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premiere: Dali - Waking Dream

Got this mystical letter from Dali the other day with her new video directed by Joel Hohmann.

Mark -

It’s been said that music is the language of all people; and around 6 years of age I realized my place among this subsection of linguistics. Music is the representation of subjective experiences projected onto sound and flung into the realities of other subjective beings. Music speaks to us, translates into our experience, sinks in, erupts again – and VOOM! back into the atmosphere to meet others. We all understand it, caress it, and charm it into our every day lives without a reason why. It is a satisfaction and an internal comfort.

I also knew this comfort in dreams at this age. I would dream I was flying toward my family in the clouds or walk upside-down on the ceiling. I knew that I belonged somewhere breathing underwater or walking through hard walls. When I woke up, I had tears streaming down my face, as I blubbered to myself “I want to stay there! I want to fly! I want to be Spider-man! That’s it, I’m becoming an astronaut!” It was not until age 13 I understood the connection between dreams and music: both are a projection of our inner boundlessness - our psychedelia - our madness. Our inner boundlessness yet remains controlled. 

Music is also controlled, articulated, practiced, and formulated boundlessness. Dreams can be lucid, practiced, and consciously enjoyed as well. I never took these facts for granted. So, I studied lucid dreaming cases as a hobby ever since then, and have experienced plenty of my own. Neuroscience, psychology and physiology became the chief mentors in my studies. Dreaming was a language that could speak to me on levels that perhaps music could not.

“Waking Dream” is mainly about my first lucid experience at this young age. It was as eerily curious as the song sounds. I walked through a medieval castle setting until I was greeted by a large mirror. The room was purple, I was dressed in purple, I became lucid and I began to float until I flew into the rest of my dream. The track then introduces you to an over-looking voice that explains to the dreamer that this experience is naturally occurring in the “galaxy between the ears”. The rest is left up to interpretation. The idea of this music video, directed by my best friend Joel Hohmann, was to explore good dreams, nightmares, and lucid dreams altogether. 

Just as music gives us the gift of understanding, so do dreams. They are solid proof that life is abundantly boundless, silly, absurd, and charged of possibility. They are both delicious with anticipation, combination, and courage. Everyone should take their dreams as seriously as reality, and also take reality just as silly as dreams are. Limits only access you through the infrastructure of synapses at work (or lack thereof).

My goal is to execute my upcoming album “Still Life” as a space for dreamers to come and gather around that want to steep into their lessons learned and to finally accept their limitlessness – in a non-cheesy, non-Oprah sort of way. It’s been for sure a balm that is continually healing an existential quarter-life crisis on my end. I hope you’ll be interested in it when the time comes. Thank you for your time and attention!!

With lots and lots of love,

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J Fernandez - Cosmic Was

My boy Justin sent me this letter about power, the universe and his new work coming out on Atelier Ciseaux next month:

Hey Mark,

I’m writing from an office in Downers Grove, IL where I work as a marketing analyst. Taking a break from some MS Excel spreadsheets to work on this letter.

Last year, I went through this phase where I was constantly thinking about the inevitable cosmic events in the distant future. Mainly the collision of the Andromeda Galaxy with the Milky Way Galaxy and also the Sun eventually growing into a red giant and enveloping our entire planet.

But also simultaneously thinking about the search for finding other habitable planets in the “Goldilocks Zone” of another star system. I definitely support the search for other planets like Earth. But at the same time I wonder, what are the odds that conditions are just right? Seems bleak.

I wrote “Cosmic Was” because I kept having this nightmare. We send a ship out to explore one of these habitable planets in the “Goldilocks Zone”. When we land, we find nothing a but landscapes made of roaches. Mountains or dunes of them slowly moving across the crust.  Consuming, reproducing, and dying. And that’s it. That’s the whole planet.

So then I’d wake up with this new awareness. Yeah space IS the place. But currently Earth, though it’s only here for a limited amount of time, is also kind of the place.



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premiereBen Seretan - Light Leaks

My friend Ben sent me this letter from Alaska:

Hi Mark,

I’ve spent the last two summers in southeast Alaska, in a town called Sitka, situated on a series of islands in the Pacific. There are about 9,000 people who live here - worlds away from my life in New York City (I’m fond of saying that there are more bands in Brooklyn than there are people here). I’ve come to Alaska through the Sitka Fellows Program - a new residency program. Essentially it means that I’m here to live simply and to play the guitar and to sing into the ocean.

In no particular order, here are the things I’ve learned to cherish here:

-the long, lazy arc of the sun as it rises and sets, staying up in the sky past well past 10pm
-the ever-uncanny, screaming calls of ravens in the woods and in parking lots
-the deep, happy, living smell of wet spruce trees
-swimming in cold ocean water with the silhouette of a volcano in the distance
-swimming near the airport runway and under planes as they take off
-the quiet persistence of thousands of fish making their way upstream
-the constant movement of water, in the waves and in the tides and in the sky
-a small, icy waterfall nestled deep in the woods - I’ve stood under it and hollered for joy
It’s very beautiful here, laughably so at times. But what’s more is that there is time and space to do things. Time to walk miles and miles into the woods and up mountains. Big, empty rooms that I fill with sound. Time to talk on the phone with my friends. An abundance of space in which to consider my tiny body against the sea, the mountains, the starry veil of heaven.

Writing and playing music here is so easy. It just flows. In New York, I do my work in spite of the world - in spite of rent, in spite of student loans, in spite of the loud fun of bars gently calling me out into the night. Here, in Alaska, due to some potent combo of well being and natural awe, the words and tones just are. My voice and my guitar astonish me with their clarity. And when I sing,

"You will be stronger tomorrow
You will be wiser tonight
You will find new love without warning
You will find new joy with every breath”

I really know that it is true.

With affection,


PS - get this on cassette tape here.

