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This Is The Kit get Album of the Year, José González tour & new EP - December 04, 2015

We try not to let our site get too dominated by a single artist, but what a run This Is The Kit have had in 2015, hogging attention in a way quite counter to their considerate nature. We're pleased to confirm the details of their new Rusty and Got Dusty EP, a new support slot opening for José González across continental Europe in December and, last but not least, the selection of their Bashed Out LP as one of BBC Radio 6 Music's Albums of the Year.

We'll lead with that last bit since there's not much to say about it beyond "Woo-hoo!" In announcing the award the responsible DJ said, simply "I just love the honesty and I love how she sings like a songbird." 6 Music will be playing a song from Bashed Out on every single show broadcast on Wednesday December 9th to celebrate their selection. You can read more details and the full list of favorites over at the BBC.

Next, TITK's new EP which band leader Kate Stables sums up by saying it's “a wee step in a more foot-tapping direction." We've posted fuller details elsewhere. But you also preview two songs right now on Spotify or your favorite streaming service. The French language preview song "Les Plus Beaux" will get a video in the new year; "Magic Spell (Paris session)" already has one which you can play below:

The EP is intended as as a portrait of an artist exploring their creativity, a theme also evident in the painstakingly animated video directed, produced and hand-drawn by long-time band acquaintance Sam Wisternoff aka SJ Esau. Alongside the EP release, Sam will be selling some of the 3,000+ frames he created on This Is The Kit's Bandcamp site, including an even-more limited edition autographed by Kate herself. Here's a sample of what you can pick up.

We're also encouraging listeners' own creativity by creating the #drawthekit hashtag. We hope fans inspired by This Is The Kit's music might consider making their own drawings, illustrating both the band members and their songs. Tag your drawings #drawthekit on social media to take part. Both band and label will re-post our favorites across our various media platforms next year.

Last but not least, there is a final burst of European tour dates in 2015 opening for much admired Swedish crooner José González. At first, we thought of these dates as a coda to TITK's just completed headline tour of the UK in November. But new UK dates for January have already been announced.

08 – Circus: Stockholm, Sweden %
09 – Store Vega: Copenhagen, Denmark %
10 – Trivoli Ronda: Utrecht, Netherlands %
11 – Motion: Bristol, UK %
12 – Academy: Dublin, Ireland %
14 – The Institute: Birmingham, UK %
15 – Roma: Antwerp, Belgium %
16 – Grosse Freiheit: Hamburg, Germany %
17 – KB: Malmo, Sweden %
18 – Chateau Neuf: Oslo, Norway %
19 – Pustervik: Gothenburg, Sweden % SOLD OUT
20 – Pustervik: Gothenburg, Sweden %

02 – National Theatre: London, UK
14 – Trades Club: Hebden Bridge, UK
15 – Crescent: York, UK
16 – Drygate Brewing Company: Glasgow, UK
26 – TBA: Chester, UK
27 – Portland Arms: Cambridge, UK
28 – Boileroom: Guildford, UK

% w/ José González

By all accounts it’s been a banner year for This Is The Kit and Kate. She's been one of 6Music’s most played artists in 2015; received plaudits from the likes of The Guardian, Uncut, Pitchfork, Stereogum and Noisey; and played a string of the UK’s best festivals. One almost forgets that time the BBC made a short documentary on the group for the iPlayer series ‘Guy Garvey’s Music Box’.

Until this here website you're currently reading totally hooks you up with a reminder. You're welcome.

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Holidays with Brassland, Mx. Bond and Misters Bischoff & Lerche - November 27, 2015

If you spend any length of time in New York City, you'll be familiar with double happiness. Most urbanites learn the phrase from seeing it on a seemingly random assortment of Chinatown store awnings: bars, travel agencies, 99¢ shops, low-cost bodywork outlets, et. al. Traditionally associated as a good tiding in Chinese wedding ceremonies, there is even a character for the concept 囍 which is actually a doubling of a single character 喜 which, in turn, means joy.

Which is our (typically) roundabout way of saying: we wonder if we can make 🎄🎄 a thing?

