_dec 12, 2005 // the physics of meaning reviewed
""The Physics of Meaning." One day we'll have a physics of time-travel, okay, and Daniel Hart & Alex Lazara can go back in time and change their band's totally stupid name. The undergraduate cleverness of the name was enough to make me dismiss them outright - and my opinion did not improve as I perused the nonsense on their website.
But - (buts being so often responsible for the best things in life) - The Physics of Meaning is well on its way to great. While Hart plays a violin (yes, like Final Fantasy, Patrick Wolf and Andrew Bird), his band sounds more like Grandaddy, Broken Social Scene, John Vanderslice - crunchy drums, backward-spinning electric guitars, tumbles into cut glass. Though the lyrics sometimes carry the insipid philosophising bemoaned above, often they fall closer to the giddy side of emo: everyday phrases repeated until they begin to glow. The strings are arranged marvelously, with unexpected harmonies and then sudden dashes of feeling. At their best - stripped to modest pretensions, pop music instead of treatise, - they're electrifying.
The Physics of Meaning - "Down at Columbia and Cameron". See this is what I'm talking about. Roll-over-and-over drums, blended vocals that would make Fountains of Wayne blush, and it's a song about girls (or maybe boys - he doesn't specify). There's a breeziness here, the way the synths bump into the strings like they've been distracted by some cherry-blossoms. More exciting still is the way the band finds another vibe in the second half - a woozy regalness, the prince having a lazy spring fever spazz-out. The sort of song you want to parcel into a parcel, tape up, and send over the water to make someone smile.
The Physics of Meaning - "Manhattan Is An Island". Drum machine, boy and girl, Notwists of synth: a slippery song, slick and supple, strings sneering. And then the slap of sound, the surge of static, the ceiling slipping. I love the aqueous feel of the whole thing, with the vocals set slightly apart. (On an island, natch.) But when the voices stop and the skyscrapers begin to fall; well, they fall.
Also highly recommended - "Oregon, My Only True Friend", available here."
~Sean, Said the Gramophone
_dec 5, 2005 // the physics of meaning reviewed
"Alors que l’album de Prayers & Tears s’impose ici comme le probable album de l’année, la tentation a dû être forte dans la petite équipe hébergée par le label Bu Hanan de rééditer l’exploit. On prend donc quasiment les mêmes : Alex Lazara produit, enregistre et joue les pyrotechniciens au son, Daniel Hart (membre par ailleurs de The Polyphonic Spree et de Ester Drang) prend le rôle de Perry Wright au songwriting et à l’avant-plan, accompagné d’une bonne dizaine de musiciens dont une part notable commune aux deux groupes interviennent. On croise donc des musiciens ayant joué dans des groupes comme Sixpence None the Richer, Bellafea, Utah !, The Rosebuds, Ticondergoa, Pedro The Lion ou Elf Power. Une différence notable, Daniel est violoniste et cet instrument de même que le violoncelle, l’oboe et le glockenspiel prend dès lors une place importante au détriment de la guitare, Alex Lazara prenant lui à son compte guitares, claviers et rythmiques.
On reconnaît la texture du son qui semble être la marque de fabrique de Alex Lazara, mais en même temps, celui-ci semble plus un magicien du son qu’un réel producteur, couvrant les chansons de vêtements rutilants plutôt que les portant et les révélant car cet album ne réédite en rien l’alchimie parfaite de ‘The Shapes of Cynthia…’. Mais en même temps, entre hors du commun et inintéressant, il y a un monde et ce disque est loin d’être un mauvais album. A son écoute je pense au At The Close of Everyday de ‘The Silja Symphony’, au Radiohead de ‘The Bends’ ou au Pedro The Lion le plus électrique et léché. Léché, voilà le mot qui caractérise le mieux cet album, le chant de Daniel soufre d’une certaine froideur conventionnelle, hi-fi, qui associé à une production dopée, donne l’impression d’un disque équivalent d’un blockbuster au cinéma. Sans pour autant sombrer dans un pop rock théâtral et commercial, le groupe flirte quand même avec les sphères les plus mainstream d’un certain indie-rock bcbg sur lequel l’Angleterre a généralement la mainmise.
En conséquence de quoi je ne me considère pas comme le meilleur public pour ce groupe, seule une petite part des onze chansons proposées rencontrant mon assentiment. A chaque fois dès que le groupe casse un peu la glace et offre quelque chose de plus tordu, poignant ou troublé. ‘Small towns and invisible people’ est succulent, pas loin de At The Close of Everyday, soigné, riche, enjolivé de cordes superbes et au lyrisme fluide et poignant. ‘Bigger Cities, Thicker Doors’ joue la carte des élusions et d’un slow épique et victorieux dans sa tristesse merveilleusement célébrée. ‘The inconceivable nature of Vizzini’ pourrait être un morceau de Prayers & Tears, guitare folk, chant à la dimension déclamative presque littéraire, joli samples percussifs dans tous les sens, nappes discrètes de cordes et fragments réverbérés de claviers, quelque chose comme marcher en souriant sous la pluie tandis qu’au détour d’une rue, le soleil refait son apparition révélant un arc-en-ciel au milieu des voitures. ‘Oregon, my only friend’ joue la carte de la confession touchante sur des arrangements féeriques auxquels on cède sans hésiter une seule seconde. ‘Down at Columbia and Cameron’ nous la joue rock héroïque à la Radiohead circa ‘The Bends’ toutes guitares et cordes devant.
Fan d’un indie rock racé, lyrique, stylé et sophistiqué, ceci est pour vous. Pour ma part je n’apprécie véritablement que cinq titres sur les onze, le reste me semblant un rien trop factice et ampoulé."
_dec 1, 2005 // the physics of meaning reviewed
"With lyrics as crosshairs taking much needed aim at the current state of politics and leadership, the Physics of Meaning outline their mission through track titles (hear: "the fountain of youth dries up in an election year") and fully deliver in song. Not to be mistaken for the new Fugazi, tPoM hint around many issues that can make for (and rightfully do) meaningful song, as on "small towns and invisible people" - a poem with rhythm that captures the sadness of both growing upwards & older while having major, soulless landmarks such as Wal Mart replace the magical spaces you called childhood. With a successful foundation based around songwriter Daniel Hart (player of the violin since age 3) and producer Alex Lazara (Prayer and Tears) - the Physics of Meaning looks great on paper and sounds outstanding on record.
Allowing both manual instrumentation (guitars, drums, cello, xylophone.. . there are well into twenty people credited on this album) to meld with that of automatic (see: "the inconceivable nature of Vizzini", "Manhattan is an island"), the Physics of Meaning - though at the final days of the year - have put up an album to rival all you've heard thus far. Did you hear that, Illinois!? Slap."
~Kaleb, Slightly Confusing to a Stranger
_nov 2, 2005 // the physics of meaning reviewed
"During the first 10 songs of the first Physics of Meaning album, there's an obvious lift of hope pulling through for exactly 23 seconds: The disc's opener, "Charles Wallace, Where Have You Gone?" grinds open with a cut, clipped and sampled noise wash. Then, big chords emerge from a confidently strummed acoustic guitar. Finally, it sounds as if Yoshimi is about to battle back those pink robots, or maybe Joan Crawford's 1921 New Haven bliss has returned. Alas, this is that trademark Lambchop happiness--enjoy "your fucking sunny day"--that settles in with frontman Daniel Hart's first utterance: "There is a wrinkle in time in a remote corner of my mind." In that instant, Hart's voice is consumed both by ennui and anxiety, the conundrum of modern life that finds one plagued by regretting standing still but doing just that for fear of future failure, minus comfort's safety net. "I'll be unemployed in Greenland," Hart sings on repeat at one point. Better yet, "I can see the future, every possible life I could lead/ I could make love and start a family, with every pretty woman I see/ I've gotta ditch this town." For Hart, the world is a frustrating web of false intentions and good pretensions, and it threatens to cancel the chances of possibility at every turn. To wit: "The repetition of history offers nothing to ease the suffering of the good intentions of liberty."
Sometimes the sentiment--cloaked in the abandonment of childhood wonderment with Florida after the state's 2000 electoral faults or the plight of Vizzini, the peasant from The Princess Bride--becomes overbearing, sung constantly in Hart's wry, semi-deadpan.
Its saving grace is its sincerity. He seems deeply troubled and not just in that banal, world-around-me way: Hart seems wrenched by the notion that he may not know the answers or that there may be no answers. Moving? Normalizing? Differing? Staying? No. The instrumentation--gorgeously captured by Bu Hanan producer Alex Lazara, a multi-instrumental/songwriting/vocal/beatmaking explorer who continues to make clever recording decisions better than most in the country--confirms the suspicion, moving between string-based orchestral beauty and electronically manifested turmoil. As with Ticonderoga (who, on record, forms part of The Physics of Meaning, along with Jason Fagg, Heather McEntire, Dale Baker and a host of others), form marries function.
That's a difficult feat, but--if The Physics of Meaning stands for anything--it's that there are no easy answers. As the album closes, a young brother and sister sing the outro, minutes after a sample of Hart's grandmother snaps off. Are they offering a newborn hope or the tragic perpetuation of hopelessness? Who knows? But at least it's a beginning."
~Grayson Currin, the Independent Weekly
_nov 1, 2005 // angles reviewed
"Délicieux moment d'apaisante mélancolie comme en offre également l'album de David Karsten Daniels édité par Bu Hanan, label américain qui accueille en outre The Prayers And Tears Of Arthur Digby Sellers présent sur notre volume 8. Avec Angles, David Karsten Daniels mène une analyse à portée universelle sur la déliquescence d'une relation amoureuse. Rien de véritablement neuf certes mais la manière dont l'artiste s'ouvre à nous sans retenue touche au cœur et… au foie. On reste en effet le souffle coupé à l'écoute de ses onze titres exigeants. L'écoute d'Angles coûte, en effet. Et l'on s'en extirpe vaguement triste mais nettement ébranlé. David Karsten Daniels travaille une écriture folk classique pour mieux l'ajuster à son propos. Il s'autorise ainsi excursions expérimentales ou bruitistes et tord le fil de ses idées mélodiques. Un peu comme si l'on étudiait l'effet du visionnage d'un film retraçant les moments douloureux de leurs vies respectives sur la musique de Neil Young, Will Oldham ou Wilco. Pas franchement un moment de déconnade débridée, Angles n'en devient pour autant pas un exercice d'auto-apitoiement pénible."
