Posts Tagged ‘Secretly Canadian Records’

20 years ago, Songs: Ohia’s “Ghost Tropic” was released. Here is the original words from Secretly Canadian on the release: The sound movement on Ghost Tropic will seem sudden to some; without warning. To others, it’ll seem a very logical step in a very foreign direction. On its fifth proper full-length, Songs: Ohia has stepped outside the box and has delivered its most subtle record of fantastic depth to date. Indeed this is the most cohesive and “album-like” Songs: Ohia has ever been. The eight songs on the record sprawl out into one another, telling one long sonic tale, allowing very little room for chapter breaks or piss stops. In this regard, Lou Reed’s moody classic Berlin comes to mind as a worthy fore-bearer.

But it’s the strange ethnic flavour in which Ghost Tropic is steeped that makes it stand apart from its predecessors, albums which were all received as crossing guards for the Great American lost highway. Surely this album will leave those expecting such fare scratching their heads. Blending the electro-acoustic minimalism of the David Bowie and Brian Eno Trilogy with the percussive worldliness of Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones, the group seems to hop the globe from a British Isles folk rock influence to an Ennio Morricone-like Spaghetti Western feel to the faintest echoes of the Chinese Classical ringing like a death murmur in the distance. And the songs, they build in a slow, unconscious manner, pulsing with an intensity, but never betraying their most simple core with too much instrumentation or calculated progression. Yea! Ghost Tropic is the first album which reveals Songs: Ohia’s own Tropicalia Blues in full bloom.

But what has brought Songs: Ohia to this critical juncture? Perhaps it is purely circumstance — that four men were brought together to play as bedfellows for a week on the great plains of Nebraska. Acted out and recorded at the Dead Space Recording Studio in the state’s capital of Lincoln, Ghost Tropic was performed by principle Songs: Ohia songwriter, singer and guitarist Jason Molina; Appendix Out principle and Ohia alumnus (having played on The Lioness) Alasdair Roberts of Glasgow, Scotland; Lullaby For The Working Class drummer and new Ohia recruit Shane Aspegren; and engineer Mike Mogis of Lullaby For The Working Class and Bright Eyes.

Ghost Tropic is the fifth regular studio album by Songs: Ohia. It was recorded by Mike Mogis at Dead Space Recording Studio in Lincoln, Nebraska. The album’s name refers to two short instrumentals that are surrounded by six vocal tracks of at least five and up to twelve minutes length. The reviews noted the sombre and dark mood permeating the album. According to Pitchfork Media, “Ghost Tropic” sounds as though it were recorded live in a haunted hut somewhere in an Ecuadorian rainforest. At night.” AllMusic was less sanguine: “Everything moves as slowly as a three-legged dog, and anyone neither patient enough nor attuned to Molina’s style of songcraft might very well be put to sleep.”

I’ve talked about Helen Ballentine and her project Skullcrusher before right here and her latest single Farm is another great opportunity to highlight her wonderful music. Just like her self-titled debut EP which was released this summer, this new song feels like a warm summer breeze (or blanket, to stay in the current season) for your ears. Ballentine’s soft song writing is carried by a certain understatement and tenderness, almost like a brighter alternative to the gloomy ambient folk of Grouper. She keeps things simple and although the end of Farm gets a bit more epic than her previous material it’s still a pretty raw experience. It’s a reflection of childhood and family and that’s exactly the vibe this beautiful mellow song transports.

The name sill doesn’t suit the music but I couldn’t care less about that and I’m very much looking forward to more Skullcrusher action in the not so distant future.

“Farm” the new song by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

Skullcrusher EP

Helen Ballentine’s emotional folk reveries will delight fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Tomberlin and Dana Gavanski – it’s an absolute free for all of lush melodies. Skullcrusher is, by all accounts, an exploration of the ways you become yourself when you aren’t looking – and how that feels once you start paying attention. It’s a quiet power; a hushed celebration of the tiny, understated subtleties that culminate into knowing yourself. On her debut EP, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between gray areas, a stretch of uncertainty and unemployment, and the subsequent search for identity. Here, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine grapples with how to communicate her private self to an audience.

The four dark, dreamy songs on her debut EP were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. There’s Valerie and her Week of Wonders, the Czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. There’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence.

Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. Instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.

“Lift” the new Radiohead cover by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

On her debut ep, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs. the four dark, dreamy numbers were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life. “forget the name, the la artist’s debut ep is a welcome, tender collection” 4/5 – nme.

Culled from over 40 hard drives of recorded live shows spread out across years of touring behind multiple critically acclaimed records, “Live Drugs” is unlike anything previously available in The War on Drugs’ catalogue.

