Yesterday’s podcast opened with a spotlight on a great indie label in Littlefield, Texas called Full Spectrum Records. Andrew Weathers co-founded FS with Andrew Marino in 2008, initially to put their own material out. It’s since evolved into one of the state’s best new imprints.
Weathers sent download codes for four FS releases, all of which landed this summer.
Andrew Weathers Ensemble – Build A Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall: Weathers has a voice built for hurtin’ songs. The fact that he chooses to run that voice through Brian Eno-esque processing suggests an enthusiasm for modernism that we can get enthusiastically behind. His new LP is superb.
There’s a lot going on here; multiple contributors on a variety of instruments share the spotlight evenly. Despite its lengthy personnel list, the album features multiple small group settings. So we get nine beautifully produced tracks brimming with unexpected transitions.
Does it hold together? Absolutely, thanks to Weathers’ exceptional lead vocals. “Astral Swords (Nine – A Future)” is a terrific example. Over top of a clean, minimalist ambient bed track, Weathers delivers an emotionally controlled, pleading vocal.
Don’t be put off by the overwrought titles. There’s really nothing excessive about this disc. It’s warm, personal and delivered with an exceptional touch. A remarkable accomplishment given the number of players involved.
Tree branch Twig – beneath the: Speaking of vocals, Lindsay Keast’s singing on her solo debut for the label is not what purists would describe as polished. It’s messy at times, even a bit flat here and there. But as is true with a lot of the world’s great vocalists, it doesn’t matter in the least. Keast has produced a powerful four-track cassette with effortless grace.
One of the highlights is “toward the american frontier,” with a scratchy old spoken-word recording of James Joyce reading Ulysses. Keast delivers a lovely, understated mandolin performance. What shines most though is, again, her voice. It’s heart breaking.
The album’s major work is the 20-minute “up in arms, our sisters/our brothers,” an instrumental. It’s hard not to imagine what her voice could have contributed to such a unique, dense piece. But it does work on its own, rounding out this fine album with ample evidence of Keast’s potential.
Ctrl-Z – Ctrl-Z: Without question the most challenging of the four recordings. Oakland’s Ctrl-Z includes founders Ryan Page, Daniel Steffey and Nick Wang along with Ryan Ross Smith this time out. Smith composed one of the album’s pieces, entitled “Proles.”
This is a true new music outfit. The album features a John Cage composition, along with works composed by Wang and Page. In the past, they’ve performed Pauline Oliveros, Luc Ferrari, Alvin Lucier and others.
Featuring electronics, radio sounds, “bowed percussion” and more, this is improv meets new classical composition. Music for grownups.
Nakatani/Nanna/Schoofs/Woods – Nakatani/Nanna/Schoofs/Woods: Features Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion, Peter Woods a highly sought-after performance and noise artist on bass guitar, Jason Nanna on electronics (also a former partner of Andrew Weathers) and vocalist Amanda Schoofs (also on electronics).
The album was recorded after a show in Milwaukee, apparently unplanned. You’d never know it. The material was edited down and this number-by-number release was the very fortunate result. Think electroacoustic music performed with a jazz ensemble sensibility, complete with a vocal performance that owes much to the great Meredith Monk.
Somewhere in the world this is a hit. If that’s Littlefield, I want to live there.