~A decourvrir absolument
_oct 22, 2005 // the physics of meaning reviewed
"The Physics of Meaning’s self-titled disc is baffling to me on a number of levels. The full-length CD opens with the crush of feedback and noise that poses an immediate threat to the listener’s ear drums. Despite being released on a small (but highly respected) music label out of Chapel Hill, NC, The Physics of Meaningfeatures an incredible roster of great musicians like Dale Baker (Sixpence None The Richer), songwriter David Karsten Daniels, Chris Colbert (who’s appeared on seemingly millions of discs in some form or the other), and a host of others. The CD attempts to answer in its 11 tracks the questions, “What does it mean to be alive and how can we reconcile our past selves with who we are now?” Perplexing stuff indeed, set to a musical palate that sounds kind of like apocalyptic, disjointed rock-postrock with singer/songwriter sensibilities. And perhaps most surprising of all, The Physics of Meaning pulls off this ambitious project masterfully, much like the full-length CD released earlier this year by labelmates The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. Ambitious musically, introspective lyrically, and impressive corporately, The Physics of Meaning is quite the triumphant collection of songs that, taken either as singles or as a complete package, startles the unsuspecting listener with its depth.
Officially, The Physics of Meaning is Daniel Hart (who’s worked with Ester Drang and The Polyphonic Spree, to drop some more names), and producer Alex Lazara. Both men add their specific flourishes to this CD, but in the end, it’s Hart’s soul that shines through, as he is the main songwriter on this highly personal project. The loose lyrical theme traces the memories and regrets of a child growing up to face the paradoxes of a strange world, with the adult ultimately casting a wistful glance back at childhood for one last grasp at his elusive identity. Indeed, any listener struggling with issues of identity, soul-searching, or reconciling change in one’s surroundings with the resultant change in one’s personality will do well to listen closely to the lyrics on this CD.
But, before I overdo the social analysis of the fertile lyrics, I’d better stick to the question that many music listeners would be asking…”Does it sound good?”. To answer bluntly, “Yes”, and this is where Lazara’s contributions on The Physics of Meaning shine. While Hart’s songwriting style is fully formed, with strong melodies and complex and tense chord patterns, Lazara’s production layers dense levels of sounds on the recordings. The opening track “Charles Wallace, Where Have You Gone?” is a great example of the interplay between Hart’s epic songwriting and Lazara’s huge sounds. After that opening storm of noise, the song-proper begins with an aggressively distorted drum machine spazzing out stuttered rhythms, while Hart’s chord progressions bring the listener to the edge of their seat as the song builds. The song explodes into a fury of heavy drums, layered vocals, keyboards, and guitars, only to dissipate in an keyboard loop. Even in simpler songs, such as “Small Towns and Invisible People” (great title, by the way), Lazara layers keyboards with live drums, drum machines, and various other sounds as Hart quaintly sings his tender lyrics. You’d expect a song called “Resurrection and Crucifixion” to sound dramatic, and it does, as it feigns to be a straight-forward rock song, only to thrust itself into epic territory with its soaring chorus and feverish string parts. Another highlight of The Physics of Meaning is the Radiohead-esque “Manhattan is an Island”. Featuring light electronics, backwards guitar accents, falsetto vocals, and a generally wistful melody, “Manhattan is an Island” soothes with its linear melody and floating sonics. The technical drumming of “The Crystal Ball is Cracking” steals the show on another song, even with the dark melody and foreboding supporting guitar and keyboard sounds. In fact, the drumming throughout The Physics of Meaning is stellar, and Baker again shows himself to be at the top of his game with his technical fills and creative rhythms. “The Inconceivable Nature of Vizzini” floats effortlessly with its light drum loops, picked acoustic guitar, and delicate keyboards. “Down at Columbia and Cameron” is another song full of complex and technical drums, grooves, guitar parts, and even the vocal melody skitters up and down the musical scale. “The Fountain of Youth Dries Up in an Election year” is a favourite of mine lyrically, due to its longing references to Florida, my home state and the place of my idyllic childhood…which the song seems to be referencing in part as well. Finally, “A Slowly Tilting Planet” brings The Physics of Meaning full circle, as it addresses the main character introduced in the first track about the conclusions of the journey for self-exploration. Hart’s vocal performance (I’m assuming it’s Hart…the liner notes don’t specify) is strongest here, as the singer sings nakedly at first with only a simple keyboard to back him up. The song builds, adding various elements, at times sounding like a Lennon song with the simple production of drums, bass, and keys, only to fade into a short, psychedelic time warp of noise and mayhem…the same noise that introduced the CD 47 minutes earlier.
If this review sounds lacks a little cohesion, it’s because The Physics of Meaning is so overwhelming to write about in such a short review. From the deep and poignant lyrics, which address so eloquently the search for meaning and identity in such a confusing and neurotic world, to the complex music and production, to the smart songwriting and impressive performances, The Physics of Meaning is a powerful artistic expression. The lyrics are interesting enough to impress social scientists and philosophers, while the music is strong enough to win over people only interested in the sound. The Physics of Meaning is one ambitious and challenging project that hits the mark, and will appeal to fans of The Flaming Lips, Ester Drang, Pedro the Lion, Radiohead, and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, among others. Highly recommended."
~Brent, Somewhere Cold
_aug 28, 2005 // mother of love reviewed
"Perry Wright, the Arthur Digby Sellers of The Prayers and Tears, was born on February 12, 1809 [in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky]. Approaching the math with a new-world technique, that makes this able man 196 years young, and at least three times as experienced as most of our grandparents - and possibly a relative of Abraham Lincoln. So that's how you get the knack for crafting songs as timeless as "Lisa", which was my initial discovery to The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers on the ESOPUS issue 4 companion disc .
The Prayers and Tears latest release, The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia, is not only lengthy in title - but the twelve tracks that fulfill the story follow in this pattern. In patterns, the stated album traffics on somewhat of a theme that would impress the physics portion of your family tree. Terms such as one Ptolemaic Theory, or why & how all these circles called planets float around one another up there, are believed to be a source of inspiration  for the elder Wright, and the gorgeous design that accompanies the album (credited to Hale Dixon) follow. Like the tides, the planets and the seasons - The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia encompasses the elegance and the grimness that comes with each - Perry Wright, however, focuses intently on one large epidemic at hand: Love.
Take the opening composition "The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia", an initially sparsely plucked acoustic anthem that tells of "Polaroids that fade" that takes very little time in becoming a full-on band affair - the track is parenthesistically  named (Hutchison Effect). We not only have a timeless album on our hands, we have a solid scientific classroom of terminology for the novice. On "Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens", the albums evolution begins (or continues) with a backing casio beat - reminiscent of early onelinedrawing - and infuses the lesson with hints of cello, chimes and airy guitar. Wright breaks our heart (as you will hear, he does for most of the album) with a tale of one misplaced phone number from the alienated opposite sex. Kind of Like Spitting followers will put this track - hell, this entire album, atop the playlist for months to come. It's beginning to feel like the home recording studio, dubbed MakeOutCity, has a far more significant meaning to the insider(s) than to us the occasional listener.
What makes nearly every moment of each track placed on The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia so sweeping is the assumption that Perry Wright has lived each of these tales . Taking the closer "The Sad Lives of the Hollywood Lovers" for inspection, he recounts an affair with a lover from Richmond (Virginia - noted in the lengthy production notes on the bands website) who would meet able-minded Wright at a local hotel to "cast out demons" when she tired of her (obviously useless) husband. This 5-minute glimpse is told over the Arthur Digby trademark sound of acoustic guitar that, en route from track beginning to end, may see a distant cello, piano or static backdrop (be it drums, a chorus or synth) step in to fill the duty of proper heartache.
A near fifty minutes of bewildering passion - or passion astray - is to be found on this album.. . any reference to such cornerstones as Fevers and Mirrors is justifiably valid (start with "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep"). In a word, exceptional - and they even found room for the HandSonic !
 "ontothanatological" - as in track 10 on record. If he can do it, so can we.
 Roland product used by trusted musicians, such as NC natives Hotel Lights, to awe all surrounding. Here utilized on a track entitled "The Slow Decay of Some Radio Afterglows.
 [see attached]
 "Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens" recounts paranormal 'abduction', but I do believe."
~Kaleb, Slightly Confusing to a Stranger
_aug 22, 2005 // mother of love reviewed
"Voilà, il fallait bien que quelqu’un y arrive, conjuguer la profondeur, la subtilité et l’écriture d’un Pedro The Lion circa ‘Control’ et le toute puissance mélodique, émotionnelle et voluptueuse d’un Radiohead circa ‘OK Computer’. A tout cela, ajouter quelques autres cousinages du côté de Death Cab For Cutie, Carissa’s Wierd, Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, Red House Painters ou L’Altra et on l’a, notre sacré monstre et prétendant favori jusqu’ici à l’album de l’année.
C’est que The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, originaire de Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a un côté premier de la classe, on peut l’attaquer sur n’importe quel titre de ce second album, on ne pourra que s’incliner face à une belle maîtrise d’écriture et d’interprétation, reconnaître leur caractère mémorable.
The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers a une allure de collectif, pas loin de quatorze musiciens circulent ici, pour certains également actifs dans diverses formations réputées de Bellafea (Heather McEntire) à Ester Drang (James Mcalister), de Go Machine à Sixpence None the Richer (la batteur Dale Baker) en passant par Polyphonic Spree. Mais on s’égarerait à croire que cette densité puisse être défavorable à l’ensemble, aucun alourdissement comme c’est pourtant le cas parfois chez des Bright Eyes ou Godspeed You Black Emperor, car avant tout il s’agit du groupe du songwriter Perry Wright qui tel un Mark Kozelek sait parfaitement s’entourer pour mettre ses chansons mélancoliques en valeur et que le producteur Alex Lazara joue ici le parfait rôle d’alter ego.
Mais à la différence de ce dernier, si dans les lyrics de ce disque c’est parfois le ‘je’ qui apparaît, il ne s’agit pas pourtant d’une écriture confessionnelle et thérapeutique. A la manière de l’album ‘Control’, ce ‘The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia’ est avant tout conceptuel, comptant une histoire d’amour adultérine au fil des quatre saisons (trois chansons par saison) passant du point de vue de l’amant à celui de l’épouse ou du marri trompé, mais sans poncif moralisateurs ou une quelconque réflexion politique ou argumentaire, tout ici est exploré sous des facettes poétiques, imagées où l’émotion et la mélancolie priment.
