014 Chris Weisman & Greg Davis 'Northern Songs'
Cat.No: home n014
Release date: April 2nd, 2010
Edition number: 1000 (digipack)
Northern Songs is the blissful sound of Chris Weisman leaving his body and dissolving into the universe; he sounds very free. Greg Davis (electronic music composer, fractal maker) helps the usually obsessive Chris (psychedelic four-tracker, music artist) surrender to the void. The falling away of self is quite literal: Chris recorded a batch of songs, then turned the tapes over to Greg without instructions for completion (there’s a special luxurious bath you get to take when you stop deciding). Rather than perfecting the material, Greg’s treatments make it radically and beautifully incomplete; the pop song is unmastered, its closed forms opened to nature (this music has no inside and no outside (this guitar solo sounds friendly and tall (these computer sounds are showing me the thing in the tree that makes it alive
You might’ve heard/there’s a crystal under Brattleboro. Yet Chris and Greg also know that radioactive tritium is leaking from the 40 underground pipes beneath the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In this sense, their music is post-psychedelic: it is Vermont music of peace and patience, but it is not make-believe (the world is scary and darkening; it is also the home of love). We may dwell deeply in moments of imagination (and they are breathtaking) but the lesson is to listen beyond the rainbow space of the headphones (the world is forever changing (music in the expanded field (life is dispersed among the many things (2012 never knows (something gentle may happen
all songs written and played by chris weisman & greg davis
except ‘it’s all too much’ which was written by george harrison
ruth garbus plays clarinet on ‘we won’t survive’
recorded between november 2008 – march 2009 in brattleboro & burlington VT
drawings by ryan storm
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Boomkat – Album of the Week
Northern Songs is a collaboration between the great drone maestro Greg Davis and Chris Weisman, a member of Sub Pop’s Happy Birthday and a seriously underrated songwriter in his own right, perhaps best known for his Tape Walk album on Davis’ Autumn Records label. In fact, Northern Songs was originally released via that label last year, but this reissue on Ian Hawgood’s Home Normal imprint gives the album an entirely justified fresh airing. Blending Weisman’s Beatles/Big Star-influenced lo-fi song style with Davis’ far-out sound designs and abstract compositions, Northern Songs merges these seemingly very separate disciplines in a variety of impressively original fashions. ‘New Americans’ announces itself with the wild, twittering scrawl of oscillator noise before Weisman’s simply strummed guitar and voice clears the rubble only to be consumed by blaring, reedy drones during a tumultuous second half. While on this introductory piece Weisman seems to be fighting against the more abstract components of the mix, everything slots into place during the almost Elliott Smith-like ‘Christalline’, whose filtered, hiss-cloaked production transforms into an amazing Magical Mystery Tour-inspired psych-pop foray. The shadow of The Beatles looms fairly prominently over this record, and another of the album’s standout cuts is an assured reading of George Harrison’s ‘It’s All Too Much’, which ambles melodiously and faithfully through the first three-and-a-half minutes until a collision with a wayward electric violin sends the track spiralling off into an electroacoustic maelstrom. ‘Crystal Under Battleboro’ closes the album in the finest fashion, capturing the duo at their harmonious best as Weisman takes the lead with another impeccable acoustic pop number before Davis’ bank of synths take hold for an arpeggiating, bloop-heavy vintage odyssey worthy of the Ghost Box label. Brilliant stuff – highly recommended.
Norman Records – Recommended
Home Normal presents an album constructed by the gents known as Greg Davis & Chris Weismann. I should put their names in the order they appear on the CD but they fell out of my head in that order so that’s what yer get. If you want to argue the toss, i’ll see you outside in 5 minutes. Just gotta do this review. This is quite lovely stuff, untypical of this ambient/drone/sound-art label. Hazy, dreamy experimental folk with some beautiful psychedelic/tropical embellishment and wispy, spangled vocals – the second tune ‘Christalline’ is quite an extraordinary thing indeed with this “waapworpwaapworp” thang going on, I want one of those instruments whatever it is. There’s a song which is seemingly punctuated by the sound of some mad children prising open a box of frogs (I reckon), a wicked cover of the George Harrison penned Beatles choon ‘It’s All Too Much’, and the essence of a slightly twisted sunny day is dotted throughout by means of strategically placed field recordings. Another winner from this powerful experimental cannon.
