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Last year, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Kayla Cohen released Open to Chance under her Itasca banner. In his review for Aquarium Drunkard, Tyler Wilcox admitted the temptation to call the album’s slow burning, psychedelically-tinged folk rock “the perfect autumn soundtrack,” noting the album would sound just as good in the spring or summer. And he’s been proven right. As the seasons have passed, Open to Chance has continued to reveal and offer new beauty.

On the occasion of her current tour with Dylan Golden Aycock and Lake Mary, we caught up with Cohen to discuss the dreamlike nature of her songs, and the current cultural moment that finds young artists synthesizing disparate influences into a cohesive, subtle new whole.

Itasca :: Buddy

Aquarium Drunkard: Open to Chance was one of my favorite albums of 2016. Have you started working on a new record?

Kayla Cohen: I’ll get totally into [the process] and get pretty far, and then take a couple of weeks off, and basically start over. That’s happened a few different times. It’s been slow, but I don’t think there’s any rush with anything.

AD: You worked with a full band on Open to Chance. Are you planning to do that again?

Kayla Cohen: I’ll record with a full band, but [for now] I’ve been working on it by myself.

AD: On Open to Chance, the word “dream” appears often. Is dream logic something you seek out in your own music?

Kayla Cohen: I think it’s part of music for me, just in general. The dream world is where you can access symbols that don’t necessarily make linear sense, but that can be really evocative. Lyrically, that’s perfect. That’s what you want. When I was working on that record, I feel like the dream world was more of a thing I was working with in a way that’s more hazy and mirage-like than I’ve been thinking about it now. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry centered on dreams. For example, this one poet, William Ferguson: the way he uses the dream vocabulary is more straightforward, serious, and concrete. That’s something I’m discovering now. But dreaming…that’s super fertile ground. And it’s easy too: you can just be like, “I have a night, now I’m going to drink some weird tea and go to sleep and see what happens.”

AD: I like that idea of dreams as a laboratory for songs. Do you have pretty vivid dreams?

Kayla Cohen: [Laughs] Yeah. I have phases where they are and they aren’t. But if the waking world isn’t providing you with the kind of inspiration you want, you can go to bed and see what happens, too.

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Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Earlier this year Ultimate Painting’s Jack Cooper slid us an early version of his new solo album, Sandgrown. At nine tracks we were immediately drawn to its sparse, tranquil, yet personal offerings inspired by his hometown of Blackpool off the coast of England. The effort finds Cooper waxing nostalgic about his time growing up on the Fylde Coast and the cast of characters that come with living and working in a seasonal resort town. Often compared to the Velvets, Sandgrown finds Cooper acknowledging other influences including Terry Allen and The Grateful Dead, mixing them with the experimental textures of John Cale and Robert Wyatt. More on that, from the artist, below.

Jack Cooper :: Blood Dries Darker (Woods)

Woods have a special place in my heart because my wife and I are both big fans and we always listen to them together. I first saw them in 2008 in Manchester and it’s been a pleasure seeing them so many times since then. This is my favourite song of theirs and although they never really play it, Jarvis dedicated it to my wife and I last time they played London. It’s a pretty perfect song.

Jack Cooper :: Lubbock Woman (Terry Allen)

Terry Allen’s Lubbock (On Everything) was a big influence in this solo album of mine. The framework of writing about a town or place opens up a world of possibilities. I’ve been writing about Blackpool since I lived there but the idea to do something centered on that was really inspired by this record and Watertown by Frank Sinatra. The words and the delivery is all about Terry, so it felt weird singing them. I scrapped the idea 4 or 5 times, before thinking ‘fuck it’… it’s a great song.

Jack Cooper :: For A While (Frank Sinatra)

Frank Sinatra’s Watertown is just the most melancholic, downbeat, comforting record I’ve ever heard. It’s his best album and his finest acting performance. Again…the delivery and words are all about him but I gave it a good shot. My friend Phil Anderson recorded some piano for me…it’s blown out and weird.

Jack Cooper :: Black Peter (Grateful Dead)

I’m not too sure why I chose this apart from being a huge fan of the Grateful Dead. Robert Hunter was on fire around this time…such rich, interesting imagery and narratives. I really can’t think of a better lyricist, and around this time in particular.

Jack Cooper :: Big Louise (Scott Walker)

Most of these songs I’ll class as misses, in that they’re all so hard to do justice too. The vocalists are way too singular and this one in particular I’ve included just for the hell of it. The phrasing and way he sings is so incredibly complicated. I couldn’t even begin to get right. I’ve listened back to all of these at some point and become to self conscious about even submitting them (laughs). I guess there’s something liberating about taking a shot at something and just going with it.

kacyContinuing to effortlessly distill the sounds and traditions of Southern Appalachia, the British Isles, and the rolling ranch land of their rural Saskatchewan home, second cousins Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum return with The Siren’s Song. Their fourth long-player and second with a backing band – this time comprised of their touring outfit, Shuyler Jansen (bass) and Mike Silverman (drums) – production of the album was helmed by Jeff Tweedy and recorded in Chicago at Wilco’s Loft studio.

Sonically the album is not far removed from their 2015 breakthrough Strange Country, but their stronger-than-ever songwriting is on full display with nine songs of disaffection, alienation, and searching. Tweedy’s production and the full band arrangements wisely serve the duo with Linthicum’s playing as vast and versatile as the Great Plains, and Anderson’s singular voice continuing to evolve and thrill.

On “A Lifeboat,” her voice is buoyed by pedal steel and is a mix of longing and castigating—a lighthouse shining through the fog in search of an absent lover. “A Certain Kind Of Memory” immediately recalls Karen Dalton’s “Something On My Mind”, but soon ventures into territory of its own, culminating in a beautifully understated solo from Linthicum that gives way to the sublime pairing of Anderson’s fiddle and voice.