Emouvant sans être larmoyant, mélancolique sans être dépressif, grandiose sans être grandiloquent, très élaboré musicalement, mais tout en conservant le sens de l’essentiel, ‘The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia’ est un disque absolument brillant et fabuleux, tour à tour uptempo et rock puis folk et intimiste tout en ne négligeant jamais les mélodies et un sens hors du commun du dynamisme musical. C’est que l’album coule d’un bout à l’autre sans faux plat, sans monotonie sans nous laisser le temps de l’ennui, sans pour autant se disperser au travers des sujets. Il s’agit d’un réel voyage et d’une histoire comme un film qui nous tiendrait bouche bée de la première à la dernière image.
On entre dans ce disque comme on se laisse happer dans un tourbillon. Comme chez David Lynch, quelque chose déconne, échappe à la normalité et puis la narration commence. La fiction peut sembler plus vraie que la réalité. Ici quelques secondes après le début de la chanson, le CD dérape comme si d’infimes griffes étaient venues endommager sa surface. Inquiétude et observation méticuleuse jusqu’à réaliser que l’artefact est tout à fait naturel et voulu, le média devient lui-même élément narratif.
L’album commence très fort avec un “the eventual intimate of so much nostalgia” troublant et addictif, le printemps explosif dans toute sa verdeur et son intensité. Premiers pas vite égalés par une pop song terriblement touchante et captivante qui s’ouvre sur une boite à rythmes et décline des arrangements tous plus sublimes les uns que les autres. En deux chansons seulement Perry Wright nous laisse déjà une trace inaltérable en mémoire, aussi à l’aise sur le mode intimiste que par tempête, touchant, subtil et pénétrant, se rendant déjà plus indispensable à nos oreilles en deux chansons que beaucoup d’autres chanteurs avec une discographie entière. Les paroles sont brillantes et celles de “concerning lessons learned from the aliens” se figent déjà en mémoire après quelques écoutes.
Terminant la saison printanière sur un mode moins extraverti, mais toujours aussi emmené et intense, “rotation of crops” n’accentue cependant que plus encore cette sensation de brillance extrême du songwriting et de la production de ce ‘The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia’. Les paroles elles-mêmes ne sont qu’évocation à décoder, en dire juste assez mais jamais trop pour suggérer les événements qu’on se plaira alors à imaginer.
Place à la langueur estivale avec “Archaeopteryx” qui tente avec succès la reconstruction digitale comme d’autres auparavant, Bjork ou Radiohead. Poignant mais avec une grâce atmosphérique qui en rend la mélancolie cristalline. Rythmique uptempo, nerveuse et dansante pour “Ammunition for a bolt action heart”, ça pourrait être bancal ou casse-pied c’est surtout terriblement saisissant et juste. Toutes les chansons de cet album semblent de la même façon distiller quelque chose d’indispensable, presque vital.
“Above the Waves (Pluripotency)” pourrait être la ballade au piano classique sauf qu’ici l’intelligence d’une production et d’une restructuration du morceau jouent avec succès la carte d’un grandiose tout en évitant tout risque de tarte à la crème. On échappe comme par miracle à une lourdeur qui chez la plupart aurait été inévitable.
Marquant le passage à l’automne, “cannot eat better not sleep” a la mélancolie de ces feuilles qui meurent peu à peu, revêtant de nouvelles parures colorées, dernières splendeurs avant la chute. Chuchotement, guitare acoustique et arrangements subliminaux éthérés, avec un climax médian. Besoin de rien de plus. Tout ce que touche The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers semble se dorer jusqu’au coeur. Mais d’un or rougi comme les yeux à l’écoute d’un “the slow decay of some radio afterglows”, frissonnant et sombre comme ces cieux déclinants d’automne où l’humidité nous pousse à nous recroqueviller derrière murs et fenêtre, pour écouter leurs disques, presque tétanisés par une peine lancinante qui remonte comme une vague profonde.
“Disposable drummers in disposable bands” me fait penser aux meilleurs morceaux de Mazzy Star, cette slide guitar terriblement poignante, ces paroles désabusées d’un amour qui se résume aux dernières fumées d’un tas de cendres qui seront déjà froides lorsque le jour se relèvera. Peut-être le morceau le plus dénudé et les plus minimal du disque mais qui permet de réaliser l’ampleur du talent de Perry Wright. Envie de décrocher le téléphone, de se blottir dans un coin, près de la fenêtre, vue sur le ciel et sur la rue au loin, laisser tristesse et larmes nous submerger pour ne plus faire qu’un avec elles.
L’hiver, les premières matinées blanches, les prairies et bosquets recouverts d’une fine couche de givre, “Ontothanatological”, translucide, dévasté et féerique. Après l’évolution vers le calme, l’immobilité et la contemplation des derniers titres, The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers relève les compteurs pour l’électrique et grandiose “raise up, you celestial choirs”, avec l’envie d’en découdre avec ces pop songs épiques signées Radiohead. C’est beau.
Mais le disque ne pouvait se terminer sans un dernier coup de poignard : “the sad lives of the hollywood lovers”. Entêtant, cinématique et prodigieux, comme du Carissa’s Wierd au milieu d’une tempête de neige dans le grand Nord canadien, entre cordes et nappes, batterie et vocaux économes pour une terminaison épique et instrumentale qui nous laisse seul au milieu des glaces.
Waouw. Un grand groupe indispensable vient de poser sa première pierre angulaire ici, de celles qui façonnent une vie de fan de musique. Et nous, simples auditeurs, ne pouvons que nous réjouir que de pouvoir en être les victimes consentantes, conscientes que jamais nous ne nous en remettrons tout à fait. "
_aug 3, 2005 // prayers and tears reviewed via esopus no. 4 compilation
"Esopus could be my new Sound Collector. Or my new YETI. This bi-yearly bound wealth of non-advert (Esopus is a nonprofit org. NY, 10012 - bless you folks) art/music/design publication is as solid as the rocky planet which we reside. Oh - it comes complete with a superior spindle of music too ("Imaginary Friends"): 13 tracks total, including a stunning track entitled "Lisa" from The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers that just owns me. Also on here is Vetiver, Solex and Avey Tare - yes, the mixture is to die for. Each track is complete with an accompanying short story in print.. nothing short of supreme. Each story was submitted from a subscriber / reader of the publication and presented to the musicians as "inspiration". Call it "yes".. for it is.
This edition of Esopus - number 4 - is complete with plenty of FLAUNT-like pullouts and collectibles such as a sturdy stock scan of an American Legion / Vietnam supporter license plate (even the rear of the plate is complete with authentic rust) and a super-sized collection of Presidential wooden busts! There's much more - get out and find this. Page after page of business letters from the early 1930's, an eerie series of vintage cabinet-style photos from the Sepia-era.. . this is the 'magazine'* (*that's where you'll find it placed in your local superstore - yet it redefines "publication" just in weight) friends look at when they come over but are never allowed to borrow.
This is 116 pages (include the cover and rear and you get more) completely suitable for framing. My new best friend has pages & words - are you happy Mom? "
~Kaleb, Slightly Confusing to a Stranger
_apr 28, 2005 // kapow! music - a texan in europe revisited reviewed
"I'll admit that I've had Kapow Music's A Texan in Europe Revisited for quite a while. I've struggled in reviewing it, though. As much as I enjoy this 11 track full-length CD from Chapel Hill, North Carolina's Bu Hanan Records, my words fail me as I try to describe the music. Is it alt-country? Electronica? Ambient pop? Folk? Singer-songwriter? Somehow, front man John Ribo has been able to craft pretty yet irreverent songs that defy description. Employing a wide range of guest musicians who bring life into guitars, banjos, violins, drums, drum machines, field recordings, and other instruments recorded with a warm lo-fi ethos, A Texan in Europe Revisited is a puzzling and dazzling work of harmonized disparate sounds.
It's clear after even a cursory listen of A Texan in Europe Revisited that Ribo is the main attraction, with his endearingly unpolished vocals and southern songwriting sensibilities bringing to mind Zach Gresham (of Summer Hymns), or even Raymond Raposa of Castanets. A Texan in Europe Revisited follows a similar (if more pastoral) vibe as those two unique artists. And, like these other artists, Ribo seems content to encase his well-balanced and catchy melodies in a production that borders on experimentalism, while deeply rooted in traditional American music. That Ribo can combine the best of modern experiment with country and western music, while STILL allowing his songs to shine through, is no small feat.
After a brief instrumental introduction consisting of picked guitars over looped percussive and guitar sounds, A Texan in Europe Revisited begins in earnest with "Just a Boy I". Featuring lyrics that hint at a rural southern/western lifestyle, harmonica, picked guitars, and Ribo's drawling vocals, "Just a Boy I" is more than a subtle nod to country music. The sounds of fax machines and keyboards open the irresistibly catchy "Ma Tutrice". With drum machines and other strange sounds intertwined with the country influences, the song is a wonderful blend of varying styles and sounds. The lyrics also feature a blend of English and French phrases, tying in Ribo's lyrical and musical theme of a Texan living in France. His carefully and subtly weaved narrative continues throughout the whole of A Texan in Europe Revisited, uniting the songs as an interesting whole, but Ribo is also able to craft such unique individual songs, and this talent often overshadows the overall concept (not necessarily a bad thing). After "Ma Tutrice" ends in a semi-psychedelic freak-out, the following "Ease" begins. With lyrics referencing "Amazing Grace", "Ease" is a song of grace and wonder, and this sentiment is only augmented by Ribo's tender melody and atmospheric flourishes. "Rainy Day", with its down-home beat and wistful harmonica, could be lifted off of one of my parents' old country and western records. "Day = Night" starts as a gentle ballad, sung in a sincere manner over sparse instrumentation, before emerging as a dreamy concoction of atmospheric sonics. "Année Sans Eté" features more French vocals that are also heavily effected and layered, as well as strings, guitars, and a lushness that is reminiscent of a Michigan-era Sufjan Stevens. "Just There" has more of an indie-rock-influenced-with-subtle-electronics feel, with its distorted guitars mingling with electronic sounds. "Cycles" is a highlight of A Texan in Europe Revisited, with its touching melody and sombre mood. "Just a Boy II" is a campy and fun take on the first track, with the band sounding like a lost hick band rollicking out on a hot Saturday night somewhere in the south. Finally, "One-Way Train" rounds out A Texan in Europe Revisited featuring a picked acoustic guitar and harmonica backing up Ribo's soft vocals, before eventually giving way to more surprises for the listener some time later...
