Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label
Ask Devendra Banhart what he's listening to these days, and it's wise to pull
up a chair. The psyche-folk songwriter, who compiled Arthur magazine's
genre-defining Golden Apples of the Sun, has been a passionate advocate
for artists as diverse as Vashti Bunyan, Xiu Xiu, Six Organs of Admittance, and
Feathers. Now, with friend and songwriting partner Andy Cabic of Vetiver, Banhart
has found another avenue for promoting the artists who catch his interest: a
new label called Gnomonsong, which will be distributed by Revolver USA. (Banhart
and Cabic are signed to XL/Beggars Banquet and DiCristina Staircase respectively,
and will continue to release their own records exclusively for these labels).
Banhart and Cabic will mainly be involved in artist development, rather than the day-to-day administration of the new label, or, as Banhart described it in a recent email interview: "fulfilling the extraterrestrial possibilities of ... giving the people who made or are making the music their due."
The first two Gnomonsong releases have already been determined. Jana Hunter's Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, a collection of early demo recordings, will be released in October. Hunter recently recorded a split LP with Devendra on Troubleman Unlimited and appeared on Golden Apples of the Sun. Banhart says he's known her since his first tour with Entrance, where she opened at the Houston show. "I flipped," he said. "I have admired her music and her heart ever since. Forever now, always, she, truly to me, is the Iggy Pop librarian love machine."
A second release, yet to be scheduled, will feature ABRA, a collective whose members include, according to Banhart, "Honey Brown, Captain Catnip and Charley Feathers" (though perhaps not the rockabilly Charlie Feathers).
Said Cabic, "Both [records] have a strong feeling of magic and intimacy, mystery and idiosyncrasy. Jana's record is kindling for the soul, rough hewn and reverb-soaked. High on handclaps and mic fuzz, her charmed voice changes shape from song to song, sometimes stark, otherwise embellished by the crackle of an unending bedroom of sound. ABRA is like the blurry silhouette of a drunken usher at a midnight cabaret, a sure cure for heartache and hangover, more felt than thought thunk. It's like the Village People, but gay. I mean, it's a bigger village, but the people are still real friendly."
Gnomonsong will be guided by the advice of the mysterious Powerwoman, of whom Banhart noted, "Powerwoman is ... our Oracle , who we call upon to help with problems. There is so much to write about Powerwoman, but to feel Powerwoman is to know. Powerwoman dissolves the blocks in our minds."
Both Banhart and Cabic are getting ready to launch new albums of their own. Banhart's
eclectic, rock-leaning Cripple Crow will be out on XL/Beggars in September.
Recorded in upstate New York, the album is the cold-weather counterpart to Banhartís
two previous albums, Rejoicing and Niño Rojo. "Out in the
snow, we made this record, surrounded by Deer, Turkeys, wolves and bears," he
wrote in an email. "No joke, groovy but COLD, so we chicken-danced our way to
an imaginary island where fisherwomen taught us how to surf the warmest ley line."
Cabic's new Vetiver CD is also coming later this year, on DiCristina. "The songs are similar, at least they seem so to me," he said, when asked to describe it. "The next record is mostly a continuation of where the first one left off, only I've had more of an opportunity to develop the arrangements and broaden the palette of players and friends. Thom Monahan and I have had a lot of fun trying out new ideas and there's still quite a bit left to go, so... anything can happen." Jennifer Kelly [Wednesday, August 3, 2005]