The album is split into two elements. The primary incorporates a collection of songs for accordion within the seven Greek scales. Each is supposed to evoke completely different facets of nature, they usually all invite us to take heed to and recognize the accordion in a brand new and thrilling manner. Within the second half, Conlee switches to piano and works with ostinatos (repeated melodic phrases) for 5 magical items, meant to hypnotize and encourage.
Throughout our dialog, Conlee defined that as a result of Covid restrictions made working with a band practically unimaginable, the inventive course of for the accordion items was fairly distinctive. “I utilized for an artist’s residency. There’s this actually funky classic trailer park referred to as the “Sou’Wester” on the coast right here in Washington. And it is like thirty classic trailers… very arty. They’ve a little bit music venue…a little bit artwork gallery. So about thirty artists get collectively for every week they usually put you up and then you definitely do a proposal and on the finish of the week you do a efficiency” she instructed me. The piano items, however, have been written over the previous three years. Conlee described her behavior of gathering little “music seeds” in her on a regular basis life. “With the piano ones, I simply type of gather. I am all the time simply type of writing little piano issues.”
A part of what makes these twelve songs so particular is how a lot inventive freedom and management Conlee had with the venture. Not like her work with bands or her final solo album French Kayaking Music (the soundtrack to the movie Voyagers With out Hint), the tales Conlee instructed have been fully as much as her. “Due to the character of the timing after I wrote these with Covid, I needed to do one thing by myself, and that was the time to do it. It was unclear whether or not we have been going to have the ability to get again collectively once more and make music. So I believe the largest distinction is that it is all me and I will be performing it and recording it… the one information is me. There is no movie I’ve to observe… it is like simply have a look at the hawk, what would the hawk say? After which how would you interpret that?”
Conlee additionally spoke a little bit on sure challenges that arose by being so unbiased. “It was all only one take so I needed to get by the entire music, and that… that is onerous. And in addition the music is technically more durable on this file in order that’s one thing it’s important to take into consideration generally. Like watch out what you do to your self.” As well as, she stated that these items “have been extra nebulous. I believe it is more durable to only seize concepts out of the universe, thus why I give myself constraints reminiscent of modes or subject material.”
Inside these self-imposed confinements, nevertheless, Conlee discovered the chance to discover her musical inclinations and discover a deeper sense of self. “I believe there may be extra me [in the album]. I let my tendencies fly. I used to be similar to ‘this is my concept! Let’s maintain it!’ ” For instance, when writing the piano songs, she observed that she’s drawn in the direction of ostinatos within the bass. “I noticed how a lot I am doing that and that is why I ended up calling them 5 Ostinatos.” The impact of this can be a very cohesive file. “The songs all stay in a single home. All of them have related power and melodic content material.”
This isn’t to say in any manner, nevertheless, that the items do not stand on their very own. Conlee is a masterful storyteller, even with out phrases. “Trying Glass”, the fourth piano piece on the album, particularly stood out to me. At first, her melodies are dreamy, legato, and lightweight, sweeping you into a relaxed earlier than crashing into harsh dissonance and eerie remnants of the preliminary sounds. We finally return to the unique phrase, nevertheless it has modified barely. It clashes extra often, and is not paying homage to a dream.
After I requested her in regards to the music, her clarification matched precisely with the story the music instructed. “I used to be employed to compose that piece by a gaggle referred to as “Twist Out Most cancers” which pairs musicians with individuals coping with most cancers and then you definitely attempt to inform their story. I used to be the primary musician they used for that course of as a result of I’ve had most cancers in my previous in order that they introduced me in.” Conlee was paired with a younger lady who detailed her journey with most cancers to Conlee. “[This woman’s] life was sort of cruising alongside till the announcement of her most cancers which is the sort of crunching sound. It is like this type of dreamy sort of ‘oh right here I’m in life’, and then you definitely hear the darkness of the prognosis… After which she realizes (as a result of [she and her husband] have been attempting to have a toddler) that, oh, she can have a toddler; that is the large extensive open space that will get again to the primary theme once more which is again to life. Nevertheless it’s a little bit bit darker now, sort of like there’s this new edge to it. So I attempt to sort of observe these life occasions of hers in that piece.”