All in all, Bu Hanan Records has again released a memorable and engaging collection of songs with a singular artistic vision. I'm not sure how the label is able to find such unique artists who create such quality music, but with Kapow Music, they've done it again. Kapow Music, a seemingly and criminally unknown band, has recorded a fine full-length that will relax and inspire the listener. A Texan in Europe Revisited will appeal to fans of the alt-country and singer/songwriter subgenres who are looking for something a little different in their music collection. The aforementioned Summer Hymns, Castanets, and Sufjan Stevens, as well as label mate (and Kapow Music guest musician) David Karsten Daniels are good reference points for Kapow Music."
4.5 / 5 stars
~Brent Diaz, Somewhere Cold
_apr 8, 2005 // prayers & tears - the mother of love... reviewed
"One of the best ways to describe The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia by The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers comes from Alex Lazara who produced it, "Perry doesn't really write traditionally structured songs, verse-chorus-verse-chorus, a bridge and a double chorus at the end," he explains. "Perry's music sort of thrives on this polarization of this super-intimate and this cathartic release. Sometimes you have an entire song of this intimate thing and an entire song of these explosions. One of the things that attracted me to Perry's work is he plays with dynamics, and I don't think enough bands out there do."
I could end this review right there with that quote. It sums up this album beautifully. The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, behind the driving force of Perry Wright, is an indie-folk group oft compared to Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes (in my readings, they never seemed to not be mentioned together) in that it is actually Wright's music and songwriting supported by a revolving cast of musician friends – a 14 piece ensemble at times actually. It is essentially Perry Wright's project but a rotating cast of musicians makes regular contributions. Members from bands like Go Machine and Sixpence None The Richer are featured.
The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia can be subtle, soft and extremely organic at times. The album was mastered analog, so it has that purist Lo-Fi feel. The themes of the album trace around lost love, stemming from a failed marriage, and hurt that goes with it. Faith, anger, depression and uncertainty are obviously topics associated with this theme and find their way throughout the album. The sound is deep, moody and brooding, at times however, in certain songs, it rips into unfiltered rock with distorting guitars and crisp drumming. There is little warning, almost as if the sway of emotions surrounding these themes were completely in control or out of control for that matter. Perry Wright's lyrics are creative and insightful, showing much thought and depth. He has carefully chosen his words throughout, but there is an absolute honesty to them as well.
Reviews may center entire paragraphs or the review itself on the length of the band's name, album title and it's song titles and, truthfully, they are worth mentioning. There seems to be a certain expectation that comes with the audacity to create such lengthy and profound titles. With a name like The Prayers and Tears Of Arthur Digby Sellers followed by an album title such as this and song titles that challenge even the most loquacious of listeners, something epic seems to be expected. Wright delivers on all accounts, but how this band's name will ever fit on the marquee of a venue is beyond me. Given enough exposure, this album will be in all conversations concerning the best lo-fi/indie/folk albums of 2005. It is absolutely recommended."
~Dodge, Heraclitus Says
_mar 31, 2005 // prayers & tears - the mother of love... reviewed
"It really depends on how they teach poetry these days. Some will tell you to go ahead and liquidate your heart, pour it through the shaft in your pen, spill it on the page, tear into grammar, syntax, and language as it suits you, recede into your own opaque moods and bring a flashlight and some vellum. Speak in the private language of feeling to the public--that's what makes you special. On the other side of things, they'll tell you to stay out of it, to never confess, to depersonalize everything, to render some commonly understandable topic both accessible yet distinct. From this latter perspective, true strains of sensitivity shine in the absence of the particulars of strict originality and confession. Durham, North Carolina's Perry Wright, the brainchild of The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, falls into the latter camp, his latest indie-chamber-rock cycle chronicling, season-by-season, the yearlong romance between a man and a married woman.
If there's anything that's off-putting about Wright, it's that he has the tendency towards some affective scatology, lapsing into self-overconfidence and stifling earnestness. Still, those detractors shouldn't be confused with their more aggravated manifestations self-indulgence or utter juvenility, which often mar Wright's clumsier aesthetic peers, whose blubbering fragility masquerades as raw sensitivity. Wright has more reserve, consideration, distance, and intelligence than that, and even the shades of his stark faux-rusticisms are tempered by a kind of delicate quirkiness and overall sense of detachment largely absent from bleeding heart set. Sure, he's is into soul-bearing, but comparisons to musicians like Bright Eyes seem specious and flimsy--those torch-bearers always feel like the withered hero in their own narratives, and while Wright's less articulate moments fall into blank universalizing of woe-is-me-ism, his ability and willingness to tackle his stories in a multi-perspectival way (i.e. the man, the woman, and her husband) makes The Mother of Love feels more like an exercise than an exorcism.
In general, The Mother of Love's revelations come during its spare, glistening moments. The plaintive, smeared eyeliner rave-ups just don't suit Wright's talents, and the more abysmally anonymous "modern rock" numbers ("The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia," or "Ammunition for a Bolt-Action Heart") feel like lead-footed missteps. Just like real life, Fall is one of the most magical seasons on this record, seeping weakly in with the anthemic weariness of "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep," which, despite the unclear intentions in turning to the glowing aesthete's carnival of bearing witness to your own emotional catastrophes as fucked-uppedly gorgeous and tragically unavoidable-a real AA-style entry-level narcissism-manages to gorgeously suck itself into a pre-climactic oblivion with the pop-wisdom shattering line, re: wounds: "someone told you time repairs it, I said no, it just forgets it, and I need you to remember who I am," showing again, that Wright's keeping enough above water to write a lyric that both sympathizes and turns a trick.
Early December brings us the fading autumn light of "Disposable Drummers in Disposable Bands," a narcotic and sullen gaze from the perspective of the knowingly cuckolded husband, sick with confused sentiments, aching for his wife to come home, but hoping her to catch turning memories to ash in the fire with his wedding ring heating defiantly in the middle. "The Sad Lives of the Hollywood Lovers" wrestles the most bitter denials with cold, shaking hands, showing the sinning couple lying in a hotel bed as she twists with despair at unspoken thoughts of her husband: "we'd watch a movie about what a lover should be, and you'd cry out contradictions," wrapping up poignantly the pain of recognizing one's own hypocrisies.
It's tenuous, of course, to assume that Wright isn't the protagonist of his own songs. Such prolonged stretches of emotional catastrophe, however, are never as tidy as Wright ties it, and the depictions are rarely as omniscient, sliding from the wife, to the husband, to the third man. That said, what Wright makes up for in intention and ambition, he lacks a little in consistency, and while his lyrical vision shines on lip-biting interpersonal analogs such as "god knows we all tried; but radio still died," The Mother of Love, shows a development more than an arrival, a writer whose aesthetic plan bears high highs and low lows, but has yet to coalesce into a distinct, moving, and consistent narrative."
~Mike Powell, Stylus Magazine
_mar 17, 2005 // kapow! music - a texan in europe revisited reviewed
"As the title suggests, A Texan In Europe Revisited's purpose is to recall and reconsider the experiences that Kapow Music's animating force, musician John Ribo, had while traveling in Europe. Of course, Ribo's experiences aren't the sort that sell salacious coming-of-age memoirs, as the lyrics clearly demonstrate, but the album's last few songs make up for its lackluster first half. Solid indie tunes like "Just There" and "Cycles" deserve a spot in your listening rotation, and the simple yet interesting "Just A Boy 1" and "Just A Boy 2" peg Ribo as a solidly introspective songwriter.
It's the music, though, that deserves the lion's share of the attention. A Texan In Europe is full of low-key electronic soundscapes, hidden behind a foreground of minimalist vocals and acoustic guitars; it's sedate stuff, but highly effective. Ribo could definitely use a bit of production help (he started the album in 1999, in France, on a $70 analog four-track, and finished up in Chapel Hill, NC last year), but he doesn't play the lo-fi card, so the primitive production ends up being part of Kapow Music's charm."
~David A. Cobb, Splendid
_mar 17, 2005 // David Karsten Daniels and Kapow! Music in Julep Tonic Compilation Review
"Quand j'ai trouvé le louis liard zine (with a "CD inside!") sur mon bureau, j'ai cru au départ que c'était seulement un livret avec les paroles et les "crédits" du CD, mais j'ai lu des textes en français et en anglais, des nouvelles et des poèmes tristes et gais, violents et pacifistes, des dessins politiques et énigmatiques... et l'interview exclusive de l'acteur belgo-américain le plus "aware" de la planète. Mes préférés sont "apologetics" de John Bavaro qui est une vision très fine de la manipulation par le langage (le début du totalitarisme?), "Donuts" de Onnaca Heron (un 1984 des années consuméristes), "plus il pensait à elle..." de Guillaume Laidain (parce que c'est tellement...vrai, non, il n'y a pas d'autre mot). Ce numéro est sorti en janvier 2005 et on peut se le procurer, ainsi que les numéros précédents, en écrivant à firstname.lastname@example.org.
Il ne faudrait pas oublier le CD qui joue aussi sur le mélange des genres, entre ce qui est communément appelé "la chanson française" ("le retour" de Jon Smith, "le père noël est une ordure moderne" de Nicholson) et la folk ("siamese hearts de David Karsten Daniels, "Magdalena" de Diamond Star Halos,...), il y a aussi du new punk ("attention" de Aléatoire), de la pop plutôt british ("Twisting Daisies" de People On Holiday) et même des influences de la world music ("Montréal my love" de Caumon avec Déborah et les Üblots ou dans un autre style "Bonne étoile" de Lekuk 40 et les Aktionerfs). Certains morceaux surprennent parce que le chanteur passe de l'anglais au français ("Ma tutrice" de Kapow! Music) ou parce qu'ils sont des versions décadentes de mélodies qui semblent se "dé-composer" au fur et à mesure ("Toxic piles of crap" de Ra, "Darling" de Dirty Work).
ce projet est une très bonne idée franco-américaine. Pourquoi devrait-on toujours cloisonner les arts et les pays?
Et oui, c'est ça aussi la mondialisation: la possibilité pour des artistes de rencontrer directement des lecteurs musicophiles en faisant fi des distances. Ce CD nous offre une fenêtre sur le monde et c'est pour ça que nous, muzzariens, on adore."
_mar 4, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"You expect drama from a band with a name like The Prayers and Tears of
Arthur Digby Sellers. On "The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia"
(Bu Hanan Records), a song cycle subtitled "The Study of Nature in the Light
of Midday," this 14-piece Chapel Hill ensemble delivers. The very first song
is called "The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia (Hutchison Effect),"
and it rhymes "sobriquets" with "dying days." Obviously, Prayers and Tears
main man Perry Wright has a streak of theatrical verbosity. But he makes his
hyper-emotional points with elegance and style, tunefully enough that it never
gets overbearing. If all the Bright Eyes hype has left you cold, give Prayers
and Tears a listen tonight at Local 506. The show is free, and Nathan Asher
and the Infantry open."
