Valley Maker

Valley Maker

Caroline Campbell, The Singleman Affair

Wed, May 1, 2019

8:00 pm

The Hideout

Chicago, IL

$12

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Valley Maker
Valley Maker
On Valley Maker’s second full-length album, Rhododendron, songwriter Austin Crane sings about movement – from one kind of belief to another, from place to place, through time. This new record from Crane, a Seattle-based musician and PhD student in Human Geography, reflects both the rootedness and rootlessness that shapes his songwriting on the precipice of his third decade. Like his noted inspirations Jason Molina, Bill Fay, and Gillian Welch before him, he speaks to the strange and transitory ways we mark time through our lives. Years pass and fold in his cosmic American songs.

Crane formed Valley Maker in 2010 with a self-titled collection of songs written for his undergrad thesis project at the University of South Carolina, tracing existential questions around biblical origin narratives, as embedded in his spiritually-infused Southern upbringing. Similar themes shade his vision on Rhododendron, which follows 2015’s When I Was A Child. Prophetic and apocalyptic language shapes Crane’s lyrics, but his outlook is not bound by dogma. Instead, he uses the metaphors of faith to explore the ineffable and to navigate the intersection of belief, time, place, and the political present. Much of the album was written leading up to the 2016 US presidential election and in the months after as Crane was traveling for his PhD research on migration, borders, and humanitarianism. Tellingly, it grapples with what it means to share space with others as popular political discourses veer towards exclusion.

Named for the common plant which springs up in both Crane’s native south and his current home in Washington, Rhododendron speaks to how the places and moments we occupy become reflections of ourselves. In his careful, open-hearted songs, characters move from place to place, traveling through time and over lines on maps, driven to encounter the mysteries of existence and glimpse shared humanity. Though lyrically contemplative, the music floats. Crane’s songs retain their folk-based nature – they are the kind of songs that stand on their own with his lone voice and guitar – but they bloom paired with surprising rhythms and arrangements.

The album was recorded between two locales. In Portland, Oregon, Crane teamed with producer/engineer
Chaz Bear of Toro Y Moi. Longtime friends and schoolmates from the University of South Carolina,
Bear and Crane laid the groundwork for the record over four days, playing all instruments in tracking four songs between themselves. The record’s remaining songs were tracked in Seattle, Washington with producer/engineer Trevor Spencer (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes). Having worked together on Valley Maker’s previous release, Spencer and Crane’s Rhododendron sessions aimed for imaginative, groove- oriented arrangements that remain concisely in step with the individual songs’ qualities, enlisting
drummer James Barone (Beach House, Tennis) and bassist Eli Thomson (Father John Misty), along with
Brandon Camarda on trumpet, and Andrew Swanson on saxophone. Amy Fitchette, a longtime collaborator whose roots with Valley Maker stretch back to the Southeast, provides richly layered vocal harmonies across the album to round out Rhododendron’s lush but spacious sound.

From the streamlined indie rock of opener “A Couple Days” to the swirling psychedelia of “Be Born Today,” from the soulful horns of “Rise Up” to the ambient touches of closer “River Bend My Mind,” the album demonstrates Crane’s distilled approach, his solidly built songs blooming with tasteful arrangements and touches. Out October 12, 2018 on Frenchkiss Records, Rhododendron is an album
about transition, about leaving, but also arriving, a document of the journeys in-between.
Caroline Campbell
Caroline Campbell
Caroline Campbell is a singer-songwriter living and working in Chicago. Having studied opera in college, her voice is often an instrument in itself, lending a supple and sophisticated quality to her melodies. Her wide range and heartfelt lyrics create a sound that is atmospheric yet grounded, but always hopeful.
The Singleman Affair
The Singleman Affair
"The End of the Affair" was recorded and engineered by Andrew Hernandez in an abandoned barber shop, where the band had built a recording studio to capture the more intimate moments of the new material as a live collaborative effort as well as utilize the larger space to capture all of the musicians together. The songs the band tracked live in the barber shop studio became the foundation of the “End of the Affair.” These songs were then augmented by various late night session at Daniel Schneider’s home recording studio, utilizing an expansive collection of vintage microphones and a 1970's EMT plate reverb that harnessed both the urgency of the full band recordings as well as the delicate intimacy found in some of the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. All of these recordings were then handed off to long time Singleman Affair stalwart (engineer/producer) Graeme Gibson, who mixed the album, following some additional recordings to create the dynamic sounds that make up “The End of the Affair.” Additional musicians who contributed to this record were Gillian Lisee (Cairo Gang), multi-instrumentalist and drummer Graeme Gibson (Fruit Bats, Disappears, Houndstooth), and viola and banjo player Liz Payne (Town and Country, The Zoo Wheel). The End of the Affair will be available June 16th as a collaborative release between Cardboard Sangria Records and Strange Weather Records (on LP/CS/DL).

In the years that followed the release of their second album, The Singleman Affair performed almost exclusively as a live band, integrating the different moods of the first two records into a live experience. The musical relationships established by the band formed the foundation of their third full-length album, “The End of the Affair”, a new, frenetic emotional tryst that personifies darker, heavier tones within their dense psychedelia. What was once the singular bedroom recordings of Daniel Schneider is now a full multidimensional band, backed by Adam Vida on drums (U.S. Maple), Gary Pyskacek on guitar and pedal steel, Jacob Smith on organ, and Sam Wagster(Cairo Gang, Fruit Bats) on bass. The band mixes influences from late 60s British folk, early 70s stoner psychedelia, outsider noise art, surrealism, film noir, and their own love of improvisation and experimentation. Thematically, “The End of the Affair” is a meditation on anxiety and the fleeting faces seen through the eyes of an aging folk troubadour. From the Stooges-esque opener “Be This Way”, inspired by (Luis Bunuel's) surrealist masterpiece “Un Chien Andalou”, one hears the worried notes of a man never finding the morning light, of never waking up…”Lets open every eyelid/lets cut them open brightly” which resonate with the image of a singular eyeball being sliced open referencing the notorious eyeball-slicing scene found in "Un Chien Andalou". The bombastic single, "Gray Hairs", highlights a Fairport Convention ideology refracted through a verbose John Cale lens, raising the frustrations of aging ("And my hair it starts to gray/As I fade away") to a boiling point by the furious culmination of the song. One of the most crushing singles on the album is “In Response”, a song that cuts past pretense, leaving one reflecting on the raw, naked realities of a relationship that just didn't work, showing both sadness and resolve: "You can shine so bright, and hang out with the lights/but the lights don’t shine anymore.” Themes of personal frustration and loss, are further explored in the quiet paranoia found in the Floydian jam “I Know a Witch”, where notes of distrust culminates in a final night of furious passion as can be heard in the dense synth heavy outro. The album concludes with the fated sea shanty “Lady of the Sea”, where the listener finally finds acceptance within these tales of anguish and longing, as echoed in the repeated mantra “I will remember you…I will remember you…” A final sense of peace and realization. This is psychedelic music stripped of artifice, imagery of bitterness, loss, and beauty. The true anti-hero who never wins.
Venue Information:
The Hideout
1354 W. Wabansia Ave
Chicago, IL, 60642
http://www.hideoutchicago.com