Which is our still-more roundabout way of saying we have a 🎄🎄 surprise for you — new seasonally-appropriate music from both Mx. Justin Vivian Bond and the duo of Jherek Bischoff & Sondre Lerche. Let's jump right into streams of both releases. More specifics after the tunes...

Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff's "Surviving Christmas": for more info click here

Mx. Justin Vivian Bond's Christmas Spells EP: for more info click here

Mx. Bond will also perform at a number of holiday-themed events around North America this December.

03 San Francisco, CA - Second Floor Project Gallery (art show)
03 San Francisco, CA - Warfield ^
05-06 Montreal, Quebec - Maison Symphonique #
13 New York, NY - Town Hall @
16-19 New York, NY - Joe's Pub %
21-23 New York, NY - Joe's Pub %

^ Glide Foundation Annual Holiday Jam
#Rufus & Martha Wainwright's Noel Nights, taped for later broadcast on the CBC
@ with Gay Men's Health Chorus of NYC, sets at 3pm & 8pm
% Christmas show entitled "Angels We Have Heard When High"

Now for that backstory: Around this time last year we commissioned This Is The Kit's cover of "Christmas Time Is Here" and released it exclusively through Amazon. Known to most people as "that song from the Peanuts special," it has been a holiday standard since it debuted as part of the soundtrack to 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas broadcast. It was subsequently released as a bestselling standalone LP by composer/performer Vince Guaraldi.

This Is The Kit covered the song on a bit of a lark, but we were so happy with it, we began to think "Hey, maybe there is something with this whole holiday spirit thing?" And furthermore maybe our label pal Mr. Sufjan Stevens shouldn't have a patent on the December indie jams concept?

So, as the holiday season rolled around—and by that we mean, like June 2015, such is the timetable for releasing records—we began to consider a follow-up. This year we decided to widen the tent a bit, inviting some of our artists' closest collaborators to take part. How better to spread holiday cheer than by inviting friends of our friends into our label home.

Amazon offered to commission yet-another holiday tune from our family, and we were super-honored when Jherek Bischoff and his pal Sondre Lerche offered to write & record a new original. Jherek cites his musical inspiration as "those Christmas songs that are heavy but ultimately joyful and powerful from crooners of the 50's as well as the girl groups of the 60's." When writing the lyrics, though, Sondre looked to the headlines. He recalls: "The ongoing immigration crisis in Europe and Syria was erupting in the most gruesome ways, and I felt both shame and disappointment, both rhetorically and practically, with the way my government was responding the crisis home in Norway. Somehow this became the backdrop for my lyrics, although it could be about any family forced to leave their homes, looking for a future somewhere else, and how the way we greet immigrants, or any homeless person in the street, can mean so much more than we realize."

I think you'll agree that what they came up with—"Surviving Christmas"—is a simple song, projected in a big way, bereft of irony or cynicism. Ok, based on these pictures taken during the recording sessions, maybe Jherek was feeling a teeny bit of irony.

Next, aiming to channel that full-on 🎄🎄 feeling, we decided to commission Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman to make some holiday recordings with Mx. Justin Vivian Bond. Thomas had previously produced two full-length records by Mx. Bond, a multi-hyphenate performer we'd admired since we saw Kiki & Herb's Christmas show around the turn of the century. (In that duo, Mx. Bond vividly portrayed a geriatric, thoroughly-soused lounge singer named Kiki DuRane. It was as much a comedy act as it was traditional cabaret, and we can count on one hand the number of times we've laughed that hard in the 15+ years since we witnessed it.)

We were amazed when Doveman & Bond came back to us with an entire 3-song EP worth of tunes. Deciding we should pass on the generosity, we agreed that half of the profits from our Bandcamp edition of the release will go to support the Ali Forney Center's work with homeless LGBTQ youth. During a time of year when the entire Judeo-Christian-capitalist world seems to have shopping on its mind, it's also an apt a time to remember that no one should be without a community that shows them love.

To finish what we started: If 🎄🎄 takes off, how exactly should you pronounce it? Well, "double Xmas" rhymes (a bit) better with "double happiness," but we prefer the more secular "double holiday," because the point of all our new songs is to show how warm feelings can be extended to all of humanity, no matter they refugee or transgender or an animated character.