~David Menconi, the News & Observer
_mar 2, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"With the release of the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers' sophomore album,
three nascent principles emerge in the Triangle music scene: Perry right is one of
its most impressive songwriting talents; producer Alex Lazara is one of its most
capable and creative visionaries; and the Bu Hanan records family- hitherto more of a
collection of friends making record in Chapel Hill homes- is suddenly an artistic
stable worthy of envy. How's that for an auspicious arrival?
With The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia, Wright and his Bu
Hanan partners effectively transform a set of songs for the acoustic guitar and
less-than shoestring budget into an ambitiously actualized concept album, probing
the collapse of love and the cascade of hearts in a society more about net-worthing
That's what makes them different. This one is about networking. In a folky, Omaha
fashion, Wright taps the resources of those around him, borrowing the gifts of no
less than 14 people- including his own sister, the label's publicist and Bellafea's
Heather McEntire. It's this artistic symbiosis and dialogue that have, in part,
readied Wright for this record.
There's something else at work in Wright's preparation, too- namely, intellect.
Cynthia offers a glimpse at the assorted and burrowed tunnels of a complicated
mind, an absorbent, watchful, keen mind capable of compiling theories, theologies,
dialogues, parables and paradoxes and funneling them into four-minute considerations
worthy of thousand-word elaboration. He writes through condensing. Wright's songs
are rife with the alluded ideas of philosophers, scientists, musicians, artists,
poets, emperors and iconoclasts. He spews them out in meticulous, careful, distended
metaphors of alien abductions, telescopes, lunar cycles and marriages arriving at
Somehow, Wright- under the tempered guidance of Lazara- avoids the typical pitfalls of
such analytical poetry with so much to say so emphatically: Whereas his 2002 debut
Psalterie exploded into overarching and sometimes overreaching exclamations
at the whim of every posed question and answer, Cynthia bides its time,
allowing Wright's keen observations to trickle down as beads of exacerbated sweat
over the skin of an electro-acoustic canvas painted more for conversation than
coercion through crescendo.
That's not to say that this is an even-keel, monotone affair: Instead, moments of
intense quiet preside long enough for the perfectly executed catharses to make their
point. That quiet mounts incredible tension released in intermittent, incendiary
ruptures. The opening exclamation of "The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia"
booms only after a creaking entree. A chilling midstream, three-song suite quiet
precedes the climactic, resounding, Pedro The Lion-like redemption, "Raise Up, You
During "Ontothanatological", the last of that rising action, it's almost possible to
picture Wright like Rodin's The Thinker, his hand tucked under his chin, every
muscle rippling under the catastrophic load mounted by the song's devastation query:
"If our ship went down and spilled us out, would you think of me and smile as we drown?"
Bold, brilliant and beautiful."
~Grayson Currin, the Independent Weekly
_mar 1, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"Art implies a certain level of pretentiousness. Ever since the genre of emo music
lost its marbles, figuratively speaking, and simply became an embodiment of the most
cartoonish aspects of indie-rock, this pretentiousness threshold has been tested with
increasing intensity. Coinciding with the late-nineties post-rock movement, a trend
in indie rock towards longer names and even longer album titles began. Once upon a
time, names like Godspeed You Black Emperor! were unthinkable for a generation raised
on "Weezer" and "Pearl Jam." But, alas, the trend has held fast, and so it is with
a great deal of awe to be unmoved by the bombast of a band name like "the Prayers &
Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers." Neither is it unsurprising that such a band would
choose as preposterous an album title as The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of
Cynthia. Yet, the inability of such unchecked arrogance to dissuade anyone from
appreciating the music is a good fortune indeed. It may have taken nearly a decade
to get over his aversion to such cynical chicanery on the part of a band or artist
that would purposely choose a name that won't fit on a show schedule, but maybe a name
is just a name after all. Although the Prayers & Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers is
essentially Perry Wright's project, regular contributions are made by Dale Baker and
a rotating cast of local musicians. Produced marvelously by Chris Colbert [sic], this
is a damn professional-sounding album. The lead-off song, "The Eventual Intimate of
So Much Nostalgia (Hutchison Effect)" begins softly and subtly with Wright mumbling
"Rehearse the sobriquets, a living love till dying days / The preparations all in
place for Polaroids that fade away in time" before the song kicks into high gear.
Lyrically, a lot of this is well-worn subject matter, but Wright's musings on love,
faith, and life are well-articulated and never detract from the songs. And it's the
songs, ultimately, that will win the listener over."
~Keith Mikkelson, Southeastern Performer
_feb 28, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers is frequently compared to Bright Eyes, which is
understandable. Besides the indie-folk bent and ostentatious titles, the primary affinity is
logistical-- both groups are actually solo singer/songwriters supported by a revolving cast of
musician friends. Succinctly put, Conor Oberst is to Bright Eyes as Perry White [sic] is to Prayers and Tears.
Like Pedro the Lion or Sufjan Stevens, White's [sic] music has a solemn, prayerful aura and an oblique religious bent.
On Mother of Love, he's surrounded himself with friends from bands like Sixpence None the Richer, the Polyphonic Spree,
and Ester Drang to flesh out his meticulously sculpted ephemera, a haunting synthesis of folk, rock, country, and electro.
"Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens" shuffles through various permutations of drifting acoustic
arpeggios and chimes, ballasted by an elementary chord progression and a vocal turn reminiscent of
Grandaddy's simplistic, easygoing sonority and Oberst's sustained metaphorical thrust sans melodrama or
self-pity. White's [sic] skillful arrangements are a large part of the record's appeal, and here the various
melodic snippets come together with a winsome string section for muted closing climax. By the time the
husky, intense inflections and folk-rock exclamations of "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep" roll around, it's
hard not to imagine that Wright is the sort of restrained, concise singer that Oberst might one day grow into.
Wright wrings a lot of mileage out of songs that move in incremental dynamic shifts between whispery bedroom
music and crashing electro-rock pile drivers-- the mordant hush and theatrical stomp of "The Eventual Intimate
of So Much Nostalgia (Hutchinson Effect)", the distended piano and dark dirge of "Above the Waves (Pluripotency)",
and the languid, demented choral inflections of "The Slow Decay of Some Radio Afterglows" all adhere to this
template. Others don't: "Rotation of Crops" and "Archaeopteryx" are laden with staticky, off-kilter beats and
ominous drones. "Ammunition for a Bolt-Action Heart" is driven by sharp pokes of bass and sleek rhythm guitars
punctured by drum machine salvos; the pronounced loud/soft dynamic and direct lyrics mark it as the album's
only unabashed rocker.
The record revolves around the theme of lost love, but White sets up a series of imbricate, evocative images
that submerge us in the feelings while sparing us the pathos. Every time I say I never want to hear another
concept record about somebody's failed marriage, one comes along that's lovely enough to make me to eat crow.
But I swear to God, this is the last one. Now will someone pass me a steak knife? This crow is fucking tough."
~Brian Howe, Pitchfork Media
_feb 25, 2005 // David Karsten Daniels - Angles Review
"Sometimes it's not totally apparent to fans of music how much artists pour their
hearts into their recordings. Oftentimes, a listener will dismiss with a simple
press of a SCAN button what took months of introspection, hand-wringing, pacing,
and sweat. Why does this happen? Somehow, the agony of the pouring out of one's
soul into the art simply does not come across in a few minutes of sounds emanating
from one's speakers. However, once in a while, the listener stumbles across a
recording that vividly captures the emotion an artist puts into a recording. With
its heartbreaking narrative, lyrical catharsis, manic-depressive shifts in musical
mood, and wrenchingly emotional vocal performances, Angles by North Carolinian
songwriter David Karsten Daniels is one of those CD's. Sounding something like
a man perilously close to losing his mind, David Karsten Daniels sings about
the agony and bewilderment that comes as one slowly realizes that they've lost
the love of their life. Angles is a graphic encounter of heartache and grief that
will draw the listener in and make them weep along with Daniels.
Sonically, Angles sounds something like a cross between Pedro The Lion, Radiohead
and The Castanets, only rawer, more animated. The music can be referenced vaguely
as singer/songwriter, as a number of Daniels' songs utilize his plaintive voice
and thoughtful guitar strumming. However, infused throughout the whole of Angles
are references to Americana, folk, pop, ambient, and Daniels somehow even adds a
hint of electronica on a couple of songs. "Goodbye" immediately introduces the
listener to the tragic narrative of Angles (in which a couple in love is forced to
separate due to diverging life paths). Capturing perfectly the emotions running
through the head of the couple as they separate, Daniels sings, "You tried to put
us at ease, gave instructions and kissed me to numb the hurt…‘see you later' you
corrected, tried to put it in perspective, just to hide what it was...goodbye".
Sung over a mournful electronic beat, minimalist keyboards, and building to a
cathartic wall of emotion in which Daniels insanely screams in the background of
the music, "Goodbye" is masterful and powerful. The quick, 1 minute, "Note To Self"
follows, sounding almost like a stripped-down Half-Handed Cloud with it's quirky
fun melody, clean vocals, and variety of sounds and instruments. "I'll Just Play
Guitar" is mostly just that…Daniels delicately strumming an acoustic guitar while
lamenting about his situation, while very subtle key sounds add depth to the sound.
Another short track, "Holding Pattern" is just under 2 minutes worth of ambient
sounds that are soothing. "Marriage Proposal" is one of the more fully developed
songs, yet starts out very stripped down and quietly. The guitar work and lazy
drums give this song a southern dark-folk feel, while retaining its musical
freshness with Daniels' vocal harmonies. The anguish of this song is that Daniels
is writing a song of total devotion to a lady (even naming her by her first name)
that cannot return his love. "Scribble Your Name Down in the Dark" beings with eerie
samples of female voices, then turns on its head to become an under-produced rock
jam (sounding like a male-sung b-side off of PJ Harvey's Uh Huh Her). The song just
gets going with a dirty guitar lead when it abruptly ends, giving way to "How Turn
to Stone", a slow folk song that builds to a cacophony of out of tune acoustic guitars
and busy drums. "To Tire" is another masterful track, as Daniels sings after a
minute or so of odd samples "I'm tired of you wrecking of my life". The music is
dissonantly beautiful, as strange sounds underlie Daniels' frustrated vocals. "Alcohol"
is a classic rock/folk jam, featuring soulful layered vocals, electric guitars, a
languid and patient pace that ebbs and flows along with the emotions of the song, and
ends in a haze of guitar feedback. "Siamese Hearts" is a simple song, combining folk
elements with sugary pop hooks, in which Daniels longs to be reunited with his long
lost love. Angles ends with the curious "Give Up…And You Are Changed", in which he
finally resigns his love and casts himself to an uncertain future. Starting as an
uncomplicated folk song, "Give Up…And You Are Changed" slowly builds to, of all
things, an electronic-beat driven refrain of "you are changed" sung in harmonies
with female vocals that reminds me of the kind of music one would hear from Sufjan
Stevens (minus the drumbeats). Finally, some time after "Give Up…And You Are Changed"
ends, an untitled extra track featuring Daniels, his acoustic guitar, and field
recording background sounds comes on. On it, Daniels transparently sings of the
fact that his loss of love is still prevalent on his mind and heart, but that the
pain eventually fades away. It's a contemplative and touching end to this see-through
account of heart break.
