Liam Singer Interview

As part of the ongoing housekeeping project, the interview with New York-based pop experimentalist Liam Singer is here now...

...including talk of Morton Feldman, a classical music training, "happy accidents", high art vs low art, Carlos Castaneda, supernatural themes, the influence of travel on composition, and more. Listen here.

(*By the way, you might gather that the first few minutes of the interview are missing. This is because of some interference on the phone line during that part of the conversation, relating to musical influences. These included Prokofiev, New Age music, They Might Be Giants and John Cage.)

That interview was recorded last October around the time of the release of his current album, Dislocatia, on Hidden Shoal. Did I mention it's brilliant? Here's how much I liked it at the time.

Liam Singer - Dislocatia (Hidden Shoal)

Regular readers will know that if it's chamber pop, I'm there. Even for the converted though, this is thrillingly beautiful music, from the Brooklyn-based composer. In recent terms, it reminds me a little of Andrew Morgan and Sufjan Stevens in places, but ultimately shows the conviction of individuality. The 16 tracks include one mini-symphony after another, most of which average around 2 minutes. Despite this, they never feel rushed, yet still manage to leave a complex aftertaste. Piano provides the core of the instrumentation (often treated, but usually with a measured, classical feel), with various other keyboards and orchestrated strings in support. Notably, the album also features the lovely, airy, folk singing of Wendy Allen from labelmates Boxharp (her partner in Boxharp, Scott Solter, also produces), which proves a perfect counterpoint to Singer's own vibrato. As the album title suggests, the atmospheres are never totally reassuring, although they still manage to remain hopeful. The massed vocal and pulsing piano ending to Leave the world to those who care has a medieval feel, and also calls to mind Steve Reich, with its slightly disconcerting off-rhythm running under a wholly engaging melody. A certain avant-garde tendency is confirmed by the title Morton Feldman holding notes for eternity, which features a pair of parallel, out-of-sync vocal lines with a sort of math-rock piano backing. Spellbinding opening instrumental On Earth a wandering stranger was I born begins like Chopin, then adds a fittingly spectral, otherworldly atmosphere, created by the interplay of female soprano, organ and glockenspiel; Words make the master has something in common with Sufjan Stevens' celestial folk music; the elegaic Erat hora's deep rumbling beginning gives way to a melancholy air on theremin, before a swooping, wordless female vocal arrives over stoic piano chords; another tremendous instrumental, the cinematic Mold me torn fan, manages to evoke a thick air of suspense from nothing more than a simple repeating piano pattern, sparse recorder notes, something that sounds like vibes and a few background squeaks. Allied to the album's experimental leanings, though, is a beating pop heart. In the words of a certain pop song, it's all too beautiful.

By a neat coincidence, the stirring Words make the master has just been released as a new single. Check it out here, it's free.

Check also the video for another track from Dislocatia, the wonderfully cinematic Mold me torn fan, with intriguing animated images by Portland multimedia artist Jay Leary.


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