The first volume to capture the band’s live interpretations, Live Drugs is a document showcasing the evolution of the band’s live show over the years. Additionally, Live Drugs is a portrait of the enduring relationship between Adam Granduciel and Dominic East. A longtime friend, guitar tech and stage manager, East is Live Drugs’s co-producer and the presence Granduciel credits as holding everything together.

Sequenced to reflect how a typical 70-minute set would flow, Live Drugs thrives on live set staples immortalized on record for the first time. This includes Buenos Aires Beach from the band’s 2008 full-length debut, Wagonwheel Blues, and the long-time musical interlude flowing between Under the Pressure and In Reverse – which bookend 2014’s “Lost In The Dream“. There’s also the band’s essential cover of Warren Zevon’s Accidentally like a Martyr – a song “so true, you should ever be lucky to write a song that simple,” Granduciel says.

I keep returning to this version. It’s my favourite of the many on YT. The extended bridge in the middle… There is just something so pure and damn near hypnotic about it… The long foreplay opening…The sax just gently caressing your temporal lobe… The drummer is just in the zone… Then it all kicks back in… I can’t even with how much I love this

The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure Live”

released on Secretly Canadian records 20/11/20

hello we have a new song for you
it’s called “7 seconds” – listen here https://porridgeradio.ffm.to/7seconds
“7 Seconds” started out sounding really different to this version. I wrote the words a few years ago and made a really slow sad song to go with them, but it never felt fully like a porridge band song. Early last year I was sitting with Sam and I played it to him and asked if he could help me speed it up and make it less miserable. He wrote the keyboard riff almost immediately and we were so into it that we listened to the 7 second loop for an hour.
Late last summer we spent a week in Margate at PRAH studios and showed Maddie and Georgie, and with them the rest of the song came together really fast. We didn’t think we’d get a chance to record it for ages, but some things work out and we’re happy to share it with you now.

Thanks so much Marta Salogni for your work on this song,

“7 Seconds” the new song by Porridge Radio out September 14th on Secretly Canadian.

Songs: Ohia is Jason Molina. On “Axxess & Ace” he is assisted by Geoff Comings (Party Girls), Michael Krassner (the Lofty Pillars, Boxhead Ensemble, Edith Frost Band), Joe Ferguson (Pinetop Seven), Dave Pavkovic (Boxhead Ensemble), Julie Liu (Rex) and Edith Frost. It was recorded by Krassner at his Truckstop Studios in Chicago.

What resulted was the most full-sounding Songs: Ohia record to date. Liu’s aching violin playing with Molina’s desperate vocals transport the songs to great depths. “There is no bullshit on this record. It’s a love song record, so I wrote as directly to the point as I could. There is nothing snarling or cynical anywhere on the record. It is not invented stuff either. It’s a desperate record, it’s a jealous record, it’s an imperfect record. It is also as incomplete as a man. This record wasn’t made to rid me of any doubts or to heal me. The end result should show a man, anxious to learn, anxious to share, anxious to curtail all that is selfish. A note about the record as physical fact: it was done almost entirely live and first take. None of us were paid and the musicians all heard these songs for the first time on the day we made the record. Needless to say we could never have predicted the range and the urgency of this record’s atmosphere. We are all very proud of this new Songs: Ohia record Axxess & Ace.

Songs: Ohia takes a big step forward with Axxess & Ace, both in ambition and accessibility. Whereas the self-titled debut and the follow-up, Impala, could be esoteric and downright depressing in places, Axxess weaves intensely personal lyrics with universal worries and anxieties to create a rich musical tapestry. An all-star team of Chicago-based musicians, while Edith Frost sings backup on a few numbers. The musicians heard songwriter Jason Molina’s planned songs for the first time on the day of recording and performed them almost entirely live; the finished product is one of spontaneity yet surprising fullness.

Any exploration of the music of Songs: Ohia should start with this album. “Axxess & Ace” is the third album by Songs: Ohia. Released by Secretly Canadian on March 15th, 1999.

January 2020 Secretly Society release on blue dream splash vinyl.

On a rare day off during Magnolia Electric Co.’s 2005 European tour, a pair of fans in the south of France convinced Jason Molina to abandon the promise of leisure to play a show in an old church in Toulouse. Now, fifteen years later, the result is making its way into the world for the first time via “Live at La Chapelle”, an 11-track album of Molina’s performance at the former church squatted and converted into a hub for the arts.