Despite what one may think of the eccentricities found in the music of Angles, no
one can question that Daniels empties his heart and bears his soul on this release.
And, that he does so in such a compelling music style, with strong songs, a grand
sense of experimentalism, and is still able to perfectly convey the sense of chaos
and dread that surrounds grief is noteworthy. In fact, due to the explicit portrayal
of strong emotions found on Angles, the CD can be a hard listen at times, as the
listener is swept up in the pain that Daniels projects. But ultimately, Angles
concludes on a positive note, and though the singer (and listener) move on feeling a
little scarred, there is a conveying of hope for the future. For this, Angles is a very
worthy listen for the broken-hearted, grief-stricken, or adventurous music listener
looking for something a little different challenging in their music collection."
~Brent Diaz, Somewhere Cold
_feb 21, 2005 // prayers & tears - Interview
"An unheralded band by the name of The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers has just released an epic indie-rock masterpiece, entitled "The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia" We at www.somewherecold.com were so intrigued by this band's amazing mix of musical creativity and lyrical depth, we tracked down band leader Perry Wright to ask him a few questions. Wright delivered masterfully, and brought in fellow contributors Alex Lazara and Dale Baker (former drummer for Sixpence None The Richer) to help him answer our questions. Their thoughtful responses are below:
Perry Wright (PW)
Alex Lazara (AL)
Dale Baker (DB)
How did you get your start in music (learn to play music and sing, and how did you learn to write songs?)
PW: I didn't have a start in music any more than I had a start in walking, I guess. I grew up in a family in which both parents had college degrees in music, so it was as expected as learning to pee standing up it--took a little effort, but felt essentially natural. I was forced to sing in the choir and take lessons in piano and violin until I was old enough to construct economic arguments against the money that was obviously being wasted on my fruitless tutoring. I was always terrible at everything.
The summer before college, I found my dad's old guitar in the closet and decided it would be fun to learn some songs, so I took it to school with me. When I arrived, it turned out that everyone I met in school had an old guitar with them that they had no idea how to play either, so we learned together. I was pretty awful through college, but did get my first taste of the open mic one night my senior year when I decided to do a clever cover of a song from a Broadway musical.
I wrote songs from the beginning (most of them have been thankfully lost by some great justice of history) with awful titles and overwrought concepts. I remember one terrible song in particular called Harlow's Monkeys about the social scientist Harry Harlow. Embarrassing stuff. Anyway, the ideas didn't really change much from the beginning, but the songwriting did get better, I think, probably as a function of playing in front of people more and seeking to make a connection with the listeners in that live setting. I don't know; it made me more aware of the song as a form of contact or something.
What influences do you have, musically, lyrically, etc?
PW: I guess I would draw a distinction between the songs themselves and the musical settings of the songs. The song structures tend to follow a kind of form that I don't think is particularly influenced by anyone I can think of. They often have no chorus or only a simple tag, like maybe Dylan or folk in general, with an explosive bridge like a musical or classical music might have. I grew up on sort of post-Romantic classical stuff like Ralph Vaughn Williams or Samuel Barber. I didn't really listen to Revolver until I was in college. Wait, was Vaughn Williams post-Romantic? Anyway, I remember every Saturday morning waking up to something like Holst's Hymn of Jesus--not that my dad thought it was the finest music, but rather more of a gateway drug to get us into music in general, which I guess worked.
The settings on the other hand, do tend to come from the music that I personally enjoy. I like the way John Vanderslice breaks sound and forces very organic sounds together with more synthetic noises, so Alex and I tend to experiment in that direction. I like the way that Counting Crows (indie cred slipping) make albums with an extremely narrative feel to them--songs that are free to be quiet and introspective followed by loud or pop or whatever--all for the sake of the album's movement. I am maybe most influenced by Jethro Tull's Aqualung and Thick as a Brick (indie cred gone) more than any other two albums recorded, both lyrically and musically.
Tell us about the label you are involved with, Bu Hanan Records. How did you get involved with them?
PW: Bu Hanan Records is a collective of musicians who all create music together in a house in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was started by the members of an incredible band called go*machine (who are currently taking a hiatus) who wanted to create something larger than the sum of its parts, I think. We play in each others' projects and give feedback during many phases of the creative process. Every artist on the label is making very excellent music, which is really exciting to be a part of. I think the origins go back to David Daniels wanting to make a series of campfire recordings with a room full of people doing sing-alongs. That idea eventually sort of got out of hand and here we are.
AL: Bu Hanan was originally a joke back in the go*machine days--we had moved into this ratty old house in Durham, NC on Buchanan street, but the ‘C' had fallen off of the house, so the day I moved in, the first thing I said when David (Daniels) and I pulled up to the house was "Bu Hanan". When it came time to put out the go*machine album, we just put it on there to make ourselves laugh. Three months later when Psalterie was released, we thought "Hey, why not?" It just sort of stuck.
Perry was the roommate of a college friend of the guys in go*machine; they were attending Duke's divinity school together. When we moved out here, we met Perry. I had made a habit of attending an open mic in Chapel Hill that Perry also went to, and was taken with his songs. He sent me home with a CD of four track and a few computer recordings he'd done the following Christmas, and I felt like he should be performing more than just at open mic night. David agreed, so we got a few musicians together once Perry had finished his masters degree and I was unemployed for a week, and we recorded, mixed, mastered and put together artwork for Psalterie start to finish in those seven days. Prayers and Tears played their first show that Saturday.
DB: I originally met Perry through my wife, who was attending Duke's Divinity School at the same time Perry was. So when it came time to start recording and playing shows, naturally Perry asked if I could take part. So through Perry I was introduced to the go*machine guys: Alex, David and Daniel. I've enjoyed being a part of their little collective of sorts. And it's always fun to record. I've been able to learn from Alex and Perry by peering over their shoulders, so to speak, and that's been helpful as I start to set up my own home recording setup.
Describe for us your songwriting process.
PW: Almost always (in five easy-to-follow steps! I make songwriting fun!) : 1) Some idea. 2) Title first. 3) A single phrase that gets stuck in my head. 4) Music and lyrics written together in my bedroom very late at night. 5) Arrangement and collaboration after I am comfortable with the basic form of the song enough to play it for someone, usually Alex.
I think one of the main features of the songs is that they tend to be reducible to acoustic guitar and vocals. Generally speaking, I don't write collaboratively, so I have to be able to recreate them using only my guitar and voice. Of course there are a couple of exceptions, which have each been a joy for the most part.
What was it like to record "The Mother of Love."? How were you able to coordinate so many musicians and yet still retain your original musical vision?
PW: My musical vision was to let people influence the basic guitar-and-vocal songs in interesting ways. So, really, the vision included having many musicians from the beginning. Convenient, I know. That is kind of what the idea of Prayers and Tears has always been--allowing the musical settings to shift according to the contributors. The disagreements and retakes are all built into the structure of the thing, which I am generally happy about.
The recording process was "long-but-ultimately-rewarding" maybe? The album is most certainly the result of an "educational" year, in which we all learned a great deal about the technical side of things. When I was recording on my fourtrack a couple years ago, I didn't even know what compression, for example, was. Now I still don't, but Alex does, and it makes a difference.
AL: It took too long, honestly. I would really love the luxury of just going into the studio and knocking things out, like we did with Psalterie, but we all have bills to pay. We did get a really good working pace in August, but things were pretty sparse working in June and July, and that was sometimes frustrating. Perry on the whole is very easy for me to work with. That's not to say we don't have our fair share of disagreements, but in the tracks we'd recorded in between doing Psalterie and Mother of Love, I feel like we've found a good middle-ground for over and under produced stuff. I feel like Perry trusts that I know what he's going for, and sometimes I even manage to pleasantly surprise him with something he didn't anticipate sounding good. The Bu Hanan studio was still in its infancy when we recorded the bulk of Mother of Love--no preamps, and we were still doing a lot of things after we'd taken the sound in, so a lot of it is pretty heavily processed. When you are fighting your equipment to get what you want, it's never a good recording situation. We just worked with things until we had a sound we found was workable and exciting using what we had.
Prayers and Tears is a really fun project because it's not a traditional ‘band'--it's all these different people who can bring something together to deliver the songs Perry puts out. Perry's voice and style keeps things consistent, and the rest of us just pitch in where we can to make the songs come off well in a recorded format.
DB: I would come over to the Bu Hanan recording complex and spend a few hours laying down some drum stuff… I think on all the songs I played on, I just brought my own snare and my own kick drum and cymbals. No toms were used on the tracks I played on, at least I'm pretty sure about that. So it was pretty stripped down compared to other things I've done. Minimal mic'ing as well. Since I was there usually close to the beginning of a track taking shape, it was always fun to hear the changes and directions that the song eventually took from what I originally heard. One of my favorite tracks was recording the brush stuff with Perry…he played and sang at the same time that I was laying down my drum track…we were in the same room…so that was fun. Normally, it's just me in my little headphone isolated world, listening and holding on for dear life to the click. So recording "live" (no click) with Perry in the same room and all was pretty relaxed.
What was it like to work with Dale Baker, James McAlister, and Chris Colbert? How did you get these guys to work on your project with you?
PW: Dale and I have been friends for a long time now and he has played with me essentially from the beginning. We met the Ester Drang guys independently, but they knew Dale so we all hung out when they came through town. One night they stayed at my place and Chris Colbert "borrowed" my very personalized copy of Fear and Trembling, with all of its handwritten notes, and never gave it back. When we were putting the album together, we recorded James one weekend when they were coming through town on tour and then called Chris in when the mixing was done for his expertise in mastering. Really, he owed me one for that book. Breaks my heart to this day, honestly. He happened to be available to do it while the Walkmen were off-tour, so it was really just a nice arrangement.