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Purmamarca - No Battles

Got this letter from songwriter Ryan Henry

hey mark! 

i’m writing to you about my band Purmamarca which began as a solo bedroom and basement recording project but has now developed into a trio and has also expanded to being recorded in the kitchen, too.

i first learned about your blog through HAUS1025, in bushwick where i lived and worked for two years. i met bands like softspot and workman song there, both of whom you’ve written about.

Purmamarca is very different from both of those projects. it’s ambient rock or indie psych or post pop. i actually don’t know what it is. after we self-released our debut record, Summer Air // Night, last march, we’ve been likened to kurt vile and tame impala and the shins and a modern day jefferson airplane, all of which are probably pretty accurate to some degree but also not accurate at all. 

the idea of a record that embraced classic songwriting with a chill vibe started over three years ago. a lot of the songs gestated over that period of time, but the story of the band really begins when i began meeting the collaborators with whom i made the record: 

re: Martin Jorgensen: in the winter of 2012 i was working part-time as a tutor to some kids in bed stuy. as i was leaving the brownstone where one of the kids lived, i reached for a cigarette and realized i was out. a really tall dude headed in my direction was smoking and i asked him if i could bum one. he said it was his last, but that i could have the rest of it if i wanted. which sort of blew me away given that so few people are actually that kind. he was carrying a casio keyboard under his arm and we talked about music briefly before i had to get to my next tutoring appointment. as i hurried off, i realized that he had said he was a drummer. i had been looking for a drummer for my band and in the flurry of the moment, i didn’t think to exchange any information with him. the next day i returned to the same street and went to the brownstone where the tall man said he was living. i didn’t really expect to find him but i left him a note on the front door and asked him if he wanted to jam sometime. unexpectedly, a few days later i got a call, and we’ve been playing together ever since. 

re: Colin Alexander: in the winter of 2011 i moved back to brooklyn after having spent a half a year in california getting reacquainted with my family after having lived at college. before i found a place to live in BK, i crashed on a couch in the house where my best friend JT lived in bushwick, sort of before bushwick was bushwick. i met his roommates who were in a band called softspot and their collaborator colin alexander who also lived there. the first day i was crashing there we all had brunch together and that night we saw their friends future islands play at 285 kent. a month later one of their other roommates moved out and i was asked if i wanted the room. i lived there for the next year and a half - colin and i and the others watched episodes of twin peaks to get us through the winter, we endured the terror of finding a bedbug and the chaos of getting the house fumigated, and once colin accidentally dropped his AC from his second floor bedroom window and it came crashing down a few feet from my head as i stood in the backyard. it was actually after colin moved out to his own place that i approached him about mixing my first EP and we’ve been at it since. 

re: Brian Bishop: for the last three years i’ve been playing small gigs around the city, including one at a bar in which no one seemed to really be listening as much as they were drinking and talking. which is fine. my friend tara had booked the bill that night, and another friend of hers, brian, played a set after mine. brian became a great friend and started playing with purmamarca a few months later, first with a euphonium, and later with a guitar. 

re: Gabriele Grassia: early in 2013 i worked as a busser at northeast kingdom, an overpriced but delicious farm-to-table restaurant in jefftown. i got a job opportunity to lead a band for a night of short plays at a theater called ars nova and i took it. unfortunately, i couldn’t get my shift covered at the small-staffed NeK, and they fired me. they actually really don’t know how to be flexible or understanding with artists at all there. it sucked. i finished the short plays and i was without a job and i was broke as fuck. soon enough, though, i got a job delivering pizzas at verde coal oven, another spot in bushwick that might double as a mafia hangout. while i was there i met Gabi, a recent transplant from Italy who moved with his band Late Guest at the Party to pursue music in the big city. him and i would trade off playing music in the kitchen as we worked there and we had a mutual affection for chill, electronic stuff like Air. we ended up producing a track together and he’s become one of my very closest collaborators and friends. i’ve worked in a dozen restaurants and this was the only time i ended up jamming with another musician i’d met in one. everything happens for a reason. 

did you make it through all of that? it was a lot to write, and i’m not surprised if you’ve skipped ahead. but really the story of the band is just that - it’s me and these dear, talented people who have joined me in creating these songs. i love them all so fucking dearly. and i figured that with your affinity for stories, you wouldn’t mind all the detail. 

in regards to Summer Air // Night, we were so lucky to have portals premiere our first two singles "stay tomorrow" and "don’t need your love". them getting behind us was a huge step forward and also totally unexpected. i’m still so fucking grateful and surprised at how it all went down. subsequently, dots & dashes and the line of best fit wrote about our track "spring", goldflakepaint included "abandon shake" on their recent compilation, nothing if not loved, bandcamp featured our new release "no battles" on their weekly playlist, bandcamp weekly, and rough trade reached out to us and is now selling the record in their stores. all of these were actually totally unexpected steps forward, and we’re all stoked about the support and so grateful. 

now we want to try to just keep getting the songs out there! if you’re interested in writing/sharing about any or all of them, we’d fucking love it. your blog rules. 

we also have a show tuesday, august 26th at radio bushwick.

thanks so much for your time, man. we look forward to hearing from you. 

my best,

ryan henry and purmamarca

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Strange Lords - Cannoneros

Got a new set of short, hard blasts from my pal, punk Floridian Waylon Thornton:

Mark! -

Anytime I have a new release or project, YVYNYL is one of the first places on my mind to send things. You’re always interested in the story behind the record, the real human interaction, or in some cases, the lack thereof. That’s hard to come by in music journalism nowadays, and it’s greatly appreciated.

This record I’m sending you is by my newest band, Strange Lords. I’m on guitar in this one, with Andrew Seward (ex-Against Me!, Human Parts) handling the drums. Andrew and I had actually never met prior to working on this together. We were Facebook friends and I had a handful of guitar tracks that weren’t being put to use, so I sent out an all-call to anyone interested in putting drums to them and he got in touch with me. Once he sent me the first finished track, I was blown away. I’d always known Andrew as a bassist, never as a drummer, but the dude has serious chops, and we had to keep going. A few weeks down the road and we had nearly a complete album, but still hadn’t met. After tossing around a few possible band names (Crypt Witch being a close second,) we landed on Strange Lords.

