New Music Mondays: Looking Back at Jason Molina, Ensemble Pearl, and Nils Frahm

RIP Jason Molina - You Will Be Missed

photograph: Chris Dilts   It was announced today that visionary folk and blues singer-songwriter Jason Molina has passed away of organ failure due to alcohol consumption. He was 39 years old. Molina was the guiding force behind Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., as well as his own solo material. Despite the different monikers, they were very little stylistically different, all revolving around a heartbreakingly blues inspired folk music bolstered by Molina's haunting croon and slow delivery.

   For those like myself, who were drawn to a neo-folk music after the bubble burst on the alternative/grunge scene of the 90s, we were drawn to Molina because of his earnestness. Like Kurt Cobain's rendition of Leadbelly's 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night,' Molina seemed to be acutely feeling the melancholia which prevaided his work. With Songs: Ohia, Molina helped usher in what would become the neo-folk revival of the aughts including the likes of Iron & Wine, Bright Eyes, and M. Ward. What none of these acts could match up with Jason Molina though, was the blues he brought to his music with such a powerful sincerity that could crack the hard shell of any cold heart.

   The past several years has found Jason Molina recovering from his alcohol abuse, robbing us many years from an otherwise extremely prolific artist. Between the years of 1996 and 2009 he released 18 records and another 21 EPs and singles. Fans of Jason's should donate to his medical fund which was set up in 2011. In Jason Molina's honor, here is a cachet of some of my favorite songs by a brilliant artist.

 

Ensemble Pearl: Noise Supergroup

   Very rarely do I find myself thinking that the masses are going to love an ominous doom-rock/noise group, but here I find myself thinking just that. Out of Drag City comes a supergroup of loud proportions. Comprised of Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))))), Astuo (Boris), epic experimental guitarist Michio Kurihara, and William Herzog (Jesse Sykes and the Sweethereafter), Ensemble Pearl is a devastatingly moving doom noise record that journeys between beautiful soundscapes, droning noise meditations, and pummeling metal amplification. Okay, so maybe not music for the masses, but I'm telling you, this record is real good. By enveloping light in darkness, it shines so bright.

 

Nils Frahm: 9 Songs For 9 Fingers (or What Happens When A Pianist Breaks His Thumb)

    Recently, I cannot help but listen to Nils Frahm's Screws over and over. The nine song record was recorded after Frahm had broken his thumb. He had needed to cancel a bunch of performances and grew bored of his recovery. Despite the fact his doctor cautioned against playing the piano, Frahm began playing with only his healthy fingers, recording his songs at night before bed. By the time he was healed, Nils Frahm had a collection of nine songs, eight of which named after the names of the tones (Do through Ti) plus a clever You added as the ninth track. Screws is a mesmerizing collection of music, drawing on the spirit and calculatedness of Erik Satie. The album is for sale at Erased Tapes and streaming at Nils Frahm's website.