|His Name Is Alive — Two For Brown (2013)|
His Name Is Alive — Two For Brown
Formed: 1989 in Livonia, MI
Origin: Livonia, Michigan, United States
Album release: 2013
Record Label: High Two
01 – Sweet Earth Flying 6:58
02 – Juba Lee Brown 8:03
03 – There’s Something Between Us And He’s Changing My Words 7:29
04 – Send Me A Dragonfly 14:16
Members: Warren Defever, Erik Hall, Andy FM
LYRICS - There’s Something Between Us And He’s Changing My Words:
We are the ones who can control
The signs the symbols everything that happens
And you're lucky if we agree
Sometimes it just if you believe
It´s a hideous voice
I don't know where it comes from
Please don't listen
It´s not what I mean to say
It comes out scattered crooked and shattered
It comes out unlike anything
There are these things
That are trying to speak to me
But wait 'til I'm asleep
There's something between us and he's changing my words
By Michael J. West
♦ Fifteen years after Marion Brown’s last recording, an obscure rock band from Detroit finally recognizes his majestic music. His Name Is Alive grasps that the free-jazz altoist is most importantly a tunesmith; the marvels crafted on Sweet Earth Flower–a mixture of live and studio tracks—are directly in the service of Brown’s melodies, not his style.
♦ Not that HNIA’s versions can’t sound like Brown’s: “Geechee Recollections” (actually “Once Upon a Time,” from the 1973 Geechee Recollections LP) is remarkably faithful to the West African-sounding original. But the band’s interest is in what accentuates the tunes themselves. On “Sweet Earth Flying” and the once-cartwheeling “Juba Lee Brown,” that means establishing a dense drone (relying heavily on Erik Hall’s electric piano) like a fog from which the understated melodies, played on trumpet, saxophone and piano, emerge.
♦ What HNIA does to nearly all the songs is soak them in psychedelia. The gauzy drones are just one example: For Brown’s best composition, the soulful “Capricorn Moon,” the band transposes to a minor key, Warn Defever plays the apocalyptic bassline on guitar, and echo abounds; the brilliant final product sounds as much like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle” as it does “Capricorn Moon.”
♦ Brown has long deserved more credit for his contributions to the jazz pantheon, and Sweet Earth Flower has the potential to deliver to him adventurous new fans. But even if it doesn’t, its inspired and intuitive mastery of the saxophonist’s music more than makes it worthwhile.
° Livonia (1990) (4AD)
° Home Is in Your Head (1991) (4AD)
° Mouth by Mouth (1993) (4AD)
° Stars on ESP (1996) (4AD)
° Ft. Lake (1998) (4AD)
° Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth (2001) (4AD)
° Last Night (2002) (4AD)
° Detrola (2006) (Silver Mountain/ Sony BMG)
° XMMER (2007) (Silver Mountain/ Sony BMG)
° Sweet Earth Flower (2007) (High Two)
° The Eclipse (2010) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Silver Family (2012) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Silver Dragon (2012) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Two For Brown (2013) (High Two)
Singles & EPs:
° The Dirt Eaters EP (1992) (4AD)
° Universal Frequencies EP (1996) (4AD)
° Nice Day EP (1997) (4AD)
° Melody Farm EP [split with Little Princess] (1997) (Shaolin Temple / timeSTEREO)
° Pets Farm EP [split with Little Princess] (1997) (Motorway/ timeSTEREO)
° Drugs Farm EP [split with Little Princess] (1998) (Rocket Science / timeSTEREO)
° Woodstock/Mothers Day" 7" included with LP of Fort Lake(1998) (4AD)
° Can't Always Be Loved (1998) (4AD)
° Happy Blues / One Year (2001) (4AD)
° Nothing Special (2001) (4AD)
° Raindrops Rainbow EP (2005) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Silver Makeup EP (2007) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Firefly Dragonfly (2007) (Acuarela Discos)
° Dream Rememberer (2010) (Silver Mountain Media)
Independent projects, compilations and remixes:
° Sings Man on the Silver Mountain and 8 Other Songs (1992) (Rykodisc)
° King of Sweet (1993) (Perdition Plastics, reissued in 2005 via timeSTEREO as MP3)
° Sampler (1993) (4AD)
° Radio LP (1998) (timeSTEREO)
° Always Stay Sweet (1999) (4AD)
° Emergency (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° When the Stars Refuse to Shine (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° Early Music Volume 1 (1985-1989) (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° RMX's 1995-2000 (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° Rare Tracks in the Snow (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most (2001) (timeSTEREO)
° Heart and Hand [10 CD box set] (2001) (timeSTEREO)
° Cloud Box [10 CD box set] (2004) (timeSTEREO)
° Brown Rice (2005) (timeSTEREO)
° Leaf Club (2005) (timeSTEREO)
° Summer Bird LP (2005) (Ypsilanti)
° Ufo Catcher (2005) (En/of)
° Someday RMX (2006) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Detrola Instrumental (2007) (Silver Mountain Media) (iTunes only purchase)
° Xmmer Instrumental (2007) (Silver Mountain Media)
° Sound of Mexico (1995) (timeSTEREO)
° Finer Twilights (1997) (timeSTEREO)
° Golden City (1997) (timeSTEREO)
° Great Lake States Blues (1997) (timeSTEREO)
° Ten Years Long Time (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° In the West (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° In the East (2000) (timeSTEREO)
° "Are We Still Married" (1992)
° "Can't Go Wrong Without You" (1993)
° "Peace In Detroit" (2002)
° "Come To Me" (2007)
♦ Defever began recording in his basement in 1985, while still in high school. His initial work consisted primarily of Defever alone recording the music to a 4-track recorder, with friend Angie Carozzo providing vocals. After Defever went off to college and met Karin Oliver, she became the band's primary vocalist.
