četvrtak, 14. veljače 2013.

Liam Singer - Dislocatia (2010), Arc Iris (2013)

Pjesme koje su prešle četvrtinu puta koji vodi prema opernoj pozornici a onda su svratile u obližnji kabare i ispile pet martinija s mjesnim avangardnim skladateljem i folk pjevačem.


Solemn, piano-based composition with a whiff of the Renaissance about it. Liam Singer has a plaintive, Elliott Smith-like tenor, and pairs himself vocally here with Wendy Allen, of Boxharp, who sings an intricate counter-melody with the airy, earnest bearing of a traditional folk singer. The song they create together is both deliberate and hypnotic, with a canon-like melody that climbs and descends and circles and fits back together with itself without any apparent starting or end point, and no sense of chorus or verse.

The overall feel is elegiac; the lyrics are inscrutable but there is a strong sense of lament here, accentuated by the centuries-old sensibility working its way through this contemporary recording. The ear is not necessarily surprised, then, when a harpsichord joins in at 1:54. But my ear, in any case, is delighted by the wondrous series of slightly cockeyed ascending lines the instrument plays. The dusty, tinkly sound Baroque composers demanded of the instrument is summarily dismissed, and the world breathes a sigh of relief. - www.fingertipsmusic.com/

Of all of the figures working in the electronic music field today, none sounds more destined for a side-career in operatic theatre composing than Liam Singer. Some enterprising Broadway producer should commission the man before others secure his considerable talents. By spreading the songs' vocal duties around, with Boxharp's Wendy Allen adding her singing to Singer's, he even fashions Dislocatia to be a resplendent song cycle, just as would a theatre composer. The myriad influences that were audible on Singer's previous album, 2006's Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek, are no longer prominent, and Dislocatia impresses as a bold and sumptuous fusion of classical and popular musics with theatrical flavour. - textura.org

What Liam Singer has over other indie-label artists who sing pretty and play the piano prettier is a uniquely experimental approach to pop music. Though sometimes seeming like a singer-songwriter, that label doesn’t fit his habit for musical exploration and composition, or his clear interest in minimalist and avant-garde composers. His music has the stately and cerebral sides of modern composition, not to mention the beauty and grace, but also an intimacy and directness more often associated with one person playing one instrument and singing. This is very emotional music that uses all of the tactics at Singer’s disposal, for greatest impact. That means not just someone communicating directly to listeners, using a voice to carry ideas and feelings into their skull, but also people singing together (often Singer and Wendy Allen of Boxharp), their voices overlapping, and singers using their voices in unexpectedly dramatic ways, witnessing how different tones and mannerisms have different effects. The singers float melodies our ways and fight them.
Along with that are rich musical settings that range from piano alone to elaborate combinations of choirs and instruments, hand claps and random strange noises. Dislocatia, produced by Scott Solter, captures that weird and majestic quality of Singer’s music more vividly than any of his previous releases, in the process highlighting the strange and familiar heart beating through every song. In the rapturous “From Fast to Slow—Behind This World”, there is the line, “There is a world behind this world / There is a sun behind the sun”. On Dislocatia, Singer seems determined to find what is around us that we don’t know about, and to make us feel like we’ve done the same, participating in an exciting act of discovery.- PopMatters

Liam Singer, the Brooklyn-via-Portland multi-instrumentalist/composer, has covered some immense ground since his 2003 debut album The Empty Heart of My Chameleon through this year's Dislocatia. While most third albums find artists burrowing into an established sound or simply feeling out an established ritual, Singer's third full length completely explodes his prior minimalist setup and explores huge, swelling climes with a mini-chamber orchestra and choir at his disposal. With earlier material centered around tiny moves shrouded in nostalgia, Dislocatia practically bursts open with huge sounds and heady, overzealous arrangments composed for both piano and voice. 2010 has been an impressive year for neo-classical artists working within traditional modes of music. If the Bedroom Communities roster are the post-romantics, like Brahms and Rachmoninovs, of 21st century indie-acceptable classical music, then Liam Singer is the Erik Satie of the group, playing wildly conceptual music that never quite loses its emotional resonance.
Liam Singer culls strands of thoughts from archaic musical styles while still working within a pop song structure. Even in his most straight-forward songs melodies that would stand stark and naked on previous releases are fully fleshed out replete with children's choirs and choral arrangments, clanking claviers and aching strings. Singer's vocal contributions, while probably the strongest since The Empty Heart... nonetheless have somewhat diminished in their roles, often differing to Boxharp's Wendy Allen to carry out his most complex vocal lines. While Allen reaches some of the heights Singer's delightfully reedy voice can't, he has also adopted a more rhythmic and rapid pace that muscles out the idea of Singer as some piano-man Elliot Smith.  Songs like "Dead Old Friend" evoke a sing-song, chanty-like feel while songs like "Winter Weeds" and "Bellingham, WA and the Four Green Doors Beyond" are familiar, downtrodden territory.
While putting out his most adventerous and experimental material to tape to date, Singer isn't afraid to show his cards when it comes to his musical idols. He name drops Morton Feldman on the album's most obvious tip of the hat to post-modern composers like John Cage and Terry Riley. On the other end of the spectrum his cover of Cat Power's "Cross Bones Style" is an ode to spiritual mentor Chan Marshall's forlorn compositions and melancholy which broods beneath every Singer composition. While flying all over itself, at times, with musical ideas, departures and exuberance, Singer's wheelhouse has grown significantly larger and more polished as it has expanded to include a multitude of other instruments besides his voice and piano. Glowing songs like "Victory Steps" and "Mold Me Torn Fan" hold huge welcome signs into the dusty, angular little cottage of Singer's brain. Welcome home. - Ryan H. Tome To The Weather Machine

Dislocatia is a truly beguiling song cycle that contains multitudes. In Liam Singer’s music, the prosaic and the magical are two sides of the same dusty coin. Produced by Scott Solter, and featuring vocals from Boxharp’s Wendy Allen, Dislocatia is rich in wondrous, resonant details. These fantastical song-stories carry the listener skyward like a clockwork cloud.
Instrumental ‘On Earth a Wandering Stranger Was I Born’ opens this stunning album in true style, layering piano, harpsichord and theremin into a dizzying whirl, before the swooningly beautiful ‘The Brief Encounter’ introduces Liam’s tremulous vocals. Wendy Allen takes the lead on the aural zoetrope ‘Leave the World to Those Who Care’, while single ‘Winter Weeds’ exudes a striking minimalism and melancholic romanticism that are typical of the album as a whole. Heartbreaking ballad ‘Bellingham, WA and the Four Green Doors Beyond’ bleeds into the disorientating tonal cascades of ‘Morton Feldman Holding Notes for Eternity’, and sparse, elegiac closer ‘Stinson Beach’ gently carries the listener back down to earth, ready to be swept up again by Dislocatia’s intoxicating melodic charms.
It’s rare to find such arresting compositional talent married not only to an innate sense of melody and emotion, but also to a keen sense of texture and atmosphere. Dislocatia manages to merge these elements together and, more importantly, blur any lines that divide them. Liam Singer’s alchemical compositional process transforms the songs into a whole that transcends simple descriptors. - agora.hiddenshoal.com/

