Mount Moriah

The North Carolina-based band Mount Moriah-composed of Heather McEntire (lead vocals, guitar), Jenks Miller (lead guitar, keys), and Casey Toll (bass, keys)-seem insistent to grow. If Mount Moriah's self-titled debut showed them standing with sea legs, determined to dream their way free from the dark crevices and corners of alt-country's stiff template; and if Miracle Temple, their second album, called that darkness by its Southern name and met it with fire; then their latest collection of songs, How to Dance, is a devotion to the cosmic light itself: moving towards it, moving into it, becoming it. Mount Moriah's third full-length sees them stretching further to explore their collective interest in the intangible fringes of fate and synchronicity. With How to Dance, the band presents new themes of symbolism, mysticism, alchemy, universality, sacred geometry. There is color, confidence, self-direction, joy. There is also darkness, but only to show you how it found its light.

Recorded largely in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and in home studios with the help of long-time collaborator, engineer Nick Petersen; mixed by Brian Paulson (Beck, Wilco, Slint) and Jenks Miller; and mastered by James Plotkin (Tim Hecker, Horseback, Jack Rose), How to Dance not only suggests a wide excavation of buried meaning and heaps of transparent revelation-it also testifies to an expansion into more textured and muscular sonic expressions. In previous efforts, the band carefully cleared space for McEntire's vocal prowess to direct the scenes; on this record, it serves to amplify the importance of the essential talents around her, balancing structure with fragility, omission with plurality. The trio welcome echoes from their other music projects-Miller's psych-metal Horseback, McEntire's post-punk Bellafea, and Toll's experimental jazz-noise ensembles. Guest vocalists Angel Olsen, Mirah Zeitlyn, and Amy Ray weave supporting harmonies into McEntires melodic snapshots. Guest instrumentalists Terry Lonergan (drums and percussion), Daniel Hart (strings), Jeb Bishop (trombone and trumpet), Matt Douglas (saxophone), and Allyn Love (pedal steel) add fresh angles to the soundscapes helmed by Miller and Toll. They create an architecture layered in tones-the jubilant horn arrangements, the ardent string patterns, the moody Mellotron, the decisive rhythm section, the unabashedly gallant guitar lines atop guitar lines. Welded together in sparks, these blueprints enhance and reinforce McEntires spirited towers of stories, inspiring more abstract imagery and complex concepts to support the narratives.

Lyrically, within How to Dance, there is less emphasis on personal identity and instead, a concentration on mythic experiences and cross-cultural archetypes, both inherited and discovered. The questions become: How are we all related What do we all share The tired nostalgia so present in much of what is called Southern art is transformed into a kind of universalism, a thing that reaches far past itself. Art that stays, Southern or otherwise, is art that is larger than the rest, art that destroys the old-but only after honoring and questioning the history on which we cut our youthful teeth. It uses the parts of itself to reconstruct something brand new. Within the goldenrod, the blood red moon, the golden hours, the crow and stag and raven; beyond the Jacksonville boys, at the Jones Ferry crossing, under the Precita streetlights, behind the clairvoyant's eyes, in the smoke rising from farm gates there is hope. Somewhere in the depths of anguish there is optimism, right there on the edge of the darkness-the faith that the magic of the world will not let you down completely. In How to Dance, Mount Moriah is still asking questions and searching for answers, but the vision is distilled down to its own act of seeking. Once illusive, the purest forms of magic have become obtainable, have become a seasoned new language, have been lifted high in the air.

In I'm Not There, a film supposition of Bob Dylan's life, the version of Dylan played by Cate Blanchett-the pre-motorcycle crash, Blonde on Blonde Dylan-says that "a poem is like a naked person," and then, blending into the same line, "but a song is something that walks by itself." Mount Moriah have created a continuous dialogue with humanity, with the metaphysical, with the ecology right in front of us. Here, in How to Dance, everything walks by itself.

Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter

Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter follow up 2007’s critically acclaimed ‘Like Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul’ with ‘Marble Son’, their fourth release from Paris's Fargo Records and the first on their own US imprint Station Grey/Thirty Tigers.