Robin Hilton – NPR
NPR Music producer Lars Gotrich and I rarely share the same taste in music (check out one of his guest DJ stints on ‘All Songs Considered’. But I immediately fell in love with a new album he recently passed along to me called Northern Songs. It’s a beautifully unpredictable collection of lo-fi, neo-psychedelic folk songs by Chris Weisman and Greg Davis, two songwriters from Vermont.
Northern Songs opens with a glitchy mix of shortwave radio static and something that could only be described as laser guns, before melting slowly to a gently strummed guitar and distant vocals. The rest of the album is very spare. Weisman and Davis mostly stick to a single guitar with two-part harmonies and maybe some simple bells or a synth line. It makes the mix feel a little rough around the edges, but warm and inviting.
P*Dis / Inpartmaint – Staff Monthly Recommendation
greg davisのautumn recordsからのアルバムも記憶に新しい米ヴァーモント在住のシンガー・シングライターchris weismanとgreg davisのふたりによるコラボレーション・アルバム。元 々はautumn recordsより2009年に100枚限定のCD-Rでリリースされた作品のリイシューで、home normalレーベル初の全編ウタモノ作品です。まずchrisがアコースティックギターでレコーディングした曲のテープをgregに渡し、一切の指示も せず、そのすべてを委ねました。gregが施した職人芸のサウンド・トリートメントはchrisの静かでジェントルな歌を見事なまでにキラキラと輝かせ、 まるで水を与えられた植物のように瑞々しくナチュラルなサウンドはとても力強く感動的です。自由で幸せなサイケデリアが渦巻いたピースフルな大傑作！ふた りとも仏教徒として有名ですが、同じく仏教に傾倒していたジョージ・ハリソンの「It’s All Too Much」の名カバーを収録しています。また、ruth garbusが1曲クラリネットで参加。
初期のCarparkを代表する アーティストとして、良質なフォークトロニカ作品をリリースしていたGreg Davis。中でもBeach BoysやIncredible Strings Bandのカヴァーまで収録した2004年の『Curling Pond Woods』は、フリー・フォークとの共振を感じさせる作品として印象に残っているが、彼の来日公演を観に行って、前座扱いだったAnimal Collective（その時はPanda BearとDeakinの二人だけだった）に衝撃を受けたことも、個人的には忘れられない出来事だ。
そんなGreg Davisと、先日Sub PopからデビューしたHappy BirthdayのメンバーでもあるChris Weismanとのコラボレーション・アルバムが本作。 基本的にはChris Weismanの弾き語りによるフォーク・ソングをGreg Davisに送り、その上にGregが様々なエレメントを加えるという“ポスタル・サービス”形式で制作されているそうで、シンプルな楽曲の上に唐突に振 り掛けられる電子音が、なんともビザールな印象を与えている。純粋なコラボレーションというよりは、むしろリミックス・アルバムに近い作品なのかもしれな い。
仏教に改宗し、Krankyからエクスペリメンタルなドローン作品を発表している近年のGreg Davis。仏教に改宗したミュージシャンといえば、Akron/FamilyのメンバーだったRyan Vanderhoofが思い出されるが、実際GregはMegafaunのメンバーと一緒に、Akron/Familyの一員としてツアーを回っていたこ ともある。そしてもう一人、仏教に傾倒していたミュージシャンとして忘れてはならないのが、BeatlesのGeorge Harrison。本作ではGeorgeのBeatles時代の曲である「It’s All Too Much」をカヴァーしているが、アルバムのタイトルである『Northern Songs』からして、ビートルズの楽曲を管理する出版会社の名前だという懲りようである。
というわけで、ところどころで聴こえてくるハルモニウムや銅鑼といった楽器の響きがスピリチュアルなムードを醸し出してはいるものの、ポップなメロ ディと Chrisのジェントルな歌声も手伝って、全く難解な印象は与えない。蝉や鳥の鳴き声といった環境音もアンビエントな雰囲気を作り出していて、喩えて言う なら、Beatlesの「Sun King」をBrian Enoがカヴァーしているような、そんな穏やかな作品。彼らの地元であるヴァーモント州バトルボロの地下にはクリスタルが眠っている、という神秘的なエピ ソードを元にしたラストの「Crystal Under Battleboro」は、スケールの大きな名曲だ。
I was ‘that’ guy…and spilled my cocktail on the edge of the merch table at the Akron Family show the other night. Man, I’m never that guy – luckily they had a rubberish tablecloth so it spilled right off, no damage done, other than a drop that spilled on one or two of Greg Davis‘s CDs. Seeing the look of perturbation on his merch-girl’s face, I kindly asked to buy one of the narrowly dampened discs.