Liam Singer plays the role of musical journeyman having been back and forth across the states playing with a multitude of different bands of many different types. He has a strong background in piano, theremin, and harpsichord among other instruments. These instruments let Singer provide a colorful and full backdrop for his calm story songs. After a few solo albums Liam has come back with a new album that is at once understated and painted with many different sounds.
As mentioned above the main instruments used by Singer are his harpsichord and piano. This allows the songs a certain classical element as opposed to a dependence on the normal band set up of guitar, bass and drums. In some cases the piano carries the songs going from powerful to lilting within the course of a single song. The harpsichord in particular creates a otherworldly effect on the listener that may be more used to an engaging piano or guitar. This is not to say anything sounds particularly alien on this album, but it does go a long way to create a very beautiful effect on the songs.
The vocals in themselves are something of an unexpected source of beauty. From song to song they alternate between Liam's singing voice and a female choir of sorts. The choir creates a classical feeling that propels the songs skyward. Giving what may otherwise be a normal piano based song to a classically leaning piece. The real surprise here is Singer's own voice. What comes as a voice sounding similar to Elliot Smith carries a great calmness and melody to each song it is used on. Each style is used in a variety of ways to make each song move with its own rhythm.
This is an album that exists well beyond the sum of it's parts. It makes the listener feel enveloped in the songs. Everything in the songs fits perfectly together never giving too much space to the piano or slight drumbeat that may exist. The vocals are truly the guide to each song giving the instrumentals further depth. This album is a great continuation of Liam Singer's talents in music. You would be doing yourself a disservice to ignore something that is played with this much finesse. -

Luna Kafe | Dislocatia is a cycle of dusky contemporary chamber, that is somewhat lightened with elegant pop-melodic craftsmanship. [ read full review ]
TheDwarf.com.au | A wonderfully bizarre product that is hard to place.
[ read full review ]
FingerTips | Solemn, piano-based composition with a whiff of the Renaissance about it.
Stereo Subversion | Weeds have a bad rap. They can produce beautiful flowers as well.
Guilt Free Pleasures | Attention choir kids, former and current: I've got a minimalist chamber-pop track for you to swoon over.
Delusions of Adequacy | With “Winter Weeds”, Singer places himself among other artists who understand the delicate nature of human compassion. His capacity for relating such an emotion seems to come easy, making such a forgotten expression in today’s society unbelievably refreshing.
Groovemine | It is that balance between drifting away and musical purposefulness that drives the album and gives it a uniquely lofty, pelagic atmosphere.

Reviews of Dislocatia single "The Brief Encounter" (2011)
Somewhere between Sufjan Stevens, The Magnetic Fields and The Brandenberg Orchestra. [ full review ]

Oliver di Place
The moment is gently jarring, and the narrator floats back to himself, somewhat shaken. It’s subtle but powerful, and that could also describe the rest of the music on this album. [ full review ]

Reviews of Dislocatia single "Winter Weeds" (2010)
Solemn, piano-based composition with a whiff of the Renaissance about it. [ full review ]
Stereo Subversion
Weeds have a bad rap. They can produce beautiful flowers as well. [ full review ]
Guilt Free Pleasures
Attention choir kids, former and current: I've got a minimalist chamber-pop track for you to swoon over. [ full review ]
Delusions of Adequacy Liam Singer hearkens back to the late great Elliott Smith. The track “Winter Weeds” is like a family memory album and perhaps new beginnings. It is simple and beautiful, with piano accompaniment whispering throughout. The care and love is ceaseless as Singer’s well trained hands breathe life and inspiration. I can only imagine the contrast between Singer today and his former self as co-founder of a 20 piece kazoo orchestra. Singer currently resides in Brooklyn, NY where he plays in Devil Be Gone with Rob Hampton (ex-Band Of Horses). “Winter Weeds” comes from Singer’s third album, Dislocatia, slated for an October 5th release from Hidden Shoal Records. With “Winter Weeds”, Singer places himself among other artists who understand the delicate nature of human compassion. His capacity for relating such an emotion seems to come easy, making such a forgotten expression in today’s society unbelievably refreshing. –Brad Tilbe, D.O.A.


Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek (2006)
streaming ulomaka

Pianist/composer Liam Singer expands his already considerable sonic palette on his second album, Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek. The 25-year-old Singer clearly is familiar with a range of contemporary classical artists, particularly John Cage and Philip Glass, and he creates short piano works, art songs sung by guest vocalists, and other sonic landscapes employing prepared piano, organ, theremin, and other instruments. The organ piece "Left Ventricle/Tone Clusters" harks back to Bach, but the choral piece "Travelogue -- Loose Ends/Now You See" sounds like something from a contemporary opera by John Adams or (a notable influence) Glass' album of art songs with pop vocalists, Songs from Liquid Days. Singer is ambitious and imaginative, and his music seems to have many possible directions, from new age to soundtrack work, if he does not seek a classical career that involves obtaining commissions for major works. This album would make a good audition disc for such ventures. -William Ruhlmann, Allmusic.com

Wonderful! Mr. Liam Singer's second album is such a sumptuous affair! In the scale of production and composition, it's quite an impressive progression from his already mighty fine debut The Empty Heart Of The Chameleon which came out just last year. Evocative, earthy and at times quite bold and adventurous, this album pushes gently at the boundaries of popular music norms incorporating classical and operatic elements throughout. For instance, some folks may need to get a little acclimatized to the initially startling, spine-tingling operatic female vocals that punctuate the proceedings. They serve as quite an affecting counterpart to Singer's own softly poetic, boyish demeanor (which has drawn in-store comparisons to Elliott Smith) particularly on standout numbers such as "Travelogue - The great Divide". However, where the spotlight shines brightest (and deservedly so) is on his intricate cascading piano passages. Most are delicately filigree'd and occasionally accompanied by trumpet, e-bowed guitar and very Spartan percussion, but we'd venture a guess that the syncopation/paradiddle workout in the eighth track "Left Ventricle/Tone Clusters" is a reverent reference to Steve Reich's Four Organs. Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek exudes grace from the first note to the last. Yes, recommended. -Aquariusrecords.org