Come to think of it, the Brassland entire roster are animated characters in a way. But we digress, as usual...

Finally, if you're extreme enough to desire a 🎄🎄🎄 you can still get last year's selection by This Is The Kit because holiday songs are evergreen.

Pun intended.

The Gloaming visit America; Buke and Gase tour UK/USA with Battles - September 30, 2015

It's rare that our artists have not one but two major tours happening in the United States simultaneously. So, contrary to our usual practice of filling these news updates with random yuks, jokes & asides, we'll get right to the point. (But yes, technically the image we've used with this news story counts as a joke.)

Here is where you Americans can catch The Gloaming.

- 02 Los Angeles, CA: Bovard Auditorium, USC
- 05 Seattle, WA: Benaroya Hall
- 07 AnnArbor, MI: UMS at Michigan Theatre
- 09 Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center
- 10 Chicago, IL: Old Town School of Folk Music
- 11 Philadelphia, PA: Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
- 15 Lewisberg, PA: Bucknell University
- 16 NYC, NY: Lincoln Center's White Light Festival

Here are Buke and Gase's dates. All shows (except Sheffield) are in support of the excellent, mostly-instrumental group known as Battles. Each band's music compliments the others quite well and this really is a pairing you do not want to miss.

30 Boston, MA USA: Paradise

06 Vancouver, BC CANADA: Imperial
07 Seattle, WA USA: Neptune Theatre
08 Portland, OR USA: Hawthorne Theatre
09 San Francisco, CA USA: The Fillmore
10 Los Angeles, CA USA: Regent Theatre
11 Phoenix, AZ USA: Crescent Ballroom
13 Dallas, TX USA: Trees
14 Austin, TX USA: The Mohawk
15 New Orleans, LA USA: Republic
16 Atlanta, GA USA: Masquerade
17 Nashville, TN USA: Exit/In
23 Manchester UNITED KINGDOM: Manchester Academy 2
25 Glasgow SCOTLAND: O2 ABC
26 Cambridge UNITED KINGDOM: Cambridge Junction
27 Sheffield UNITED KINGDOM: Plug (with Purity Ring)
28 London UNITED KINGDOM: Electric Ballroom (SOLD OUT)

More dates may be added to the Buke and Gase tour and we'll try to update this story as they are announced.

We have an event-packed fall besides. This Is The Kit tour the United Kingdom this November. And if you're in New York, come to So Percussion's in-store at Other Music on Monday October 19th. It is free & all ages. Event details here.

Finally an unrelated picture of Jherek Bischoff at a recent ribbon cutting event for Brooklyn's St. Ann's Warehouse where a tuba octet performed his new arrangements of classic David Bowie, Nick Cave, Kate Bush & Lou Reed tunes.

Yes, life is weird. And yes, it is a fantastic time to catch our artists' live in your town. If you live in the Northern hemisphere. And especially New York City.

This Is The Kit collect praise, BBC support & tour dates - August 11, 2015

This year's been a doozy for This Is The Kit (aka Kate Stables and whoever joins her aka TITK for short). We released their new, Aaron Dessner-produced album Bashed Out in April. (Vinyl came along a few months later and, hey now, links to get it in any format are here if you are so inclined.) Reactions have been universally positive, with some daring to call it one of the best British albums of 2015. (That "some" includes "us" of course.) We'll get into more details about the positive reviews in a moment but ***HEADLINE ALERT*** the BBC has even made a half-hour format documentary TV show about the project. It debuted last week, as one of the first episodes in a new series called Music Box with Guy Garvey. If you're in the United Kingdom, you can watch it right here, right now.

Dig it.

Oh, what do you say? You're not in the UK? Well if that's the case you just got a warning message that says something like "Sorry mate, this programme is unavailable" (including the extra "me" in "program"). We're working on finding a way to show it to all you non-Brits, but for now please content yourself (no pun intended) with watching "Silver John," the second video from TITK's new album Bashed Out which had its debut on the show.

Ah, much better.

Vice's Noisey site gave it an online premiere, writing that the band "use lyrics not to tell stories exactly, but like silhouettes of experiences, tracing fears and their unlikely roots" in this video "about Kate contemplating the apocalypse." We took this as a positive notice, given it's about as poetic & sincere as Vice gets. And well-earned it is—"Silver John" being the cheeriest tune about the end of the world that we can recall outside of Lou Reed's discography.

