20:00 | Based in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and of Choctaw heritage Samantha has been building a following in the US and beyond over the last couple of years, including Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit who took her out on tour last year and have been long-time supporters of her music.
Crain's songs are full of expansive melodies that veer off in unpredictable directions, with lyrics that explore conflicting emotions with uncommon insight and compassion. She has a jazz singer's phrasing, often breaking words into rhythmic fragments that land before and after the beat, stretching syllables or adding grace notes to uncover hidden nuances in her lyrics. Under Branch & Thorn & Tree was recorded at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco, with John Vanderslice (The Mountain Goats, Spoon), who also helmed last year's Kid Face. "We both like spontaneous creation and analog sound," Crain says. "We recorded straight to two-inch tape on a Studer 24-track machine and mixed down to 1/2-inch tape on an Ampex machine. The pre-amps were tube and we never used a computer. Our effects were done manually through tape looping and manipulation. Most of the arrangements happened in the moment, as we recorded. My guitar and vocals are all first or second takes."
20:00 | Last Ex is the new instrumental rock ensemble led by Simon Trottier and Olivier Fairfield, long active in Quebec's experimental/punk scene (viz. Fairfield's E-Tron Records), though the two are perhaps best known as core members of Timber Timbre, which spawned the Last Ex project. Last Ex makes ample use of the electric guitar as both lead instrument and textural sound source, structuring most of the pieces around deliberate melodic and contrapuntal deployments of Spaghetti Western twang by Trottier, while distressing, degrading and redeploying those sonics through Fairfield's analog tape-based manipulations. Elsewhere, haunting melodic leads are established via string arrangements courtesy Mika Posen, in a wide range of textures and treatments. With its combination of assured lyricism, cinematic guitars, dusky analog atmospherics and taut percussion, this is a vivid, concise and expressive instrumental album that sits snugly between fellow label acts Do Make Say Think and Exhaust on the one hand, Hrsta, Tindersticks and Evangelista on the other. Fans of early Trans Am, early/mid Tortoise, and Calexico should appreciate this as a very satisfying grower of an album as well.
20:00 | Thus Owls are a transatlantic band centered around husband and wife Erika and Simon Angell. The band originated in Sweden as an outlet for Erika's songs, while she was making a name for herself as a prominent vocalist in the Gothenburg and Stockholm scenes. Simon meanwhile was beginning to tour more internationally with Montreal's Patrick Watson, as a founding member of his four-piece band. The two finally met when Erika was sitting in with Loney Dear, whom Patrick Watson were supporting on tour in Europe at the time. Erika recalls that she "fell in love with Simon's sound right away," citing the "harshness and the sweetness combined" of his guitar, as well as his experimental approach to music. It wasn't long before they were married, and making music together as Thus Owls. "It was the last piece of the puzzle," she explains. Turning Rocks is the result of a conscious effort on the part Simon and Erika to follow a particular creative process. Whereas previous Thus Owls recordings sprang from Erika's ongoing songwriting, and bigger studio experiments, Turning Rocks began as a more explicit attempt to create something lyrically and tonally cohesive. "I wanted to bring things together a bit," Erika explains. They just had to figure out what that meant.