Last year, I tried to give pianist/songwriter Liam Singer some advice. More pop songs, I directed. Less instrumentals! Less opera! But like Lou Reed to my -- ahem -- Lester Bangs, Singer ignored me and made a sophomore album even stranger and more avant than his striking debut. His new record, Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek, is the sound of a young musician fulfilling one side of his potential, going left like Chuck D instead of making the smooth Flava right toward indie-pop mainstream. The result is a cohesive piece of art, a fourteen-track journey that flows much more freely and confidently than previous release The Empty Heart of the Chameleon (2005).
The song titles alone give this album the unmistakable air of a set piece. Three “travelogue” songs, sung with the operatic assistance of May Beatty, are strewn about the track list, and the action/location oriented titles of the rest -- “Morning in the Glass City,” “Move in the Wind,” etc. -- help express the album’s wandering, searching tone. What we’re on the hunt for, exactly, is cloudy, but the mood is clear as crystal. The album is bolstered by a few more vocalists: beyond Beatty, there’s Hannah Williams, and a larger chorus sings on a pair of tracks. The combined weight of this collaborative effort provides an altogether more effective context than the ill-fitting showcase performance of Michelle Brandone on Chameleon. On the other hand, Singer’s vocals make tantalizingly sparse appearances. His hushed, high-pitched whisper recalls the tunefulness and wounded qualities of Elliott Smith and Sufjan Stevens at their most emotive, offering bitterness on “Surprise Surprise” and a Stevens-like down-the-stairs melody on “If You Awoke (First Ascension).”
While I wouldn’t say I was wrong in asking Singer to skew closer to the verse/chorus stuff -- my favorite song here, as on the last album, is the most straightforward -- his ambition and sonic sensibilities have grown into their clothes since the last time we heard him. The production work of John Vanderslice partner-in-crime Scott Solter (who also has a recent Tell-All release on the shelves) is likely a big part of this fresh maturity; there’s an array of new instruments present, including the trumpet that concludes “Falling Forever/An Arc of Slow Pinwheels” and the violin stabs of the forceful “One Breath Out.” The star, though, is still Singer’s piano, which is as gloomily reverberated and classically-minded as ever. The brevity of the songs (total runtime: 35 minutes) and the energy of his playing keep the album from sagging into masturbatory excess. But most importantly, the instrumental compositions themselves are fascinating, delving as easily into chord-driven melody (“Frozen Lake/Dog Heaven”) as they do the speedy trills of dizzying opener “The Hero, the Cure, and the Flower.”
Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek is hardly the blissful piano popalbum that past songs like “One Day” hinted at, but by venturing farther into the mysterious, Singer has crafted something far more intriguing. And with this kind of talent, he’s plainly making a conscious choice. So when he sings on the carnival-like “Losing Teeth,” “Where are you going / where have you been / will you ever be that person again?” it’s not a question, really. Liam Singer knows exactly where he’s heading, and far be it from me to stand in his way. -David Greenwald, Cokemachineglow.com

With his second album Liam Singer is again bridging genres. His music has an operatic style, with a song narrative following a baroque melody, but it's also intimate, direct, carrying the air of stripped-down singer/songwriter music. His new-music compositions seem to be getting more daring, and fuller, while also combining more seamlessly with story/songs that carry a direct emotional force. I imagine he could write an amazing film score, or sit down in a room and sing you a hard-hitting song on his own. There's a sense of drama to this music, but also one of beauty. The album was partly recorded in a church, and does have the sense of grace which that implies, but there's also an eeriness at work, and often within the same song (as on the dynamic "Falling Forever/An Arc of Slow Pinwheels"). His voice and another, more operatic female voice soar along with piano, horns, and much more. More is the word for the difference between this and is also rewarding first album; this time all aspects of his music have heightened and deepened, making an even greater and longer-lasting impression. -Dave Heaton, Erasingclouds.com

Liam Singer's debut disc The Empty Heart Of The Chameleon came out a couple years back and marked him as a young singer/songwriter to keep an eye on as he created a compelling album largely out of piano and vocals with a touch of theremin. This time out, he's expanded his musical palette considerably, and the result is a lush release that breathes with all of the aforementioned elements, as well as vibraphone, church organ, prepared piano, and some studio tinkering. His classically-tinged songs have reference points as varied as Philip Glass and Sufjan Stevens, while moving in their own unique directions as well.
Although it's not specified as one, Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek feels somewhat like a concept album, with short interlude tracks providing odd little breaks in an album that otherwise flows together in a logical way (mostly because it's largely piano-driven). After the Glass-esque opener of "The Hero, The Cube, And The Flower," the disc starts off nicely with "Losing Teeth." Singer is joined by background vocalists on the jaunty piece as backwards loops tickle and punctuate the track while some subtle vibes make it sparkle even more. "One Breath Out" is even more powerful, with vigorous cascading piano lines flowing beautifully under breathy lyrics that touch on politics in subtle ways.
The aforementioned interlude tracks all have the prefix of "travelogue" and while they're not so over-the-top that they completely throw the album off course, their operatic female vocals and overly dramatic style definitely make them stand out. Comprised of nothing but minimalism-influenced church organ, the stuttering "Left Ventricle / Tone Clusters" is another track that threatens to feel a bit out of place, but somehow fits into the more cinematic and varied middle section of the disc.
Split nearly evenly between instrumental and vocal tracks, the album reaches a high point during the latter half with the lovely (but short) "If You Awoke (First Ascension)" as Singer again teams up with a female vocalist for some beautiful harmonies. "Razor Wire (Second Ascension)" follows, and the sparse instrumental mixes some nice prepared piano and processed sounds in an open and affecting way. With fourteen tracks running just over thirty five minutes, Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek doesn't dwell on any song for too long, and is a very solid second album from the young singer songwriter.- www.almostcool.org/

The Empty Heart of the Chameleon (2004)
streaming ulomaka

Record-label press releases, filled with hyperbole as they always are, aren't usually the best place to look for descriptions of music, yet Tell-All Records is right in evoking composer John Adams and Elliott Smith's stripped-down songwriting to describe Liam Singer. His album The Empty Heart of the Chameleon switches from instrumental pieces of new classical music to up-close-and-personal pop songs with their sights set on our inner selves. Actually he mostly makes that distinction meaningless; the album has plenty of piano passages that are as emotionally forceful as the "pop songs", and there's several songs where the singing is very structured and mannered, and places where the music gains the dramatic scale of opera.
The songs on The Empty Heart of the Chameleon flow from one to the next as if they're telling one story. That story feels right outside the reach of my fingertips, or maybe it doesn't exist. "Your brothers have been drowned/your struggle is the last/I'm here to calm you down/the water's moving faster now," Singer sings near the album's beginning, as if his voice is that of an angel whose task is to comfort people through song, as they die. The theme of what happens to us when we die (as well as how the living effect each other, in life and afterwards) comes up time and again, perhaps most beautifully on the gorgeous cover of "When I Am Laid In Earth," from 17th Century British composer Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. Another truly gorgeous moment comes towards the end of the album, with "One Day," an enigmatic love ballad with apocalyptic touches, sung by Singer as a fragile plea.
There's a truly stirring emotional sweep to The Empty Heart, in the instrumental pieces as much as in Singer's naked vocal performances. The melodies carry with them so much feeling, and they're often performed in a way that could send chills down the spine of a ghost. Singer plays piano in a graceful, sensitive way that can also be quite intense, while other instruments, including a theremin, occasionally add texture and mystery. The Empty Heart of the Chameleon is a truly unique album; I can't think of other musicians occupying the space between pop and classical that Liam Singer does, or at least I can't think of any who do it in such a thrilling way, managing to capture the moods of both musics while creating a new one. That musical personality is almost off-putting at first, because in this time of hyper-classification you're not sure quite where it fits. Yet in the end the music itself is so forceful, and the ideas and feelings carried by the songs so varied and complicated, that 'figuring it out' doesn't matter. You just let it carry you away, let the river take you where it will.
-Dave Heaton, Erasingclouds.com

