The Bowery Ballroom
Yellow Ostrich

Yellow Ostrich

Strand Of Oaks, Glass Ghost

Wed, November 14, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

This event is 18 and over

Yellow Ostrich
Yellow Ostrich
Before starting on songwriting for Yellow Ostrich's latest album, singer/guitarist Alex Schaaf moved into the band's Brooklyn practice space and immersed himself in the study of such astronomers as Carl Sagan and Frank Drake. Keeping up his day job of digitizing people's old home films by day, Schaaf devoted the next 9 months to exploring the depths of the galaxy from a tiny windowless room, whose lighting he altered to reflect the arrival and passing of daylight each morning and night. Around the same time, Yellow Ostrich drummer/percussionist Michael Tapper ventured into the infinite in a much more literal sense by departing on a sailing trip from Mexico to Hawaii that left him out at sea for nearly a month. Borrowing its title from Sagan's 1980 PBS series, Cosmos expands Yellow Ostrich's intensely guitar-driven alt-rock with dreamy electronic arrangements to mirror the mood of Schaaf and Tapper's retreats away from the everyday world. While the album embodies a sense of both wonder and isolation, Yellow Ostrich's refined melodies and dense yet delicate sonic textures make Cosmos as powerfully intimate as it is dynamic.

"Something I really like about the Carl Sagan way of thinking is how it's a very unironic and sincere amazement at how the world works," says Schaaf, who began Yellow Ostrich as a solo project at age 21. "One of the main things I was thinking about in writing this album is how to take that viewpoint and bring it into real-world life," he adds. "It's one thing to be reading all these books and watching all these movies in a very small room, or–as Michael did–to go out and live under the stars for a while. But trying to inject that pure amazement into day-to-day living in a big city is something completely different."

The follow-up to Yellow Ostrich's 2012 EP Ghost, Cosmos captures that uneasy tension by merging raw guitar riffs, lush atmospherics, brain-bending electro effects, sweetly ethereal harmonies, and earnest but unsettling lyrics. Engineered by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Superchunk, Sparklehorse) and mixed by Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.), the album saw its inception when Schaaf sketched out skeletal versions of his songs, then brought them to Tapper to begin fleshing out beats and arrangements. Having delved into the work of early-Krautrock and 70's synth bands while on tour the previous year, Schaaf and Tapper set to broadening their sound with locked grooves and textures inspired by artists like Neu!, Kluster, and Kraftwerk. For more help in crafting the sonics of Cosmos, Schaaf and Tapper recruited bassist Zach Rose and keyboardist/guitarist Jared van Fleet (who stepped in soon after the departure of multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez). With Rose and van Fleet further shaping the songs and helping the band to realize their vision, the new lineup of Yellow Ostrich recorded most of Cosmos in the same rehearsal space where Schaaf was living.

Opening Cosmos with the ominous "Terrors" and closing with the hushed, hymnlike "Don't Be Afraid," Yellow Ostrich lace together electronic elements and organic instrumentation to build a mood that's sometimes gloomy, sometimes euphoric, and often an inextricable mix of the two. Throughout the album, Schaaf's fascination with Earth and beyond plays out both literally and as metaphor: there's songs like "In the Dark" (a stark and dreamlike meditation on the journey of NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts), as well as "Shades" (whose urgent guitar lines and frantic piano reflect the anxiety that Schaaf imagines many people felt upon seeing the first published photos of Earth and "realizing how small and insignificant we really are"). Although that fascination bears an undercurrent of lonely melancholy, Cosmos also achieves its own strange brand of bliss on songs like "How Do You Do It" (a joyfully woozy track whose bombastic chorus serves as a diatribe against self-delusion).

One of the album's most exhilarating numbers, "Any Wonder" pairs a swirling soundscape and questioning lyrics that closely encapsulate the thematic heart of Cosmos ("I'm gonna try hard to tear it all apart/I wanna be stunned, don't you?"). In writing "Any Wonder," Schaaf again tapped into Carl Sagan's careful illumination of the romantic side of science. "A lot of people have this idea that when you explain something, you take away the magic and mystery of it," says Schaaf. "But sometimes the actual science of what happens is way more magical than any fiction we could invent on our own."

For the Cosmos cover art, Yellow Ostrich selected a photograph by Bas Jan Ader, a Dutch artist who created a series of videos in which the force of gravity served as his main medium. An inspiration for "Things Are Fallin'" (the album's epic penultimate track, which starts as a tenderly off-kilter ballad before shifting into a sprawling rock song and finally dissolving into eerie noise), Ader's work also helped Yellow Ostrich tease out that elusive connection between the cosmic and the everyday. "We're living in a time when we're all split up into such small subcultures and everyone has their own personalized digital worlds, which can make it easy to lose touch with the basic principles that rule our lives," Schaaf says. "There's so much that connects all of us and makes us all the same. No matter who you are, gravity's always going to bring you down. I think there's something really beautiful in that."
Strand Of Oaks
Strand Of Oaks
From the first bars of HEAL, the exhilarating melodic stomp of ‘Goshen ‘97’ puts you right into Tim Showalter’s fervent teenage mindset. We find him in his family’s basement den in Goshen, Indiana, feeling alienated but even at 15 years old, believing in the alchemy and power of music to heal your troubles. “The record is called HEAL, but it’s not a soft, gentle healing, it’s like scream therapy, a command, because I ripped out my subconscious, looked through it, and saw the worst parts. And that’s how I got better.” HEAL embodies that feeling of catharsis and rebirth, desperation and euphoria, confusion and clarity. It is deeply personal and unwittingly anthemic.

