tomberlin – at weddings

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

staying on top of every new release is hard.  staying on top of every new release is even harder when your blog uses language that suggests multiple people are cogs in the machine, but really you’re just flailing helplessly by yourself, trying not to drown in a heavily-saturated inbox.  “fashionably late” is a remedy, an intermittent feature designed to showcase particularly special albums or eps that evaded us (there i go again) during their structured press cycle.  next up is the debut effort from tomberlin.

The postscript at the bottom of tomberlin’s bandcamp page reads “my fifth of a century,” a simple reminder of the youth that accompanies the incredible weight and poignancy of at weddings, her debut album.  with little more ammunition than a guitar and her voice, tomberlin excavates artifacts of listlessness and loneliness across the album’s seven tracks, self-doubt and hesitation wrapped up in lyrics capable of utter devastation at a moment’s notice.

throughout at weddings, tomberlin consistently accomplishes something rather notable: crafting memorable sentiments without relying on conventional refrains for reinforcement.  instead, it’s the vocal melody that often remains consistent throughout a given track, lilting contours pausing or altogether evaporating for maximum effect.  even on album centerpiece “you are here,” the lone instance of a discernible chorus, tomberlin achieves the desired impact through a combination of melodic familiarity and intimate points of view that truly underscore the song’s resounding abandonment.

Tomberlin At Weddings

meandering, finger-picked acoustic guitars are the album’s primary accompaniment, the instrument’s timbre consonant, therapeutic.  on “untitled 1,” it works in tandem with the whispers of a brassy synth to create a hypnotic aura; on closing number “february,” plaintive arpeggios ebb and flow peacefully, mirroring the lyrical delivery while belying its mournful content.  the moments that do deviate from this norm, like the chiming, descending wurlitzer foundation of “tornado,” are a necessary jolt to the status quo, a vague timbral equivalent that extracts additional facets of tomberlin’s aesthetic.

owen pallett’s presence throughout at weddings is more so felt than heard.  the multi-instrumentalist handled the album’s engineering and production while also providing secondary instrumentation, like the murky, distant synthesizer pads that flesh out a handful of tracks.  he factors in most prominently on “self-help,” a later cut saturated with disorienting, abrasive interludes that splice up an arresting lead vocal delivered by both tomberlin and pallett.  but most importantly, pallett doesn’t imprint any of his distinctive fingerprints onto at weddings, sagely allowing the album to be singularly tomberlin, through and through.

at weddings is an intimate affair presented in modest fashion; although ultimately the byproduct of two people working closely in concert, the salient components of the album emanate directly from sarah tomberlin’s core.  this is a project that gently asks to be consumed slowly, with care.  appease it.

yohuna – patientness

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

“album of the fortnight” is a new bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note.  the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  first up: yohuna.

Up until this month, johanne swanson’s catalogue as yohuna spanned five years, but was rather sparse.  as a consumer this was, at times, frustrating: a gifted songwriter with sporadic output, often elusive or mum about forthcoming material.  from an artistic standpoint, however, this was refreshing, revelatory, admirable: a gifted songwriter working methodically, only offering up new songs with a distinct purpose attached, never out of necessity; never for personal gratification; never out of impulsive boredom.

patientness, out now via orchid tapes, is swanson’s first full-length effort, though an album’s worth of yohuna material doesn’t feel like a departure from the ethos that defined her earlier work.  three of the album’s nine tracks have existed in the public sphere, in some form or another, for quite some time; the remaining two-thirds of patientness is sequenced around this familiarity, transforming those songs into comforting touchstones in the midst of new, uncharted territory.

the arrival of “creep date” is this exercise fully-realized.  new offering “world series” is the song’s ancillary, the advent of buzzsaw guitars foreshadowing emotive distortion that rings out in its successor, but it’s the searing – and shattering – realism of each song’s lyrics that tie the two together.  mere seconds after uttering the clincher “you’re my biggest fan / but the seats are cheap,” swanson pivots to “not confused / still feel used,” a clear-eyed couplet that’s as devastating as it is resolute.  yohuna’s sonic aesthetic may be warm and pillowy at times, but it’s often only a thinly-veiled diversion away from sentiments that bely – and, more importantly, challenge perceptions of – its inviting exterior.

cover

earlier this week, the fader ran an absolutely riveting interview with swanson, a must-read for anyone already invested in this column.  among other topics, swanson discusses the binary tendencies of genre categorization, and how her music moves fluidly through the two most often assigned to her work: electronic and indie.  this acute awareness of categorical ambiguity reverberates throughout patientness, never meandering, always challenging what music purported to be feminine should evoke and sound like.

the title track on patientness hits last and asks the prevailing question head-on: “what is patientness?”  who knows?  it’s probably a personal mantra of sorts; the neologism is definitely indicative of swanson’s calculated approach to both making and releasing music, and it certainly feels relevant in the context of this album’s creation.  while yohuna has primarily been a solo outlet with occasional input in the past, patientness is decidedly more collaborative: adelyn strei (adelyn rose), felix walworth (told slant), emily sprague (florist), and warren hildebrand (foxes in fiction) all contribute, and swanson trekked up from brooklyn to montreal to record with owen pallett, who also co-produced the album.

