Hans Chew's music explores the existential. Beginning with 2010's Tennessee & Other Stories… and continuing on 2014's Life & Love, his albums have revolved around finding meaning in life, death, love and rebirth. Now on his latest release Chew drives deeper at the essence of the matter: From where does the human soul emerge? From what obscurity arises the urge to create? In Sailing To Byzantium, W.B. Yeats describes the human heart: "sick with desire, and fastened to a dying animal, it knows not what it is…". Or in Hans Chew's words on this his third album: The human animal is of unknown sire.
As the themes Chew explores on Unknown Sire are expanded, so is the material. The familiar sonic territory of opening track "Easy Money" with its boogie piano and laid back Tulsa groove recedes quickly from view, its cynical lyric serving almost as notice that these are merely headwaters. The album shifts tones into the erstwhile title track "Tell Me", whereupon its journey begins in earnest: "What are you afraid of? Is it everything unknown, is it what you're made of?" Not unusually, Chew's writing here spans multiple genres, but the recordings mark the first appearance of synthesizers in his work, and tracks like "Early Light Waltz", "No Existe", and "The Sign" blur the lines between psych-rock, folk, electro and R&B, while also melding concepts of the beginning of time, the passing of time, the illusion of time, and the end of times.
Unknown Sire was recorded by long-time Chew collaborator Jason Meagher at Black Dirt Studio, who plays multiple instruments on the album, and was mixed by Jeff Ziegler at Uniform Recordings. It is available on 12" vinyl LP, CD, and as a digital download.
The LP is produced on 140g Dutch vinyl in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve in an edition of approximately 750. It comes with a free digital download.
LP & CD include postage to US. See Bandcamp for shipping to other countries.
A man in a crisis, Faulkner once wrote, always falls back upon what he knows best. Three summers ago, Brooklyn-via-Houston guitarist Tom Carter was in crisis. On tour in Europe with his pioneering psych-folk unit Charalambides, Carter was stricken with pneumonia, complications from which impelled doctors in Berlin to place him in a medically induced coma. Family members, bandmates and lovers of otherworldly music everywhere watched and waited during the six weeks Tom spent in the intensive care unit and the additional month in a rehabilitation facility. Sighs of relief were exhaled throughout the worldwide warrens of underground music when Tom finally returned to New York in August 2012, convalescent. (The incredible 99-track compilation Deserted Village released the following year to help defray Carter’s medical expenses plays like an almanac of global head music.) The steady stream of outstanding recorded music Tom Carter has released over the last two years, both solo and collaborative, suggests a man more than returned to form—falling back on what he knows best, but somehow better.
Tom Carter’s new solo album, Long Time Underground, is nothing short of stunning. While Carter shrugs off suggestions that Long Time Underground represents some sort of sea change in his approach to making music, this (along with its companion post-illness release, Numinal Entry, on Halatern) comprises his first solo work this decade. Long Time Underground, moreover, is the first solo studio recording Carter has ever done.
Long Time Underground is almost unsettling in its purity. A collection of fractal guitar études, the album is comprised mostly of composed material—some of which was written in the studio, some worked out in performance over the past few years. Each song was set down live without overdubs, and the result is an almost confessional intimacy. The sprawling side-long opener ‘August is All’ begins in a kind of languorous humidity, Carter’s bell-like guitar chiming against a scrim of cicada song and building to a storm of jagged heat lightning before subsiding again. Carter’s guitar is painting landscapes here, conjuring a panorama in such vivid colors and textures that one is happy to idle there for a time. ‘Entreaertne’ is an electric prayer, set against the harmonium-like breathing Carter somehow elicits from his guitar. The bluesy, cascading dirge of ‘Carvedilol Cowboy’ has just enough swagger to almost count as rock and roll. The luminous ‘Prussian Book of the Dead’ slowly transmutes a hopeful, hymn-like progression into bright, buzzing angelic noise. (The song’s title, with its intimations of mortality in Berlin, promises something radiant, if not quite human, awaiting us all on the other side.) The album closes with an older song, ‘Colors for N,’ an earlier version of which appeared on Carter’s 2007 Whispers to Infinity CD-R, a barbed wire song of devotion.
