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Total Request: 112 (1 download, 111 plays)
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Categorized as: Folk / Acoustic, Indie Rock, Experimental
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2009, Asthmatic Kitty Records,
With the release of Heavy Ghost, David is putting his inexplicable visions to song. A true artistic entrepreneur, David spent a year writing, arranging and recording, performing nearly all of the music on Heavy Ghost—even creating all of the album’s artwork—resulting in an intensely personal masterwork that exposes his own conflicted spirituality and his drive to find a place in which he belongs. In addition to coming from a musical family, David was also brought up in an intensely religious family, and much of his artistic struggle has been trying to reconcile his emerging sense of ethics with that of his church’s identity. Finding a spiritual host for himself—without repressing or discrediting any part of himself—is the central struggle that his music addresses.
Musically, Heavy Ghost is as dense as it is transparent, taking listeners through a tumultuous narrative of self-discovery with its rich and daring orchestration. In the opening track, "Isaac’s Song," a torrent of piano slams, shouts, machine-gun snare, and ghostly harmonics evoke the biblical story of Abraham—when God called upon him to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moria, testing him to see if he would be willing to make the highest sacrifice in order to appease the God he so loves and fears. In the context of Heavy Ghost, this reference introduces the album as a sort of sacrifice, as an offering. In "Pity Dance," the lilting guitar of Violeta Parra, the over-saturated production of Tom Waits, the dark choirs of The Shangri-Las, and the speak song of Randy Newman all serve to support a sense of lyrical self-awareness that is alternately confounding and thrilling. No longer can the artist simply ignore or suppress the parts of himself “that he doesn’t like” in order to be accepted by his spiritual community; these parts must either be completely embraced or exhumed. But first these elements must be confronted. Heavy Ghost continues along the route of confrontation and purification, reaching a frenzied breaking point with "Spirit Parade," in which David performs a sort of musical exorcism on himself. Full of visceral, percussive elements, otherworldly wails, and a humming motif that echoes an African-American spiritual, Spirit Parade gives thrilling nods to haunting mysticism. After this track, the tone of the album begins to gradually settle into a realm of peaceful resolution. In "Morning Glory Cloud," David Stith begins to leave his previously tortured persona behind, embarking on a journey of self-acceptance and atonement.
Lyrically and conceptually, David Stith explores the ineffable. "Morning Glory Cloud" captures a mysterious and rare rolling cloud formation, connecting it to memories of playing hide and seek while growing up in the Rust Belt. In "Fire of Birds," David connects seemingly disparate experiences: being awakened one morning by what sounds like the neighbors speaking with fire; a memory of being burned by fireworks as a child; following a friend through the rain in the woods in the middle of the night to fix a water collection system; the story of Isaac burning and somehow finding a new body. Throughout the album, the concepts of water and fire are continually contrasted and expounded upon. Fire as menacing and rejected romantic passion in "BMB" is transmuted into joyous and liberating fire in "Fire of Birds;" the foreboding, melancholic clouds of rain in "Pity Dance" become cleansing, empowering watery visages in Pigs—the track that sets up the jaunting sacrificial rite in "Spirit Parade." Heavy Ghost communicates a startling range—from earnest yearning to heartbreak, shimmering hopefulness to the brink of existential despair. David Stith’s ethereal voice communicates the unfathomable—mysticism, the commingling of water and fire, waking dreams, spiritual torment—with such reckless abandon that is rarely seen in many albums, let alone a debut work.
1. Isaac's Song - 1:38
2. Pity Dance - 4:21
3. Creekmouth - 4:10
4. Pigs - 4:54
5. Spirit Parade - 2:23
6. BMB - 2:43
7. Thanksgiving Moon - 3:59
8. Fire Of Birds - 5:13
9. Morning Glory Cloud - 3:56
10. GMS - 2:35
11. Braid Of Voices - 5:26
12. Wig - 2:35
VINYL INCLUDES CURTAIN SPEECH EP
13. Around The Lion Legs - 3:38
14. Curtain Speech - 1:38
15. Just Once - 7:23
16. Hoarse Sorrows And The Whole Blind Earth... - 2:46
17. Abraham's Song (Firebird) - 1:50
2009, Asthmatic Kitty Records,
The second in a series of three EPs, Thanksgiving Moon EP starts with the original demo that was the first to be recorded for DM Stith's debut album Heavy Ghost. In 2004 Stith had left Brooklyn to move to upstate New York. A year after the move Stith wrote "Thanksgiving Moon", a reflection of the landscape of Western New York. The song captures his voice between the mammoth oaks and guitar shimmering beneath the night sky. "Thanksgiving Moon" marked a new direction in Stith's songwriting. This was the beginning of something like "a sound" or the maturation of a voice. He sent the song to My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden who said "...just make 9 more like this and you're done with your album." And it was also this song that ended up flapping around the Asthmatic Kitty offices, resulting in the label commissioning Stith to finish an album.
