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31 Mix for Vashti Bunyan

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Edition 31 - Mix for Vashti Bunyan by Dave Howell (Fat Cat) | written as a letter to Vashti Bunyan

Hi Vashti,

Ben at Arctic Circle asked me to put together this little hour-long podcast for your forthcoming show which he’s promoting at the Union Chapel… I’ve tinkered around on this for a while now and, after a number of false starts, here’s what i finally came up with…I started off trying to build a mix based around people you’ve worked with (Vetiver, Max Richter, Devendra, Joanna Newsom, Gareth Dickson, etc), which i then ditched in favour of building something that had a really solid structure based around the idea of the seasons and natural / seasonal themes. I found enough great tracks to fit this bill (‘Spring’ by Crescent, ‘When It’ll Be Snowing’ by Drowsy, your own tracks like ‘Winer Is Blue’, ‘Rosehip November’, etc.) but somehow when it came to putting them side-by-side in seasonal groups, it just didnt work out musically… So I scrapped it again…

In the end, I’ve conceptually copped-out and made you an hour-long mix based on things that worked next to one another in a coherent mix, anchored by my own personal VB favourites, and guided by a sensibility (either musically or lyrically) that i think is close to your own. . There’s a fair amount of music you’ll know by people you’ve either collaborated or shared a bill with, and there’s probably a fair amount of material here that you won’t know, and hopefully you might be piqued by some of that to investigate further…anyway, i hope that you’ll like it and make it through the full hour…

Have fun in Asia . I cant wait to see you back onstage at the UK shows…

lots of love,

dh

1. Vashti BunyanHere Before – Given the basic ruling for this mix for ‘the circle’ was that it had to start and end on the same track, this was an easy pick… A beautiful, cyclical, ultra-concise, maternal Vashti track that speaks for itself and joins the loop between past and future…

2. Vetiver – ‘Been so Long’ – the first track of our first Vetiver release, which came about through our meeting both Andy Cabic and his US label boss / manager Gary Held during the planning of ‘Lookaftering’…

3. David Karsten Daniels – \The Dream Before The Ring That Woke Mezz – Strangely overlooked american singer / songwriter whose striking, bold voice and arrangements tackle big themes head-on and who deserves far better recognition… another cyclical track, ultra-simple and swollen with emotion – a great unification of form and content…

4. Animal Collective (feat. Vashti Bunyan)Prospect Hummer – the place where our journey began… Recorded in the midst of an Animal Collective tour, this track brings back great memories, and watching one of the most inventive and talented bands of the past 10 years building this step-by-step in the studio was a real insight into their intuitive brilliance…

5. The Balky MuleA Moth – again, almost universally overlooked, but this track comes from what was, in my opinion, one of last years’ finer albums… charming, honest, unaffected, utterly English, inventive, homespun magic. Starting out as junk-shop keyboard experiments Crescent’s Sam Jones forged a series of unique, lightly skewed songs that beautifully encapsulate his own little worldview and perfectly mesh the electronic and the organic…

6. Max RichterHorizon Variations – Max was a great find for us, and the perfect artist for our 130701 imprint… There’s probably none over 16 in the country who’s not heard his music, as it’s become synonymous with TV soundtracking…Whilst his highly intelligent, concept-based music is saturated with great ideas and cultural citations, he remains one of the most lovely, calm and humble people i’ve had the pleasure of working with… and his production work on ‘Lookaftering’ is simply stunning…

7. The Twilight Sad - Some Things Last A Long Time – a cover of a very beautiful, simple, intense devotional song by the incredible Daniel Johnston, delivered with the total passion it demands by your Glasgow near-neighbours… real deep, powerful chord-organ blues…

8. Alejandra & AeronKitchen – a brief excerpt from a 15-minute track that appeared on a Split Series 12″ in 2001. True nomadic visionaries, Aeron & Alejandra run a little label called Lucky Kitchen and emerged in New York in the late ’90s. I adore what they do and the fact that they were the first to mix and apply the idea of a folk music community to a diverse scene of bedroom-recorded electronica… With an utterly warm, progressive humanity, their output is never less than intriguing and beautifully-crafted and skips from compilations of children’s songs or soundtracks; to imaginary video games; to recordings of disappearing folk traditions; to childhood tape experiments.. The track this was cropped from was all recorded in Sandra’s grandmother’s kitchen in Spain, and sees her singing an old Spanish folk / work song. It ends with a fierce frying pan sizzle, which led me to following it up with the next track as it’s so saturated with ‘frying’ tape noise…

9. **Vashti Bunyan – Wishwanderer – beautiful, simple, devastatingly economical and somehow almost brutal in its message. You looked and sounded like the most fragile little thing, but it floors me that some of these early songs are just like these incredible, tough-cookie, survivalist nuggets… This song’s avowal of living-for-the-moment and awareness of the temporality of things cuts away any polite pretense of lasting commitment…