The opportunity came to play our first show as Strange Lords and we jumped on board. Our first practice was our first time hanging, and things locked in very well. Andrew is very groove oriented, as am I. Rock n’ roll is all about the flow, not so much the details, and within less than an hour we had our entire set fleshed out and ready to go.

I’m not sure where things will go with this project. We’re both family oriented, devoted parents, and I think our days of living on the road might be behind us, but that’s largely a part of the appeal for me; working with someone who has similar priorities brings a lot of patience and understanding to the table. If things never go beyond us bouncing tracks back and forth and playing the occasional shows around Florida, I’m 100% cool with that. Playing a show near the beach? Bring the families along and kick it.

Maybe it’s not anyone’s idea of what “rock n’ roll” is, or maybe it’s “dad rock”, I don’t know. I don’t really care, to be honest. We’re having a good time and making records that we’re stoked on, and like any good rock n’ roll band, letting it flow.

As my father in law would say, “ride, motherfucker, ride”. That’s essentially the mindset behind Strange Lords.

-Waylon Thornton

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premiere: Southern Boutique - Joanna

Everything about this back story from Austin, TX duo:

Dear Mark,

We are Southern Boutique, but you might remember us as two former members of the now deceased Tiger Waves (RIP).

Let me explain what we have been up to and the making of these songs. Things got pretty crazy. Tiger Waves spiraled into debt, struggled with what felt like an endless sea of dreadful luck, and eventually became homeless - but hey, living in a van with no AC in the Texas heat was a great team-building exercise.

Alas, no team building could have saved the band at that point, and we are moving onto bigger and better things. After doing some soul-searching in the wilderness of Yellowstone for a month, it became clear that we needed to form a new band and start from scratch.

Amidst all break-ups, be them romantic or artistic, something good always seems to arise out of the ashes. So after a year spent coming to terms with what had happened we have recorded an album that we are extremely proud of and we hope you enjoy, especially because it nearly destroyed us to create.

We had a lot of influences that shaped our new sound. These include, but aren’t limited to: abandoned Indian reservations, luxury gas stations, shamanism, shadow people, the Texas Gulf Coast, moose baby, and Don Henley.

We are truly grateful for everything you have done for us in the past (your posting of our song “Weekends” way back in 2012 gave us our big break and began our wild excursion and brief moment in the record industry) and we really hope that you dig what we have been up to since. Thanks for everything you have done and we are glad you are back running yvynyl!

-James and Tyler

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EWW YABOO - Stolen Kisses

Not only did I get this letter a few weeks ago, but I got their cassette tape and I’ve listened to it 100 times already in my living room. Here’s why:

Hello Mark,

My name is Nathan from a band called EWW YABOO.  We are about to put out our first full length on Summersteps Records and I’d love to share it with you. We recorded the entire album at our home and named it “Keep Dreamin’”.  

The title serves as way to address the resistance… The things that keep you from finishing what you started.  The guitarist, Drew Carsillo, and myself  have been playing together off and on since our first band at 13 years old.  We’ve lived together for four years now, using Drew’s childhood home to practice and write/record the album. It took us a year to record and mix, and in the meantime I got to watch my friends grow as artists as well as people. I never realized the benefit of finishing something as tedious as a fully self recorded release. When you’re done and listening to the results I imagine it’s similar to an architect doing the first walk through of a structure they’ve designed and watched grow from the foundation up.  

During this year we saw the seasons change out of the windows, in the summer we sweat and cursed, in the winter we froze our asses off (tube amps double as heaters after 45 minutes!) while just trying to get a good take before heading to our jobs. Since Drew and I started the band during a brief stint living in Brooklyn, there was a mental image that formed. We wanted our releases, especially this first one, to sound like a solid mix tape.  Like a perfect boxing combination, my favorite albums are the kind that pummel you song after song, from different perspectives, sounds and angles.

We carved out our 11 song woolly mammoth from a mass that was 20+ songs, some more developed than others. We started with the rhythm section and I got to see Jared grow from an excellent high energy drummer to somewhat of a studio player, analyzing every aspect of what it he was doing within the songs. After finishing tracking and obsessing over the mixing for a awhile, we chose Mark Kramer to master it. Kramer has been an idol of mine since I first started recording my own music and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and affordable having him work on our record was. The artwork was done by our former roommate and longtime friend Chris Eastwood.  He was here  when we first started tinkering and is an awesome positive artistic force and inspiration as well.  

To us, the end result of “Keep Dreamin’” represents where we have been as friends, individuals and as a band. We wanted to make a record that reflected all that was happening around us. I can’t be the judge on whether we achieved what we set out to do, but isn’t it about using what inspires you to at least make an attempt? Thanks!

Get one of the 100 ltd cassettes from Summerstep Records this week.

Keep Dreamin’ 

Nathan Andre/Eww Yaboo

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Magnetic Poetry - Noone Knows

If you’re curious about musician’s mood in Russia right now, I got a fantastic letter from my friend Oksana, along with their excellent new track:

Hi Mark!!!

How you’ve been!! How’s the summer going so far, any exciting plans? We went on a little get away now stuck in the city for couple of month :( I got a new fun job, which sometimes is too fun and taking too much time from music making, but we struggle.

So, we finished our new EP entitled Far Away. it’s a bit different moodwise, a bit more decadent (deca-dancy, I call it :)) Cos lately things are not going so well here in Russia, with Ukraine and stuff (my 85 nan lives in Ukraine and I cant go visit her for too long) Its a really troubled time, and the songs are mostly about how you cant stay in your little world just with your loved one, and how all the bad things are here to interfere with your safe happiness and you can do nothing about it. But still they are about love, and finding safety next to your lover. 

