Monday, June 19, 2006
Ships passing in the night...
Daniel Smith (the fearless leader of the decade + old Danielson Famile, Danielson Family, Bro. Danielson, Danielson Starship, etc.) and Sufjan Stevens are related. They play and sing on each others records. They record each other. Steven's records were released on Smith's label, Sounds Familyre. And Sufjan's relative breakthrough Seven Swans was produced by Smith, with his band (that is, the band that makes up the Famile wherein the members - much like the Ramones - have the last name. Unlike the Ramones, these guys are actually blood relatives) backing Steven and solely released on the SF label (I couldn't even find it on Sufjan's Asthmatic Kitty Records). And they make beautiful music together, relatively speaking of course.
It makes sense though. The reigning king of indie orch-pop would hook up and perform (live as well as in the studio) with a fellow believer and boundary-pushing indie artist who's also interested in atypical arrangements for pop music.
The difference is, Danielson seems more interested in a swirling asthetic of percussive instruments. But it doesn't seem much less arranged. Whereas Steven is a bit more laid-back and meditative (and neither would be confused for a folk-singer from the 60's - not this side of Bob Dylan), everything around Danielson- at least in his solo debut, Ships - seems to urge on and further. Xylophones, piano keys, drum kits, snares, triangles, even the strumming of guitars and banjos, the whole surrounding is every bit propulsive and percussive, as if life itself is a seemingly random series of poundings that, sounded together, is positive, life-affirming and quite harmonic. Multi-layered virtual choirs don't drown out, but rather emphasize his weird screeching falsetto (for some reason, it works for me, where Brian Wilson's recent attempts don't). And as Pitchfork noted in their review (9.1 out of 10), it is probably the most rocking independent record released all year.
There's also a doc on the Danielson collective searching for distribution, called, appropriately enough, Danielson: A Family Movie. Check snippets and news here.
BTW, if you wanna listen to some of Sufjan's soon-to-be-released Avalanche album, click here.