10. Songs of Green PheasantKnulp – another ‘wishwanderer’, Knulp is the lead character in and title of a great book by Herman Hesse – a drop-out who perpetually wanders and refuses to be tied to any job, place or person… It’s taken from the debut SOGP album, which came to us fully-formed out of the blue – occluded with reverb and home-recorded tape warmth, and then took nearly 2 years to track down its creator… Again, an unsung star set for future unearthing…

11. DrowsyWhen It’ll Be Snowing – Starting with a demo sent from a remote village in Finland, Drowsy released two albums with us… With a Syd Barrett-esque lyrical charm and sense of the everyday odd, his songs mix an immersion in nature with space-age dreaming and quirky imaginary flights… this track comes from his second album and takes the form of a wintry tale that – a bit like ‘…Diamond Day’ – is populated by animal characters, here preparing to see out the cold months…

12. Nina NastasiaOur Day Trip – There are plenty of good singers, but Nina has one of those voices that is able to go so much further, that can sudenly flip and swoop in a flash of brilliance, accessing wells of emotional intensity beyond the reach of most mortals… A brilliant, commanding artist, dreaming here about seizing the moment and following a whim… i love the ending lines that reveal the wish as unrequited…

13. Vashti BunyanLately – I remember hearing the orchestral parts to this being added in the studio and being stopped dead by its beauty.. i’m amazed how a short varnished wooden tube with holes, a bit of metal piping and a reed can reach so deep and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end… This is a 2-minute gem of a song – every bit as classy, economic, and beautifully affecting as the best on ‘JADD’…

14. CrescentNearly Ready – Friends from my time way back in Bristol, Crescent take their place as part of a mostly-overlooked vein of autodidactic / self-sufficient UK music (see also: Hood, Flying Saucer Attack, Movietone, SOGP, Robert Wyatt, etc.) – well-grounded, inventive, honest, humble, tactile, analogue, in touch with the physical world of nature and decay, building their own instruments, building 20-foot long tape loops, recording outdoors… pure, walking music that exists outside of fashion or even the vaguest whiff of hipsterdom, their records cant be rushed and turn up on average every four or five years… nudge, nudge…

15. The IvytreeCrescent-shaped Sails – linked to the previous track not just through the song title, Californian Glenn Donaldson is another true nomad of free spirited, organic modern ‘folk’. His (often improvised) live outdoors recordings mix devotionally-charged song and free improvisation with avant-folk ritual, psychedelic pop and field recording via his numerous pseudonyms and collaborations (including The Birdtree, Thuja, The Skygreen Leopards, Hala Strana, The Blithe Suns) and his home-run label, Jewelled Antler Collective (specialising in beautifully-packaged, made-to-order CDR pressings). There’s a lovely melancholic warmth and a fragile sense of beauty hanging here, and for me, this utterly tactile, humble, San Franciscan open-air wandering that eschews any cult of personality and goes its own sweet way is the genuine real deal…

16. Vashti BunyanI’d Like To Walk Around In Your Mind Someday - a perfect bitter-sweet daydream… a stunning piece of songwriting…

17. Tom BrosseauEmpty Houses Are Lonely – North Dakotan Tom has such a beautiful voice. Image-rich, capable of great strength through the sparsest of means… I love to watch him play live and the occasional, ever-so-subtle edge he brings to his shows (baring teeth at a heckler, precariously balancing on a chair or table, walking out into the crowd) that makes you feel a slight discomfort and alive and like something could suddenly happen…

18. Silje NesThe Card House – More home-baked island music. Norwegian Silje is self-taught, playing and recording everything herself.. Her music is saturated with a sense of watery-ness – delicate, intricate, glistening… Her super-sweet, gentle vocals and a drive to spin all the webs herself remind me of someone… This is taken from a lovely new album, which will come out in september…

19. Dorine_MurailleDopees – young French producer whose one album is, for me, a true jewel in our archive – a unique, shifting, sparkling mixture of splintered experimental electronics alongside some very old, very earthy English folk songs like ‘Barbara Allen’ and this song, ‘O Willow Waly’, which originates from the British horror film (made near us in Haywards Heath), ‘The Innocents’, and was released on Decca in 1962. The album (‘Mani’) came out in 2003 and was well ahead of the curve…

20. EnsembleExcerpts – Olivier is a super-talented French producer now living in Montreal, who has worked with Bjork and was actually one of the first artists we began talking with when the label first got going. This is from his new album, which is due out in the Autumn, and is a lush mixture of guitar-based drones, orchestral recordings and strong songs – half of them French, half English…

21. Vashti BunyanHere Before – just a touch over the requested 60-minute mark, and layered alongside some orchestral intro drone from Ensemble, but the perfect outro track.