People we have a treat for you. Chamber-pop experimentalist extraordinaire Liam Singer walks us track by track through his critically acclaimed 2010 album Dislocatia. Lots of wonderful insights and fun factoids from our man on the inside.
Before you go on, we’ve provided a full album stream via Bandcamp at the bottom of the post. You should also head here to a) download the three free (!) singles off the album and b) buy the album on CD or digital.
To co-incide with this lovely little expose Hidden Shoal have two copies of the CD up for grabs. Answer one stupidly simple question and be in the the draw to win. Send an email to this address with “Dislocation Comp” in the subject line and tell us which Cat Power song Liam Singer covers on Dislocatia. We’ll contact the winners on the 4th of November.
Dislocatia Track by Track
1. On Earth a Wandering Stranger Was I Born
I wanted this piece to have the feel of an old movie’s opening credits – that overture-like, technicolor sweep. The title is paraphrased from an inscription by the side of the road that Werner Herzog recounts in his journal “Of Walking in Ice” – “On earth a restless stranger was I born/In mortal danger, though in the midst of life”
2. The Brief Encounter
This was a fun one to record with the children’s choir – having them sing the line “you are wasting your life” over and over again. They were curious what the song was about. One sort of spazzy boy came up to me afterward and said “It’s true, isn’t it? What are any of us really doing here?” So I think I gave him his first existential crisis. I wrote the melody for this song while driving up the California coast from Half-Moon Bay to San Francisco, meaning that first line (“I was driving up the coast”) did, in fact, happen. Not that the rest of it didn’t…
3. Leave the World to Those Who Care
I could listen to Wendy Allen’s voice forever. She should be famous.
4. Mold Me Torn Fan
A very Nino Rota-inspired track. I was happy with how this piece worked out arrangement-wise… Scott Solter and I played around with a lot of sounds in the studio. The title is an anagram for Morton Feldman, who is a recurring character on this record.
5. Winter Weeds
As this album was starting to take shape, I noticed that there weren’t many pieces based on musical loops… everything was very harmonically forward-moving, and I thought it would be nice to have something that was structured more in the addition/subtraction of elements. I was very into the M83 album Saturdays=Youth at the time, so I thought I’d try to take the quality of the 80′s contrapuntal action I was hearing on that album and transport it to a 19th century quaker meeting…
I think a lot of people skip over this track, though it’s one of my favorites on the album – I love melodies that exist at the edge of tonality.
7. Bellingham, WA and the Four Green Doors beyond
This song is about a road trip I took with a friend. The Four Green Doors in the title are a reference to a piece I later saw at the Whitney Biennial by Adam Putnam called “Green Hallway,” which uses light and mirrors to project four green infinite passageways onto the four walls of a room. The room felt to me like like a meeting place of past and future events, and of possible lives.
8. Morton Feldman Holding Notes for Eternity
I honestly have no idea how I thought of this song… It’s a strange one.
9. Dead Old Friend
I’ve been surprised by how many people really like this track. With some distance, I can see that it has a sort of Edward Gorey-esque quality that sometimes seems to show up I my music. I wanted body sounds for the percussion – I liked the mental image of a couple of old guys dancing around and clapping – so most of the noises are generated by Dave Flaherty, the percussionist, clapping his hands and slapping his belly.
10. Victory Steps
One of the more difficult things for me to do is write a simple pretty melody without getting too clever or strange with it. Thus, the main melody of this piece is a victory for me. I did let myself get a little clever and strange in the middle section. “Victory Steps” is a nonexistent victorian-era dance/strut that one does to this song, at least in my head.
11. Cross Bones Style
I’ve always loved this Cat-Power song, and started playing it for myself on the piano. As it evolved, I started bringing in Philip Glassy polyrhythms, and then envisioning the close harmonies that you hear Wendy Allen singing so beautifully.
12. Words Make the Master
This is one of a couple pieces on this album that I wrote while living on an island in Maine for a little while. You’d think a quiet place might result in quieter music, but I found the opposite to be true – my own thoughts became amplified, and I started indulging in the heightened craziness you hear here.
13. Erat Hora
Another piece that is very Nino Rota/Ennio Morricone inspired. The title is the name of an Ezra Pound poem:
‘Thank you, whatever comes.’ And then she turned
And, as the ray of sun on hanging flowers
Fades when the wind hath lifted them aside,
Went swiftly from me. Nay, whatever comes
One hour was sunlit and the most high gods
May not make boast of any better thing
Than to have watched that hour as it passed.
I like that, in between everything that’s difficult and impenetrable and cranky about Ezra Pound’s work, he wrote beautiful sentimental little things like that.
14. Into Tendril and Vine
I almost didn’t put this song on the album – at the time, I think I was a little embarrassed by how theatrical it was. Now I really like it, which is a good lesson in not being afraid to go a little bit over the top.
15. From Fast to Slow/ Behind This World
Thanks once again to Wendy Allen’s vocal acrobatics, the tumbling counterpoint lines here really shine through. I feel like this song contains the seeds for an entire approach to songwriting – one that I haven’t continued to explore, but would like to return to one day.
16. Stinson Beach
Like “Dislocatia/Mouthmoss,” “Stinson Beach” is a track that is not immediately accessible and doesn’t get a lot of love, but that I’m personally very proud of. It’s abstract and slow, but ultimately melodically driven. Stinson Beach is a beach town north of San Francisco. When I lived in SF I took a lot of trips there, and have some great memories of the place.