Our latest album of live Echoes performances is here. It’s called Echoes Live 21. We’ve picked the best tracks from the best live Echoes performances and put them on our 21st CD. Here are the stories behind the tracks.
Philip Selway “Coming Up for Air”
I never thought I’d get Philip Selway, the drummer for Radiohead into our studio. His album, Weatherhouse, an Echoes CD of the Month, was too elaborately produced to play live. But Selway brought it on the road with two of the musicians who produced the album with him, Adhem Ilhan and Quinta. We dragged their gear, including a full-front-of-house mixing console up two flights of stairs to our studio and they proceeded to unfold the complexities of their music including our favorite song, “Coming up For Air.”
Jeff Pearce “With Evening Above”
Jeff Pearce has been on the show many times and appears on two previous Echoes CDs, The Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 2 with the song mastered at the wrong speed and Volume 6, mastered at the correct speed. Last year Jeff came in to perform a regular set for the show, but as we looked at his titles, I realized this would be a great show for Sonic Seasonings, our program of seasonal music. That set ran last Christmas, and this is one of the songs from it, the title track from his most recent CD. Jeff laces loops and delays into this delicately mournful track with everything played live and starting on his fingers about 4 feet in front of me.
Orenda Fink “Ace of Cups”
Orenda Fink is one half of the duo, Azure Ray who appear on Transmissions: The Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 19, but she has several solo albums out, including her latest, Blue Dream which came out in the summer of 2014. Her solo music shares the dreamy moods and vapor trail harmonies of Azure Ray. Ace of Cups is a Tarot card that suggests new beginnings in social and emotional realms and Orenda turns it into the most evocative and musical of tarot card readings.
Lanterna is essentially Henry Frayne, the guitarist who came to renown with groups like Area and The Moon Seven Times. On is own, he makes an ambient Americana that seems like the last sunset on the American plains. We’ve had Henry live on the show a few times, and he appears on an earlier Echoes CD, Passages: The Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 10. He’s always played solo, but this time he brought in drummer Eric Gebow from Blue Man Group to bring the sound of his albums more to life.
Stringsongs with Tim Farrell, Michael Manring & Pat Robinson “Off the Cuff”
Never heard of Stringsongs? Well, few people have. They haven’t released a recording yet, but individually they each have several solo albums and a Grammy Award between them. They were put together by guitarist Tim Farrell to realize some of his music live and stretch out the sound of his many wonderful recordings. He brought in electric bass monster Michael Manring and pianist Pat Robertson and together they weave through improvised intricacies on Tim’s song, “Off the Cuff” which originally appeared on his wonderful 2014 album, Cascadia. Their interplay calls to mind an acoustic centered sound you don’t hear as often anymore from bands like Oregon, Shadowfax and Manring’s old band, Montreux.
Árstíðir arrived from Iceland and pulled up to the studio in their psychedelic school bus. They had bunks stacked in the back and cosmic tapestries all over. Their music also had something of a 60s sound with harmonies that haven’t been heard since the high daze of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Sitting in the studio with them, it was astounding to hear this kind of close harmony untouched by technological assists. I loved this particular song, originally from their latest album, Hvel. It translates as silver skin or possibly light and has a haunting piano motif that recalls Ludovico Einaudi.
Kaki King “We Did Not Make the Instrument, The Instrument Made Us”
This is the last song of Kaki King’s multimedia work, The Neck is a Bridge to the Body. Catch it if you can. King use video mapping to turn herself and her guitar into a morphing screen. Kaki came into Echoes the night after performing it in Philadelphia. Her hair was white. Her guitar was white. She left the white clothes in her suitcase. It was all part of her stage presentation but a cool look regardless. We’ve had Kaki King on the show several times since her first album and her growth as an artist and guitarist continue to astound and surprise. This is one of her more beautiful songs.
Kristin Hoffmann “Let Go”
Kristin Hoffmann is a journeyman musician who has been recording since she was a teenager. In 2013 she put out the album, The Human Compass and I fell in love with one song from it, “Let Go.” On the album, it’s an epic work with thudding electronic percussion, surging synthesizer strings and Kristin’s voice stacked into gospel choirs. When she came in to play, she used backing tracks to fill it out, and that was nice, but I felt like there was something else to be had and I asked her to perform it with just voice and piano. She hadn’t played it that way since she composed it, but she taps her operatic training to send this song into even more epic proportions as she sings of letting expectations go and tapping into your true desires. She did that on this piece.
