Right about now, we're on the lookout at all times for music that soothes and slows down our racing, anxiety-ridden brains. And this Friday, Aug. 14, local label Circuit Church is set to unleash the feel-calm hit of the summer with a new album – Say Those Words for Me
– from Seattle artist, musician and composer Nat Evans.
Orlandoans who attended the In-Between Series in October 2018
will be familiar with Evans' work, having heard the Alterity Chamber Orchestra perform his piece New Domestic Ritual
, which included an amplified house plant among the instruments employed. Evans' solo music is just as adventurous, with shimmering electronic washes and soundscapes that bring to mind Eno and WHO and, thankfully, ground the listener firmly in a moment of contemplative peace, however finite.
In addition to a cassette's worth of Evans' ethereal pieces and field recordings, buyers also have the option of purchasing a chapbook/zine of unpublished writings by Evans' Zen teacher and poet, Ryuzen Robby Pellet.
spoke to Circuit Church founder Jared Silvia with mere days to go before the release of Say Those Words for Me
How were you introduced to Nat Evans' work? And what is it about his music that made you want to releasing it?
I first became aware of Nat Evans work through a very close friend, Teege Braune, who readers will probably know as being a well-known writer and former bartender at Redlight Redlight. Teege and Nat are also very close from their time in college together in Indiana. Anyway, Teege brought me to a performance of a piece Nat was commissioned to create by local musical superduo Belt and Ramirez. I absolutely loved the piece, and enjoyed the way in which it incorporated a house plant as a semi-percussive element to accompany the guitar and oboe masterwork Chris and Beatriz are known for.
Fast forward years later and we've been doing Circuit Church for a bit as a live show, and I've been grabbing cassette tapes for my own music collection, thinking about what a new cassette label would look like featuring the music that Circuit Church wants to amplify, and was directed to a piece Nat released on cassette called Flyover Country
. I had listened to his Coyoteways
release as well, and was very interested in not only the music on Flyover
, but how he was incorporating a DIY element by including a segment of an ink drawing with each copy. It was both an object of the specific appeal and sound that cassette represents, but also a handmade, loving thing.
One more fast forward now, Nat comes to Orlando to visit Teege. They came to Circuit Church at the Nook on Robinson, and Nat and I got to meet in person. Afterward, we talked about a release he had in the works memorializing his teacher in Zen. This is pretty different from the two pieces Circuit Church had already put out, but this kind of music was always, in my head, part of the mission of the label, or, anyway, I always imagined the label as being capable of containing music that lived out on that edge.
Tell me about the work and planning that went into releasing an album and chapbook combination? And what inspired you both to release these together?
Nat had a very clear picture of what this release would look like, and that it would feature an improvised and layered piece on one side, and a field recording made on Hanamatsuri, the day when Buddha's birth is celebrated, on the other side. We knew that from the beginning and were working toward it. The pandemic bent our plans a little, it added a complicated dimension to the field recording aspect for Nat, which was originally going to feature a group of people drinking tea together.
As for the book, I’ve started asking artists if they want to release a manifesto or some kind of writing alongside their music, not to explain it, per se, but to dig further into their ideas that exist parallel to the music. This goes back to the handmade thing, too, but also, I think, adds another dimension to the experience of the musical object. I think I see musicians as philosophers, or am interested in their meditations, and I want to somehow distill that alongside the music. When I asked Nat about doing something like this, he mentioned that his late teacher, Ryuzen Robby Pellet, was a prolific writer of haiku, and that he frequently made handmade books of his work to give to people, and furthermore that Nat had collected a body of unreleased work from journals and notes that he was intending to make into a book himself. Harmony once again accompanied melody. We decided to do it as a part of the release.
What is it about Nat's music that you think makes it needed to be heard in this particular moment?
I had worked on a pretty intense album with the poet Brian Turner that was a musical interpretation of the work of his late wife, the poet Ilyse Kusnetz. When Nat told me about his teacher in Zen, and his desire to memorialize him, the meaning behind Say Those Words For Me
as a phrase, how the idea of the ritual of Buddhist memorial was something Ryuzen Robby Pellet had both engaged in and found comfort in, so many circuits connected for me.
Music reminds me so much of individual lives, a recording of the subtle movements of the body, the intonations of instruments that are like voices, changing with the weather and with age, and with emotions. We start to lose those memories when people pass on, but in a way, in engaging in the wildly variable world of physical instrumentation, I think we can relive some of our physical memory, or recapture it, connect with it in that liminal space that is a piece of music. So many people have lost loved ones this year, and many more will, and in a way, we're looking at a tough time in our recent past and near future. Nat’s music, what I see as his expression of how history is personal, how community is sacred, these things are so deeply important as we try to transcend a huge and scary moment.
You can preorder Say Those Words For Me
on the Circuit Church Bandcamp page here.
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