Hoping For An Early Spring
Bugskull is the solo project and sometimes band of Austin, Texas’ Sean Byrne. ”Hidden Mountain” is a collection of stark, airy and deeply personal songs born during the recent collapse of his marriage.
Album notes below from Sean Byrne…
“After Bugskull & The Big White Cloud, I returned to college to pursue a degree in Special Education, and due to the limits of time and energy, took a break from creating or performing music. I graduated in 2003, the year my first son was born. My second son was born in 2006, the year I moved to Austin, TX.
During my time in Texas, I began to explore the folk/song-writer/country/Americana traditions found here. With two young children I had found that I could not spend hours tinkering in my studio, but that I could catch a few occasional moments playing my acoustic guitar on the couch as my children ran around me. By 2009, my marriage was seriously unraveling. It was during this year that I wrote the songs for Hidden Mountain. The title was created by my son as the name for our band. The image of something looming unseen in the background resonated with me for obvious reasons, and so I borrowed it from him. My goal in writing the songs for this album was to be completely honest and open about the feelings I was having about life at that time. And so I let the dark shine through. The issues with the relationship mirrored my sense of alienation within life, and the songs explore this, either individually or combined within the same song. As they songs emerged, I started reading the apocrypha and other myths, because I wanted the tone and form of the lyrics to reflect an ancient/timeless quality, in a sense to put distance between the words and ideas.
September 2009, Bugskull the band reunited to perform at the PICA Time-Based Arts festival, and an album which had been completed in 2001, Communication was released on Digitalis Recordings.
Spring of 2010 I performed at the KRAAK festival in Belgium, as well as other dates in Belgium and Germany. My friend Aaron Day (SONE) had invited me to record in his studio in Berlin, and for five days at the end of the trip I laid down the guitar and vocals. Aaron then began to work on his own, adding all additional parts, in a way both complementary and sympathetic, accompanying the songs without obscuring them.”
Mike Newman on his music blog ”Songs Heard On Fast Trains” wrote about ”Hidden Mountain”:
“Opening with an extended instrumental introduction in “Old Town”, the title track which follows is a curious epic of pastoral Americana, which I can’t help but keep replaying in my mind. It’s a simple proposition – a delicate guitar melody is plucked out against an atmospheric backdrop of stuttering electronics and layers of droning noise. Perhaps the key to how this gentle, but persistent song manages to worm its way into my consciousness is the new found discipline. The noise never threatens to overwhelm Byrne’s calm if melancholy vocal. Continuing in a similarly laconic mood, “The Lights” is driven by a simple but effective vocal melody, which leads a drone of keyboard and the ever present understated, folk-inflected guitar. Then, rather unexpectedly a maudlin brass section joins briefly, lifting the song into new territory before it departs. It’s a breathtakingly sudden interlude. The pace picks up a little on “Wolves” but it becomes clear that this isn’t by any means going to provide lighter moments. The guitar line here repeats hypnotically and and mantra-like while Byrne manages to sound even more desolate than on the slower-paced opening tracks. Somewhere here I realise that this is just what I wanted from the last Bill Callahan record, but found I lost amongst all it’s extravagant complications and overly clever staging.
The elaborately named “Early Winter, Hoping for an Early Spring” appears to have taken a leaf from The Twilight Sad approach to song nomenclature. Not unlike their often bleak and mournful recordings it too has a strange metallic edge to its melody, before startling multi-tracked and distorted electronic vocals eerily join in. The curious cyber-folk saga which follows is unsettling in it’s oddly warped background sounds, but remains achingly, unerringly beautiful to hear. On “Lost Cause”, a fantastic cover of Beck’s, Byrne pitches a more personal first-person lyric, together with a whirling electronic shimmer. His voice is at its most vulnerably and sonorous finest here, as he quietly intones the regret-laced verses. Finally “To Be The Head and Not The Tail” closes the record on a comparatively and defiantly upbeat note with what is perhaps the most immediately accessible track on the record. On the surface, it seems to be a distant cousin of George Harrison’s “Isnt It A Pity?”, but rebuilt from shards of odd sound effects, multi-layered vocals and a steady guitar strum. The lyrics appear to concern natural selection, with an unnamed creature slinking around ensuring it’s own survival. Then, the record’s only electric guitar solo enters – a majestically fuzzed-up delight of an outburst, if sadly all too brief. Taking a cue from this sudden squall the track builds towards its ending with a cacophony of whirling machinery, and appropriately drenched in hiss.”
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