No one even passingly familiar with Tom Carter’s past work will be terribly surprised by the breathtaking musical talent displayed on Long Time Underground. Although even long time fans may be startled by the sheer completeness of the worlds Carter manages to summon with a single guitar recorded in real time. The shock, I think, is the emotional clarity of the work. The album eschews the searching, exploratory (sometimes aimless) quality typical of latter-day psychedelia because it always seems so assured of precisely where it is headed. This may, of course, be attributable to the predominance of composed over improvised material on Long Time Underground. But it may also be the emotional groundedness of a man long detained from friends and loved ones and so possessed of immensely richer sense of home. As aesthetically and emotionally complete a musical experience as you are likely to have all year, Long Time Underground is simply the work of man, mortal but still illuminated.
--Brent S. Sirota--
2xLP released October 16, 2015 in a limited edition of approximately 900 copies. Co-released with our longtime friends at three lobed recordings.
Available for streaming or as a direct digital download from bandcamp.
"This is healing music. Maybe you know that already. If you've read much of anything about Horseback, you've likely encountered the fact of Jenks Miller's obsessive-compulsive disorder, and how through meticulous craftsmanship and sonic sculpting he used the project he'd call Horseback as a sort of therapy. A 2007 feature in the Pittsburgh city paper cut to the chase with the headline: ‘Horseback's obsessive-compulsive drones.'
Until I heard impale golden horn upon its initial release, Jenks was just a guy around town. I knew he was a musician, vaguely. And sometimes he sold me records at Schoolkids in Chapel Hill. At the time, I was barely 20, gingerly toeing the boundaries of my own musical tastes, and dealing with mild but disruptive bouts of anxiety and depression. I didn't know about Jenks or his unconventional therapy then, but the gentle, steadfast flow of his music worked wonders for me. In the summer of 2007, Impale Golden Horn hardly only left my car's cd player to go in my walkman; it provided a score and a salve when sleep stood me up; it offered respite from toxic thoughts. even for a student of punk's short-fast-loud doctrine, the drawn-out, slow, understated current of Horseback's debut was immediate and compelling, even if I couldn't quite articulate it. I'm not sure I can now.
Heather Mcentire, Jenks' partner in the excellent country-rock band Mount Moriah, has said that Jenks treats sound as language. In Mount Moriah, his guitar plays as in a duet with mcentire's voice and lyrics. Impale Golden Horn often sounds like a conversation, between guitars that surge quietly, forcefully into each other; or between tumbling drums and elegant piano. I don't always understand the vocabulary, but the tone gives enough clues.
I've never asked Jenks if his self-directed musical therapy worked, if he did, in fact, manage to find some comforting sense of order from his work. I never needed to ask. The music already answered."
This vinyl debut of Impale Golden Horn is from an edition of 649 hand-numbered copies and was pressed on 140 gram dutch vinyl by Record Industry. The album is housed within a sleek silkscreened jacket featuring specially commissioned art from longtime horseback collaborator Denis Forkas Kostromitin and also includes an insert with original work from Karlynn Holland. Impale Golden Horn was mastered for this vinyl release by Patrick Klem. As a mild, brief break from tradition, this LP does not include a download coupon (due to licensing matters concerning other versions of this album). This record is a joint release between Three Lobed Recordings and Divide by Zero Records and, as such, we only have a limited supply of this album.
The LP is set with a street date of October 16 but we have vinyl in hand and will ship mail order immediately!
"When one thinks of a power trio, the ears tend to gravitate to bands like Blue Cheer, Cream, post-Scratching the Surface Groundhogs, Freedom and bands of that ilk. In improvised music, the saxophone stood in for the guitar, giving us groups like Sonny Rollins' trio with Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones, Coltrane's "Chasin' the Trane," and Albert Ayler's unit with Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray. Of course, "power" is a vast concept that could represent change, emotional breadth, or deep, interpersonal communication. Rhyton - the trio of string multi-instrumentalist David Shuford, bassist Jimy SeiTang and drummer Spencer Herbst - fits all of these characteristics as well as a whole lot more. Rhyton developed from Shuford's desire to return to open-form music, which he'd explored in great depth with the No Neck Blues Band. Developed out of sessions for the Arghiledes LP (Thrill Jockey, 2010), he assembled Rhyton with SeiTang (ex-Psychic Ills) and Herbst (ex-Matta Llama, Messages) and the results appeared on an eponymous Thrill Jockey debut. The Emerald Tablet is the follow up, and presents a decidedly more "free" angle on the Rhyton chalice, fitting well within both Three Lobed Recordings' painstaking documentation of contemporary psych and outsider music and Divide By Zero's emergence within that same sphere.