The EP offers up myriad of interpretations and reworkings; from the marching band gut punch of the re-envisioned "Pigs" to Michna's (Ghostly International) tropical dance remix. Additionally Stith's cover of David Byrne's "A Soft Seduction" flutters with serene tenderness while labelmate Rafter turns "Thanksgiving Moon" into a doombeat terror. The EP closes with Dayna Kurtz (who first convinced Stith to perform live) covering the title track, turning it into a smokey jazz standard. Yet despite these stylistically divergent tracks, the EP is able to maintain an aesthetic consistency that makes for a pleasurable listen from start to finish.
1. Thanksgiving Moon (Demo)
2. Pigs (feat. Jefferson Street Band)
3. Thanksgiving Moon (Michna Remix)
4. A Soft Seduction (David Byrne Cover)
5. Thanksgiving Moon (Rafter Remix)
6. Untitled (Lacuna B)
7. Thanksgiving Moon (Cover by Dayna Kurtz)
2009, Asthmatic Kitty Records,
Heavy Ghost, the debut album from DM Stith, had an almost supernatural effect when it was released in March of 2009. Reviewers and fans alike acclaimed it as a stunning debut unlike anything else they'd heard in a while. Stith's peers received it just as well: Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear twittered about it calling it a "lovely album," and Bat for Lashes picked it for her New York Times playlist, saying “It traverses all these magical landscapes… almost like Alice through the looking glass. Like you’re being sucked into a secret world."
Now, Stith returns with BMB, a seven song release and the first in a trilogy of EP’s to be released before the end of the year. The version of "BMB" found on this EP is slower than the version on Heavy Ghost. It is starker, almost skeletal in the way it reveals the turning gears of the song. In it, Stith's reverb drenched vocals drift over a leading soft piano, ghostly choral chants, and the occasional whisper. Where the Heavy Ghost version of "BMB" is a tease into a mid-album lacuna, a transition for the albums themes of waking dreams and spiritual torment, this original resolves more like a traditional pop song, even using some of the most centrally canonical lyrics of the love ballad “be my baby…” It is kind of a hopeless love song - no doubt, a boon for Stith fans.
It is fitting then, that Stith covers a track by the same name: The Ronettes "Be My Baby." Shedding the original's famous backing vocals in favor of a minimal melody, Stith’s trademark falsetto is full of longing and relentless desire, converting the classic 60s pop song into music that could easily soundtrack a David Lynch dream sequence; a brave yet beautiful homage.
From one obsessive love song to another, the EP also contains an astonishing rendition of Randy Newman’s "Suzanne" (from 12 Songs). If anything, and this is a bold claim given Newman’s formidable career, Stith has amplified the song's sense of the stalker. In the hands of Stith, "Suzanne" becomes a truly ominous creature: “And when you go to the pictures/And I know you do/Don’t take no one with you/Cause I’ll be there too”.
Completing the seven tracks alongside a new rendition of "Around the Lion Legs" and "Untitled," the EP's finale, are two remixes of "BMB." Occasional Prefuse 73 collaborator Roberto Carlos Lange infuses the song with experi-latin, and Son Lux (himself recently championed by Nico Muhly) interprets the song with a wary sense of distance and ritual.
1. BMB (Alternate Version)
2. Around The Lion Legs (Slow Dance Version)
3. BMB (Roberto C. Lange Remix)
4. BMB (Son Lux Remix)
5. Suzanne (Randy Newman Cover)
6. Be My Baby (Ronettes Cover)
2009, Asthmatic Kitty Records,
The third in a series of EPs, Braid of Voices EP further explores the sounds and influences of DM Stith through a collection of remixes, a cover, a collaboration and a reworking. The original "Braid of Voices" is the climax to DM Stith's Heavy Ghost. For this EP Stith has distilled the song to its essentials while maintaining what Pitchfork called a "stunning emotional catharsis". Following is a harrowing rendition of Diane Cluck's "Easy To Be Around." Stith has isolated the desperation of Ms. Cluck and treated her tune to a full-blown re-imagining, isolating the crowd vocals and an elusive melody and pinning them all over a menacing, yet somehow coherent, rush of piano arpeggios.
Bibio's remix of "Abraham's Song" takes Stith's voice into the realm of saturated electro-acoustics. "Abraham's Song" is taken from Stith's debut release Curtain Speech EP and was originally composed as a closer for Heavy Ghost. FatCat glitch artist and Bjork collaborator, Ensemble, and Warp recording artist Clark also offer their own unique approach to Stith's music. The EP ends with a reworked free-jazz version of album closer, "Wig," this time filled out with label mates I Heart Lung. For such a strange young voice, this has been a wild and beautiful year.
1. Braid of Voices (brass version)
2. Easy to be Around (Diane Cluck cover)
3. Braid of Voices (Clark remix)
4. In my dreams, I watch TV (Braid of Voices remixed by Ensemble)
5. Abraham's Song (Bibio remix)
6. I Heart Wig (featuring I Heart Lung)