We listened a lot to 90s music so it influenced the sound a lot.
All the thing is too confusing – that what you get when informational war goes IRL.  It seems to us  that even  people who are actually in this conflict don’t fully understand what they are fighting for and moreover against who.

It’s the case when you can’t really take sides and just  try to emphasize with everyone – which I guess is kinda wrong when its war happening (evil against good, right?). If you turn to media – all of it, foreign even – the information you are getting there can always be just propaganda, or paid by government or just someone’s private point. So you gain this distrust which doesn’t help you to understand things at all. At one side you think that separatism is bad and never leads to good consequences, at other point people revolting against their corrupted government  is totally logic (this would not happen in Russia, we are just too scared). But there’s people dying and suffering, there’s fear and misery. So this should be wrong.

In Russia majority, a really great deal of population are happy with Crimea annexation  chanting in ecstasy “Crimea is ours”! Au contraire, which seems like a fair vote, doesn’t make sense to us at all. If let’s say I live in a border region and don’s want to be a part of Russia, because I think it sucks, I can’t just ask for referendum, right? I’ll be a terrorist, I’ll be a separatist and will go to jail. So how legal and fair this transfer is? The country was troubled and falling apart, people were scared, but will Russia make their lives better? I guess it will! With all the money being sent to Crimea, and not to other needy regions, where people are making 100$ a month.

Our dumbass  government  is mostly just a bunch of attention seeking worthless morons that are here to distract people from real problems – like making a bunch of nonsense laws – like a ban on lace underwear (im not even kidding).  The saddest thing that you can’t make a change, can’t interfere,  can’t say out loud that all the shit is wrong , you just deal with it and hope for the better, that crazy Putin-machine will finally run out of fuel. Every day we wake up and afraid to read the news. That how it goes. Tomorrow doesn’t belong to us.

Uff, too sad. :( 

Anyway, we as always hope you’ll love our new music. Here’s the linky-link and art.
Oksana&Dima <3
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premiere: Orchid Mantis - Late-Summer Sun

Atlanta-based artist Thomas Howard sent me a letter about his “found sounds, tape collages, and pop songs about forgetting.”:

Hey Mark!

A couple nights ago I put out an EP of songs, which you can stream here.

Just a couple months ago I got really into some lo-fi artists, which inspired me to pick up an old 4-track cassette recorder off of goodwill and record some songs with it. (Before I had been recording with a cheap 2-input audio interface.) I had become totally obsessed with making my songs sound organic. Even my synths had to sound like an organic, flawed instrument. Early Black Moth Super Rainbow did it best in Falling Through A Field, the whole thing’s essentially synthesizers but it sounds like it was recorded in a forest. That sort of juxtaposition is pretty cool, I think. 

I’m 17, but I’ve been releasing music on bandcamp and soundcloud for a couple years, a lot of it heavily influenced by the use of field recordings and samples. It’s interesting, I suppose, because you can take highly personal recordings, or really old sounds (all the synths on this album were created with half-second snippets of old psych rock, early electronic music, educational videos, etc., except for the bells in the first song, which are actually just a pitch-shifted wine-glass) and put them in entirely new spaces, while still preserving some of those connotations.

That sort of thing is all over the EP. For example, there’s some mumbling in the background at the end of Blinded, which is from when some friends and I were at a lake very late at night. My friend’s talking about a plane that’s passing us in the sky, and how many people are in what looks like a tiny dot. It’s kind of cheesy, and essentially meaningless in the context of the rest of the song’s lyrics, (Which are just about forgetting a girl, not super inventive there. Haha.) but what’s compelling to me is I’ll be able to come back to that song 20 years from now and have more than just a memory, but a song. Field recordings of my friends and of places close to me are all over these songs, both to preserve and maybe also give them more importance.

(If you’re interested, I can identify everything in the EP, but maybe that’d ruin the fun? Haha.)

I’m in the process of setting up a physical release, probably on cassette and CD. Each’ll be personal and have unique photo prints with them. 
This tumblr has a few photos I took around the same time that I was recording.

Anyways, I hope you like the songs, I really enjoyed making them. 
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Feebzz - Ride Low

A lot of letters I get show a lot of moxi, but nothing gets quite as moxi as this one. Count me a fan:

hey mark 

my name is feebzz. i am a rapper/videographer from nyc. i wanted to reach out and share a new track off my forthcoming third mixtape, foreign money, with you. i made the track with chicago producer, stalker. you might remember stalker from a couple years ago. he was running around with salem and was one of the first artists on tri angle, but decided to stop making music for a few years. he also got some attention for remixing artists like grimes and lindsay lohan. this is stalker’s first original production for another artist. 

stalker is back at it now, and has linked up with me for this track, “ride low.” its sort of a strung out, slow trance/hip hop track with me rap singing through autotune. it has sparse drums and at times the drums sort of sound like an old neptunes beat. i think its really interesting that stalker was one of the first artists on tri angle, but left the label, and a few years later comes back making weirdo rap like some of tri angles more noted artists like clams and evian christ

"ride low" is gonna be on my forthcoming 3rd mixtape, "foreign money." its 25+ tracks and features multiple appearances by e40's post based, tea obsessed son, issue. a bunch of other sick underground rappers are on it like ABGOHARD, black kray, twiggy rasta masta, and some others. 

most of the beats on foreign money are produced by my friend blizzedout. he produces for main attrakionz and some other weirdo underground rappers

check it out. streaming + artwork attached



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premiereUpperfields - Runner

Alt-folker Shaun Gould sent me this story: 

Dear Mark,

Bear with me, in something of a round about way, I’m gonna tell you about the song, “Runner”, my band, Upperfields, has just finished. We haven’t shared it with any one else. If you like it, we hope you will premiere it for us. 