Recorded with just a static microphone and a minidisc on June 7th, 2005, in front of a reverent crowd of 200, Live at La Chapelle is aglow with the hushed murmurs and whispers of an engrossed audience, of Molina’s stripped-back performance reverberating to the rafters. The neighbours’ penchant for calling the police with noise complaints meant acoustic shows only, so Molina split the difference and came with his electric guitar, choirboy voice, and Magnolia Electric Co. member Michael Kapinus’ occasionally guesting on trumpet.

The sparse record finally made its way Secretly Canadian in 2014, and six years later, as part of the process of unearthing work from the extensive Molina archive, Live at La Chapelle will finally be widely heard.

Here, Molina remarks some of his canonical work as well as the more obscure, deeper cuts in the special environment of La Chapelle. Nowhere better to hear a solo performance of Jason Molina’s catalogue than in a house of worship, a cavernous structure with ceilings nearly high enough to contain the impossible reach a holy, lonesome voice, Recorded with just a static microphone and a minidisc on June 7th, 2005, in front of a reverent crowd of 200, Live at La Chapelle is aglow with the hushed murmurs and whispers of an engrossed audience, of Molina’s stripped-back performance reverberating to the rafters.

Here, Molina remarks some of his canonical work as well as the more obscure, deeper cuts in the special environment of La Chapelle. Nowhere better to hear a solo performance of Jason Molina’s catalogue than in a house of worship, a cavernous structure with ceilings nearly high enough to contain the impossible reach a holy, lonesome voice.

Track Listings: East St. Louis Blues Trouble In Mind 31 Seasons in the Minor Leagues Carmelita Montgomery Hold on Magnolia In the Human World Bowery Nashville Moon Leave the City I’ve Been Riding With the Ghost

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Le Ren, the alias of 26-year-old Montreal musician Lauren Spear, quietly released one of the best indie folk EPs this year in her debut release “Morning & Melancholia”. It’s an airy and, at times, whimsical 12-minute affair, but the story behind these songs will bring you back down to the ground: Morning & Melancholia follows the death of Spear’s ex-boyfriend, who passed away in a car accident a few years ago, and grapples with grief and the fleeting nature of memories she no longer shares with anyone. But she bravely approaches these feelings, leaving us with a somber coming-apart song (“Love Can’t Be The Only Reason To Stay”), a politely plucked goodbye (“How To Say Goodbye”) and a charming folk tune reminiscent of the song “Fare Thee Well” (“If I Had Wings”). Spear is one of the brightest new Secretly Canadian signees, and this EP is a promising sign of what’s to come.

Le Ren’s close-to-the-bone, heartbreak folk songs seem, at first, to tap into a shared musical memory.  A melody swirls forward and you’re just sure it’s known to the back of your mind; was it in from a movie you saw, some classic mid-60s setpiece? Maybe it’s something you heard as a kid, in the backseat of your mom’s Cutlass, or the shotgun seat of your own. But before you can zero in through the fog, your heart is torn apart by her voice — rich, direct and mellifluous — steering you through these slowburn tunes about real-life loss.

“Discussing songwriting feels the same as when someone asks about your tattoo,” says Lauren Spear, 26, the sole voice and songwriter behind Montreal’s Le Ren. “You’re putting it out there, showing it in public right on your arm. Then, when someone asks you ‘Hey, what’s that tattoo mean?,’ you’re shocked to have to explain it, as it is a choice that feels essential for a particular moment.”

The way Le Ren is able to look tragedy directly in its eyes and never let her voice so much as quiver is owed to a few things. Raised on rural Bowen Island, British Columbia, the isolated lifestyle allows for a certain independent dedication to craft that is evident in her performances. Spear has studied folk and bluegrass going back to her early teens, partaking in workshops and festivals all over North America. You can hear in her acumen the gorgeous folk formalism of Canadian heroes Kate and Anna McGerrigle. But it’s not all rigor and acuity that makes Le Ren’s music so stunning. She was also raised on The Holy Trinity of songwriters John Prine, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and their curious, deadpan and cosmic approach to life’s most brutal swipes also feed Le Ren’s sensibilities. Her lyrical couplets are as simply put as they are devastating. “So here we are at the end of all things // I guess I learned too late // that love can’t be the only reason to stay,” she sings on the closer “Love Can’t Be the Only Reason To Stay”. It’s gut wrenching, but sure-footed. And you can almost hear the slight smile on one side of her mouth as she sings, the knowing smile of someone who knows real pain, knows there’s surely more to come, but who also knows it doesn’t erase life’s humorous, enduring beauty.

“Love Can’t Be The Only Reason To Stay” from Le Ren, out now on Secretly Canadian

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Secretly Canadian today share ‘The Mission’s End’, a new track from an upcoming Jason Molina record called “Eight Gates”, out 7th August 2020. The album is the last collection of solo recordings Molina made before he passed away from complications related to alcoholism in 2013.