Her storytelling talents are additionally discovered within the accordion items. “Hawk (Dorian)” soars and dives, evoking photos of the highly effective chicken on the hunt, “Sundown (Ionian)” builds and expands with wonderful coloration, and “Ocean (Mixolydian)” strikes in waves, climbing and receding, and mimicking the seas unpredictable temperament.
After I requested Conlee if she went into the residency realizing which facets of nature she would pair with which modes, she stated that she simply let herself be impressed by the world round her, besides for 2 songs; “Sand (Aeolian) and “Wind (Phrygian).” “The one that basically made me really feel like I have to do that was “Sand”, with the tremendous excessive notes, on aeolian. That mode appears so otherworldly to me, in order that appeared like the suitable factor.”
So as to clarify her inspiration for “Wind”, phrases have been inadequate. As a substitute, in a magical second, Conlee’s accordion appeared out of nowhere. Lifting the huge instrument onto her lap with relative ease, she started to play me the phrygian mode that impressed the creation of her wind music. “The phrygian mode is simply so unique to me due to this half”, she explains as she performs. “I used to be like I have to make that [mode] the wind music as a result of it has that like… [she plays the scale]… I imply I suppose what I am doing is imagining it has a whirling dervish one thing, or some sort of a desert genie or one thing.”
The accordion made a number of different appearances as she spoke about her songwriting course of. “To be trustworthy I generally begin my accordion music on piano as a result of it is a little bit simpler to see what is going on on. Then the hazard of that’s that perhaps it will likely be too onerous for the accordion. [Piano and accordion] each do their very own issues effectively, however a c to a c sharp is very easy on the piano whereas a c to a c sharp on the accordion is the furthest leap you may make due to the best way it is arrange. So yeah it’s essential watch out of these issues.”
We completed our dialog by discussing what’s subsequent for Conlee. First, she is trying ahead to her upcoming exhibits, particularly her March twenty sixth present in Portland, Oregon, at The Previous Church and her present at The Royal Room in Seattle, Washington, on April thirtieth as a result of they each have stunning grand pianos. “Like I simply performed these items in Eugene at a performing arts heart, however they did not have a piano so I used my keyboard and it is simply not the identical”, she defined. “I am trying ahead to these exhibits, and the opposite ones too, however I sit up for these as a result of [they’re] tremendous professional rooms with nice sound engineers. It is actually vital to have the sound be good as a result of it isn’t a rock present, it is a listening present, so it is good to have an atmosphere the place it is a sit-down quiet sort of house.”
As soon as her solo stuff is over, Conlee hopes to jot down for her band The Jenny Conlee Quartet. The group consists of piano, clarinet, accordion, drums and bass, however has but to launch a file. “I wish to do a file for the band subsequent time as a result of I wish to do extra band exhibits, and so I believe I want to jot down music for the band to ensure that the band to love have a music to play, ? … As a result of I actually get pleasure from performing with a band as a result of solo efficiency is so worrying” she stated with fun. “I wish to share the stress with everybody on stage.”
And in excellent news for The Decemberists followers (like myself), Conlee confirms new music is coming quickly. “We [The Decemberists] did a tour final summer time, only a quickie august tour, and we simply began recording within the studio final month for every week and we’re simply beginning our new file. So I am undecided when that can get achieved, we’re positively not near being achieved, however there’s positively new songs within the works, in order that’s thrilling.”
Within the meantime, do not be scared to work some accordion music into your rotation! Jenny Conlee is a singular expertise who approaches accordion music in an highly effective, unique, and modern manner. You possibly can stream “Hawk (Dorian)” now, and make sure to look out for the entire Tides: Items for Accordion and Piano on March twenty fourth. You can too catch Conlee touring on:
March twenty sixth – The Previous Church, Portland, OR
April twentieth – Charlene Larson Middle for the Performing Arts, Astoria, OR (w/ Casey Neill)
April twenty second – Brewvana, Prosser, WA (w/ Casey Neill)
April thirtieth – The Royal Room, Seattle, WA (w/ Casey Neill)
Aug. 19-20 – The Cotati Accordion Pageant, Cotati, CA