When I was 15 I got burned badly enough that I was in the hospital for two weeks and I was on morphine for a period of the time. There I had some of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had. I remember one of them because, in one form or another, it has reoccured again and again: It’s the future, it’s a strange, alien world locked in a totalitarian regime of cynical oligarchs. I’ve been wrongly convicted and sent to a labor camp in the desert. I knock down a brutal, alien guard and run through a baked-earth field laced with barbed wire. Miraculously I zig and zag through the snares and into a cool and shaded pine forest. I don’t stop running. The soft floor of needles springs me on and silences my footfalls.  

The song doesn’t follow that story exactly but it comes from those dreams. It’s someone looking out of their confinement and longing for the free and sacred woods past the fence. He is so fed up with his present state, he is almost ready to go. He’s dreaming about it during the day. 

I used to worry that these dreams of escape suggested something cowardly and unproductive in me. But in writing this song I’ve been able to clarify my thinking here. Escape in many situations is the first brave act we must make. Instead of being cowed with our certain and present unhappiness, we embrace the hope of the unknown and launch into it. Any eventual creation we put our hands to starts with escape because we need first to leave the old, oppressive place to find a new, fresh space to create in. And many times that old place has its claws in us pretty deep so there is risk and pain involved in getting free. We have to be brave. 

In real life, it’s usually more subtle than a jail-break into the hinterlands. But some situations are so irredeemably bad for our spirits that they beg a reaction this drastic. The wisdom of running appears clearly to us then. To quote Explosions In The Sky, ‘the earth is not a cold, dead place’. There will always be somewhere worth running to, just as there was in that first dream in the end. The scene is still very vivid to me: We runaways, now turned rebels, are eating dinner together in a house built high up in a massive tree overlooking the ocean. Our faces are bright among many candles, and our joy and love for each other is clear, having been fortified many times. We have gone beyond escape, we have found our free space, and we use it unselfishly. We plan another mission to free our fellows left behind.  

Here is a video we did. It’s shot by Koof Umoren for his series Random Tea Room Sessions, check em all out here, they’re really cool. Thanks for listening, and thanks for the great blog you’ve built. 

Shaun Gould

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premiere: Workman Song - Patient Like a Lamb

The letter I just received from Sean McMahon spoked to the deepest corner of my soul:

Mark -

This past Easter Sunday, I woke up at around 10 am, walked about 5 blocks to Radio Bushwick, the bar where my queer-friendly anarchist Episcopal church (don’t ask), the Bushwick Abbey, meets. I play bass in the band. Rev. Vince Andersen (Brooklyn institution — think dirty gospel by way of Tom Waits) led our band and horns through the changes for Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good” and we all grabbed a coffee and beer and the dogs in the congregation all barked when we kicked into the tune to open up the liturgy.

After a subsequent Easter potluck in South Brooklyn at another progressive church called Parables where I also coordinate psychedelic improvisational music, I rushed back to Radio Bushwick to soundcheck for my EP release show. Wilder Maker and Streets of Laredo opened, and I played bass in both bands. Then, I played my headlining set with a band made up of guys from the other two bands and did my best to let the tunes tell their tales. It went well thankfully. I then succumbed to the flu and have spent the past two days in bed. Rock and roll.

I recorded this EP, Lamb, with my friend Kev Grossman (who runs SunLab Studios, a portable solar-powered recording rig tied to a Subaru Outback) in a massive sheet metal barn called the Hangar situated in a secret woodsy location (we call it “The Ice Cream Forest”) in rural Jersey, near Asbury Park. For a week, we didn’t sleep, recording well into the early dawn hours, sometimes two full days straight half-naked fueled only by coffee, cigarettes, beer, hosewater, weed, and Wawa sandwiches. You can even hear real midnight crickets on Patient Like A Lamb. We had some members of Bird Courage and Streets of Laredo sitting in on some tracks (like “Varmit”), but for the most part, I recorded all the parts myself. Kev did some drums and bell parts too.

This thing has been a massive labor of love. For the past 8 years I’d been paralyzed from recording a new record. I went through an evangelical phase, a libertine phase, a monastic phase, a lot of things. As far as I’m concerned, this music is all gospel and soul music, but I guess it sounds more like Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, maybe Neil Young or Desire-era Dylan. I wouldn’t know how to describe it. I only know that for the past 8 years, I didn’t feel like simply putting a record out would be a worthy enough endeavor when it comes to the fucked up state our world is in, and how much it’s going to take for love to take its rightful place on the throne. So to speak.

At any rate, at around 5:30 am one night at the Hangar, I was overdubbing a concert bass drum part on the song “No, It’s Not,” and I realized I was about to go insane from upwards of 48 hours of sleep deprivation. But I knew Kev was right there, supporting me all the way, not thinking I was crazy, believing in the music. And I realized, as the sun was coming up, that this was the happiest and proudest moment of my life, playing this one damn bass drum part. If I did crack at that moment, it was a letting-go kind of crack-up, not the straightjacket kind. World of difference…

For me, the “Lamb” EP comes from a lot of introspection about whether or not I can call myself a Christian, whether anyone can emulate Jesus Christ, whether Christianity ever was or ever will be what it was supposed to be or could be…I think to other people, it isn’t that specific at all. It’ll sound more like dialogues between lovers, arguments between enemies, psychedelic epiphanies. “Jesse Winters” was written specifically in response to the Sandy Hook school shootings, but took on a whole new level of personal meaning for me when my sister Ryan was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings a year later. I merely try to tell stories that will stir people’s souls a bit, as I’m not out to evangelize or get people to come to my churches, where I simply earn my living in the most ethical way possible. I’m just happy to be singing and getting inside people’s hearts. It’s a hell of a thing to do so, and find everyone else’s right there inside yours as well. I’ve found we’ve been growing a real community here in Bushwick through this music.

