Avey Tare

1996. That was the year we bought the 8 track. A Tascam 48 half inch tape reel to reel with two dbx noise reducers and a fat grey remote made of thick plastic and metal. That’s how I learned to record with Brian Weitz. The machine, he, and I, taking smoke breaks outside of my bedroom. Tape heads soaked in drying alcohol. It all becomes one memory; recording, hanging out, driving around. The machine speaks a language and we observed and learned to speak it pretty well. There were many lawns to speak about. We’d have long conversations about the stretches of grass and daffodils. Other machines in the future watching every move. Back then there were large clusters of woods cut in sectors by black roads. There were two ways to leave the driveway. A person could stand at one of the entrances and call out to the other. She sees and beckons and the other runs in the snow along a neat row of trees to the other side. There are many entrances to music, this is just one.

Speakers of a car spit flurries of warm road dust. The scene is a half melted snowy canyon. Fences of large farms stacked in sevens are spaced seven lengths apart. Seven shadows laid across cold rock and grass. Someone is asleep in the back seat. Sun lighting them up. Black lines of fences on bright clay based vistas. We stopped every now and then gazing at impressive canyon crevice drop off. Eyes seeing reds and sun-dyed pinks and orange in clouds above other canyon pinnacles. Snow patches in the hills till you can’t see with eyes. The car moves forward farther than the eyes can see. Life is being left even faster. There are cows everywhere, like Lancaster. Cows way out in the distance far from the road. Patches of black and white blur on white carpet, coloring or blotting dreams formed under mossy roofs and spinning out chimneys across the earth. There are cows closer to the roads and in the cold streams. Brown crowds under the trees walking slow in the scene. We follow or leave them behind. America blinks and cows appear. They stand stunned. Disappearing little black eyes in the mirror. Brown coats and horns. It’s an intimate scene in the car. You’re behind the wheel. The Driver and the Navigator and the Music. The music moves out in the way it did years ago. Like when we sat on porches and at fires and on hilltops and climbed the pyramids. Way before I was born. A singular voice singing out at something way out there. Could have been the stars, could have been other people. Unnameable things. A voice made of many. The music is speaking about the movement of things and about you moving with them. The Driver bobs their head. The Navigator leans in to get deeper into the sounds of things. The sounds of spaces.

Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings are telling a story of a dusty time on the road while waiting for the studio engineer in the mechanical room to say ‘go’. Buddy had been dead for years but it feels like it’s 1951, and a tape machine is about to snap forward into motion like a car underneath the rock church dripping clay caps (much slower than you can think). It’s capsizing us into a jangle of light guitar strum and hum of sweet tunings. Echoes on vocals sing of a room filled with music. A robot army looms on the other side of the mountains, well out of range of Buddy and Waylon’s farmhouse holler. Screaming at the wheel and crank. The voices mingle with the elements. The robots bounce off the neon blue vapor of the song’s vibrations. Blue ice surfers riding on perpetual ice foam. A frozen mist appears outside and all the lights have a blurry glow in the haze. A car playing the Harden Trio drives by. The Driver wonders if it’s all a hallucination.

In here you'll find only the dreams that the music once sang of. It sings back through time and sings forward at us. To ease us in the crowded spaces. I’m on a stage singing out to a crowd of sweating faces. I don't want to forget the pure spaces. Endless spaces. You leave them as soon as you enter. Drifting along in a space of beings. Bouncing on other lively things. The feelings. The things that never leave us. A full shiny pot empties spilling water into a snow shaped well. Water had to find its way into the ground again. To be walked on by horses. To be dug up by someone working for a family in the insurance business. To find a home. To have the means to do so. To leave it or see it fall. To remember a time when going home wasn’t as easy as pressing the video button on your phone. And there wasn’t a particular direction to leave home for, just distance untraveled.