Happily these outlets have not been alone in their praise. In fact, it'd count as quite a praise party just ticking off Mr. Garvey's BBC colleagues who've given the band so much love. In March, Mary Anne Hobbs featured Kate in this excellent BBC 6 mini-feature on "Why You Should Love The Banjo", and individual songs have been receiving spins from Lauren Laverne, Cerys Matthews, Gideon Coe, Marc Riley and Tom Ravenscroft from early in the year. We thank them and apologize to anyone we're missing at the BBC or other radio outlets. (For example, a brief shout out to XFM's John Kennedy and David Rowntree of Blur fame, as well as Roddy Hart at BBC Scotland who will apparently feature Bashed Out later tonight as his "Album of Note.")

Are you tired of the praise party yet? Do things called "praise parties" even exist outside of this here news post and weird religious contexts?

Not sure, but we're powering on with the good words. (No, not that kind of good word...)

Even pre-street date we knew there were good things to come when Manchester newspaper The Mancunion gave This Is The Kit's live show a rapturous 9/10 review. Upon release date, Bashed Out received 8/10 album scores in Drowned in Sound, The Line of Best Fit, The 405 and UNCUT which called it an "understated yet absorbing work" (and, surprisingly, gave it a follow-up 9/10 rating in the next issue).

Not yet tired of verbiage? Well, The Line of Best Fit said "It’s hard to find fault with Bashed Out; timeless and completely modern all at once." Drowned in Sound added that "this album ought to see Kate Stables recognised as one of the most compelling voices in alt-folk," even doing that "s" in place of "z" (zed?) thing which we Americans find so charming. Across the pond, Pitchfork recognized (not recognised) how Kate had "a complex and compelling personality, spiking her folksy whimsy...with shots of prickly wisdom" continuing on that "Stables' concerns are microcosmically personal, trading in minute details and small observations that provide immense contentment. After almost a decade presenting herself as This Is the Kit, she has learned to root her music firmly in her own quirks rather than in the demands of any particular genre or trend."

We thought that was well-put, though we will admit Kate later bowed to one trend, answering a bunch of your questions in one of those newfangled Reddit AMAs. Here's an image that will speak to any of you who actually know what an AMA is.

Meanwhile for those of you tired of both words and computers, did we mention we also debuted a video for the title track "Bashed Out" some time ago? No? Well perhaps this can be your own personal premiere...

And what does the rest of 2015 hold for TITK? Through September, a number of festival dates will take them around the UK (including the End of the Road) with stops in in Cork, Ireland and the Netherlands. After that the band plan to wrap up 2015 with this run of UK tour dates, including their biggest headline show yet at London's Scala.

Tues 24: Brighton @ The Haunt
Weds 25: London @ Scala
Thurs 26: Liverpool @ Leaf
Fri 27: Sheffield @ The Greystones
Sat 28: Bristol @ Bristol Lantern
Sun 29: Southampton @ The Railway Inn
Mon 30: Ramsgate @ Ramsgate Music Hall

# all dates w/ Cristobal & the Sea

You should go. We hear the praise party will continue. And no, you won't have to wear a head covering, nice shoes or other formal attire to join in.

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Bryce Dessner, So Percussion, Aron Buke & Gase team-up - May 27, 2015

Of late, Brassland has had our most Dessner-heavy release schedule in quite some time. There is the wonderful (and still fresh) Aaron Dessner production-work on This Is The Kit’s new album Bashed Out — the Bryce-curated indie-all star compilation MusicNOW: 10 Years
— and, just last week, Bryce’s new solo album Music for Wood and Strings which, amazingly, was the Hot Shot Debut on this week's Billboard Classical chart!?!

(That chart debut is even more amazing if you consider the fact that most of the Billboard "classical" chart is stuff like Lindsey Stirling's dubstep violin jams and compilations with names like Classical Treasures: Classics For Relaxation.)

