The list of non-classical albums recorded in sacred spaces is small, but it’s led to some impressive sounds over the years. (Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Sessions is a particular favorite.) Grandbrothers, the duo of Erol Sarp and Lukas Vogel, recently created their own entry in that category with their new album Late Reflections. Recorded in the Cologne Cathedral, the album takes use of the space’s unique sound to create something vast and immersive. I spoke with the duo about the process that led to the making of the album and the challenges they faced along the way.
In the Fall of 2021 I recorded a one-hour, multitracked solo performance of Canto Ostinato by the late Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt. Following are a few scattered reflections from the project’s inception to its release this month.
A lot of writers were in bands when they were young, but what about making music after you’ve published a few novels and are old enough for the romance of late night shows in dive bars to have dimmed? Is it something most people outgrow for a reason? A compulsion related to arrested development or midlife crisis? Or is performance intimately related to the act of writing in ways that are slow to reveal themselves?
Notes on the Special Pillow, the Holdout, Mikey Erg, and Alice Bag
Or: An Open Letter to My Bandmate, Former and Future, John Ross Bowie
You still subscribe to Razorcake, right? What did you think about Donna Ramone’s recent column, where she writes about listening to favorite punk albums with new lenses? I love her line about needing to clean off “the nostalgia grease from this mirror and see some of that punk I love for what it really is.” We texted later and she said the column came out of group chats, spiraling with friends about old punk records. “Fear? Is Fear…ah fuck. What about the Dwarves? I can’t handle this.” She described it as a conversation she wants to keep having despite the discomfort. Old favorites and new standards don’t always jell.
I don’t remember exactly when, but sometime in the mid-aughts, I fell in love with The Sea and Cake. And, as the summer of 2022 now officially drifts into fall and I ritualistically put The Biz on my turntable, I am reminded of a peculiar story that refuses to leave my subconscious. This description gets loosely thrown around all the time, but I truly believe that TSAC is a band that you either love obsessively, or listen to only very, very casually. I would argue that there is no in-between, as detractors are quick to dismiss their jazz pop, bossa nova (occasionally drifting into ambient) trappings as mere pleasant, background muzak. The one caveat to this rule is that their music is, admittedly, one that tends to lend itself to seasonal autumn and springtime listening. And even though I think Oui, The Biz and One Bedroom are all terrific records front to back, they are a rare exception in one regard. I would probably recommend a newcomer instead try a curated compilation of their best material.
Layers of color streak by as the train rushes north. The gray of the Hudson River lies beneath the greens and browns of the pine trees, all under an orange and lemon sky, all moving in different directions. The water flows south, the trees hold steady, and the sun slips into the evening. Syracuse is still a few hours away, plenty of time to relax, listen to music, and enjoy the ride. I’m going to visit my dad. This will be the first time I see his new room in the memory care unit.
We started playing Rock Band a couple of years ago. My kids and I arrived late one night at my brother’s. We were aiming for eight but landed at eleven. We caught a second wind and Casey asked if we wanted to try Rock Band. Video games make me grumpy for all the stereotypical geezer reasons, but it was late and my defenses were down. Plus, we’d never played the game before. I figured after a song or two we’d run out of gas, but we had a blast. We stayed up past one stumbling through various classic and alt rock songs.
The day before I tested positive for COVID, I woke up with a really dry throat and took a test. I didn’t want any lingering doubts when I left for school. Plus, Brendan and I were supposed to meet up for the J. Robbins / Bob Mould show. The test was negative, and my throat felt better.