Full Moon Mix: Along The River

Rollin’ On The River and Rivers Of Babylon are just the surface of a vast stream of songs telling stories situated along rivers or using the river as a metaphor to transport ideas about life or time. Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers or Ibeyi’s River are recent examples of successful river songs.

In the folk context, where the rural idyll often provides the setting, river songs are ubiquitous. Neil Young’s Down By The River, Nick Drake’s River Man, Tim Buckley’s The River, The Byrds’ Ballad Of Easy Rider or Paul Simon’s Peace Like A River come to mind. Omitting these obvious choices, here’s a collection of river songs.

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1. Dorothy Carter – Along The River
Wailee Wailee, Celeste 1979

2. Gabriel Gladstar – Flow
A Garden Song, Flying Guitar 1973

3. Donovan – The River Song
The Hurdy Gurdy Man, Epic 1968

4. Erik Darling – St. John’s River
True Religion And Other Blues, Ballads And Folksongs, Vanguard 1961

5. Rex Holman – Rowin’
Here In The Land Of Victory, Pentagram 1970

6. Kevin Morby – Harlem River
Harlem River, Woodsist 2013

7. PJ Harvey – The River
Is This Desire?, Island Records 1998

8. Brian Eno – By This River
Before And After Science, Island Records 1977

9. Smog – Say Valley Maker
A River Ain’t Too Much To Love, Drag City 2005

Along The River Covers

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Ancient Drones

Physical drones aren’t necessarily a good thing. They sting, they spy and they make war. Musical drones in contrast are definitely a good thing, as they bring about peace. Inner peace. Their gentle monophonic humming is balm to the human soul.

Though it hums a bit like a bee, the musical drone isn’t named after the insect. It’s rather the other way around, as The national encyclopædia tells us: “The drone does not take its name from the bee. It is a far older word, sharing an Indo-European root (“dhran, to drone, to hum”) with the Sanskrit ‘dhran’, the Greek ‘thren-os’, and the English ‘thrum’, ‘drum’, and ‘dream’.”

These ancient etymological roots substantiate that musical drones aren’t just a phenomenon of postmodern experimentalism. Long before avantgardists like John Cage introduced this technique, mankind produced drones all around the globe. Huun-Huur-Tu from the Russian republic Tuwa give us a fine example of traditional drone music from Siberia played on the doshpuluur, a Tuwan lute:

Apart from describing the simplest harmonic device, the word drone also refers to any part of an instrument that is used to produce a continuous sound, as for example the so called bourdon pipes of a bagpipe or an organ. Bourdon instruments can produce a peculiar harmonic effect. By interweaving melodies and drones a constant oscillation between consonant and dissonant sounds is achieved.

The hurdy-gurdy is a bourdon instrument using strings instead of pipes. Known as Vielle à roux, this instrument was very popular in medieval France. René Zosso, a viruoso on the Vielle à roux, and zither player Anne Osnowycz give an impression of the rich tradition of drone in French music with their performance of a piece by Bernart de Ventadorn, a composer of the 12th century:

It’s evident that the drone plays a crucial role in musical history. It even seems plausible that it’s the source of all instrumental music, as it can be traced back way beyond year 0. For example the didgeridoo, one of the few drone instruments unable to play distinguished melodies, is estimated to be at least 2500 years old. About a 1000 years younger is the tradition of the Japanese ritual music called Gagaku featuring a whole orchestra of drones.

The drone seems to be inherent in all folk traditions, but it’s nowhere as predominant as in India, where this harmonic device is an integral part of traditional music. It’s not mainly the archetypical sitar which is responsible for the drones accompanying Indian melodies, but rather its little sister, the tanpura. Often a harmonium is used to add further drones, as the following performance shows:

Half Moon Mix: Twilight Zone

The artists featured on this mix are phantoms of untraceable obscurity. It’s hard to find any useful information about them in the web we’re all entagled in. None of them has a Wiki entry and in most cases it’s impossible to find biographical facts or pictures testifying their existence. The only traces these mysterious artists left are the grooves on a few rare 7″ singles.

Recorded in the late 50s and early 60s, these songs represent an era in which pop music was in a state of transition. It hadn’t lost its teenage innocence in the orgies of the swinging sixties yet, but it was looking for new kicks. The loner folk of Gary Smith, the proto rap of The Poets, the swamp soul of Mamie Perry and the frantic psychobilly of Dave „Diddle“ Day give a hint of what was yet to come.

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1. Gary Smith – Twilight Zone (Elko 1962)
2. Tony Gunner – Rough Road (Gregmark 1961)
3. Bing Day – Mama’s Place (Mercury 1959)
4. Bobby Summers – Pad (Capitol Records 1959)
5. Johnny Wells – Lonely Moon (Astor 1959)
6. Roland Stone – Moanin’ Soul (USA Records 1959)
7. Buddy Long – It’s Nothing To Me (Demon 1959)
8. Charlie Dee The Missourian – The World On The Moon (USA Records 1960)
9. Dave „Diddle“ Day – Blue Moon Baby (Mercury 1957)
10. Otto Bash – All I Can Do Is Cry (RCA Victor 1956)
11. Dennis Newey – Title Unknown (Philips 1961)
12. Ollie Jones – Helpless (Warner Brothers 1959)
13. Carol Hall – Beat Beat Click Click Tap Tap (Columbia 1961)
14. Mamie Perry – My Baby Waited Too Long (Flash 1958)
15. The Poets – Dead (Flash 1958)
16. Juan Montego – Juanita Come Back (Philips 1965)

Twilight Zone Labels

55 Cancri e

55 Cancri e, also known as Janssen, is an extrasolar planet orbiting around Component A of the double star system Copernicus. Its minor physisical mass compared to other exoplanets led to speculations that 55 Cancri e is a terrestrial planet, a so called superearth. This mysterious planet differs from our mother earth in many ways, for instance a year up there lasts only 18 hours.

Considering this astronomical background, 55 Cancri e seems to be an apt name for a musical project of cosmic qualities. With guitar, keyboard and voice Malmö born Sara Hausenkamp fabricates a mesmerising kind space folk. Listening to her debut EP Belsebubs Tårar feels a bit like watching the television series Cosmos back in our childhood, when Carl Sagan made us realize that the earth is just a grain of sand on the shore of the cosmic ocean.