BTV047 Aspera : Back When Love

“Back When Love” (btv047)
Buy Online | one-sided LP

Track listing:
1. Back When Love
2. Treat Lightly
3. Dig Yourself to Sleep
4. Seeing Bubbles Again
5. Tattoo Jewels

I first met the members of Aspera back in 1998 when they were called Aspera Ad Astra. I hosted the album release party for their first album, Peace, on Marc Bianchi’s (Her Space Holiday) label Audio Information Phenomena. This was in the years of “psychedelphia” hype, but their particular brand of heavily affected psychedelic space rock and electronic experimentation flew under the radar for far too many people during their existence. The band had formed in 1996 after bassist Matt Werth moved to Philadelphia, relocating his label at the time (File 13 Records) and joining up with Justin Tripp (guitar/keyboard), Drew Mills (drums), Drew Worth (guitar) and Mike Robinson (vocals/keyboards) to form the band. The original name was Latin for “to the stars through difficulties” that came from Joyce’s Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man and also a phrase inscribed on the plaque to commemorate the Apollo One spacecraft fire (as well as the title of a Stars of the Lid record in late 1998). Tree Records issued a debut split 7″ as a split on their Postmarked Stamp Series with Haleah that also featured Bianchi.

In mid-1999, the band recorded the Winged with Rhymes ep for Insound’s Tour Support series with Mills taking over vocal duties from Robinson. They recorded a split ep with Philadelphia’s Lilys, incorporating permanent drummer A.J. Edmiston and Robinson left the band. The band shortened their name to Aspera, marking their newer denser, lush direction. They released Sugar & Feathered in 2001, which was produced by Michael Deming (The Lilys) and initially released by Big Wheel Recreation. In early 2002, the band released their Birds Fly ep for Suicide Squeeze and was a bit of a departure, experimenting with layers and layers of keyboards.

Bloomington’s Jagjaguwar later re-issued Sugar & Feathered and released 2003’s Oh Fantastica, the band’s final full-length. Oh Fantastica was produced by King Honey (who had worked with MF Doom) and Philadelphia’s J. S. Process and resulted in a more layered, electronic pop sound for the band.
After three full-lengths, two eps, and the split ep, the band was feeling the stress of having members living in both Philadelphia and New York City. Ultimately, they broke into two bands based on geography, Philadelphia’s Blood Feathers (Box Theory Records) includes former vocalist Drew Mills with Ben Dickey and New York City’s Favourite Sons (Vice Records) is Tripp, Werth, and Edmiston with Rollerskate Skinny’s Ken Griffen. Back When Love was recorded around the same time as the sessions for the final Aspera album, produced by J. S. Process, and was set to be their farewell release. Instead, after quite some delay due to problems coming up with a proper B-side etching, Back When Love is effectively a posthumous release. The songs are very melodic, backed with washes of drunken keyboards, and effected drums and guitars, in the vein of their Birds Fly ep. This one-sided LP keeps with tradition of having a portrait on the cover, a tradition strictly enforced by Aspera’s Matt Werth, and is one of the finest portraits in the series, a painting by Philadelphia painter Adam Schrader. Justin’s brother, Ethan Tripp, did the layout and was finally responsible for the final etching concept. Incidentally, Ethan has also done tour poster and album design for several Burnt Toast Vinyl bands and releases, as well as several for Aspera, The Lilys, and other prominent Philadelphia bands.
–S. Hatch, Burnt Toast Vinyl

BTV056 Unwed Sailor : The Marionette and The Music Box

Unwed Sailor
“The Marionette and The Music Box” (btv056)
Buy Online

Track listing:
1. Morning in the Forest
2. The Marionette’s Cottage
3. Cuckoo Clocks. The Call of the Windmill.
4. The Windmill’s Tale of the Music Box Floats Through The Air. Riding the Windmill.
5. The Music Box
6. In Search of the Music Box
7. The Meeting of the Marionette and the Music Box
8. The Floating Waltz
9. At Peace in the Forest
10. Asleep in the Forest
11. Behold! The Unicorn.
12. The Distraction. A Conflict of Interest. Enchanted by the Unicorn.
13. The Separation. A Hopeless Pursuit.
14. Lost and Alone
15. The Return to Open Arms
16. The Embrace
17. Jubilee

In late 2001, Unwed Sailor began to re-invent their sound and concept. It was so drastic a change that it first existed as a side project, but was so important to Ford and Tse that The Marionette and The Music Box became a proper Unwed Sailor full-length release. The resulting project was highly influenced by Ford’s love for marionette puppetry and fantasy fairy tales, as well as the shared influences of French composer Yann Tiersen, the Pinnochio soundtrack, and the classical piece Peter and the Wolf.

