The Squid's Ear Magazine


Roberts, Dean: Not Fire (erstwhile)

Berlin-based songwriter Dean Roberts' first album in 12 years is a collection of dark and melancholic songs, set in unusual formats based around guitar, electronics, strings, with subtle rhythmic elements, performed by Dean's Dark Moth Ensemble, with additional musicians that include Boris Hauf on piano and The Neck's keyboardist Chris Abrahams on harp.
 

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Personnel:



Dean Roberts-vocals, guitar, piano, bass, percussion, lap steel

Emanuele Porcinai-feedback guitars, backing vocals

Chris Abrahams-harpsichord

Jenny Lange-piano, backing vocals

Leighton Craig-reeds

Sandra Selig-vocals, effects

Valerio Tricoli-organ

Lucky Paul Taylor-drums

Andrea Belfi-drums

Erin Lang-bass, vocals

Boris Hauf-piano

Andi Stecher-percussion, drums

Ekkehard Ehlers-advisor

Tim Barnes-advisor


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Label: erstwhile
Catalog ID: ErstPop 003
Squidco Product Code: 29064

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded at The Pines Studio, in Berlin, Germany, in 2019; tracks 5 and 6 recorded at White Winged Moth, in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in 2014.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Not Fire is the first album from Berlin-based songwriter Dean Roberts in 12 years, and his comeback arrives during apocalyptic times. It's not an album about someone who's found hope or love despite everything; Roberts sounds exhausted, and his album is as ugly and as bleak as life often is. For those who've been in the pits and succumbed to self-destructive nihilism, Not Fire is a reminder of how hellish it all can be.

Sonically, Not Fire is murky and battered and melancholy. Guitars clang incessantly, drums lurch without vigor-there's hardly a moment where one doesn't feel placed in a barren wasteland, left to wander aimlessly. On "Say After Me," a melange of noisy guitar strums and plucks constantly ring out without any impression of oncoming closure. In the song's final passage, Roberts slides his pick down a guitar string, the resulting sound a thunderous roar, the final bellowing of bottled-up feelings. Not Fire can sound a lot like a pained desire for release, a wish to scream into the emptiness like Roberts does on the album cover.

Nothing here feels cathartic, however. If anything, every note just propagates uneasiness, something that's fiercely evident on the nearly 10-minute centerpiece "Heron." Reed instruments and wolf-like howls imbue the piece with anxious tension. Frightening as the music may sound, Roberts sings of acceptance ("There is no blistering sun 'cause the summer's just gone"). The song's final third is wordless, but you can still sense his mournful presence.

Even when the songs aren't harrowing, Roberts' weariness and irascibility are clear. On the bluesy folk song "Paul," he speaks of the titular person as a thorn in his side-a burdensome figure who's always there at the worst of times. He concludes with a confession: "I always run into you Paul/And say I'll call/But I don't want to." This longing for solitude becomes an unwelcome reality on "Kids," where he talks about the crumbling of a long-term relationship. "Would it have changed anything if we'd had kids?" he wonders. You can tell, from his wavering voice, that he doesn't think so.

Throughout Not Fire, Roberts feels numb. A summation of his downward spiral appears on the title track. "It's not fire; love is something else" he moans. His voice quivers amidst droning feedback and heaving drums, the song exuding the shut-in mystique of Jandek's early works. As the song builds, Roberts never finds healing; he only sounds tormented, broken.

There is one hopeful song on Not Fire. With "My Diviner," Roberts delivers anguished expressions of gratitude. The mythical figure of the title leads him to water in a period of drought, and proves to be a steady light in his life ("You're not one to quit, that ain't how you live"). The sweetness is a salve from the misery that looms over everything else. In a time when gods feel ever-absent, when futures seem increasingly dim, "My Diviner" serves as a thoughtful reminder: life's shittiness is promised, but so is the nourishing comfort that comes when receiving persistent care. It sounds like a call to hold fast and love hard."-Joshua Minsoo Kim, Pitchfork Media


Get additional information at Pitchfork Media

Artist Biographies

"Dean Roberts (born 1975) is a musician and composer from New Zealand who works with electroacoustic music, minimalism, free improvisation, song cycles and prog rock. During the mid-1990s he was a member of the trio Thela with Rosy Parlane and Dion Workman. After Thela disbanded, Roberts recorded 3 solo albums under the name White Winged Moth, followed by a series of releases under his own name.

Along with Martin Brandlmayr and Werner Dafeldecker Roberts was a member of experimental trio Autistic Daughters when he lived in Italy.

He has also recorded with Eugene Chadbourne and Thurston Moore.

He graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts' Intermedia department and later taught time-based arts there."

