The Fresh & Onlys / Vetiver

The Fresh & Onlys

“We make albums to be heard as albums,” says Tim Cohen. “We always toil over the sequencing and slight pauses.” House of Spirits, The Fresh & Onlys’ fifth album since 2008, testifies to their rigorous full-length approach. Their most adventurous outing yet, House of Spirits devotes its A-side to the character of dreams. Written partly during his stay at an isolated horse ranch in Arizona with only a guitar, Korg keyboard and drum machine, Cohen focused the album’s lyrics on firmer narratives than on past material, but his imagery veers towards absurdity, reflecting the unreliable visions culled from his nightly subconscious activity. The album’s latter half finds his speaker awoken, resolute and lucid. All throughout, Cohen says the album grapples with the “idea that home is where your feet are.” While still possessing the impeccable pop faculties displayed on Long Slow Dance and Soothsayer, The Fresh & Onlys also deal experimental atmospherics and drum-machine anchored ballads like never heard from the group before.

“The things I remember from dreams are when something is slightly off. You’re in your house but realize suddenly that it’s not yours,” says Cohen. In that sense, album opener “Home is Where?” is a statement of the album’s intent. When Cohen’s speaker notices a “bowl full of eyes on the floor,” or “cauldron of hearts on the stove” during his comforting walk through “the good life,” the brisk but nuanced track morphs into a surrealist nightmare.

Vetiver (duo)

Vetiver is what I’ve been calling my songs and recordings since about 2003 or so. I live in San Francisco, have since 1998. My touring band and the musicians I’ve recorded with over the years are always changing, though many friends and players have stayed with me over albums and tours. The one constant has been Thom Monahan who has engineered and co-produced every Vetiver album. Thom lives in L.A., where most of Complete Strangers was recorded.

The album came together slowly over demos at my home in San Francisco and quick trips to L.A., continuing on with Thom at his studio. It moved in fits and starts for a couple years. Once we had the basic arrangements we jumped in the studio with Bart Davenport, Gabe Noel and Josh Adams for a few days to put down rhythm tracks. That’s when the album really took shape. Thom & I fleshed everything out with a few more musicians in San Francisco & L.A. and eventually Complete Strangers arrived.

The songs on Complete Strangers bear some resemblance to the album’s title. They share things in common but come from different places, different times. “Stranger Still” is an anthem for insomniacs, illuminating the hours when the world exceeds our grasp. “From Now On” rings out some emotional tinnitus, the moment a night runs away from you, when freedoms turn into responsibilities. The album builds around dualities, the way people pair at parties. “Current Carry” percolates with the confidence of love, while “Confiding” reveals how vulnerable we are chasing love. “Backwards Slowly” and “Edgar” are vignettes of transition, more ebb than flow. As with many of Vetiver’s better moments, sunshine is only a chord away from melancholy. An introspective lyric underlies an extroverted chorus. Subtlety tries to be outgoing, loneliness familiar, in an effort to connect the dots of life’s ellipsis.

I’m still figuring the album out. It feels like someone I’ve just met yet known for a long time.

– Andy Cabic

Cameron Stallones began his musical career as a founding member of the experimental psychedelic rock collective Magic Lantern. Soon after, demos originally intended to light the Lantern became the first Sun Araw LP: The Phynx. Sun Araw blossomed as a solo project in attempted geosynchronous orbit with the Eternal Now: oblique six-dimensional transmissions from changeless environs. Structural and spiritual inspiration for Sun Araw comes primarily from Cameron's first artistic love: film and filmmakers, especially those invested in the long-take (Tarkovsky, Altman, Bela Tarr, Greenaway). Devoted to long-form mantric music, the ethos is similar: straight lampin' in deep focus, angle after angle on the melodic object, gaining strength from the subsequent breakdown of the illusion of fixed perspective.

Since 2007, 4 full-length LPs, 3 EPs, and 5 cassettes have walked the mind-planes from psychedelic drone to melted afrobeat, from warped dub to minimal composition. These releases have been praised in Wire Magazine (who selected Heavy Deeds as one of the top 50 records of 2008, and On Patrol in the top 50 of 2010), The New Yorker, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Uncut Magazine, Mojo, Pitchfork, and beyond. Sun Araw has performed in the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand with hundreds of artists including luminaries like Christian Fennesz and Konono No. 1. In early 2011, Cameron and M. Geddes Gengras traveled to Jamaica where they produced and recorded a collaboration album with roots reggae legends The Congos, set for release in the fall. While in and around Kingston, they also began producing dancehall singles and tracking local toasters under the name Duppy Gun Productions, which will be seeing release this summer.

Pure Bliss

Nine Ways to Begin a Pure Bliss Bio
1. While you slurped down a thimble full of DMT last CMJ, Pure Bliss merged two shimmering guitar leads into a single javelin of sound to split the heart of ecstasy.
2. Two musicians sauntered along either side of a white picket fence and struck it with twigs in the spring. At the fence’s terminus near the abbey, Frank Ene and Sam Weiss started a band.
3. Oakland has a moderate climate. Still, it felt quite cool when Pure Bliss formed in 2013.
4. Jean Genet wrote that “harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.” I think that at least one member of Pure Bliss agrees. Bassist Margot Rhodes is undecided.
5. “True conjurers, Pure Bliss . . . [They] yanked the gold outta the chaff in a five-gallon bucket for two nights room and board last winter.”
6. Forget what you think you know about Oakland—Pure Bliss leader Frank Ene lives in Berkeley.
7. In a band that drummer Sam Lefebvre calls rock but Ene calls pop, Joe Carducci susses a problem.
8. Pure Bliss covers Christian Death on Halloween and fawns over the Go-Betweens in private. The rest is speculation.
9. Boss TU-2 Tuner—Diamond Compressor—Menatone Red Snapper Overdrive—Z-Vex Mastotron Distortion—MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay—Boss CE-2 Chorus—Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb—Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler—MXR Micro Amp Boost—Boss TU-2 Tuner—Timmy Overdrive—Behringer RV-600 Reverb Machine—Z-Vex Fuzz Factory Fuzz—Janglebox Compressor—Boss EH-2 Enhancer—Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler—Boss DD-3 Digital Delay.

Tavi Sutcif
Oakland, 2013

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