On Introducing Karl Blau, released 12th May on Bella Union, the enigmatic vocalist charts a new vision of country music. A Northwest indie hero, Blau channels darkness and hope in a cinematic collection of Nashville country hits from the 60’s and 70’s. Produced by Tucker Martine, the record features performances by Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Laura Veirs, Jon Hyde, Eli Moore (Lake), Steve Moore (Earth, SunnO)))), among others.
It all started with cutting a 7” single, a cover of the 1969 Tom T. Hall hit “That’s How I Got to Memphis”. Blau, whom Martine had come to know from sessions with Laura Veirs among others, asked if he could try singing it. “I knew what a special artist Karl was, but I had no idea what a powerful interpreter of songs he was,’ Martine says. The collaboration, pairing Blau’s deeply sonorous voice with Martine’s warm, modern arrangements, recast the Nashville hit in a new light. “He was able to communicate the essence of the song in such a moving way that we started dreaming of making a whole record based around our excitement for that collaboration.” The result was the single and, now, Introducing Karl Blau.
Martine and Blau worked for years on shaping the narrative of the record. “I feel like I am starring in this country-western movie, written and produced by Tucker, and it tells a story,” says Blau. A sense of emergence from the shadows of loss, loneliness, infidelity, and melancholy runs through Introducing Karl Blau. “We’ve threaded a story through the record,” says Blau. “My character is moving through this dark place, but there is always this light of hope.”
The record, all covers, is a crate-digger’s feast of forgotten hits and deeper cuts; most of them from the Nashville country-soul renaissance in the late 1960s and early 70s – Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bond, Allen Reynolds. Other songs are from the Bee Gees (To Love Somebody), Link Wray (Fallin’ Rain), or Townes Van Zandt (If I Needed You). The project was a labour of love for Martine, the son of a Nashville songwriter who grew up listening to many of these songs.
As for the title, Introducing Karl Blau, Martine says “In spite of Karl’s prolific catalog of records I still feel that not nearly enough people have had the opportunity to hear this man. With any luck this album will help change that.”
Karl Blau is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and DIY icon who helped turn his hometown of Anacortes, Washington, into an indie-music mecca. He has released more than 40 records in 20-odd years, many self-released in handmade packaging and mailed to subscribers, and others on iconic indie Northwest labels K and knw-yr-own. Blau has also toured and recorded for years with Laura Veirs, the Microphones, Little Wings, D+, and Earth.
Tucker Martine, known for his distinctive production work on music by My Morning Jacket, the Decemberists, and Laura Veirs, was first introduced to Blau’s early music by Veirs. “I was transfixed by Karl’s voice and completely absorbed by the world of sound he had created. I felt like I had been shown one of the great hidden treasures of music.”
Introducing Karl Blau will be released 13th May on Bella Union.
Pre-order in our store HERE.
Bella Union are pleased to announce the signing of DOOMSQUAD whose sophomore album and UK debut Total Time will be released 29th April and is available to pre-order today via itunes. DOOMSQUAD is psychedelic electronic dance music from Toronto, Canada, the first taste of which can be heard in the form of new single ‘Solar Ass‘ which can be listened to below:
Having formed in 2010 siblings Trevor, Jaclyn, and Allie Blumas soon began to explore trance and electronic beat making. Their shared fascination with dance culture, rhythm, and the unknown, along with their lifelong immersion in the arts, began to manifest as a collective ethos. Before long, DOOMSQUAD had mushroomed into a full-scale art project.
Inspired by some of their favourite artists — Georges Bataille, Richard Tuttle, Tanya Tagaq, and Genesis P-Orridge — DOOMSQUAD travelled to the New Mexican desert to write and record Total Time, creating dark, pulsating beats interspersed with hypnotic, incantatory jams. The album opens with the enticing dance of ‘Who Owns Noon in Sandusky,’ which was written to inspire the nakedness in us all, a song to wake up our inner clocks and reclaim our circadian time. ‘Solar Ass’ was written as a love song to a donkey, a song for paying respect to the smaller, under-appreciated elements that carry us through our contemporary lives. The songs on Total Time are meant to lead you through a genderless experience of transition to owning time, losing time, and becoming timeless, while providing a platform for you to dance through your consciousness.
Upon returning home from New Mexico, the band continued to draw inspiration from the Toronto arts community, which is vast but also extremely supportive and close-knit. Their friendships and connections led to some fortuitous collaborations, including one with Canadian avant-garde legend, Mary Margaret O’Hara, whose otherworldly vocals grace ‘The Very Large Array.’ The driving, dirty bass lines, and analogue layers of effects come care of Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck), who produced and mixed the album.
The record features a number of other contributors: Mike Haliechuk of Fucked Up plays guitar. Industrial noise experimenter David Foster aka HUREN offers vocals on ‘Russian Gaze.’ Colin Fisher and Brandon Valdivia of free-jazz duo Not the Wind, Not the Flag bring instrumentals. And galactic twins Josh and Jesse Hasko, who perform as North America, are a crucial part of Total Time as well. Over the years, the connection between DOOMSQUAD and the twins has deepened and this summer they’re joining forces: the Haskos are becoming members of DOOMSQUAD’s live act, which will take it further than it’s ever gone before.
Total Time will be released 29th April on Bella Union. Album artwork, track-listing and DOOMSQUAD photo by Kate Young below:
Total Time tracklisting:
1. Who Owns Noon in Sandusky
2. Pyramids on Mars
3. Collective Insanity
4. Its the Nail That Counts, Not the Rope
5. Solar Ass
6. Farmer’s Almanac
7. The Very Large Array
8. Eat The Love
9. Russian Gaze