As with all of Bryce’s composerly ventures, “solo album” is a misnomer. The Music for Wood and Strings project was developed with input from a pair of long-time collaborators. It was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for a performance by label pals So Percussion and, most intriguingly for Brassland followers, Aron Sanchez of Buke and Gase built the unique instruments upon which the piece is peformed. These “Chordsticks” — designed collaboratively by Aron and Bryce — are a cross between a hammer dulcimer and an electric guitar. They look like this.

Critics are already raving about this music. Classical music authority WQXR named it Q2 Album of the Week calling it “startlingly enjoyable” — a “witty and substantial” homage to Steve Reich; this Chicago Reader write-up luxuriated in the album’s “hovering drones, lockstep polyrhythmic patterns, collisions of overtones, and repetitive, pulse-quickening minimalist cycles.” Pitchfork said the music “creates its own sound world” — one that is “thin and full, sharp and malleable, hazy and clear.” But more to the point, the 'fork referred to the album as “the sonic equivalent of WALL·E and EVE dancing in space."

Uh, why is that the point?

Well here’s the thing: like that reviewer's allusion to a Pixar animated film, the Bryce / So Percussion pairing has provided post-minimalist composition a bit of a pop culture moment. We are used to newspaper articles with headlines like “Rock Star Writes ‘Real’ Classical Music”. (i.e. Ahead of this week's premiere of Bryce’s new orchestral work “Quilting” at the LA Philharmonic, the Los Angles Times wrote about his “'double life' as both classical and rock musician.”)

What we didn’t quite expect is that So Percussion seem to be developing their own double life—as a serious new music group with the pull of a pop culture celebrity magnet?!? The group’s previous collaborators include indie-composer types like Dan Deacon and Matmos, so they’re used to bringing classical-music chops to unexpected places. It’s not-so-weird for them to show up in places like this “new music edition” of NPR Music’s beloved Drum Fill Friday segment. (That said, is this the first time Iannis Xenakis’s “Peaux” ever followed in the footsteps of, like, Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" or Black Sabbath's "War Pigs"?)

(PS-If you have no idea what we're talking about at the end of that last paragraph, pay a visit to Google. You need some educating.)

What seems a bit more outrageous, though, is when former teen “it” girls effuse about rigorous 30-minute plus, through composed music. And that's just happened a few weeks ago when Molly Ringwald Tweeted this reaction to excerpts of the piece being played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Even stranger? When current “quality television” it boys pose for #selfies next to a member of the world’s best percussion quartet.

Why yes that is Kit Harington aka Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow posed next to So’s Josh Quillen after Bryce’s mini-festival at London’s Barbican Centre. Ok, that was more a coincidence than anything else, but this music continues to pop up in unexpected places: Last week everyone’s favorite science podcast Radiolab featured So Percussion performing Bryce’s piece. (Download it here.) The everygeek’s favorite blog Boing Boing premiered this “making of” documentary about the album just a few weeks before that.

And have we mentioned So Percussion will be performing "Music for Wood and Strings" at Bonnaroo? Mark your calendars on Saturday June 13th festival goers. In the same vein, comes this Rolling Stone Italy review which, roughly translated, includes this quote: "Upon first listening you will be among those who question the extravagance of the thing, but after a second listening (smoking a joint is recommended), you'll be treated to a marvelous immersion into the unknown."

What is one to make of this? Is minimalism having a moment? Does this piece even count as classical music when the context shifts to a rock festival stage? Will "Music for Wood and Strings" take American composition to places it’s never been before? How long will this list of rhetorical questions get before it gets awkward and you'll want it to stop?

We won’t try to answer any of those questions, but we will point you to this excellent article from London’s The Guardian newspaper wherein Bryce provides a bit of insight into the thread of American creativity that’s informed his work: A poem from the Black Mountain School, Robert Frank’s sweet longing photography, Kerouac's "Big Sur." ("That article is a keeper," said some person to us in a recent email.)

Add to that proud lineage some college student tripping balls at Bonnaroo on his summer break between sophomore and junior year just at the moment when Music for Wood and Strings' “Section 8” kicks in. Mind exploders, all of them.

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Music for Wood and Strings - Cover
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With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead - Cover
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The Gloaming - Cover
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Lullaby for Sue - Cover
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Lantern - Cover
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