The Marionette and The Music Box is a subtle, but rich instrumental soundtrack to support the illustrated relationship of a marionette and a music box as they meet, become friends, separate, and reconcile. Ford and Tse enlisted the help of regular drummer Matt Putman and friends Matt Depper and James Mcalister (Ester Drang) to play the rich tapestry of instruments that personify the characters in the story. Unwed Sailor present the story in seventeen instrumental parts.

The music for the release blends the various influences in a unique method that takes advantage of Tse’s multiple guitar tracks that are played live through a Boomerang pedal, as well as Ford’s signature bass lines that often carry the melody while supporting the songs. The result exists as a modern classical piece.

Artist Jamie Hunt (Circle of Birds, Aspera) worked intimately with Unwed Sailor to illustrate the story of The Marionette and The Music Box. Hunt first built three-dimensional models of the characters, photographed various poses and scenes to create the story, and developed the painted panels from these photographs. Over a period of three months, Hunt brought the characters and story to life. These illustrations are as much a part of the release as the music itself. As such, both the CD and LP versions are presented with booklets of the illustrated story to accompany the music and a special limited edition hardbound book was issued for sale by the band on tour.

BTV074 Efterklang One-Sided LP

one-sided LP (btv074)
Buy Online | one-sided LP
Track listing:
1 Falling Post
2 God Vind, Kaptajn!
3 Tu Es Mon Image – Featuring Martin Hall
Efterklang’s incredible 2004 full-length Tripper (The Leaf Label, UK) was among my favorite releases of that year. My Danish friend posted their debut EP Springer on a shared ftp server since it was sold out and only available in Denmark initially. (We’re big supporters of file sharing at Burnt Toast Vinyl which resulted in the Mt. Eerie : Live in Copenhagen 3xLP collaboration between btv and Denmark’s Washington Inc.) Soon after, I invited Efterklang to do a one-sided LP and we worked out the details over the course of the year. Of the three tracks on One-Sided LP, one features Efterklang collaborating with famed Danish singer Martin Hall who provides the vocals for “Tu Es Mon Image” and another features Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir and Hildur Àrsælsdóttir from Amiina as guest musicians. The LP jacket features a faraway portrait of the band in keeping with the portrait theme for cover artwork in the Burnt Toast Vinyl one-sided LP series. Efterklang’s One-Sided LP is the latest in a series which includes Damien Jurado, Early Day Miners, The Six Parts Seven, Yume Bitsu, Ester Drang, Mt. Eerie, Starflyer 59, June Panic, Aspera, and Bosque Brown.
–Scott Hatch, Burnt Toast Vinyl

The Danish ensemble Efterklang was formed in January 2001. The following year and a half saw its founding core members Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen, Thomas Husmer, Rune Mølgaard and Rasmus Stolberg develop Efterklang into what it is today.

The film-maker Karim Ghahwagi joined the ensemble in the beginning of 2003 and accompanied the band’s well received debut EP Springer with extensive video collage work. Springer was released on Efterklang’s own label Rumraket and came packaged in white fake fur in only 500 copies. The band played their first live shows in Denmark in the spring of 2003 bringing audiences a subtle blend of acoustics, electronics and video imagery.

The development of Efterklang’s first full length studio album Tripper began in the fall of 2003 in the band’s own recording studio in the heart of Copenhagen and incorporated violins, brass instruments, a Greenlandic choir and a fully integrated video collage score. 34 guest musicians played on the recordings of Tripper among them Hildur Àrsælsdóttir and Edda Rún Olafsdóttir from the Icelandic string quartet Amiina who is known for their extraordinary work with Sigur Rós.

In July 2004, Efterklang signed to The Leaf Label (UK). In October, Tripper was released in USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, China, Australia and South Africa. Tripper became the fastest selling debut record in Leaf’s 10 year history. It has received remarkable good reviews and airplay on radio stations across North America and Europe. The Guardian wrote “this is the album to spend your tokens on. Five stars.” Pitchfork rated it 7.9 and wrote “Astonishing… this music should continue to reverberate in your memory for a long time to come.” In late 2004, the MTV program This is Our Music did a 30 minute documentary on Efterklang.

In February 2005, the song “Swarming” taken from Tripper was released as a radio and iTunes single with remixes including one by Bjørk producer Thomas Knak aka Opiate and a music video by Karim Ghahwagi. In April 2005, the debut Springer EP (2003) was re-released by The Leaf Label worldwide on cd and vinyl. Efterklang toured throughout Europe as an 8 piece band with performances at several high profile summer festivals including Roskilde, Hultsfred, Quart, Sonar and The Big Chill. Efterklang plan to tour the US in winter 2006/2007 in support of their forthcoming full-length.