AL: Everyone was so easy to work with. Both Dale and James are really talented, sensitive drummers who can do a lot with relatively little instruction on my part. James recorded the drum parts for Cannot Eat Better not Sleep and Eventual Intimate long before the songs themselves were even finished. Dale is always full of great arrangement ideas, and manages to play really solid parts that never get in the way with other things when I'm overdubbing things later. I like them both because they are powerfully evocative drummers without having to play really busy parts.
James and the other guys from Ester Drang had come on tour through Chapel Hill before, and my old band opened for them. It was summer in Chapel Hill (which is a college town through and through), and being the underappreciated act they are, there were not a lot of folks in the house. Afterward, we all went down to the Cosmic Cantina to get some burritos. Chris Colbert was on tour with the Drang as a sound man, and we all just kind of hit it off and stayed up late talking at Perry's house.
DB: "You know Dale has some deep-seated issues that we're all not sure about. But for the most part he keeps those to himself. Still you can see that those things--those demons, if you will--inform and give his work an immediacy and earnestness that is undeniable. Perhaps it's his introspective melancholy and thoughtfulness that makes him so good at getting into a song and playing a drum part that serves and supports rather than overwhelms and draws attention to itself."
What was the message you were trying to convey on "The Mother of Love...", and are you pleased with how the message came out?
PW: I don't think there is a single message as much as a story, but I do intend for listeners to consider how we often prefer possibilities over actuality and how sad that should make us. The last song tries to sort of summarize the album by reflecting on an ended affair in which the participants realize that they thought they were seeking love or comfort or whatever but were really just victims of a fantasy that they were sold. I won't know how successfully this comes across until more people get to hear it and send me email, but I am happy with the album.
I notice on "The Mother of Love." that you make some references to faith/Biblical imagery. Would you consider yourself religious or a person of faith? How does your faith or worldview influence your art?
PW: I tend to see the world in theological terms (giftedness, thankfulness, grace) and I am religious. The thing I don't know is whether I see the world in these ways because I am religious or have faith because I see the world in these ways. My relationship with Christianity and my life of faith are both long and tenuous, but essential to who I am.
The first album was entirely based on psalms, so this album feels a lot less religious. Even so, the opening track references marriage as two people becoming one flesh and ends with a line from a Charles Wesley hymn, Rotation of Crops indirectly suggests the gospel of John, Above the Waves is entirely based on the opening chapters of the bible as it deals with the metaphor of genetic engineering, the second verse of Slow Decay references one of my favorite chapters from the bible (Isaiah 44)--and those are off the top of my head--so I guess it still has its share of allusions if you're keeping score.
Are you going to be playing live shows in support of this release? How are you planning to play these songs and their complex arrangements in a live setting?
PW: Live shows for me have never been about reproducing arrangements or recordings. I have always felt like the live setting of any given song should be whatever will create the greatest possibility of connecting with the listeners. Sometimes that means doing the total opposite from the style in which a song was recorded. With the rotating group of live musicians, I am fortunate to have the freedom to arrange songs in any number of appropriate settings for particular shows or audiences.
AL: Likely sometime in April. We were hoping to do a set of shows with our friends The Strugglers (www.thestrugglers.org ), but he's been real busy.
I perform on a laptop setup that is pretty versatile. I get all the Rhodes, mellotron, synthesizer and organ sounds out if it that I need out of it with only having to tote two small keyboards on the road. A lot of the string parts are substituted for me playing mellotron strings. Other songs just don't go into the live setup. Archaeopteryx and Above the Waves are songs that function fine in their place on the recording, but have yet to have a successful trial in rehearsal. I feel like the live show and the record are two totally different, but equally valid ways to experience Perry's songwriting, but they don't have to have and don't need to include the same songs.
What is in the future for you and your music (and the musical collective as a whole?)
PW: Well, for Prayers and Tears, I just wrote a song for an art magazine in NYC called Esopus (www.esopusmag.com) and we spent a few days recently recording it, with my friend (and your fellow Canadian) John Samson from the Weakerthans singing harmony vocals on it, as well as a host of our friends in Chapel Hill providing different facets of the arrangement. It came off pretty well, I think.
AL: We've got the Esopus thing coming out in April, and I'm currently working on producing an album for one of the other bands on the label, The Physics of Meaning (www.thephysicsofmeaning.com )--that's due out this August. John from Kapow!Music (www.kapowmusic.net) is planning on doing an EP for release by summertime, and David (www.davidkarstendaniels.com ) is always recording new stuff--though we're not sure if it's going to be an album or not yet. We're also working on a compilation that will feature Bu Hanan's artists as well as a few other bands, but it's still pretty early in its conception. So far the concept is to take a well-known story with seven or eight characters and let each band "play" a character in the story in two songs.
Any other comments?
PW: Thanks, Brent. We're really excited to see this album come out and hope that listeners connect with it. Visit the label to check out the other artists that are making great music (www.buhananrecords.com) and if you listen to the album, send me an email with your thoughts (email@example.com).
DB: shameless plug: www.dalebakerdrummer.com Have me play on YOUR next recording! Oh, and get Alex and Perry to produce it!"
~Brent Diaz, Somewhere Cold
_feb 14, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"The beauty of this album does not come in the form of striking originality or innovation; the beauty of this album is it's ability to substitute for a hot cup of tea and a blanket in front of the fire. The production is so intimate and the music so warming, it's like the prayers and tears of arthur digby sellers was created by your lover just to make you feel better on a bad day.
In fact, maybe it is the familiarity of this music that makes it so comforting. Some of the piano-and-vocal parts of "Above the Waves (Pluripotency)" remind me of the album that made Fiona Apple famous. "Raise Up, You Celestial Choirs" has elements of church hymns to it. And the beginning lyrics of "Concerning Lessons Learned From the Aliens" remind me a lot of Radiohead's "Subterranean Homesick Alien."
But this album could be defined as much by what it is as what it is not.
The lyrics are how I like 'em: a little disjointed but coherent and occasionally metaphoric. "It's smoking and violent./ My temple is hollow and red./...And god knows we all try/ But radios still die," Perry Wright sings in "The Slow Decay of Some Radio Afterglows." You know he's probably not really talking about radios, but you're left to decide the true meaning for yourself.
The music is how I like it too, subtle without being sleepy; it combines unexpected effects and instruments with very tight musical compositions. "The Sad Lives of the Hollywood Lovers" is an excellent example of this. Using violin, acoustic guitar, quiet female back-up vocals, and multiple other string instruments I can't name, it weaves a sad picture to match the lyrics and then crescendos beautifully and skillfully, leaving you as spent and empty as the lovers Wright has sung about.
Perry Wright's gentle singing is emotional, but it makes you sympathize with him, rather than want to bludgeon him with the nearest heavy object to put him out of his misery. And though his lyrics could go over the edge of ridiculousness if he pushed too hard, you instead almost believe him when he sings things like, "My bones are hollow/ And I have wings behind my shoulders." Since getting your audience to believe your earnestness seems to be one of the hardest parts of singing, which can make or break the whole band, I'd say Wright's got the talent to carry them.
So while this album won't blow your mind - while it couldn't be sold as new and improved - it's built on a formula that didn't really need fixing, that's as personal and nostalgic as that blanket you've had since you were a child, and it will continue to keep you company for as long as you need it."
~Eden Hemming Rose, Foxy Digitalis
_feb 14, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"It's only February, but I'll be bold and say that this will likely be a heavy contender for top 10 albums of
2005. The Prayers & Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers is obviously a long-winded moniker for singer/songwriter Perry
Wright. And as if the album title, The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia isn't long enough, it even has
a subtitle (The Study of Nature in the Light of Midday). For such a lengthy band name and album title, I was hoping
that the music was substantially epic. Indeed it is. Wright surrounded himself with the likes of Dale Baker
(Sixpence None the Richer) and James Mcalister (Ester Drang) among others, to record an epic blend of homemade
neo-folk indie-pop. The gentle lo-fi album introduction, "The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia (Hutchison
Effect)", culminates into a weird hybrid of Control-era Pedro the Lion and Kid A-era Radiohead. The drums are
intensely pounding, and the guitars contain a certain "Housewife Lovesong" (SF59) edge. The mood is subdued on the
narrative "Concerning Lessons Learned From The Aliens", a song blaringly inspired from Radiohead's "Subterranean
Homesick Alien". Wright's lyrics aren't concise enough for this song, but the brilliant use of drum loops and
sweeping strings make it easy to overlook. The song is un-refusing. "Rotation of Crops" showcases even more
elaborate strings. The dynamics are awe-inspiring. Wright is composing songs reminiscent of Sufjan Steven's most
complex work, only in a different context. The industrial loop in "Archaeopteryx" plays like a melancholy dirge,
then the keyboard fills emphasize the hushed melody. Wright is the perfect vocalist for these songs, often morphing
his voice without effort. He's a strange blend of Bazan/Yorke/Wiederspahn (Dear Ephesus), and his unique diversity
adds to the beauty of this epic recording. The romping pace of "Ammunition For a Bolt Action Heart" develops into
an insane frenzy. The music borders on math-rock and ambience for a brief moment before abruptly stopping.
"Above the Waves (Pluripotency)" is slowed down like an Energizer bunny that ran out of juice, yet the music
broods with minimal ethereal energy. Wright charts the clichéd waters of emo with "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep",
borrowing equal amounts Dashboard Confessional and Bright Eyes, and somehow still walks away with all his indie
cred. The song is brilliant and flawless. Case closed. "The Slow Decay of Some Radio Afterglows" bares stark
similarities to Iron & Wine musically, and the vocals have an intimate shakiness and depth to them, like a lost son
of David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower/Wovenhand). "Disposable Drummers In Disposable Bands" is a great title that
has nothing to do with its lyrics, unless I'm missing a band in-joke. Regardless, this song blends alt-country a la
Summer Hymns with pop folk of It's Hard To Find A Friend. The falsetto laden "Ontothanatological" sounds like a
transition piece for the final two songs that follow. The anthemic "Raise Up You Celestial Choirs" is the artistic
peak of The Mother of Love. Everything I love about this album is wrapped up in this one song. It is absolutely
perfect, gorgeous and achingly compelling. And then there's the final track.
"The Sad Lives of the Hollywood Lovers" either purposefully or coincidentally takes its title from Starflyer 59
history. This was the title originally given to The Fashion Focus before it was released. The song is haunting
and organic in the vein of a polyester-suited and symphonic VOL. There is so much to say about this band.
