“I WILL read ashes for you, if you ask me.
I will look in the fire and tell you from the gray lashes
And out of the red and black tongues and stripes,
I will tell how fire comes
And how fire runs far as the sea.”
Carl Sandburg, 1922
And so it comes again, the time for Dark Mountain to break out of the literary mould and give a platform to a different form of creative expression. For as long as I’ve been aware and involved with the Dark Mountain Project, with its aims to give little heard counter narratives a platform (an exquisite one at that), I’ve thought, “why should it stop at the printed page?”. And indeed, much of my involvement with the project over the years has been in bringing out the musical side of things, what with arranging the powered down music programme at the late Uncivilisation festivals and most recently producing the first Dark Mountain compilation record, From the Mourning of the World. That was released with much fanfare in 2013 and is still available on vinyl and to download.
With the Uncivilisation festival having been retired back in 2013, and given some time to reflect, it has seemed to me to be a shame that music hasn’t had much focus in the interim. However, with Dark Mountain’s growing following, more and more musicians are becoming aware of the project and finding resonance. Many have made contact to express their intrigue, gratitude, and or relief in finding such a refuge. Consequently, it seemed only right that Dark Mountain listen to these artist’s works and try to bring them to its audience and beyond if possible.
So I’ve put together a second Dark Mountain compilation record for your listening pleasure. This time however it will be a download only. Perhaps a little ironic that it gets released using digital means, something which is often the subject of ridicule and repulsion in those counter narratives. But there are many contradictions we are forced to accept if we are ever to do anything worthwhile, especially if it involves the general public. Though the last record we made is out on vinyl, the production costs of such a format are prohibitively huge. A fairly successful crowdfunding campaign helped bring the project to fruition, but that’s not something we feel we can repeat this time round. And so download only it is, and maybe that’s appropriate after all, depending on how you look at these things. Ethereal, virtual, intangible.
This record is called ‘Reading the Ashes’, inspired by the 1922 Carl Sandburg poem printed above. It features 10 songs from a rag tag of artists in different far flung corners of the globe. The artwork is by the artist Dougie Strang who buried himself in the forest for the tein eigin that was photographed. Over the next few blogs I will be introducing you to the artists that contributed to this new record, including more on the artwork. For now, I will leave you with this collection of songs to download and listen to, along with the first set of introductions.
To download and listen to the full compilation album, please go here: Reading the Ashes
I hope you enjoy these beauties.
Mae Karthauser from The Midnight Fairground writes sombre circus-esque songs that tell vivid stories of wayward characters both human and animal. Her eccentric humour and acrobatic voice combine to produce the sublime ‘Georgia and the Tiger’ that feature’s below. Mae currently resides near Totnes, in a caravan with her cats and friesian cattle on a hill-top farm.
When asked how Dark Mountain relates to her music, Mae has said:
“Ive always identified with oddballs. With those characters on the periphery who so many are afraid of because their behaviour is challenging, their ideas are complex and their eccentricities clatter loudly behind them like tin cans on a line of string. I came from a family of these people and had the sense my whole childhood that other people wanted to tidy us up, make us more easily understandable or move us out of their way. In fact, that’s what I wanted most of all and it was no secret. Everyone wants to fit in when they are young. Everyone wants to go undetected.
“My songs often draw on these “inconvenient” and complex characters or groups which I observe everywhere, the secret alcoholic, that “Dr Jekyll, Dr Hyde”, the homeless, the gypsy. I want to know about the human and the story. To discover a perspective that may reveal the human behind the behaviour, and take some of the power away from the label which is so often where the enquiry stops. Through my music I seek to reveal the stories of those that we are afraid to ask questions about.”
When asked about her song ‘Georgia and the Tiger’ on the compilation:
“This song is based on an experience I had whilst working in a Special Educational Needs (SEN) School where I encountered a sweet eight year old girl who won my heart with her gentle grinning and giggling and chirpy chitter chatter, until the moment that something flipped; she lost all control, upturning a table whilst roaring with anger, throwing a box of colouring pens flying across the room like five hundred arrows into the faces of a dozen bewildered primary children. The alarm was raised. We all evacuated. She was restrained. I never knew what had happened.”
Find out more about Mae at her website here: http://www.
Slight Birching, also known as Sean Travis Ramsay, is a synth tinged lo-fi folk artist based in Vancouver Island, Canada. His last album, ‘Cultural Envelope’, addresses humanity’s obsession with complex systems and beliefs and how they tragically disconnect us from nature.
When asked how Dark Mountain relates to his music, Sean has said:
“My most recent projects have focused on the un-naturing of nature via human augmentation and interference and, more specifically, our innate desire to shield ourselves from nature’s effects through what Northrop Frye calls ‘cultural envelopes.’ But these types of acts are nothing new. Humans have been changing the earth to suit their needs since, well, for as long as there have been human beings, modern or otherwise. The Dark Mountain project relates to what I am doing with my music because my work strives to point out the intricate — and almost absurd — tightrope that we humans balance ourselves on as part of the biosphere in our quest for meaningful existences.”
When asked about his song ‘Knowledge Drifts’ on the compilation:
“Knowledge Drifts is about the ephemeral, seemingly pointless, endeavours we undertake to establish some sort of permanence on a planet that operates in cycles that give and take just as easily and coolly as you or I takes a breath. More specifically, it’s about an art deco staircase that leads into the ocean on Dallas Road in Victoria, BC, Canada.”
Find out more about Slight Birching at his website here: http://strchives.bandcamp.com