, and you’ll certainly hear connections to their day jobs. Vernon is front and center with his penchant for complicated, programmed textures, and Dessner paints around his partner’s vocals with flowery, delicate soundscapes.

Big Red Machine (Photo by Graham Tolbert)

Big Red Machine was a decade in the making, starting with the sketch of a song The National’s Aaron Dessner sent Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for the Dark Was the Night charity compilation. The duo enlisted more than two dozen collaborators, including vocalists like Lisa Hannigan, Phoebe Bridgers, This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, and string arrangements from Rob Moose and Dessner’s twin brother Bryce. Side projects like this often seem tossed off, but Big Red Machine feels like the opposite—something remarkably ambitious, a labor of love that sees two of indie rock’s most talented and creative minds pursuing a passion without pressure, or limits.

The resulting music can sound at times like a National album with Vernon’s echoing, manipulated falsetto serving as a stark contrast to the warm, intimate baritone of Matt Berninger, and at other times like a Bon Iver album with more complex and inventive chordal patterns and rhythmic structures. It’s experimental but affecting with Vernon’s snippets of heart-on-sleeve vulnerability popping up screaming from a cloud of otherwise opaque lyrics.

Alongside the album, they’ve unveiled new videos for three tracks from the record: “Gratitude,” “Forest Green,” and “I Won’t Run From It.” The visuals were directed by Eric Timothy Carlson and Aaron Anderson, and they feature colorful layers of graphics, text, and images.

Aaron Dessner & Justin Vernon are Big Red Machine. A project evolving through the PEOPLE collective.

Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner Detail New Album as Big Red Machine.

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and the National’s Aaron Dessner have detailed their debut album as Big Red Machine. The self-titled LP is set to come out August 31st via their PEOPLE digital platform, as well as on vinyl, CD, and cassette in partnership with JagjaguwarBig Red Machine includes the four songs that Vernon and Dessner released last month (“Forest Green,” “Lyla,” “Gratitude,” and “Hymnostic”).

Vernon and Dessner developed Big Red Machine over the last two years. They produced the album together with frequent collaborator Brad Cook. Big Red Machine was recorded and mixed by Jonathan Low, mostly at Dessner’s Long Pond studio in upstate New York (where the National also recorded much of Sleep Well Beast).

In a press release, Dessner stated, “I don’t think the record would exist without the community that came together to make it.” He continued, “We took the music to a certain point, and then we reached out and sent it far and wide, inviting friends to contribute any and all ideas. We’ve viewed the record and the process from a community standpoint. We’re incredibly excited about it, as excited as we would be for any album we might make in another situation that’s more conventional. But this feels like something new the process felt different and the outcome felt different.”

Releases August 31st, 2018