In 2007 Jason Molina moved from the Midwest to London. Separated from his bandmates and friends, and never one for idleness, Molina explored his new home with fervour. He’d pick up on arcane trivia about London’s rich history, and if the historical factoids weren’t available — or weren’t quite to his liking — Molina was quite comfortable conjuring his own history.

When he learned of the London Wall’s seven gates, Molina went ahead and called it eight, carving out a gate just for himself. The eighth gate was Molina’s way into London, a gate only passable in the mind.

Fast-forward to 2008, Molina set off on an experimental solo tour through Europe. While in Northern Italy, Molina claimed to have been bitten by a rare, poisonous spider. A debilitating bout of illness ensued. “I was in the hospital here in London,” Molina wrote in a letter. “Saw six doctors and a Dr. House-type guy. They are all mystified by it, but I am allowed to be at home, where I am taking a dozen scary Hantavirus type pills a day that are all to supposedly help — but they make me feel like shit.” There is no record of a single doctor visit, not any prescription record for these medications. It is entirely plausible there was no spider and that whatever was keeping him indoors during this time was entirely self-induced. While at home, he of course wrote songs.

Molina also claimed that during this time, he fed several bright green parrots that would gather in his yard and made short, crude field recordings of them with his trusty four-track. Only once Molina was officially on the mend and re-exploring the streets of London would he learn that those parrots had their own fabled tale. Back in the 60s, Jimi Hendrix — in a moment of psychedelic clarity — released his pair of lime green ring-necked parakeets from their cage, setting them free into the London sky. Now, their descendants are spotted regularly around certain parts of the city. Or so we’re told.

Recorded in London around the time of the supposed spider bite and Jimi’s supposed parakeets, some of the songs on Eight Gates (“Whispered Away,” “Thistle Blue”) are fully-realized — dark, moody textures that call to mind his earlier work on The Lioness. Knowing what we know about those parakeets and their peppered presence on the recordings, one can’t help but think of that colourful tree of birds on Talk Talk’s classic Laughing Stock, certainly a spiritual guide for much of the set. Other songs (“She Says,” “The Crossroads and The Emptiness”) lay in a more unfinished states, acoustic takes that call to mind Molina’s Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go, and still tethered to Molina’s humorous studio banter. You remember how young Molina was, and how weighty this art was for such a young man.

On the closer, “The Crossroads and The Emptiness,” Molina snaps at the engineer before tearing into a song in which he sings of his birthday (30th December), a palm reading and the great emptiness with which he always wrestled. It is a perfect closer and, in many ways, the eighth gate incarnate: mythical, passable only in the mind, built for himself and partway imaginary but shared, thankfully, with us.

 

Skullcrusher, the project of Los Angeles-based songwriter Helen Ballentine, releases a new single, “Day of Show,” and an accompanying video. The track is off of her debut, self-titled EP, out June 26th on Secretly Canadian, and follows its hypnotic lead single, “Places/Plans.” “Day of Show” glows with melancholy guitar and faint, hovering synth. As the synth rises and percussion joins in, Ballentine’s voice becomes more urgent: “ You decorate the back of the stage with my things // As you sing about who you were// And were you better then // When you didn’t have to tell me how // It all works out in the end.” The accompanying video is both pretty and eerie, layering overly contrasted video clips of Ballentine on top of one another.

“I wrote ‘Day of Show’ on a hot day last summer in my roommate’s bedroom because mine didn’t have AC”, explains Ballentine. “I felt dazed and restless from sitting around in the heat all day. It is a song about feeling trapped in yourself, unable to help yourself and reluctant to let others in. It explores the fragmented behavior and thoughts that arise from this feeling: a kind of daydreaming that can be really creative but also the darkness that also exists there. It’s musically inspired by a lot of the shoegaze music I listen to.”

Ballentine has been playing music for most of her life — piano from age five, guitar since high school — but her song writing didn’t emerge until later. After moving from her home in upstate New York to Los Angeles to study studio art in college, a trajectory she had been on since she was a teenager, Ballentine quit her full-time gallery job. Suddenly faced with a peculiar freedom, she decided to seriously pursue music for the first time.

On the “Skullcrusher” EP, Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between grey areas and the subsequent search for identity. The four dark, dreamy songs on the EP, which she worked on alongside producer Noah Weinman, were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. There’s Nick Drake, ambient electronica, and Valerie and her Week of Wonders, the Czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. There’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence (perhaps  a nod to her unusual moniker, as well).

“Day of Show” by Skullcrusher, from their upcoming self-titled EP out June 26 on Secretly Canadian.