When: March 16, 2018, 7:00 pm
Caroline Street Cork , Ireland (map)
Sequestered away in rural bliss, 90 minutes north of Seattle on the Washington state coast, Karl Blau has been making records for 20 years, but never with European distribution. So, when Bella Union released Introducing Karl Blau in 2016, it shone a belated and deserved light on â€œone of the great hidden treasures of music,â€ claimed album producer Tucker Martine. But given Introducingâ€™s specific agenda â€“ a set of gorgeous, lush cover versions drawing mostly on vintage Nashvilleâ€™s country-soul with Blau concentrating on his rich, reverberating voice, his latest album Out Her Space is so different that it could be titled Reintroducing Karl Blau.
Out Her Space, released 17th November on Bella Union, features all Blauâ€™s own material, production and multi-instrumental skills, and forges a gorgeous, languid and hook-infested gumbo of soul, funk, some jazzy blowing and Afro-pop, to arrive somewhere else entirely.
Out Her Space also testifies to Blauâ€™s studio skills, as he captures the glimmering, humid depths of those sweltering southern influences, despite his north-western heritage. But then Blau has engineered and produced a heap of records for himself and others, often at his home in Anacortes, releasing records onWashingtonâ€™s favourite indies K and Knw-Yr-Own, as well as through his own Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society subscription service. But Out Her Space comes from another place, with another story to tell.
In 2009, Blau had been asked to record Richmond, Virginia country-psych band Great White Jenkins, fronted by Matthew E. White. In 2012, when White started a new label, Spacebomb, based around a house band in the style of the old Stax and Motown ventures, he called on Blau again. The album that came from this partnership was Whiteâ€™s solo album Big Inner (snatched up by Domino Records), which The Guardian called, â€œa genuine revelation.â€
Having heard Blauâ€™s own demos, White ensured that Spacebombâ€™s hot-to-trot backing band â€“ centred around (now Fleet Foxes) bassist Cameron Ralston and drummer Pinson Chanselle â€“ supported Blau too, and he came away with an albumâ€™s worth of tracks, which also featured Blau (guitar, percussion, synth, sax), White (guitar, synth), Phil Cook of MegaFaun (piano) and a wider cast of horns, piano, viola and backing vocals. Itâ€™s partly where Out Her Space got its name: â€œItâ€™s a cousin to Big Inner,â€ says Blau.
The album plays with humanitarian themes, against a backdrop of self-immolating American politics. For starters, the title Out Her Spacewas equally inspired by Blauâ€™s, â€œoverwhelming feeling to point out that men, in general, need to listen, to stop being so assertive and to get out of her space, let her balance again. Chill out dudes, rather than lead us over the cliff.â€
The opening â€˜Poor The War Awayâ€™ was written during the George W Bush era, â€œand itâ€™s more relevant than ever. Weâ€™re steamrolling down the mountain side.â€ â€˜Slow Childrenâ€™ is a request for mankind to slow down, with a â€œrigid truth chorusâ€ and â€œfree associationâ€ verses, says Blau.
The speedier â€˜Where You Goinâ€™ Papaâ€™ also works better in 2017 than 2012, since Blauâ€™s youngest daughter is no longer a baby, and he can think about touring again â€“ itâ€™s another reason, he says, why it was worth delaying this album. â€˜I Got The Sounds Like You Got The Bluesâ€™ addresses the same scenario â€“ â€œas the family breadwinner, Iâ€™m telling my kids, donâ€™t worry, Iâ€™ll be backâ€ â€“ while both tracks feature some mighty jazzy extemporising. â€œSome songs have long tails,â€ he says. â€œI thought maybe we should cut them off, but they grew on me.â€
Another key track is the albumâ€™s country-rocking â€˜Blue As My Nameâ€™: blau in German means â€˜blueâ€™, as well as â€˜drunkâ€™, â€œwhich is describing me, as Iâ€™m â€˜drunk with wonder againâ€™ in the song. I constantly find life is amazing, but alongside that, is the feeling that things are out of control.â€
The world is out of control, but Blauâ€™s life is anything but. Introducing Karl Blau did its job, as a great record and an introduction to a wider audience. Given Matthew E. White was voted a â€˜breakout artistâ€™ of 2012/13, then Blau, on this evidence, is unquestionably a â€˜breakout artistâ€™ of 2017/18. If Out Her Space has finally found the right time to emerge, so too has its creator.
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