On the T.V. there’s a tan spaghetti western film that glows in the corner of a den where previously we saw dreams rise and leave through wood-scented hearths. Morricone soundtrack blaring, but getting softer and softer as the old white car pulls out the long driveway to the canyon road. “Well how long do you think you'll be gone?” “As far as it takes.” At work on Monday, the Robot Boss greets him bluntly: “You’re late for my cleaning.” Misses Saturdays. Misses the dirt. Misses the mud, the blue pink sunshine drop behind the canyon towers. Robot war blaring in the distance. Missed that drive. You should have been awake, robots don’t sleep. Presses Record.

COWS ON HOURGLASS POND was recorded from January-March 2018 by Dave Portner at Laughing Gas to Tascam 48 half inch reel to reel tape machine. It was mixed by Adam McDaniel at drop of sun with Dave Portner mixing effects and moving some faders.

Nathan Bowles is a multi-instrumentalist musician and teacher living in Durham, North Carolina. His work, both as an accomplished solo artist and as a sought-after ensemble player, explores the rugged country between the poles of Appalachian old-time traditions and ecstatic, minimalist drone. Although his recent solo recordings prominently feature his virtuosic banjo, Bowles is also widely recognized as a masterful and versatile drummer, and he considers himself first and foremost a percussionist, with banjo as a natural extension of his percussive practice.

He and his bandmates in the popular and critically acclaimed old-time group the Black Twig Pickers steep themselves in local traditions of Appalachian folk music and dance, very much a vital part of cultural life in their region of Virginia. As a member of the long-running improvisational drone outfit Pelt, Bowles focuses on the various sonic possibilities inherent in struck and bowed percussion—metal, wood, skin, or otherwise. When playing by his lonesome under his birthname, he prefers either minimal and hyper-nuanced percussive drone or tranced-out solo clawhammer banjo. Bowles has also recorded, collaborated, and performed with Steve Gunn, Jack Rose, Hiss Golden Messenger, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Rosali, Black Dirt Oak, Scott Verrastro, Pigeons, Spiral Joy Band, and others.

The seven songs on his second solo album Nansemond deploy banjo, percussion, piano, tapes, and—for the first time—his robust voice, moving effortlessly between composed sections, improvised passages, and field recordings. The Nansemond suite demonstrates the elasticity of Appalachian and Piedmont stringband music and the inherent connections, when those forms are distended, dilated, and dissected—as in the “Sleepy Lake” pieces, “Chuckatuck,” or “Golden Floaters/Hog Jank”—to contemporary improvised and post-minimalist avant-garde music. Bowles’ inventive playing on the album somehow finds common ground between tradition-bearing masters like Dock Boggs, Dink Roberts, and Etta Baker and the outré compositional experiments and extended techniques of Paul Metzger and Clive Palmer. But these two strains always feel purposefully and organically integrated, not distinct or hierarchical, and that elegant and novel elision is perhaps the most notable accomplishment of these hypnotic recordings: they respectfully refuse to accept the porous boundaries between Southern vernacular music and modernism.

On his exquisite third solo album, Bowles again augments his mesmeric clawhammer banjo pieces with piano, percussion, and vocals. Instead of the programmatic place-based narratives of its predecessor, Whole & Cloven offers a stoic meditation on absence, loss, and fragmentation, populating those experiential gaps—the weighty interstices and places in-between—with stillness and wonder. Straddling Appalachian string band music and avant-garde composition but beholden to neither idiom, Nathan proves himself heir to deconstructivist tradition-bearers like Henry Flynt and Jack Rose.

On his playfully subversive fourth solo album Plainly Mistaken, Bowles extends his acclaimed banjo and percussion practice into the full-band realm for the first time, showcasing both delicate solo meditations and smoldering, swinging ensemble explorations featuring Casey Toll (Jake Xerxes Fussell, Mt. Moriah) on double bass and Rex McMurry (CAVE) on drums. As he considers the cycles of deceit and self-deception that shape both our personal and political lives, a mixed mood of melancholy and merriment permeates Bowles’s own compositions as well as the interpretive material, which draws from traditional Appalachian repertoires and the diverse songbooks of Julie Tippetts, Cousin Emmy, and Silver Apples.


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