If there’s any song that is vaguely preachy, it is the one I’m most proud of, a song arranged by my brilliant friend Gabe Birnbaum, who also leads the brilliant band Wilder Maker. It’s the last track, “Patient Like A Lamb.” Reads like this:

I will sing of all the things I wish I could see in the world: a real idea, something new that hasn’t been done before; a brotherhood staked on the hearts of the people’s goodness; a spiritual force that don’t need no rules to make it worthless and dead; an isle redeemed; stable and free; from an unremarkable seed, patient like a lamb. I will sing of all the things I wish I could see in the world: a new idea, a way of being that ain’t misunderstood; a faithful heart that need not be given or taken or taught or unlearned; a candlelight at night that never darkens and always burns. And I think that I’ve seen such things in my dreams, so it must not be too far. So I’ll be patient like a lamb.

Given everything that’s informed the writing of this record, the only ethical way to put this thing out there, in my opinion, is by-donation — I mean, music is a service of love and it ought to be free, especially nowadays when it so easily can be. So I’m mainly just in the business of getting it out there into people’s ears.

You can stream the record here or here.

Hope you enjoy, and thanks for your time.

Workman Song

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The Andrew Gilbert Ensemble - Preakness

Kenny Woods sent me this letter:

Hi Mark,

I really love yvynyl and I wanted to send you my record.

My name is Kenny Woods (Beck guitarist, musician, producer, film scoring, blah, blah…). I had a bit of a nervous breakdown this winter and wound up made a record during the course of it. It was a difficult time for me and my wife but I think I got a pretty compelling record out of it, so all’s well that ends well. Includes some musical contributions from, Father John Misty, Beck, Liars

Now I’m trying to find it some friends. 

My objective is really to just put this record into the minds and field of view of people whose art and brains I appreciate. Simple movements, real connections with people — no mass emails, no Facebook blasts…

I’m just kind of tired of “friending” and connecting with people by clicking a button instead of using words. I miss corresponding with methods other than clicks, likes, etc. — I want to go another route for a change. I just want this record to exist in some small way that’s real and tangible using some nobler and more vulnerable avenues. So I’m just personally emailing people and places I respect - no publicists or managers…

I guess I’d describe it is as a love letter to the existential stress and strain of the 21st century and feeling pulled apart by it, a drift in it, and at time inspired by it. Musically it’s a bit of a wrestling match between Steve Reich and Throbbing Gristle with Robert Wyatt as referee. Occasionally I get a Scott Walker or Eno comparison which I happily except.

The project is called, The Andrew Gilbert Ensemble, “From These Charming Hills, After Much Consideration”.  

I would direct you a specific track but that’s like a parent picking your favorite child, so I’ll let fate step in here. I’m very pleased with all of them. The track “Preakness” maybe the center-point where the general attitude of the record is concerned, not a bad place to start — but I could say the same for “The Christ Relocated” — hence it’s position as the record opener. Others have suggested, “Congratulation Mrs. Woods it’s A Boy” as the opener too. The suggestions seem to never end.

If you have some spare time please give it a listen.



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Deep Fried - Infared

A recent letter about sci-fi, evolving and evolution: 

Hey Mark,

I’ve been playing and making music all my life. I’m sure you hear that a lot, but I remember doing Elvis impressions in kindergarten and shaking my ass to Twist and Shout like John Lennon in the first grade. My mother says that when I was a baby, she would rock me to sleep and sing “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins, and I would hum along. I was born and raised in Texas, went to college in New Hampshire, slugged around in St. Louis, and now I’m getting my law degree in California. Throughout the whole journey, I’ve been playing music and writing songs. This latest iteration, I’ve finally mustered the courage to form a band and get serious about putting my music out there. We’re called Deep Fried, and I’ve never had so much fun figuring shit out.

My music is inspired by two main themes that have always been a part of my life. Religion/religiosity and science fiction. Sort of like a musical version of Flannery O’Connor mixed with some Burgess/Vonnegut/Asimov. When I was little I would sing in the church choir. It was my main reason for going to church, to sing gospel songs. But I also loved reading the bible, if only because it had such fantastic stories and unfathomable  images. And then I got into William Gibson and Isaac Asimov, and basically I was a Jesus-worshipping sci-fi nerd my whole lonely, adolescent life. Although I grew out of the religiousness, I’m still a dedicated sci-fi nerd.

This translates into songs I’ve written like “Goldfish” which is an ode to San Francisco, and has a host of sci-fi and religious characters/events occurring (like St. Peter praying near San Quentin). Or “Twin Rays” which is about the sun getting eaten by a mouth in the sky, only to be spat back out, but now there’s two. And there are jeweled snakes writhing in the sky, to soak up the twin rays, and we’re just laying with our bellies on the ground, land-navel gazing and sunburned. 

Although those songs aren’t recorded well enough to be heard by the public, I’d like to share another track with you I recently recorded (all recordings occur in my bedroom, with a mic, a guitar and amp, and a computer). I have this weekly goal of writing and recording a song in 24 hours, to help me hone my home recording skills. It’s proven really useful, and along with a lot of promising material that I can bring to my band, sometimes I come away with some decent solo tracks. 

The song is called “Infrared,” inspired by dreams that kept me awake at night. I went through this weeklong period of waking up screaming. The images in my head were so disturbing or upsetting, that they created a physical reaction.  I felt like “Infrared” was an appropriate name.

Our band is getting ready to play its first show on 4/20, at our bassist’s house. Hopefully, after we’ve gotten some shows under our belt, we’ll have a full EP to share with you. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks for putting together such a cool blog!


Austin Dillon

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The following was sent to me as a Letter to YVYNYL, but Mark Trecka   also wrote it as “a reflection on travel, in general, and on experiences accrued while traveling in October 2013 while on tour with Angel Olsen and her band.” He is one third of Pillars and Tongues, along with Ben Babbitt and Beth RemisListen to their latest End in Memory EP, released last week.

On the night of December 8th, 2012, while sleeping in a dank room at a decaying resort in a small vacation town on the southeast coast of England, I dreamed the kind of intoxicating, deep dream that can leave one altered for days and weeks following. In this particular dream, I found myself in a profoundly distant future — perhaps even as far ahead in time as the year 5151 — walking among stalls in a bazar. 