A series of Beethoven piano sonatas was recently removed from Indietorrents, a private bit torrent-based file sharing site with rules and regulations verging on the dictatorial. For once, the reason was not for fear of RIAA watchdogs, poor quality files, or a duplicate posting. Indietorrents doesn’t have a genre option for “classical,” and so the subsequently mislabeled discs (“hip-hop,” apparently, being the next best choice) were taken off of the site. Aside from showcasing the ineffectiveness of bureaucratic red tape, the bigger message of the brief debacle seemed to be this: classical music has no place in indie rock. How, then, should we label Liam Singer?
It’s difficult to characterize a musician who approaches the piano as a pianist and not as a guitarist. Most tend to ignore the instrument’s capabilities; even the Beatles tended to stick with chords. Suffice to say, Singer’s technique is more expansive. “Water Rushing At You,” for example, is a dazzling two minutes of arpeggios and a hesitant bass clef gradually overcome by a flurry of scalar motions. It’s one of several solo piano compositions on the album, in itself a set of terms which sets off all of the classical music red flags; after all, pop musicians don’t play “compositions,” do they? Well, Singer does, at least until his vocals come in. Make no mistake, during the twelve minutes Singer lives up to his name, this debut is an indie-pop release.
The lo-fi aesthetic of The Empty Heart Of The Chameleon gives the piano a weighty, brooding tone. The lower register is particularly plodding and heavy in the untitled opening instrumental, when Singer lets the deep chords resonate. The casual recording atmosphere is filled with tiny noises: fingers on the keys, footsteps, and rustling papers permeate the songs, lending the album the air of a chamber performance in someone’s living room. Against this backdrop, Singer’s voice is purposeful despite its whispery nervousness. Much like several songs from Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, Singer is his own duet partner, singing in near-identical double-tracked takes. Though this approach works, his finest performance comes when he removes the safety net and sings in the singular in “One Day.” The music underscores a sunny picnic scene with the carefree feel of well-paced waltz, and Singer never sounds quite as assured as he does when he yearns for “the look in your open eyes.” Considering the song’s chorus laments the inevitable explosion of the Sun, a little confidence here goes a long way. Elsewhere, “Father I See” delivers a scathing final message to his absent father in a way that would make Cat Stevens wince.
Singer only falters when he leans on other people’s material; though not the worst problem for a young singer/songwriter to have, it’s an unnecessary misuse of the album’s scant twenty-six minutes. The middle three songs rely on the contributions of others: “Between My Lips, Which Did Sing” is his arrangement of an E. E. Cummings poem sung by Michelle Brandone’s trained soprano, which strains uncomfortably for the highest notes. “When I Am Laid In Earth,” a piece from Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido And Aeneas” (so much for indie-pop), shares the same lyrical graveyard ground as “Between My Lips, Which Did Sing.” This thematic decision would be stronger if the funereal pace and overbearing minor key didn’t feel so out of place. Though Aeneas' legendary voyage ties into the album’s water motif and a later allusion to his Greek counterpart, Ulysses, Singer is trying to wedge an ill-fitting homage into an album which simply doesn’t require it.
In a tantalizing hint of potential, “Hanna’s Dance” introduces a quick vocal harmony before segueing into a reprise of the album’s introduction. The Empty Heart Of The Chameleon is over far too quickly, leaving us to wonder if Singer has a stack of unreleased material of Iron & Wine proportions lying in wait, or if this is just the first tentative foray into recording. Whatever genre he ends up in, as long as his next release finds him following his own muse more often, Liam Singer is an artist to keep an ear on. -David Greenwald, Cokemachineglow.com

Les bras en croix, frissons passagers, on s'apprête à sauter. Au fond d'une mer d'eau glacée, la chair de poule criarde de ceux restés à la surface devient dérisoire à en couler. La beauté des profondeurs ne serait pas la même si tout le monde y avait accès. Une cité d'Atlantis remplie de caravanes allemandes et de stands de coquillages frits, c'est comparable à un Disneyland en Pologne.
Liam Singer est un songwriter qui a une prédilection prononcée pour le piano et les tabourets pour une personne. Tout comme Sufjan Stevens – dont le timbre de murmure est assez proche – a une prédilection pour le banjo et les cabrioles. Cet originaire de Portland mêle sur « The Empty Heart of The Chameleon » musique classique et folk avec grandeur et modestie.
C'est le titre The Last qui fait les présentations. Après deux couplets, on ne sait plus très bien si l'on écoute du Elliott Smith ou du Glenn Gould. Et c'est justement ce métissage confus qui fait la beauté de ce disque. Le très beau et fantomatique Trying Shoes / Climbing Stairs est l'un des instrumentaux qui vous feront tourner la tête. Montées, accélérations, apesanteur, pas besoin d'avoir la discographie complète de Chopin pour apprécier.
On se déguiserait bien en pingouin pour accueillir le souffle hivernal de One day comme il se doit. Sans doute la perle engloutie de l'album. En opposition à un Between My Lips, Which Did Sing un peu pompeux comme sait l'être Rufus Wainwright à sa manière.
The Empty Heart of The Chameleon est une oeuvre cristalline. Le choc à son écoute est pareil à a celui d'un bain de minuit dans l'océan arctique. Le corps nu flottant près de la banquise, on se met soudain à rêver d'être un pianiste... avant d'être attaqué par un banc de
morses sanguinaires. Triste fin. - Par Florian, Indiepoprock.net

Now and then I make an impulse buy.  About two years ago, I bought a movie because something about it intrigued me even though it was a small independent film that I had heard nothing about.  There was just something that lured me in and told me I had to take it home with me. 
After I watched the film I had mixed feelings on exactly what position to take.  The packaging is what got me to bring it home, the story was inventive and fresh, the actors played their parts well, but the way it was put together just didnt work.  They applied a highly saturated black and white effect to the entire movie and chopped it all up, but I had no idea why they employed either of these techniques.  Neither the effects nor the mixed-up sequencing added to the movie but rather made it boring because the story didnt lend itself well to these effects and it almost took too much effort to watch.  They were reaching for the stars, trying to be artsy for no reason other than hoping that it would enhance the film but instead just ended up tarnishing what could have had some serious potential. 
This is quite similar to how I felt after listening to Liam Singers debut album The Empty Heart of the Chameleon.  This debut album is largely focused on piano with lightly sung vocals that float nicely above the keys in a hushed, Elliott Smith manner.  Singer is obviously an accomplished pianist but sadly, not a diverse one, at least not on this record.  A good portion of the album does not include vocals, and it is almost hard to tell which song is playing as they are all quite similar in movement and tone. 
The somber nature of the album has a saddening quality to it.  The songs seem centered around death, and the music has a dark undertone that lingers like a heavy weight.  In Between My Lips, Which Did Sing we hear the beautiful operatic voice of Michelle Brandone.  While I welcomed the slight change of pace, the underlying music still moves with the same air as the rest of the songs, except that at this point, it begins to smell a bit stale.
There is definitely talent and a fresh perspective on musical styles that should be explored here.  Singer is reaching to bridge the gap between rock and classical but is still working on the details of how to fashion such a structure.  I can only hope that he continues to push forward with construction and build something that not only looks appealing, but is also structurally sound.  
- Lisa Town