Sykes and Wandscher took on full production duties for ‘Marble Son’; recorded entirely in and around their hometown of Seattle (engineered by Mell Dettmer and mixed by Martin Fevyear). ‘Marble Son’ exemplifies a band at their creative pinnacle—heavier and more complex than previous records; the music resonates among the parallel worlds of the avant-garde and the timeless. Sykes’ voice and sometimes-mystical leanings (the former described aptly by Magnet as “sounding less like a performer and more like a sage”) and her band’s incomparable musical repoire culminate in what the New York Times has described as “spellbound music, rapt in fatalism and sorrow.” Syke’s trademark thematic darkness and acclaimed songwriting have never been more present; yet ‘Marble Son’ speaks of evolution, which Sykes describes as, “a sonic mirror of the most chaotic, turbulent times of our lives, where beauty triumphed, and the tears that spilled became this record".

The album begins with ‘Hushed By Devotion’, an 8 minute, swelling, rock opus— reminiscent of 1960's San Francisco inspired psychedelia, which provides Wandscher (who co-wrote more of this record then previous) the sonic space to explore the depths of his guitar genius. Characterized by an emblazoned guitar solo, ghostly layered-vocal murmurings; and trademark lyrical poignancy—it’s a brilliant, ambitious statement of intent that commands attention.

The record is an extension of their previous work, influenced in part by an association with the art-metal movement centered around Los Angeles label Southern Lord. This “unlikely” musical friendship between Sykes and influential underground bands SunnO))) and Boris was immortalized on the 2006 album ‘Altar’ (in which Sykes sang and co-wrote the much beloved underground classic "The Sinking Belle",) culminating in a headlining performance of "Altar" at the ATP festival last summer. The band has also toured with Earth, a group commonly acknowledged as one of the major progenitors of heavy-doom (and another member of the Southern Lord roster), psych-rock maestros Black Mountain, and recently appeared at Holland’s Roadburn Festival, curated by SunnO)) themselves, this past April.

Their musical kinship is audible in ‘Marble Son’—an utterly unique, yet subtle genre crossover. ‘Marble Son’ is a journey—a gutsy romp laced with moments of shimmering, retro beauty, underpinned by pastoral images of Syke’s interior world unfolding. Listen to the standout track ‘Pleasuring the Divine’, a gritty roar of a song, fed by Wandscher’s frenetic riffs, sludgy feedback, combined with frantic drumming—it’s entirely unexpected and totally mesmerizing.

That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of hushed acoustic wonder amongst the 11 tracks. ‘Be It Me, Or Be It None’ is a glorious four minutes of hazy, Tim Buckley-esque folk, while album closer ‘Wooden Roses’ is an ethereal meditation on finding love only too late--guitars sparkle, strings stir, and Sykes’ voice swells and creaks beautifully right up until the final second.

‘Marble Son’ is the sound of a band evolving—urgently expanding to mirror the chaos of modern culture while not forgetting the beauty of the tender and mecurial world that exists within us all—the result is more relevant than ever… and, as Jesse puts it; "We have never been closer to sounding like "The Sweet Hereafter" then we do here". What a sweet sound it is. V.K.

"I liked the idea of something beautiful that may or may not be appreciated in its own time...of course a statue comes to mind...they seem to last forever in human terms, and they still are considered beautiful and viable even as they disintegrate. Some were built so well that their dissolution is almost more powerful than the pristine form—as it disintegrates, it exposes the creative process, the bare essentials....and in the fragments left-an arm, a torso, speak volumes in their decaying state. There's a line in the song that goes..."Oh marble son, why can’t I love you more? I wish I'd found you beautiful before." That line reflects where I'm at in life...many things I didn't appreciate when I was young, I find beautiful now and vice versa. I think about relationships and how people can "miss the boat” in their lifetime, but if we need to wait another lifetime to understand a certain kind of love, then so be it. For some, it might take many lifetimes to discover, for others--well... they luck out and have a love that transcends time! We all have our evolutionary path to understanding our capacity to love and to understand beauty. The idea or image of a marble son just spoke to me on all these levels.... strong, forgotten, loved, beautiful, sad..... eternal." jesse sykes



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