Perry Wright has created a monster of an album, lush with strings, swirling guitars, electronic bleeps,
intimate acoustics and passionate vocals. Even the artwork is beautiful. All in all, this album is paralyzing.
For fans of Pedro the Lion, Radiohead, Starflyer 59, Wovenhand, Ester Drang, Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros,
Castanets. Mixed by Chris Cobert [sic]."
~GTJ, the Black and White Magazine
_feb 10, 2005 // prayers & tears - the Mother of Love.. Review
"As a music lover, I usually have my ear to the ground in the music world, hearing about new artists and new CD's well before they hit the stores. And, after years of listening to indie music, I generally have a decent idea of who is making music and how good their music is. So, when a young "unknown" artist like Perry Wright releases a CD of artistic integrity, grace, depth and creativity, I can't help but feel a little duped. WHO IS THIS GUY? And how in the world did he just release, seemingly out of nowhere, a CD in The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia that any musical veteran would be proud to slap their name on?
Well, it turns out that The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia has experienced players that give it the kind of credibility and poise that the CD just reeks with. Former Sixpence None the Richer drummer Dale Baker (one of the under-rated drummers in music today, actually) lends his talents to the project, while James McAlister of Ester Drang also plays on the CD. Along with a host of other assorted musicians, The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia also impressively features the mastering job of studio wizard Chris Colbert. Together, this crowd of musicians call themselves The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, but in the end, it is the musical vision of Wright that shines on this release. Even with the impressive production and complex instrumentation of The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia, Wright's moody songs and plaintive voice take centre stage, and it is clear that this project is fuelled by this young NC man's creative energy.
The sound of the music can be lazily described as the rock-apocalyptic vibe of Ok Computer-era Radiohead supporting songs written in a similar style as David Bazan of Pedro the Lion (while not being limited to these influences). The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia opens with the a solitary acoustic guitar and the fractured, brooding vocals of Wright during the opening strains of "The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia (Hutchison Effect)", before exploding into a cathartic rock song. Crisp drumming and distorted guitars blaze through the song, only to let up for a few moments to allow a cheeky drum machine and elegant strings to bubble up to the surface of the song. All the while, Wright ably handles the vocals, never over-singing or over-straining his Zach Gresham-like voice. "Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens" feature a simple drum machine beat, strummed acoustic guitars, strings, and keyboard sounds that flow over Wright's terse songwriting. The song is a perfect example of the kind of poise that is rarely heard on a CD so early in an artist's career. "Rotation of Crops" follows, with its heart-wrenching lyrics "Roughly as big as my fist, it would break to see you again. Aren't we tired of this?" and simple musical elements of picked acoustic guitars, simple beat, and keyboard and string accents. The song builds methodically to a volcanic climax featuring crunchy guitars and distorted vocals. The oddly titled "Archaeopteryx" instantly lays down an atmosphere of desolation with its random down-tempo electronic beats and bassline, odd keyboard arrangements, and weary vocals. Sounding almost like a Kid A or Vespertine outtake, the song oozes with a dark experimental approach that only gives weight to the poignant lyrics. The danceable "Ammunition for a Bolt Action Heart" follows, with its almost disco beat, prominent strings, catchy melody, skilled guitar work and subtle electronic samples. Yet, despite the campy groove, the song conveys a world-weariness through the forlorn melody and seething vocals from Wright. On "Above the Waves (Pluripotency)", the band returns to a slower take on glitchy electronic music, this time supported by gentle piano strains. The song quivers with tension, releasing for a few brief moments of eerie sounds, only to return to the melancholy mood of the song's earlier moments. Wright again impresses on what starts out as a simple folk but catchy song, "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep". The song gently flows with acoustic guitars, gorgeous drones, and subtle piano lines, before crashing through with a full rock ensemble for the song's climax. "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep" then slowly fades as the drones make a glorious reappearance for 30 seconds until the song fades away. The epic "The Slow Decay of Some Radio Afterglows" employs 7 minutes of a solitary acoustic guitar, moping lead and background vocals, and a plodding drum beat at the song's core moments. Gentle brushed percussion and warm-sounding sliding electric guitars cradle "Disposable Drummers in Disposable Bands", a lament seemingly about lost life and vision. The equally gentle yet ghostly folk song "Ontothanatological" follows, giving away to the radio-ready "Raise Up You Celestial Choirs". On this well-written straight forward rock song, Wright exhorts the listener: "Raise up, you disconsolate. You're always giving up your faulty faith", as the song builds to the glorious chorus: "You will be lifted up into the glorious heights, into a gracious night…". The combination of the accessible melody and excellent lyrics renders this song as one of the best songs about faith I've heard in quite some time. The song is a wonderful expression of hope, and the sequencing of the songs on The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia builds perfectly to this moment of triumph. Finally, Wright shows his love for Starflyer 59 by entitling his denouement "The Sad Lives of Hollywood Lovers" (a title that Starflyer 59 originally had selected for the CD they eventually titled The Fashion Focus). The song sounds nothing like a Starflyer 59 track, though, as strummed acoustic guitars, exquisite strings, and lush keyboard sounds stream around Wright's distinct voice. A heavily distorted drum beat and dramatic string arrangement marks the song's emotional highpoint, and the song gracefully comes to an end.
The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers have created a tour de force of depth…and after listening to The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia repeatedly, I cannot help but herald Wright as a true phenom. Wright's carefully chosen and moving lyrics are wrapped in first-rate song melodies which in turn are spared no expense with the creative kind of production techniques rarely heard on independent releases. After word gets out about The Mother of Love Emulates The Shapes of Cynthia, people will no longer be asking who in the world Perry Wright and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers are…the CD is that convincing, and THAT good, Highly recommended."
~Brent Diaz, Somewhere Cold
_jan 19, 2005 // prayers & tears / Kapow! Music preview
"Sure, the second WKNC 88.1 Double Barrel Benefit was about celebrating a local station in the midst of a long-awaited resurgence and helping it pay the bills.
But, ultimately, Double Barrel II should stand as a representation of the hard-working, well-worth-the-cover upstarts hoping to make it in the Triangle. Whereas last year's slate worked with predominately Raleigh bands who had already proven themselves in these parts (Shadow of a Great Name, The Dynamite Brothers and Proof) and bands well on their way to such status (STRANGE and Schooner), General Manager Jamie Proctor stretched the boundaries of this benefit to every cranny of the local scene in search of fresh talent.
With only a handful of shows under its belt, TV Knife proved a crowd favorite, successfully melding Raleigh's rock 'n' roll history and current art aspirations with a Flaming Lips pastiche somewhere between Telepathic Surgery and Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. The Birds of Avalon (El Boa), who debuted only four months ago, are more concerned with shaping complex, inspired Zep/T. Rex/prog dedications to those antecedents than just recreating forebears' magic. In 40 minutes, El Boa--a five-piece culled from local favorites like The Cherry Valence and The Weather--turned out their best set yet. And American Aquarium--the roots rock quartet that stands as the sole happening thing in terms of N.C. State's mainstream circle, as they regularly draw several hundred to The Brewery--began the second night, despite the fact that, for them, downtown remains uncharted.
Bu Hanan Records, the Chapel Hill label with warranted ambition matched only by the talent of a roster that includes Perry Wright's The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, represented one-fifth of each night, with the newly up-from-Texas Kapow! Music opening Friday and Prayers and Tears playing material from a new album (due in March) on Saturday. This collective has a chance to make a national splash, as long as they can keep their Chapel Hill residential neighbors at bay. Even the imports--including Wilmington's must-see The Fashion Brigade and Athens' ferocious fuzzy math foursome We Vs. The Shark--proved better than billed. These bands seem to be buzzing with energy, and, combined with that of our own newcomers, could help make regional touring and show exchanges in the Southeast especially meaningful in years to come.
The second installment of the Double Barrel did hold a bit of personal disappointment, though. As it turns out, All-Astronauts, the half-fem, half-men psych quartet hailing from Winston-Salem, isn't quite as exciting as I had once thought. The band certainly has its grating punk blister down to a lock-and-key tightness, and the brazen caterwaul of Kat Lamp (dressed like the heroine of a '60s fairy tale written by Dr. Timothy Leary) is a riot of histrionics and defiance. But comparisons to noise savants and punk renegades alike fail on several critical criteria: Aside from Lamp's raucous bandleading, the band lacks any cohesive trace of abrasion to suit that voice, coming across as a mismatched hodgepodge of influences trying much too hard in too many different directions."
~Grayson Currin, the Independent Weekly
_jan 19, 2005 // David Karsten Daniels / Kapow! Music preview
"The Bu Hanan Records cooperative continues to grow, having welcomed fellow Texas
expatriate John Ribo's Kapow! Music into their fold this summer. Like labelmate David
Karsten Daniels, Kapow! Music plays songwriter pop that recalls the lo-fi rock of
Sparklehorse and the haunted intimacy of Varnaline. Go Machine member David Karsten
Daniels' solo work favors more minimalist electronic textures on his acoustic guitar
compositions, and dips deeper into ambient pop experimentalism."
~Chris Parker, the Independent Weekly
_jan 12, 2005 // prayers & tears / Kapow! Music preview
"If--thanks to company Christmas parties for the past month--you haven't been able to catch any of the new area acts you either keep reading or hearing about, WKNC 88.1 has done the work for you.
During two smoky, sweaty and smiling nights downtown at Kings, just show up and listen as nine of the state's best new bands (and the very fine We VS The Shark, up from Athens) do the rock thing in the second annual WKNC Double Barrel Benefit. Night One opens with the mellow stylings of Kapow! Music, followed by the Big Star-meets-Flaming Lips analog psychedelic style of TV Knife. The night ends with the a powerful rock 'n' roll three-peat: Athens' We VS The Shark, followed by the classic-fired concoction El Boa (featuring members of The Cherry Valence, STRANGE, The Weather and The Dynamite Brothers) and Winston-Salem's guitar wielding psych-space cadets, All Astronauts.
And if you can still hold your head up after the fun of Night One, Barrel Night Two offers N.C. State campus favorites American Aquarium in the first slot. The heavy math-ers of Monsonia will be on deck, followed by the sounds-like-Omaha firepower of The Prayers & Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. Charlotte's Kink-speakin' The Talk will hit the stage sometime after midnight, with Wilmington's angular '80s subscribers, The Fashion Brigade, closing the doors. Now that school is back in, it's time to get a real education."
~Grayson Currin, the Independent Weekly
next year: 2006
previous year: 2004