photos: Alex Marvar
Liam Singer: “Winter Weeds(Dislocatia, Hidden Shoal)
Liam Singer caught our ear in a major way when his second album, Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek, appeared on our doorstep in fall of 2006, and we've been keeping an eye out for new developments in the Singer universe ever since. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, the precocious teen began recording songs on the accordion, synthesizer, and theremin at the age of fourteen and eventually studied music composition at Kenyon College in Ohio, with harpsichord selected as his main instrument. A move to San Francisco brought about a fortuitous association with Scott Solter and subsequent involvement in The Balustrade Ensemble's Capsules album, and of late Singer's played with Alexander Turnquist, Slow Six, and Boxharp. Of primary note, however, is the release of a superb new full-length called Dislocatia, which finds Singer's voice coming ever more fully into its own. Recently, we had an opportunity to be enlightened further on all things Singer-related by the composer himself.
1. A four-year gap separates Dislocatia and your previous full-length Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek. Was the new album held up in some way or are you simply the kind of person who prefers to let more time elapse between album releases?
I was definitely hoping to have Dislocatia out sooner. I recorded it with Scott Solter over twelve days in October 2008, and we mixed it a couple months later, so it was basically finished almost two years ago. But I made it with no real idea of what to do with it afterwards... my previous albums had been released by Tell-All records, a label that my friends ran in San Francisco and which had since collapsed, so I had no connections or leads to anyone with whom I might work. It ended up taking me a while to find a label that was both interested in the album and seemed like a good fit. I was very fortunate to hook up with Hidden Shoal, who are totally wonderful and have a real passion for the music they release. Due to their full schedule, however, there was another gap between signing with them at the start of this year and actually getting the album out. As for the two-plus years before I recorded the album, I was moving around the country a lot so it took me a while to get all the songs written, solid, and ready for the studio.
2. How in your eyes does Dislocatia differ from Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek? Do you see the new one as simply a continuation of the previous one, or are there major differences between them (and, if so, what are they)?
There are definitely similarities between the two albums in their mashing-together of genres, and having instrumental pieces dispersed amongst vocal songs. But I do see Dislocatia as its own entity. I wanted the contrast between the consonant and dissonant musical elements to be more apparent on this album, and for the lyrics to be still personal but less "confessional." I knew early on in writing these songs that they would be more orchestrated, and have more interaction between my voice and others'.
That said, I spend so much time thinking about my music that it's difficult for me to approach it from the standpoint of a listener. I couldn't say what the overall differences are in terms of atmosphere and emotional vibe.
3. Is Dislocatia more accurately a collection of unrelated songs or is it a song cycle (or concept album) based on a specific theme? If it's the latter, could you expand on your intended concept for the album?
In general, I like my albums to have the implied sense of a narrative, even if just on an abstract level. I'll usually write a number of songs without any particular guiding principle. Then I'll look at what themes and ideas emerge when you take them together and try to expand on those. I think if you're working from your own creative impulses, a group of songs will have certain points of cohesion whether you mean them to or not. So I try to take advantage of that, but also not to let thinking get in the way before it needs to.
The word "Disclocatia" implies to me both a landscape (a place that is no place) and a state of being. This refers partly to events that were happening in my life while writing these songs... I had kind of an intense wanderlust for a while, and I moved from San Francisco to spend six months on an island in Maine, followed by three months in Costa Rica, and finally moved to New York. So there was a lot of physical disorientation and connecting/disconnecting with people, starting new jobs and leaving, etc. I also went through the end of a very long relationship, and by the time I made Dislocatia was pretty much in the state that the title implies. But the album is also partly about various metaphysical ideas I was reading and thinking about at the time, for example, Marcia Eliade's sacred versus profane time and the eternal moment, the world of Philip K. Dick's Valis in which we exist in two realities simultaneously, or the writings on Sirius and Discordiansim in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger 1. Furthermore, all this was tied together with my discovery of the music of Morton Feldman, which I found profoundly affecting, and which opened new doors of musical perception for me.
4. To what do you attribute the unique compositional voice that you exemplify in your current work? To what degree can it be connected back to your tenure at Ohio's Kenyon College where harpsichord was your primary instrument?
Studying music academically definitely played a big role in the direction I went, but I think that my most central musical instincts predate college. Learning harpsichord was really just another instance of what has been a lifelong attraction toward neglected sounds. I have always been interested in music that seems fantastic and unusual to me, and in high school I taught myself the accordion and the theremin, and worked with synthesizers for several years. This tendency toward exploring timbres is not so apparent in my two albums previous to Dislocatia, where I was trying to do something more stark and focused, but is starting to emerge again.
Playing the harpsichord did teach me a lot about the Baroque era and approaching music contrapuntally, which still comes through in some of my writing, such as the song "From Fast to Slow / Behind this World."
As a note, it is not actually a harpsichord that appears on Dislocatia, but a tack piano, an upright piano into which we put tacks in the hammers. It's pretty difficult to tell the difference on a recording, though a harpsichord doesn't have a sustain pedal so couldn't have sounded as echo-y as what you hear on the album.
5. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I believe I heard the subtlest trace of Philip Glass surface at one point during the album. Who would you say have been the primary influences on your work?
Well, I'm relieved that it's the "subtlest trace" of Philip Glass you hear, rather than me "ripping him off completely"... the discovery of the minimalists was very big in my life, and though I probably listen to Steve Reich more than any of them, Glass' musical figures played a big role for me when I decided to make the piano my main instrument.