-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Roberts)
4/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Chris Abrahams was born in Oamaru, New Zealand but grew up in Sydney, Australia.

He became very active in the Sydney jazz scene in the early eighties playing with modern jazz groups including Mark Simmonds' Freeboppers and The Keys Music Orchestra. With Lloyd Swanton he formed the 60's modern jazz-influenced The Benders in 1982. During its day, the band released three albums - E, False Laughter and Distance.

In 1984 Chris recorded and released his first solo piano album - Piano, followed in 1986 by Walk.

In 1985 Chris became a founding member of the Sydney indie rock band The Sparklers. As a result of this, Chris began working regularly with the singer and songwriter Melanie Oxley. Chris collaborated with Melanie, writing songs and producing albums, throughout the nineties. There are five releases with her: Resisting Calm (1990), Welcome to Violet (1992), Coal (1994), Jerusalem Bay (1998) and Blood Oranges (2003).

Chris released a third solo piano album, Glow, in 2001. This was followed in 2003 by Streaming, and then Thrown (2004), Play Scar (2010) and Memory Night (2013).

Chris has collaborated, in both recording and performance, with many contemporary improvising musicians including Burkhard Beins, Mike Cooper and Anthony Pateras. He performs regularly in the improvising music scenes both in Australia and Europe."

-The Necks Website (http://www.thenecks.com/bio)
4/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Andrea Belfi is a drummer, composer and experimental musician.

Through the last twenty years he has developed a unique style of drumming, influenced by his many experiences with experimental and electronic music, rock, improv. His hypnotic rhythms and textures create immersive soundscapes for the listener to float in.

He has released five solo albums and more than fifty collaborative records on labels such as ROOM40, Miasmah, Häpna, Die Schachtel, Constellation, Blue Chopsticks.

He has collaborated, among others, with Mike Watt, Carla Bozulich, David Grubbs, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Nils Frahm, Greg Haines, Circuit des Yeux, Andrea Parkins, Werner Dafeldecker, Erik Skodvin, Stefano Pilia, Aidan Baker, Lori Goldston, BjNilsen.

Belfi's interest in contemporary art led him to exhibit sound-art installations throughout Europe and U.S. and to collaborate with visual artists like Angela Bulloch and Aldo Tambellini.

AB has performed at Centre Pompidou (Paris), Unsound Festival (Krakow), Cafè Oto (London), Issue Project Room (New York), GAS festival (Göteborg) and Artplay (Moscow)."

-Andrea Belfi Website (http://www.andreabelfi.com/bio/)
4/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Multi-intrumentalist, composer, producer and performer Boris Hauf plays saxophones, flutes, synths, organ, various computer-based applications, cymbals, bells, rudimentary guitar and sings. He composes for large and small ensembles, performance artists, film, radio, soloists, video and installation art. More than 40 releases on vinyl, CD, tape and online. He initiated and curated the annual composition festival Chicago Sound Map in Chicago and the concert series Playdate in Berlin and lectures at the University of the Arts in Berlin. Hauf tours worldwide in a variety of bands, ensembles as well as in various performative contexts and if necessary as a solo artist. Current bands include Owl & Mack, Postmarks, Next Delusion, The Peeled Eye. As performer and composer he collaborates closely with Choreographers Christina Ciupke, Martin Nachbar, Karen Christopher and many others with in the performance context. He owns and runs the independent record label shameless and lives in Berlin, Germany."

-Boris Hauf Website (http://hauf.klingt.org/bio/)
4/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Tim Barnes is an internationally-known percussionist, electronic musician, and recording producer/engineer who has played and recorded with Sonic Youth, Wilco, Body/Head, Jim O'Rourke, Silver Jews, Neil Michael Hagerty and the Howling Hex, The Tower Recordings, The For Carnation, and MV+EE, as well as being featured in countless multiple other settings, from jazz-influenced free-improvisation to full-on rock n' roll. He is the Artistic Director of DREAMLAND, and also runs the newly-revived Quakebasket record label (best known for its mid-1990s archival releases of solo work by Angus MacLise, poet and original drummer for the Velvet Underground). A California native, Tim moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 2007 from his longtime musical base, New York City."

-The Other Side of Life (https://othersideoflife.wordpress.com/tag/tim-barnes/)
4/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



1. Say After Me 6:19

2. Caroline 3:08

3. My Diviner 8:00

4. KIds 2:42

5. Heron 9:50

6. Paul 3:44

7. Untrained Spirit 1:39

8. Dead Insects 3:18

9. Not Fire 8:49

Related Categories of Interest:


erstwhile
Rock and Related
Electro-Acoustic
Song Based Music
Large Ensembles
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
New in Rock Forms
New in Experimental & Electronic Music

Search for other titles on the label:
erstwhile.


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