Showalter was on tour, walking back to his hotel on a mild autumn night in Malmo, Sweden, when he first felt the weight of the personal crisis that would ignite him to write HEAL. “It was a culmination of pressure,” Showalter recalls. “My marriage was suffering, I’d released a record I was disappointed in, I didn’t like how I looked or acted...so I’d gone on tour, I was gone about two years! I didn’t take time to think about failure, but I knew I was going deeper and deeper...I was thinking, I have this life, but it’s not my life, I haven’t done it right...”

When Showalter returned, he wrote 30 songs in three weeks, a process that proved difficult, but cathartic and at times even invigorating. Previous Strand Of Oaks records were more skeletal, raw examples of folk-rooted Americana with occasional rock and electronic currents, that have now come to the fore. HEAL’s sound is a bold new beginning, a thrilling full-tilt sound that draws on Showalter’s love of ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s rock and pop, with the singer and guitarist playing the intense valedictory confessor. “It’s sad but it sounds like a celebration, like I’m crying and laughing and sticking both middle fingers in the air all at the same time.”

Crucial to HEAL’s scaling-the-walls of sound was the man who Showalter chose to mix the record, the stellar alt-rock icon John Congleton. Showalter also re-connected with Ben Vehorn, synth expert and studio engineer extraordinaire, and Verhorn’s drummer pal Steve Clements who provides HEAL’s thunderous, sinewy drive. Songs such as ‘Shut In’, ‘Plymouth’ and ‘Woke Up To The Light’ have a classic construction and mood, recalling ‘70s power-pop/ballads and the melodic, yearning ache of Big Star’s late, great Chris Bell. Many of the songs on HEAL reveal an electronic undercarriage and towering drums that push the album’s wired dynamic to its stretching point, especially on ‘For Me’, which expertly bridges the album’s twin decades of influences. And if ‘Goshen ‘97’ recalls the molten energy of Dinosaur Jr, that actually is J Mascis on lead guitar.

Title track ‘Heal’ climaxes with Showalter’s fabulously brazen guitar solo, electronically tweaked for maximum impact. Despite the initials, the album’s smouldering seven-minute epic ‘JM’ is not a Mascis tribute, but to the late Jason Molina, about having his music as comfort no matter how bad things get.

Which brings us to another crisis, this time much more serious and immediate. HEAL was scheduled for mixing on December 26, 2013. Driving on the freeway on Christmas Day, Showalter and his wife hit a patch of black ice and crashed their car head on into a semi-truck, and were very fortunate to walk away with their lives. Showalter suffered a, “pretty severe,” head trauma, “which affected me much more than I realized at the time.” Fearing delays, Showalter didn’t let Congelton know about it, so the mixing session went ahead. “Being on the verge of death, and my thoughts being so closely tied to that, changed the album’s direction,” Showalter claims. “Together, we pushed it toward a much more cathartic sound that forces the listener to where I was at that exact moment, somewhere between almost dying and being absolutely fearless.”

HEAL is not just a saviour for its creator, but for anyone who needs reminding of music’s ability to heal, or just thrill. Showalter is taking out a full band to play, and finally, the kid who wanted to be a rock star at 21 might get his chance. Finally, he and Strand Of Oaks have much to celebrate.
Glass Ghost
Glass Ghost
Mike and Eliot met at a wedding gig. They shared a moment of absurdity as the bride and groom danced in zombie-like motions across the hotel's shiny ballroom floor. For their next gig, the two played in Best of Boston, a loose-jawed jazz band that performed at such odd venues as the clothing store Louis Boston, VFW halls, and community centers for ex-convicts and for kids.

Eliot moved to New York and Mike moved to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. In 2005, Eliot co-created the band Flying and Mike joined soon after. In March 2008, Flying had dissipated. Inspired by jam sessions that took place under Mike's loft bed, Eliot and Mike formed Glass Ghost. They quickly discovered that the music was able to speak even with only two band-members, yet they made it a point to strive for bigger sounds using only keyboards, drums and vocals.

In the summer of 2008, in a brownstone in Fort Greene, Glass Ghost recorded the album now known as Idol Omen with producer Tyler Wood, (Joan as Police Women, Luke Temple, Chester French). Idol Omen, (which features Sheinkopf on some tracks), was released in October of 2009 on Western Vinyl recordings. The song "Like a Diamond" was featured on the final episode of the HBO show Bored To Death. Jason Schwartzman makes out with a girl while the smoke from his joint fills the room; in the background are the sounds of Glass Ghost. In 2009, Glass Ghost toured the country with White Rabbits and played shows with Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors, and Here We Go Magic. Glass Ghost is currently gearing up for a new album.

"The overall tone of the band's debut album, "Idol Omen," is one of gorgeous patience and stepping lightly into this new world that's painted silver and frozen blue, white and light pink, a world that begins and ends with someone before a fire, trying to warm themselves back to an operative state, where they can enjoy the tea that's on the stove, the laughter and fresh air in the distance and the way that it makes you feel to recover from a numbing" - Daytrotter
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002
http://www.boweryballroom.com/