My work at this point is too tangled a jumble of influences for me to name them all, and I feel like each song exists in its own little world. Often I will be inspired by a specific musical idea that I hear, but it will become fairly unrecognizable by the time I'm done with it. There are songs on Dislocatia that were influenced by everything from M83 to Roy Orbison to Moondog, though I don't think you'd really hear any of those artists in my work. There are a handful of bands, most prominently Rachel's, that I'm sure have affected the basic way I've approached the intersection between the various musical worlds I'm interested in.
I also often gain inspiration from reading things by or about artistic heroes of mine. The book of interviews Herzog on Herzog probably influenced Dislocatia as much as anything.
6. While listening to Dislocatia, I was struck not only by how distinctive your composing and arranging styles are but by how theatrical in nature they are too. I can't help but think that you could establish yourself strongly in the world of theatre music composition if you were so inclined (kind of like a modern-day Stephen Sondheim, if you will—and that's meant as a compliment). Do you have any aspirations to participate in that field of artistic endeavour?
I have had several friends comment that they hear traces of musical theater in my work... while that is not an area that I'm consciously influenced by, I can understand why they'd say so. I am attracted to melodrama in music, and there is definitely a level of subdued histrionics in my own. I do like a lot of Opera—old and new—as well as many artists who take an outsized approach to emotional expression, such as Scott Walker, Kate Bush, or Swans. I'm also very influenced by several soundtrack composers, foremost Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota.
So musical theater should ideally provide everything I want, but I guess I find the conventions of most modern musicals sort of cheesy. Not so with many of the past; Stephen Sondheim was an incredible composer and songwriter, as was Leonard Bernstein. And there are other people from that era and earlier on that I really enjoy, like Kurt Weil. I think that if I met the right collaborator, something cool could happen in that realm, but I've never made any effort toward it. I know there is a scene of more non-mainstream musicals happening here in New York—I have friends involved in it—but I just haven't really explored it.
I am generally interested in soundtrack work, and have really enjoyed the little that I've done.
7. If I were asked to name who I would take to be kindred spirits of yours, I'd cite Nico Muhly and Rufus Wainwright, not necessarily on grounds of similarity in musical styles but more for the reason that they're both restless and adventurous plus eager to expand their music into classical and opera realms. Do you see them as kindred spirits or, if not, who do you see in that regard?
It's certainly great praise to be mentioned alongside either artist. I think that Nico Muhly's music is wonderful. He is one of a few really exciting composers here in New York hopping between worlds at the moment. I haven't followed Rufus Wainwright's music as closely, but have always liked what I've heard very much, and get the sense that he doesn't fit neatly into any category. So yes, they're both kindred spirits in the sense that they very much seem to be doing their own thing. I'm not particularly trying to expand into any scene myself; I would of course love to write for classically trained ensembles, but at this point I would have no idea how to make that happen.
I guess I feel an affinity most strongly with artists like Mark Hollis or David Sylvian. Again, there is not much of a direct aesthetic connection between their stuff and mine, but they are both folks who have taken the song form to pretty out places. I write the music that I do because it makes sense to me, but when it's done I'm never quite sure who to hand it to. It often feels too strange for people who want to hear songs, and too normal for an audience that's into experimental stuff. So I get the listeners who are willing to take it for what it is. I feel like a kindred spirit with anybody else in that position.
8. Having Wendy Allen share the vocal duties on the new album strikes me as masterstroke, given how contrasting your voices are. How did Boxharp members Allen and Scott Solter (who produced the album) come to be involved in the album?
Scott and Wendy have been good friends to me. I met Scott in San Francisco when I was looking for someone to record Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek. It was more or less chance that I found him, but it was a lucky meeting; we ended up sharing a lot in common in regards to musical aesthetics and philosophy, and I was—and continue to be—very inspired by his uncompromising attitude toward life and work. I am lucky to have him as a supporter of what I do. Later, I heard Wendy sing a recital of Appalachian folk songs, and it was clear to me that she has the most beautiful voice in the world. So I was certain that whatever I made next, I wanted Scott to record it and Wendy to sing on it.
9. Did Solter assume a more hands-off role as producer or did he play a significant part in shaping the songs and their arrangements?
I went in fairly prepared arrangement-wise, because I knew that I wanted to accomplish an lot in twelve days. However, I also consciously left space in a lot of pieces for Scott to work. For example, in the piece "Mold Me Torn Fan," I went in knowing that—beyond the basic piano track—I wanted alternating instruments to double the ascending line in the middle of the song, and I wanted a dissonant chord to be held by the children's choir at the end. All of the other sounds were devised in the studio. We ended up mixing this album very quickly, and on my next one I'd like to take more time during that process so that Scott's voice can come through even more.
10. I'm a huge admirer of Slow Six and Alexander Turnquist and the music they respectively produce, so my interest was roused when I learned that you've play keyboards for both artists in live settings. How did those associations come about and what is it like playing in contexts where the artists' musical styles seem at least to be so different from your own?
I have known Alexander for a while now. He first got in touch with me back when I was living in San Francisco and helping to run Tell-All Records; he was a fan of our releases, and wanted to talk about putting something out with us. The label unfortunately disintegrated before that could happen, but we stayed in touch, and began hanging out after we both wound up in the New York area. We've played on several bills together, and I have occasionally provided some simple piano backup at his shows, very basic stuff emphasizing melodic lines coming out of his guitar. He's a great guy, a virtuosic player, and has a wonderful musical ear.
It was through Alexander that I was connected with Chris Tignor and Slow Six. Chris and Alex are friends, and Chris heard me play at a show we were doing together at the now-defunct venue Monkeytown. Slow Six's previous Rhodes player was leaving the city around that time, so afterward Chris contacted me about touring with them, which I did in early June opening up for This Will Destroy You. I have since played a couple other Slow Six shows in the NY area, and have a fantastic time performing with them.
I have played in a fair number of different bands and ensembles, so while Slow Six's music can be challenging in some parts—particularly metrically—I didn't find it a huge leap to start up with them. Though their musical style is very different from mine, we are definitely working from the same worlds of influence.- textura.org