Now I couldn’t remember if I had ever really seen Greg Davis perform live before. I know he opens up at numerous local concerts I attend, but I’m notoriously late for everything so I don’t think I’ve ever caught his set. Wait, maybe once. I know I saw Akron play when he was with them. Anywho, I had a vision of him being some completely aloof noise manipulator guy without any depth, and I have to apologize. For I really enjoy this album I picked up.
Northern Songs with Chris Weisman and Greg Davis only touches on the aloof noise manipulation scene. It’s really more of a modern folk-sonic vibe with a touch of bipolar psychedelics. It drifts, but never gets dull or too self-indulgent. A few tracks remind me of mellow Animal Collective or maybe an Akron Family meets Blind Melon feel. There’s moments of Byrne-ish Africana, and flips of 8-bit burnouts, and sometimes the weird sounds seem thrown in just for the sake of being weird. The tunes are at their best when they’re more straight forward folk, and “It’s All Too Much” works a perfect balance of everything they’re trying to do. However, the few times they take it out in a more layered, cycling, and focused rabbit-hole drop, it really makes me want to get out to some of these shows earlier.
Speaking of Davis, the third Home Normal release finds the sonic magpie teaming up with Chris Weisman for the psychedelic song cycle Northern Songs. We’re informed that Weisman recorded a batch of songs, and then passed them on to Davis for him to work his own particular magic on them. That modus operandi is consistent with how the music sounds, as stripped of the material’s baroque instrumental touches one would be left with pop songs that are fairly straightforward in their structure. As a result, “Christalline” would otherwise be a charming enough folk tune were it not for the resonant bell strikes that resound and render it all the more memorable. Ear-catching too is “New Americans” which, following a psychedelic opening flourish of squeals and starbursts, eases into a dreamy vocal section before a mutant cavalcade of bleating horns takes charge. Elsewhere, a lunatic circus band briefly disrupts the otherwise laid-back trippiness of “Hat of Night,” but probably the most entrancing vocal melodies appear during “We Won’t Survive” amidst field recordings of birds and a lovely clarinet cameo by Ruth Garbus.
The choice of album title is an interesting one for multiple reasons. On the one hand, Northern Songs refers, of course, to the company established in 1963 to look after for The Beatles’ music publishing business. Certainly there is a trippy Sgt. Pepper-ish vibe to the songs but in truth the material evokes more the George Harrison end of the spectrum rather than the more familiar Lennon-McCartney (that the duo each owned 15% of the company’s shares and Harrison just 0.8% prompted the latter to compose “Only a Northern Song,” which appeared in both the 1968 film Yellow Submarine and subsequent soundtrack album). That affinity is literalized in the choice of Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much” as Northern Songs’ centerpiece, which Weisman and Davis re-create faithfully (trainspotters will also catch the lyric snippet—“with your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue”—that re-surfaces in The Mersey’s 1966 hit “Sorrow,” also covered by Bowie on his 1973 covers disc, Pin Ups). Other influences suggest themselves too, never more so than when “Steaming Bowl” evokes the loopiness of The Beach Boys’ “Vegetables” in particular and the Smile period in general. Production strategies and influences aside, Northern Songs is one of the most accessible collaborations Davis has issued to date and straight-up one of the most enjoyable too.