The three pieces on The Emerald Tablet are improvised and wide-open, though they hew closely to rhythms and modes derived from North African and Middle Eastern musics and the dusky textures inherent in Shuford's electric mandolin (the previous disc featured saz and baritone guitar). Like the bastard child of John Cipollina and Rudolph Grey, Shuford unspools incredible midrange fantasias, chunky and feedback-drenched but equally dexterous and graceful. Though the guitar isn't present on this album, Rhyton's connection to guitar-driven ensembles and a timeless stew of folk forms is quite strong. The closing piece, "Trismegistus sto Smaragda," is a perfect example of this and probably one of the most intriguing contemporary electric string improvisations you're likely to hear. Thin wires snake out over a loping, gently swinging rhythm, Shuford adding layers of clouds and grime – but haltingly so, retaining sparseness and reticence. Herbst and SeiTang begin to weave a taut backbeat as plinks and inverted strums layer and dissipate, eking out bluesy asides before a dark, gnashing quality emerges. But the construction of this solo is too fragmentary and odd to be held to some sort of pyrotechnic measuring device - it's the kind of playing that, one can hope, will be studied by "those who know" not in order to imitate, but as an example of another creative step taken exploring the rock idiom.
The opening sidelong piece, "Obligation," is of a different sort, Herbst's maraca-abetted percussion sounding like Steve Shelley drenched in cough syrup while Shuford's reverberated shades find every possible lysergic nook in the music. Here, the instrumental emphasis is more tied to a "vibe" with slinky and locked-in rhythms that support sharp, suspended and feedback-swathed gobs. That's not to say there isn't subtlety here, as time signatures gradually shift and keys modulate underneath the electric tug and whine of pedals, amps and strings. Midway through and almost imperceptibly, Rhyton morph from entranced calm into a motoring, loose and revved-up trio hinging on beats and slabs. The two major works are separated by one shorter piece, "Revert to Daze," which explores the use of a vintage Mutron Biphase on both the drums and mandolin. Shuford clambers scales with taffy-like phrasing that remains insistent, bass and drums generating a dry shuffle that, as elsewhere, provides an open carpet for the group to stretch out. While the means and expression of Rhyton's heavy psychedelic brew are quite essentialist, there is a ton of invention going on here and as a trio they are perfectly matched. Sure, David Shuford's instrumentalism often takes center stage, but it couldn't be so without the context of a balanced and creative triad. The Emerald Tablet presents a band of focused expansiveness and a mettle that's increasingly rare in contemporary music."
This record is a joint release between Three Lobed and Divide By Zero and is limited to 600 copies total. The album is accompanied by a download coupon for DRM-free MP3s of the album.
We are proud as punch to annouce "Tennessee & Other Stories…", the first full length release from Hans Chew. While Chew is best known as the honky-tonk pianist and auxiliary vocalist behind Brooklyn's psychedelic Americana outfit D. Charles Speer & the Helix (including his lead vocal turns on both "Life Insurance" off "Distillation" and "Bar-Abbas Blues" off the "In Madagascar" 7"), his skill as a piano player has also previously been on prominent display in support to both Jack Rose (appearing on both "The Black Dirt Sessions" and "Luck In The Valley," as well as contributing as a member of Jack's live band at Arthurdesh in 2009) and Oakley Hall. Chew's playing and skill have thrived during his time living in New York City, but prior to his move he spent several years of musical gestation honing his skills as a piano player in residence at Atlanta's infamous Clermont Hotel. "Tennessee & Other Stories…" was born out of that residency where many of these songs were written there in the middle of the night in a dingy third-floor hotel room.
While the first edition of "Tennessee & Other Stories…" sold out, we have fresh copies of a repress in stock! The repress features the same gorgeous artwork from Melodie Provenzano as the original, sans gatefold. The album is accompanied by a download coupon for DRM-free MP3s of the album. This record is a joint release between Three Lobed and Divide By Zero. Like the original pressing, the repress is limited to 500 copies.
To purchase the album in digital-only format, visit
This solo debut 7" from Hans Chew features exclusive versions of two tracks from his forthcoming Tennessee and Other Stories. "New Cypress Grove Boogie" is a rockin' boogie-blues track with a dose of distortion for good measure; and the B-side is a slow burner titled "Forever Again". The record itself is a picture disc pressed in an edition of 500 and includes a coupon to download the songs as 320 kbps MP3s.
To purchase the single in digital-only format, visit