Liam also plays on the following albums:
, The Green (Hidden Shoal, 2010)
, Loam Arcane EP (Hidden Shoal, 2010)
Early Autumn Break
, Swimming With Children (One Sunny Day, 2010)
The Balustrade Ensemble
, Capsules (Dynamophone Records, 2007)


Arc Iris (2013)  liamsinger.bandcamp.com/album/arc-iris

Consider the snowglobe. When you pick it up, you’re holding something that’s capable of conjuring absolutes of beauty, force, and fragility — I mean, shake it and a season just happens — but the snowglobe you tend to end up with is something like this. Somewhere between reality and the possibilities offered by this strange incandescent paperweight, kitsch and the desire to transform the transcendent into the ornamental (and eerily narcissistic) intervenes. And so it is with chamber pop. In this post-Sufjan age (in the years AS, for the calendar-minded of you), the idea of people working with a bunch of classically-trained players to make literate, ornate music has unfortunately taken on a pretty precious set of connotations through overuse and abuse; like, if you can get through the video for “16 Military Wives,” you’re on the wrong side of history, and I won’t even start on Patrick Watson. Even Sufjan h(H)imself, who made made the highpoint for fussy, anal whimsy, backed away from the idea. Like one of those ingenue female protagonists from a Belle and Sebastian song, he liberated everyone from their inhibitions, and everyone in turn got a little fucked over by the results. Yet, as ever, the antidote to diminishing returns in this kind of thing is subsuming everything to craft and integrity, and Arc Iris is one of the best crafted records anyone, anywhere will release this year.
Based in Queens, Liam Singer has been around for a while, but Arc Iris smacks with the freshness of putting your head into the first ever grocery store refrigeration system, quietly stacking up a pile of minor miracles until the picture transcends the brushstrokes. Laboriously tinkered over with sideman par excellence Scott Solter, it’s a flowing suite of nocturnes, militaristic interludes, and eerie chamber torch ballads, lit by stunningly and delicately deployed woodwinds and keyboards in wandering and richly pained-over arrangements. This is a record for precious solitude without either preciousness or loneliness, which is as deft as all hell a thing to accomplish: is Liam Singer the Mahela Jayawardene of classical pop music? It’s big enough to fit inside and small enough to carry around.
Although there’s definitely a surfeit of ideas and invention on display (“Stranger I Know” somehow manages to sound like a hesitant oompah), the confidence Singer shows in pushing his simplest ideas out to fruition is extremely satisfying, as the best moments come when the record gets the chance to breathe out fully. Take the builds and swells in “Dear Sister/Gears Turn in Gears;” as the motif of the second half repeats upon itself, gradually adding further flourishes and counterpoints, it rises to a swoon that’s basically 10/10 dancing around the bedroom stuff. Consider it the “Party Hard” for hermits. The gorgeous interlude “The Dance of Cupid and Psyche” follows, and it runs among the best six minutes of music to surface this year. On paper, “The Astronaut” merely repeats a verse and a chorus three times, but looking closer, it’s a progression that sounds like Esquivel writing a Christmas carol before Singer rolls out a velvet carpet of a melody that effortlessly moves forward over what feels like an unbroken 48-bar phrase or something (but you’re not counting). Similarly, “Unhand Me (You Horrid Thing)” is surprisingly simple at heart, with a naked pulse pushing it forward like a twice-removed baroque iteration of Duran Duran.
His lyrics scan as abstruse when immersed in the arrangements, but key phrases emerge out of the ether. Idling in an earthy melancholy, even the moments of great action and bluster find him reflective, as strangers emerge and disappear once they take on darker significance, youths are frightful and jeopardized, and appearances give way to something more sinister; “Nine, ten/ Ready or not/ I’m crawling out/ Of your skin.” Singer’s vocal range is narrow, but he works it to his advantage, as his voice seems to peer into his lyrics like a crow unsure of whether to jump at its reflection, while his arrangements peek around the corners of the problem. It’s all like feeling a sail billow behind you.
For all its virtues, the album tapers somewhat as it goes, but “Forever Blossoming” is a stark, sad standout, detailing an end to things — “Pardon me/ Have we met/ You’ve got the kind of face/ That i’d like to forget” — as his melody twitches into a lovely, plaintive sense of ambivalence. With this, the arc of the record becomes clear, as Singer comes toward completing a journey from approaching the “Stranger I Know” (“Hold your breath/ I’ll hold mine too”) toward experience, then eventually wisdom (i.e., nuh-uh, not that again of the record’s final third). As such, The Caretaker-esque decaying bookends feel strikingly appropriate; like the snowglobe, after you shake it and watch the world change, it settles back as you began, except now you know how the whole thing works. Likewise, Arc Iris is a thing of quiet knowingness. - Alex Griffin 
“In textura’s review of Liam Singer’s 2010 release Dislocatia, we wrote, “Of all of the figures working in the electronic music field today, none sounds more destined for a side-career in operatic theatre composing than Liam Singer. Some enterprising Broadway producer should commission the man before others secure his considerable talents.” The Queens-based chamber-pop artist’s fourth full-length Arc Iris  does nothing to dissuade us from reiterating that earlier sentiment. It’s a wonderful fourteen-song set that suggests Singer is well-capable of creating a work as dynamic and memorable as John Adams’ I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky  (1995) and Philip Glass’s Songs from Liquid Days  (1986). With its songs bookended by a prelude and related closer, Arc Iris  structurally simulates a song cycle, too.
Singer deftly manages the not easy feat of making music that’s compositionally sophisticated yet immediately accessible—no listener will need to work hard to appreciate the ravishing pop melodies spread so plentifully throughout the set. It’s not a wholly solo affair, however. Wendy Allen (Boxharp), members of Slow Six/Wires Under Tension, and bassist Dan Shuman (Monocle) contribute, and more critical is the involvement of Scott Solter, who collaborated with Singer on the album’s creation over a ten-month period (Solter also served as production midwife for Singer’s second album, Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek, and Dislocatia).
There are moments when the album calls to mind the the more daring work created by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for Smile. That’s especially so on purely sonic grounds when Arc Iris‘s palette offers such an instrumentally rich listen. Wilson long ago coined the term ‘pocket symphony’ for the fantastical constructions to which he gave birth, and the term could be applied to operatic roller-coasters like “The Astronaut” and “Dear Sister/Gears Turn in Gears.” There are moments when Arc Iris  evokes other composers, too (Philip Glass in the cycling woodwind patterns in “Disappear and Appear,” for example), but for the most part Singer’s his own man. Despite their intricate construction, Singer’s songs exude a graceful quality that connects directly with the listener, and that applies to instrumentals, too, as attested to by the lovely “Coma Nocturne.”
Baroque instrumental touches do, in fact, give “Prelude (Into the Luminous Currents)” a luminous quality, before the album’s first standout, the haunting “Stranger I Know,” appears. Graced by a stirring vocal melody as well as stirring vocal counterpoint between Singer and a background choir, the song is one of the album’s strongest arguments for his gifts (the instrumental interweave of cello and clarinet is lovely, too). Also powerful: “Nine Ten,” which is buoyed by some of the album’s loveliest melodies; “Forever Blossoming,” a dramatic outpouring distinguished by Singer’s heartfelt vocal and classical piano playing; and the comparatively light-hearted “Unhand Me (You Horrid Thing).” Contrasts of mood and tempo abound: propelled by galloping motorik rhythms, “O Endless Storm” exudes an appropriate degree of tumult, for example, while the instrumental setting “The Dance of Cupid and Psyche” presents itself as an elegant, piano-driven lilt.
If there’s a misstep, it’s “Eye Eclipse Eye,” whose deteriorated sound design feels out of keeping with the polished presentation of the other songs. But errors are few and far between on the album, and one comes away from it thoroughly won over. Singer’s exceptional command of melody, compositional form, and arrangement are on full display, and the performances are first-rate, too. Arc Iris  is forty-three minutes of music guaranteed to make you swoon.” - textura.org 
photo: Stephen Somple       