“patientness” may evade concrete definition or attainability, but it will forever be difficult to disassociate yohuna from this concept.  as a body of work, patientness finds comfort in non-conformity; in imperfections; in the uncomfortable.  it’s a rare gift, a present to be opened with care and examined thoroughly, contemplatively.  patiently.

ricky eat acid – “hey”

– featured image courtesy of alex locater –

three love songs will forever be a landmark achievement.  sam ray’s foray into introspective ambience as ricky eat acid, tinged ever so slightly with hints of house music, resonated deeply with listeners; three love songs was also far and away our favorite album of 2014.

ray is musically dexterous – since three love songs, he’s released an album under his julia brown moniker and has reformed his once-defunct punk band, teen suicide, who have since toured and released a sprawling album of their own – yet this chameleonic tendency manifests perhaps most acutely and frequently within the work he creates as ricky eat acid.  his subsequent material under the moniker has traversed edm-informed soundscapes and smothered itself in pillows of dark, ominous synths, yet each track is unmistakably a ricky eat acid effort, a testament to ray’s ability to push boundaries creatively while still maintaining such a singularly raw emotional connection.

“hey,” the lead single from the forthcoming ricky eat acid full-length, talk to you soon, melts some of ray’s more aggressive ventures into a pliable material: rigid drum beats and vocal samples that can prop up flittering pianos and string arrangements without depriving them of their consonance.  the song’s apex is early and revelatory, with owen pallett’s strings helping “hey” shed its sleepy, pensive facade for an extended period of jubilance.

talk to you soon is out october 28th via the brooklyn imprint terrible records; in addition to pallett’s contributions, the album features guest vocals from caroline white, spencer radcliffe, and harmony tividad, as well as collaborative work with the black metal band wreck & reference.  revel in “hey” below.

yohuna – “apart”

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

those who have been reading the dimestore for awhile will recognize why the arrival of this song is so special.  until now, johanne swanson’s output as yohuna has been about as sparse in quantity as it’s been astounding in quality, with an intimate standalone track surfacing every year or so since her revery ep in 2011.  that pacing changed yesterday as yohuna announced her debut full-length, patientness, a nine-song effort appropriately due out september 9th via the inimitable orchid tapes.

though yohuna began as a solo venture in new mexico and developed further in eau claire, boston, berlin, and new york, patientness seems poised to dabble more in the collaborative; addie strei (adelyn rose), felix walworth (told slant, bellows, eskimeaux), emily sprague (florist), warren hildebrand (foxes in fiction), and owen pallett are all credited with helping to realize swanson’s arrangements.  our first taste is “apart,” the re-working of a demo that first appeared on a le sigh compilation in late 2013.  walworth’s sauntering drums power the track, while woozy guitar arpeggios wrap themselves around swanson’s airy vocals to create a cyclical, haunting soundscape that’s best left on repeat for quite awhile.  take a listen below.

foxes in fiction – ontario gothic

as the person responsible for the lion’s share of day-to-day operations at orchid tapes, one could reasonably assume that warren hildebrand has no time left to devote towards any other project.  the brooklyn boutique has skyrocketed in terms of exposure and influence over this past year, releasing incredibly important albums by ricky eat acid, alex g, and others, all while seamlessly transitioning into the vinyl distribution game.  hildebrand, along with his partner brian vu, handles every aspect of the orchid tapes business, from dubbing tapes to packaging orders to maintaining an extensive social media presence.  despite all of these duties, hildebrand still managed to write, record, and mix ontario gothic, his second full-length effort as foxes in fiction.  it’s an incredibly poignant record, and serves as the long-missing piece to orchid tapes’ puzzle.

hildebrand’s debut, swung from the branches, was an incredibly vast album predicated on the emotions and aftermath of losing his younger brother, and contained nineteen songs of various lengths showcasing his propensity for both drone and more traditional pop structures.  in contrast, ontario gothic feels honed, polished down to a concise seven tracks and a more uniform aesthetic, one that may not embody the everlasting essence of foxes in fiction so much as it helps to represent the specific blend of healing pop hildebrand is pursuing this time around.

simple melodies adorn “march 2011,” a warbly odyssey of an album opener that compounds on countermelodies before unraveling into the first of owen pallett’s many string arrangements throughout ontario gothic.  that warble proves to be a recurring theme throughout the album in some capacity, be it in the light tremolo of hildebrand’s guitar or in the slow pan of the vocals on “glow (v079),” conveying the fragility that often accompanies a state of loss.  the highlights of ontario gothic are nestled snugly in the middle of the album, with both “shadow’s song” and “ontario gothic” employing lilting choral lines that lift hildebrand’s music from a state of uncertainty into an almost heavenly, more fleetingly self-assured realm.

despite brief moments of clarity, it’s evident that hildebrand continues to struggle with demons throughout ontario gothic.  the album itself is dedicated to a friend that died an untimely death, and it’s clear that his own brother’s passing still has a profound impact on hildebrand’s musical trajectory.  but whereas swung from the branches was an effort primarily created in solitude, ontario gothic wholeheartedly embraces outside collaboration: pallett’s strings are sprinkled throughout all but one of the album’s tracks, and three of hildebrand’s friends and label mates lend their voices to closing number “altars.”  this symbolic show of support through music is indicative of everything orchid tapes stands for, and it’s accomplished to a level of beauty and tranquility that few other artists can achieve.  lose yourself in this little album.

7.8/10