2477 18th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Doors 7:00 PM
This event is all ages
Marisa Anderson is a wanderer at heart, creatively as curious as she is proficient. On Cloud Corner, Anderson’s music is boundless. Rooted in American folk music, her pieces are inspired by 20th century classical and West African guitar techniques. The results are revelatory. Written and recorded in a period of political and personal upheaval, the album was created as a refuge, an ode to stillness in an era of ceaseless noise. Marisa Anderson’s Cloud Corner is an album of remarkably intimate beauty, tranquility in times of turmoil.
Anderson’s composing is indelibly tied to her process of recording. As her own engineer, Anderson is able to develop her pieces while recording, shifting from song to song as inspiration strikes. After at times months of ruminating on musical and conceptual ideas, she improvises hours of material which then is often whittled into the concise, richly textured compositions. As the pieces of Cloud Corner developed, a distinct mood began to settle over the album, with long reverb tails, cleaner tones, and lightly bouncing rhythms evoking air, wind, breath, and the sky. Themes continued evolving as she recorded, as Anderson began embellishing pieces with varied instrumentation, from the warble of her Wurtlitzer keyboard to the staccato plucks of the requinto jarocho.
Anderson is able to evoke vivid visuals through her music, and Cloud Corner draws on personal experience for those images. A great example is the sorrowful “Angel’s Rest,” a eulogy to one of Anderson’s favorite trails near her Portland home, which was devastated in 2017 by fire. “Sant Feliu de Guíxols” elicits the beauty of the coastal Spanish town. It is a quietly and consciously happy song triggered by a conversation with a fan who accused Anderson of only playing sad songs. Anderson uses a slide and incorporates microtonal elements on “Lament,” a song inspired by images of the Syrian refugee crisis. The palpable emotional weight of these pieces are all invariably tied to Anderson’s capacity to create such vivid imagery with her composition, timbre and tonal choices.
Marisa Anderson’s experience in a myriad playing styles and keen abilities as an improviser are perfect skills to satiate her appetite for new approaches to composing. The backbone for her music is her undeniable mastery of North American traditions of country, folk, and blues. Cloud Corner sees Anderson using those skills in new forms from the Classical canon such as the fugue and ostinato. Traversing further still, guitar phrases on tracks like “Slow Ascent” and “Surfacing” owe a debt to the Tuareg style of guitar playing. Anderson was influenced by artists she played or recorded with such as Mdou Moctar, Kildjate Moussa Albadé, and Ahmoudou Madassane. Inspiration was also drawn from unique stringed instruments Anderson utilized such as the requinto jarocho and charango, which helped flesh out the riff of “Lift.”
The solo guitar work of Marisa Anderson owes its familiar tones to her awareness of history and her mastering of her instrument, yet it is completely new. Marisa Anderson filters musical history through her own personal experiences, as a traveler in life and in music. A curious and gifted player, Anderson has spent over 35 years of playing forging her singular, instantly recognizable voice. Marisa Anderson’s Cloud Corner is hopeful in the face of any discord, a resplendent diverse sound sanctuary that shines, a mirror of the horizon it looks towards.
Nathan Bowles is a multi-instrumentalist musician and teacher living in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. His work, both as an accomplished solo artist and as a sought-after ensemble player, explores the rugged country between the poles of Appalachian old-time traditions and ecstatic, minimalist drone. Although his recent solo recordings prominently feature his virtuosic banjo, Bowles is also widely recognized as a drummer, and he considers himself first and foremost a percussionist, with banjo as a natural extension of his percussive practice.
He and his bandmates in the popular and critically acclaimed old-time group the Black Twig Pickers steep themselves in local traditions of Appalachian folk music and dance, very much a vital part of cultural life in the region. As a member of the long-running improvisational drone outfit Pelt, Bowles focuses on the various sonic possibilities inherent in struck and bowed percussion—metal, wood, skin, or otherwise. When playing by his lonesome under his birth name, he prefers either minimal and hyper-nuanced percussive drone or tranced-out solo clawhammer banjo. Bowles has also recorded, collaborated, and performed with Steve Gunn, Jack Rose, Hiss Golden Messenger, Black Dirt Oak, Scott Verrastro, Pigeons, Spiral Joy Band, and others.
The seven songs on his second solo album Nansemond deploy banjo, percussion, piano, tapes, and—for the first time—his robust voice, moving effortlessly between composed sections, improvised passages, and field recordings. The Nansemond suite demonstrates the elasticity of Appalachian and Piedmont stringband music and the inherent connections, when those forms are distended, dilated, and dissected—as in the “Sleepy Lake” pieces, “Chuckatuck,” or “Golden Floaters/Hog Jank”—to contemporary improvised and post-minimalist avant-garde music. Bowles’ inventive playing on the album somehow finds common ground between tradition-bearing masters like Dock Boggs, Dink Roberts, and Etta Baker and the outré compositional experiments and extended techniques of Paul Metzger, Clive Palmer, and Henry Flynt. But these two strains always feel purposefully and organically integrated, not distinct or hierarchical, and that elegant and novel elision is perhaps the most notable accomplishment of these hypnotic recordings: they respectfully refuse to accept the porous boundaries between Southern vernacular music and modernism.