We've been huge admirers of Liam Singer's work ever since his second album, Our Secret Lies Beneath The Creek (Tell-All Records), crossed our path in 2006. If anything, our appreciation for the Portland-born and New York-based singer-songwriter's gifts only deepened when Hidden Shoal issued his Dislocatia four years later and was once more strengthened upon hearing his latest Arc Iris (reviewed here). In addition to his solo output, Singer contributed piano to the wonderful Balustrade Ensemble album Capsules, occasionally accompanies guitarist Alexander Turnquist live, and is a touring keyboardist with the chamber-electronic ensemble Slow Six. Recently Singer generously agreed to enhance our impression of Arc Iris by sharing with us background details for all fourteen of the album's songs.
1. “Into the Luminous Currents”
I usually feel the need to begin my albums with an instrumental that sets the sonic context. I knew I wanted to start here with something very textural, the piano playing a reduced role, since timbral variety was one of my central concepts for this record. I began with a simple chord progression, then Scott Solter and I chose various landscape imagery to drive our layering of sonic elements, resulting in this beautifully blurred journey into a forest at the bottom of an ocean.
2. “Stranger I Know”
I'm proud of this song and its economy of means. I have a tendency to get crazy chordally, so I'm happy when I find a way to keep things tonally simple and drive a piece along in other ways (in this song, it's the unusual counterpoint and unpredictable rhythms that keep it interesting for me). It could have gone a lot of directions arrangement-wise—when I play it live it's a much more delicate and lullaby-like song—but I like how bringing the drums in fairly late in the game places a more playful vibe against the melancholy vocal and cello lines.
3. “O Endless Storm”
This is the earliest song from the set that's on Arc Iris. I hadn't written anything I liked in a while, and sat down one day to bang out some dumb chords in frustration—then, this music and melody showed up very quickly. I think of the lyrics in this song—and much of Arc Iris—as a sort of allegory for certain emotional states—in this case, a pretty tumultuous one. The chorus describes a recurring dream I had of a woman dressed in wings and armor who always floated backwards as I approached her. The arrangement was very much built in the studio; I had a lot of half-baked ideas that were resulting in a jumbled mess, so Scott and I stepped back and figured out how to assign sounds in a more pointillistic fashion. I love how it turned out sonically, especially the blending of Wendy Allen's vocals and the flutes in the chorus.
4. “The Dance of Cupid and Psyche”
I have a habit of churning out unabashedly Morroconi-inspired little pieces, and when they're catchy enough to root themselves in my head they'll find their way onto my albums. I think the cello melody came out beautifully here. Scott and I often spoke generally about adding ambient “ghosts” and trails on this record, which you can hear a lot of in this song with a close listen.
5. “Dear Sister / Gears Turn in Gears”
This turned out to be one of the more cinematic songs on Arc Iris. I have a friend who likes to invoke Danny Elfman when talking about my music, and though I can't see it generally I definitely do on the second half of this piece. Like many songs on this record, it describes a person who's caught between two worlds.
6. “Nine Ten”
It's difficult to imagine, but I originally wrote this piano line to accompany a surreal/absurdist cover that I dreamed up of an Iggy Pop song. Once I decided that was a stupid concept, I still had a melody I liked, so I started writing some ideas against it and came up with “Nine Ten.” I like how each timbral element occupies its own space here. I wanted the percussive pulse to mimic the sound of a muffled dance party, though it is actually an acoustic drum being played. We fed my vocals through some crumpled up tape loops to get the papery effect you hear. I think the Kora set against the piano sounds really beautiful and, as always, Wendy Allen rules.
7. “The Astronaut”
Some songs happen all at once and some are a combination of ideas. This one brings together melodic fragments I'd written over an extended period that never really found a home, or were part of discarded pieces. In fact, the instrumental melody that appears throughout the song is from one of the first things I ever recorded on my four-track in high school. I'd been meaning to give it a second chance for a while; it just ended up taking sixteen years! Scott and I invented a sort of fake glass harmonica that appears on a few of Arc Iris's tracks, which is what gives some sections here their luminous quality.
8. “Plestiodon Fasciatus”
I dig this little melody; its shape was inspired a bit by Aphex Twin's piano pieces, and the use of the snare drum by the driving feeling in Arnold Dreyblatt's work. The Plestiodon Fasciatus is the name of a type of blue lizard that I was visited by twice last year, once while camping in Zion national park and once while in North Carolina mixing this record.
9. “Disappear and Appear”
Definitely the most over-the-top thing I've recorded—sometimes I really love it and sometimes I'm almost embarrassed by its high drama. But as the song started to take shape, it got bigger and bigger conceptually. I wrote the single-line chorus melody in my head on the subway after seeing a performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, and the song emerged from there. The unison breakdown in the middle was inspired by a musical project I never quite got off the ground called MVIMPVM, which involved a group of musicians playing songs that often delved into absurd yet tightly rehearsed and controlled melodic tangents. Theo Metz plays percussion throughout the record, but this is the song where his personal style really gets to shine through.
10. “Forever Blossoming”
This track is another dramatic one in its own way, in the sense that it's my version of a “ballad.” It's got some of my favourite lyrics on the whole record. I wrote it shortly after watching the Leonard Cohen doc Bird on a Wire, so guess I was feeling self-indulgent enough to take some lyrical risks.
11. “I Was Glad to Hear From You And I Liked the Way You Signed Your Name”
Another central theme in my conception of this album was “controlled insanity.” I was less concerned with whether ideas were good or bad and more with allowing my crazier instincts to surface and pursuing them. Hence, a song like this with its ridiculous melody—not sure where it came from, but I'm glad I made it. The title is a quote from a letter I received from Mr. Rogers after writing to him at age five.
12. “Unhand Me (You Horrid Thing)”
People really seem to connect with this song, so I don't actually want to say too much about the lyrics and what they mean to me personally. I'm also told I should write more songs like it, which, listen guys, I would if I could.
13. “Coma Nocturne”
One day I'd like to make a whole record of pieces like this. Scott and I spent a good while improvising and adding little sonic details and treats, which gives the song a haunted, twilight sheen that I love.
14. “Eye Eclipse Eye”
The tape fragment that comprises this piece is taken from the intro track, so it's a bit of a return to the beginning, albeit stripped - www.textura.org/
Liam Singer - Arc Iris Interview
I had the pleasure of speaking again with Liam Singer the other week on the phone from New York, whose new album Arc Iris is out on Hidden Shoal. It's such a fine piece of work, everyone should check it out, spinning a delicate and poignant brand of chamber pop. I reviewed the album here - there are also some tracks from the album on that link.
Over the course of the interview, it was interesting to hear Liam talk about the "tone colours" he had in mind for the album. In fact, if I'm not mistaken this certain atmospheric quality was his starting point and main aim for the record.
I asked him about the fact that many of the songs on the album seem to relate to incidents from early life or childhood. He agreed and made a fascinating point about the age at which people begin to write music, in his case around 10 years old. That is, that their songwriting often remains fixed at that age, occupied with themes, concerns relevant to that age, no matter at what age the writer is writing. It's something I'd never thought of before and is the kind of idea that could be a prism with which to revisit all my favourite music.
Liam has cited The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin and Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys as two main influences on his thinking for Arc Iris. He expanded on that in the interview with reference to the psychedelic arrangements of those albums, in particular the "warped orchestral feel" of The Soft Bulletin which gives a strange sheen and sense of narrative through the album. It's a comment that's equally valid in relation to his own work with its rich variety of instrumentation taking in cello, choral work, woodwind, glockenspiel, as well as the piano at the core.

- theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com/

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