Bing & Ruth “Postcard from Brilliant Orange”
I have to admit, Bing & Ruth slipped by me when I received their album, Tomorrow Was the Golden Age. It just seemed a little too minimal. But I went back to it when I was surveying artists playing the Big Ears 2015 Festival. Then I was sucked in to the slow, tremulous melodies that hang like ice covered branches slowly fracturing in the morning sun. The music is full of slow, Arvo Pärt like subtleties from founder/composer David Moore’s spare, Harold Budd-like piano lines to the whole not sustains of reeds and strings to the ambiguous haze created by Mike Effenberger using a tone generator and delays. This track exemplifies their music which is like a smog shrouded sunrise over the Manhattan skyline.
Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy “Of Time and Frio”
Jeff Johnson has been on Echoes too many times to count and has appeared on a few of our CDs, including the last one, Ricochets. Normally that would exclude him from this except he came in with guitar legend, Phil Keaggy. They’d recorded two albums together, Frio Suite and WaterSky, both Echoes CD of the Month picks. But they weren’t together when they were recorded and had never played a live concert together. But at the end of 2014 they went on tour, joined by Johnson’s band of violinist Wendy Goodwin and flutist Brian Dunning from Nightnoise.. When they came through Philadelphia they came to Echoes for two sets, one of their original material and another set of seasonal songs. It was a magical performance.
Chad Lawson “Nocturne in F Minor”
Chad Lawson is a lapsed jazz and classical pianist and former accompanist for Julio Iglesias who plays a kind of ambient piano and he usually performs all original music. But in 2014 he put out an album called The Chopin Variations. He took Chopin pieces, stripped them down to the core melody and then bathed it in the ambience of open space. He also treated his piano, putting felt under the hammers to give it a muted sound. He came in with cellist Ruben Kodheli and violinist Judy Kang. As they did on the album, they improvised much of their parts, which lends the music an even more free-flowing feel and takes it out of the realm of classical recitation. Their performance of “Nocturne in F Minor” puts Chopin into ambient space.
Hundred Waters “Out Alee”
Hundred Waters almost didn’t make to Echoes. They were touring in November of 2014 when they got stranded for three days on their tour bus during a surprise blizzard in Buffalo, NY. They missed a performance on The Late Show with David Letterman, but they made it to Echoes where they played their enchanting, slightly off-center electronic pop. The band are actually children of Echoes. They grew up in Orlando listening to Echoes on WMFE down there and say it influenced their music. They did a wonderful set for us including this song, “Out Alee” with Nicole Miglis’ wonderful whammy bar vocal and electric piano fronting Trayer Tryon and Paul Giese on electronics and guitar and Zach Tetreault on percussion. And they did finally get on the Letterman show in February of this year, 3 months later.
Ozric Tentacles “ZenLike Creature”
Echoes Live 21 is an album that goes form a whisper to a scream and this is the scream. Ozric Tentacles is the long-lived psychedelic electronic band, born in 1980s English rave culture but with roots in 1970s space rock, especially Gong. They are an extraordinary live band who also makes albums of deep hallucinogenic bliss. They appeared on Tangents our 18th volume of concerts. This past summer the full band returned to blaze through songs from their latest album, Technicians of the Sacred, including this blistering track, “ZenLike Creature.” It features gyroscopic electronics from Silas Neptune throbbing dub bass from Brandi Wynne and propulsive drumming by Balazs Szende. It’s all topped by founder Ed Wynne’s swirling psychedelic electric guitar leads. However loud you have it, it isn’t loud enough. Turn it up. No! Turn it WAY up.
Love Inks “100 Panes of Glass”
Love Inks seems like an unlikely band from roots oriented Austin Texas. Even out there bands like Explosions in the Sky and The Black Angels don’t get the minimalist electronic sheen of Love Inks who strip their music down to a simple core. Take the drumbeat of this song, “Shoot 100 Panes of Glass.” There is only one beat. No ornaments, no fills or rim shots, just a steady beat. Guitarist and co-composer Kevin Dehan is an electric guitarist with only one effects pedal. It all serves to underscore a deep emotional resonance from singer, explosive solos, just a relentless drive and the voice of Sherry LeBlanc.
Robert Rich “Telomere”
Electronic musician Robert Rich appeared on our very first Echoes Live CD, A Door in the Air. He’s been on a few since then and returns this time playing music from his 2015 album, Filaments. This session was actually recorded in my den and Robert filled it with keyboards, a modular synthesizer and lap steel guitar. Filaments is a recording of intricate sequencer cycles that tap into his minimalist roots and composers like Terry Riley. In fact, the opening, organ-like cycle references Riley tracks like “Persian Surgery Dervishes.” Rich fired up a couple of keyboards and a modular synthesizer to spin out this maze-like melody. It’s a perfect ending to send you out on, a composition that seems to keep going long after it fades out.
Special thanks for this album to all the artists and record labels that donated their royalties to Echoes so that we can keep this music coming your way. You can join them by buying Echoes Live 21.