Whereas in contemporary Western society, the Abrahamic religions have a hold on our conception of time and the language of day-to-day life (for example, the calendar classification of “A.D.”, or the common exclamation of “Jesus Christ!”), the day-to-day life of the year in which I found myself proceeded from a religious foundation predicated on an already-occurred return of Isis.

So while our very concept of time is based on the myth that Jesus Christ has come and gone and that this occurrence essentially reset time, in this dream, three thousand years ahead in time, life was going on after a return of Isis in an already distant past. In place of the Judeo-Christian sentiment that underlies so much of Western society was the implication of a Cult of Isis, an Isisism.

I walked around, bearing witness to dense collections of popular devotional items offered at stalls: graven images of Isis on plates and posters, as statuettes, not unlike the representations of Our Lady of Guadalupe that one sees at a Mexican market. 

There were, as well, striking images of some other mysterious figure, a sort of combination of the Elephant Man, Jo Jo the Dog-faced Boy, and a horned Beelzebub. Tapestries hung, many for sale, that featured this man, imaged in black and white, in partial profile, dressed in a suit and wearing an armband with the number “1515” on it. I can remember the image so very clearly. 

Haunted as I was by these particulars, it was the peculiar sense of undeniable difference that struck with the greatest force. The difference was undeniable and profound, but the difference was not garish or large. The particulars were consistent, convincing, and twisted only by degrees from what I know reality to be in my waking life, resulting in an absolute sense of the uncanny. I have often felt, while traveling, that the most stirring experiences of foreignness come in the most familiar forms. Just the other side of familiar is where the strangest sensations reside.

(In another part of the bazar I was made privy to a product called Roma soda; consistent, perhaps, with a long tradition of branding products with appropriated images and names of things and ideas and groups of people deemed exotic.) 

Ever since having this dream, I have been attuned to an impressive flow of synchronicities involving Isis, and even of her horned, cynocephalous consort. Only a month or so later, a friend showed me a topographical map of a particular location in rural Canada where the hills form a remarkably striking image of a sort of “native” looking woman.  Indeed, the first impression I had when looking at it was that she resembled, rather impressively I thought, Isis. Upon scanning the surrounding environs, I discovered that a nearby cluster of hills resemble Isis’ consort from my dream, about as much as anything I had ever seen or have ever seen since, in waking life.   

Short of a year after having this dream, I arrived in Hudson, New York, and went directly to the venue, a converted factory building just near the river for which the city is named. It was here that I was engaged for the evening, to do my work of arranging instruments in a space and performing in front of people. In this instance, the spectacle was to take place in a particularly beautiful space, but what was more striking than the beauty was the eerie sense of familiarity. I had been to Hudson before, on at least two occasions that I can remember, and so of course, there was that to consider. Yet my arrival this time gave up virtually no familiarity that was obviously associated with those previous visits, received as I was, this time, by acquaintances I had made since I was last there. There was a particular interest in Hudson among the group as Beth is able to trace considerable family history to the town. 

I was soon enough moved to take a short walk alone in a field just east of the venue. Traveling in a large group, as I was, demands such activities. The grasses, knee-high, moved as though inhabited, seemed to and possibly did conceal inhabitants, as I moved through. Sun still golden in that particularly autumnal character, swimming its way through structures of use now forgotten or reconsidered. 

When I returned from my walk, I was introduced to the director of the venue, Melissa, a colorful, warm and engaging woman who, I noted immediately, wore a gold charm in the image of Isis on a delicate gold chain around her neck. I have no interest in claiming that, for example, in this instance, there is any sort of magical connection between my dream and this woman’s Isis necklace. Of course, lack of interest in making this claim does little to negate my belief that such connections are valid in some way or another. Either that night or the following afternoon we would go on to talk about Isis — her cat is named Isis, she feels a strong connection to the image of Isis, and so on.

In the midst of the act of arranging ourselves in the space, evening light streaming through high factory windows, a friendly looking dog entered the room, ahead of her two owners, skeltered through the space, and exited the other end of the room. Beth, Ben, and I commented pleasantly to each other about the dog, and I smiled at the humans trailing it. When we finished our work, I wandered into the next room and found the dog and its owners, sitting on the floor. The dog greeted me in a fashion consistent with its apparent demeanor and, asking about its name, I discovered that the dog was called Weezie. Beth’s maternal grandmother was, affectionately, named Weezie. 

That first night in Hudson, after the performance, a number of people convened at the Half Moon Saloon. Months later I would re-read Lorca’s Media Luna and think of this night.

La luna va por el agua.

¡Cómo está el cielo tranquilo!

Va segando lentamente

el temblor viejo del río

mientras que una rana joven

la toma por espejito.

There were no frogs that night at the Half Moon, that I know of, but perhaps things were mistaken for little mirrors. 

The Half Moon had relatively recently come under new ownership after passing through a two-year limbo phase. The previous owner, Fred Martin, had committed suicide in the saloon, allegedly behind the bar. Local mythology pointed toward gambling debts of a magnitude that anything less than an exit could not solve.  

Beth’s family on her father’s side is from Hudson. Our second night there, we went in search of stories relating to those people, the Dolans. As the Half Moon is closed on Mondays, we were directed to the Iron Horse Bar where, Melissa advised us, we were not to play the jukebox if Jeopardy was on the television. 

When we entered the Iron Horse, we were observed, though not necessarily greeted, by two men, one perhaps in his seventies, the other certainly in his eighties; the latter sitting behind the bar, the former, at it, both with an air of matter-of-fact melancholy. The television was not playing Jeopardy but Wheel of Fortune, and in addition, served to provide a significant portion of the illuminating light in the room. I asked if the light above the pool table could be turned on so that I might shoot pool and the old man behind the bar nodded, but made no move to assist me. The jukebox was also off. Beth ordered me a beer — a seven-ounce bottle of Budweiser for one dollar — and herself a whiskey and joined me at the pool table although before long, she found herself seated at the bar. Jeopardy came on the television.