Featuring Linthicum’s first lead vocal, “White Butte Country” showcases a new side of the group. The song is a twisting and earthy romp in the vein of Sir Douglas Quintet or The Bobby Fuller Four, with Anderson’s backing vocals as complementary here as her cousin’s playing elsewhere.

Kacy & Clayton :: The Siren’s Song

Built on Linthicum’s fingerstyle acoustic guitar, Anderson’s steadfast voice, and all-encompassing instrumentation, “The Siren’s Song” is the album’s finest moment—the group using the studio to full effect and offering a glimpse at where they might be headed next. With an atmosphere reminiscent of like-minded travelers such as Espers or Pentangle, wordless vocals of the titular sirens lead to the song’s awe-inspiring explosion of Linthicum’s searing electric guitar and Anderson’s barely-restrained voice. Ending things on a serene note, “Go And Leave Me” (the album’s only traditional, via Norma Waterson) harkens back to the duo’s unadorned sound on 2013’s The Day Is Past & Gone.

Continuing to explore the vast waters of country, folk, and psychedelia, The Siren’s Song is another monumental leap forward for Kacy & Clayton. With a discography that already belies their young age, the future is exceptionally bright for Canada’s finest forward-looking traditionalists. words / k evans

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For the follow-up to 2016’s The Rarity of Experience, sprawling, expansive double LP, Chris Forsyth and his Solar Motel comrades take a more spare/skeletal path. For one thing, Forsyth handles all the guitar work on Dreaming In The Non-Dream himself, leaving a bit more space in the mix, and allowing the stellar rhythm section of bassist Peter Kerlin and drummer Ray Kubian to shine. The album kicks off with a wickedly catchy Kerlin bassline that Forsyth scrawls and scratches all over, before slipping into a dramatic spaghetti western-esque coda. And Kubian is the unstoppable engine behind the LP’s title track, an instant motorik hall of famer that surges and swings for more than 15 thrilling minutes. It’s an epic, but there’s not a moment wasted. Also worth highlighting is Solar Motel secret weapon, keyboardist Shawn Edward Hansen, whose textural shadings give the album a richer flavor, whether dueling furiously with Forsyth on “History & Science Fiction” or providing a lovely counterpoint to the guitarist’s elegiac musings on the closing “Two Minutes Love.” Wrapped up in a shimmery design by AD’s own Darryl Norsen, Dreaming In The Non-Dream is another essential chapter in the Forsyth saga. words / t wilcox

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band :: Dreaming In The Non-Dream

Related: The Lagniappe Sessions: Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

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Last year’s Imaginational Anthem: The Private Press, was one of the best compilations in quite some time, bringing to light a host of extremely obscure guitarists from the 1970s and 1980s — players who lurked in the considerable shadows of Fahey, Basho, Bull and Kottke, but still managed to find their own voices. Of course, even with this 21st century exposure, most of the LPs made by the Private Press‘ artists remain next-to-impossible to track down. Thankfully, Tompkins Square has begun reissuing a few in their entireties, giving us a fuller picture of what these eccentric soli players were up to.

Tom Armstrong :: White Pines

Tom Armstrong’s beguiling The Sky Is An Empty Eye, released in extremely limited quantities in 1987, sees the Texan layering both electric and acoustic guitars that spiral and spin in unexpected directions, whether it’s the mystical, chiming harmonics of “White Pines” or the fuzzy, off-kilter loner folk of the LP’s title track. It’s accessible, absorbing stuff, but doesn’t really fall into any American Primitive or new age-y category. Armstrong was operating in his own universe here.

Rick Deitrick :: At Morning

Where The Sky Is An Empty Eye is hazy and frayed, the sounds on River Sun River Moon and Gentle Wilderness, by solo guitarist Rick Deitrick, are intricate and intimate, every note perfectly placed. Recorded and released in the late 1970s, both LPs wouldn’t have been out of place at the time on the Wyndham Hil label — but Deitrick manages to rise above the sometimes placid textures of that scene, balancing a meditative, melodic vibe with a dark, restless undercurrent. Gorgeous stuff all around. words / t wilcox

myrrors

There’s been no shortage of national focus on Arizona of late. The president showed up, there was trouble; our disgraced former sheriff slithered back into the headlines; and a federal judge ruled racism as the main factor in a ban on ethnic studies in Arizona schools. From the outside, Arizona likely seems like a land of extremes, of extreme ideologies and extreme heat. And it is that, but for those of us listening with our ear to the ground, those extremes extend to artistic vitality and spiritual growth. From the dusty cowgirl songs of Billie Maxwell to the blistered soul of Eddie & Ernie, from the exoticism of the Sun City Girls to the fried psychedelia the Meat Puppets, from the proto-freak folk of Black Sun Ensemble to the cosmic crush of Destruction Unit, Arizona has always harbored strange musical aberrations.

The Old Arizona was weird, but so is the new. Two stalwart examples of this New Weird Arizona? Tucson combo the Myrrors and the Phoenix-based Sunn Trio. Recently, the bands released new LPs, titled Hasta La Victoria and Sunn Trio, respectively.

Their connections are more than geographical; Sunn Trio arrives via Sky Lantern Records, the label run by Nik Rayne of the Myrrors, which has released music by like-minded explorers Eternal Tapestry, Dead Sea Apes, and Kikagaku Moyo. And even though Hasta La Victoria, released by the psych-leaning Beyond Is Beyond Is Beyond label, finds the Myrrors playing an entirely discrete combination of Krautrock, ambient, and drone than Sunn Trio’s Middle Eastern/free jazz/bizzaro excursions, it’s clear a psychic connection ties the groups together, a unity that exists despite vastly different sonic frameworks.

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