"I remember a Fingers Dolan …” Frank Martino would cough a little behind the bar and drone memories of various Dolans in response to Beth’s questions, occasionally tipping his head forward and down and ceasing to talk, as though he had been suddenly taken under by sleep. Before long, the man would recover, lift his head and one hand, slightly, and continue. It seemed as though the act of remembering had to be compartmentalized, that a certain amount of energy needed to be diverted to the process of recalling memories — images and opinions — in order that it would be possible at all to respond. That is to say not that Frank seemed to be concentrating, but that strategic remembering was an action which could only be undertaken at the exclusion of other actions. And all of this only during commercial breaks. Fred, the patron, was also happy to entertain such memory exercises, as far as one might conflate happiness with willingness or even eagerness.

It became apparent that Frank Martino, in addition to fronting a band in the 1940s called Frankie and His Golden Notes, had also been acquainted with the actor Paul Newman. Framed photographs on the wall attested to both of these details, one featuring Frank in the improbable posture of sitting on the back of a bucking horse in the street. Whether time had worn this photograph or time had rendered antique the technology of the particular camera that captured that moment, something lent the image a peculiarly gauzy quality, somehow both more than and less than faded. Frank’s hypnogogic storytelling continued with the subject of Paul Newman, who received a notably tender touch. Though muted by the process, Frank was in some way elated to explain that Newman was very much like a normal person, that to sit next to him at the bar and strike up a conversation, one would not necessarily take him for a movie star, that he always seemed to be a normal person, just like you or me, though, at Beth’s goading, Frank was quick to admit that Newman’s striking features and charisma were exceptional; if he looked you in the eye, you did not want to break his gaze. Newman had made the film Nobody’s Fool in the town and partially in the tavern itself, in the early 1990s. That film also features a twenty-something Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was born 250 miles west in Fairport, NY and who died twenty years later, 150 miles south in Manhattan. 

Frank Martino owned, and had been operating, the Iron Horse since his father died behind the bar 42 years earlier.

We left after a few hours and a few 7 oz. Budweiser bottles, to drive 20 miles south, where we slept in a double-wide trailer on a horse ranch. Frank Martino died twelve days later.    

The following evening, eleven days before Frank’s death, I arrived in Northampton, Massachusetts, and went directly to the Iron Horse Music Hall, where I was engaged to do my work. After what could be described as an evening particularly devoid of engagement, I was directed to Ye Old Watering Hole and Beer Can Museum, before moving on to the home of the couple who would host us for the evening. In between the Watering Hole and the couple’s home, a portion of the group and myself were brought across the street to peer through the glass panes of the overhead rolling doors at Harold’s Garage. 

This business, apparently a wrecking service, housed and perhaps utilized vintage tow trucks — monstrous and anachronistic or, at least, this is the treatment that my memory has given them. The trucks seemed out of time and place; more than the sort of novelty that the “Beer Can Museum” had offered, but not quite as absurd as the photograph of Frank Martino on the bucking horse. The absurdity delivered by that evening came still a bit later, after settling into the home of our gracious hosts, our large group spreading out within the relatively tight confines of this New England home. We were, all of us, shown where the fruit and cereal was kept so that we might help ourselves in the morning; we were shown to the tiny bathroom and shower, and offered homemade cider of a sort of Bretagne style, but made by one of our gracious hosts. 

In the kitchen, I fell into conversation with one of my traveling companions in what felt like truly one of the very few calm moments in a day of nearly constant travel and cycles of adaptation and readaptation. Soon, our host had made his way into the kitchen and collapsed to the floor. I lifted his limp body, weighing certainly a third more than mine, and put him in his bed. He sat up and asked what had happened. His partner, our other host, explained to him that he had imbibed Ketamine. He was incredulous: “Are you serious? That’s crazy.” He then attempted to stand up and fell back down. For one straddling the event horizon of a “K-hole”, unremitting subjectivity and cycles of memory loss, adaptation and readaptation, lead to incredulity. Experiencing the effects of Ketamine at this stage effect an inability to remember imbibing the ketamine. For those spontaneously tending to someone in a K-hole, this situation can effect a kind of parallel psychedelic state. This is all simply to say that our host went in and out of consciousness every 60 or 90 seconds for the next hour-and-a-half, asking the same question every time, trying — and failing — to stand every time, and very much requiring tending. In the morning, he would be happy to talk about the experience at great length, stating over and over that he had “never seen anything like it” in all of his experiences with Ketamine. I wondered what he meant, as I carried a persistent sense that he was the only one who had not observed the experience.

Four days later, the fuel pump on my vehicle went out on the highway near Vernon Rockville, Connecticut. Ben, Beth and I nearly came to blows with a man who was part of a group of people arguing with a waitress at a Japanese restaurant. 

On July 2nd, 2012, I hurried across badlands, clay slopes, and scoria, to reach a particular place by sundown, where I was determined to camp for the night. I reached my destination just as the sun, muted and somehow lunar, bowed towards a Martian landscape, although by the time I was making camp, the clay and scoria and rattlesnakes had all been overtaken by a dense, hot, swelling dark. A few hours later, and for hours, just after dawn, I slept only very fitfully, a tormented kind of sleep through which anxiety fought to bring me to vigilance: I could hear, across the hills, a raging rain. Sheets of water profoundly falling miles to the earth, echoing over slopes like static — I was certain that it was only a matter of minutes before our camp was awash. 

When I finally roused myself enough to crouch and exit the tent to survey how quickly the rainstorm was approaching, I found only clear skies, the color of honey and pomegranates, hills of sand colored grasses and clay. The sound that had been torturing me was only a breath-like breeze, consistent, and gently rushing through every cottonwood leaf within earshot. Two wild horses trotted through my camp.

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