♦ The group's work initially resulted in a self-released cassette. Defever sent the tape to 4AD in hopes of being signed to the label. Despite label president Ivo Watts-Russell's initial rejection of the band, Defever continued to send him tapes, with new and improved versions of the songs appearing on each new tape. Ivo signed the band in 1989, believing that (along with his This Mortal Coil partner John Fryer) he could re-mix the songs into a proper album 4AD could release. ♦ Livonia appeared in the summer of 1990, and became one of the label's biggest sellers of the year. "He took it apart, and he didn't put it back together," Defever would later comment on Ivo's production style.
♦ A second album of songs similarly recorded in Defever's home studio (which he later dubbed Time Stereo) and remixed in England by Ivo and Fryer, Home Is In Your Head, appeared in 1991. Over most of the rest of the 1990s, Defever improved Time Stereo to record more professionally, and the band became a favorite of 4AD's devoted fanbase.
♦ In 1993, HNIA released Mouth by Mouth, their third full length for 4AD, and embarked on their first full North American tour with Defever on guitar, Karin Oliver on vocals, and Trey Many on drums. This album and tour showed a different side of HNIA to their fans, marking the first time Defever had full control of the mixing and assembly of a HNIA release. Mouth by Mouth was a more ambitious noisy pop record that lacked some of the earlier sparse gothic sounds people came to expect from the first two releases. Defever's wide musical taste became more apparent as Mouth by Mouth showcased his love for obscure '60s pop, reggae, Japanese noise and free jazz.
♦ Defever then took an extended break to work on new projects and write songs for 1996's Stars On ESP, an ambitious project three years in the making. He continued to collaborate with Karin Oliver and Trey Many on this release but also wrote songs with Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters, Ian Masters of Pale Saints, and Erika Hoffman. Stars on ESP was a breakthrough for the band as Defever began to fully realize his potential as a musician able to paste many influences together in one cohesive work "On their fourth album for 4AD, Stars on ESP, the group mixes dub, dream pop, surf, country, and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys into something altogether unique."
♦ In 1991 and 1993, 4AD commissioned videos from famed British animators the Quay Brothers. The brothers Stephen and Timothy were allowed to choose which songs they would like to create videos or short films for. They choose the songs "Are We Still Married?" and "Can't Go Wrong Without You" .
♦ 1998 was a year of big change for both 4AD and HNIA, as Ivo sold the label to Beggars Banquet, resulting in major changes in the label. The band signed a more traditional contract with the label, bringing with it increased commercial expectations. When 1998's Ft. Lake failed to meet those expectations, most of the band left for full-time jobs or more commercially successful endeavors. Stripped down to Defever and vocalist Lovetta Pippen (an experienced soul and gospel singer before joining HNIA after appearing as part of a gospel choir on Stars On ESP), the duo released two soul and R&B-influenced albums in 2001 and 2002, alienating much of the band's fanbase. After having sold a respectable (but far from commercially successful), 100,000 albums for 4AD from 1990 through 2002, the band was dropped by the label, leaving the band's future in doubt.
♦ Defever kept the band's name alive through several notable appearances on compilations like Kill Rock Stars "Tracks and Fields," and "We Could Live in Hope," the Low tribute album. Several full-length releases on the Time Stereo label were mostly instrumental music, live recordings, and a few new experimental recordings. In 2005, Defever co-founded the Silver Mountain Media label, and secured distribution for HNIA with major label Sony-BMG. 2006's Detrola was the first full-length release on the label, and was met with much acclaim, winning back many of the old fans from the 4AD days, and earning success on college rock radio and modern rock charts. Detrola primarily features newly-discovered Andy FM on vocals, although Lovetta Pippen and Erika Hoffmann make guest appearances as well. Andy FM previously was best known as the keyboardist for Detroit underground favorites the Tranzistors and Sonapanic. In interviews Defever has often described her as "the best singer ever to sing me Elvis songs and Patsy Cline songs at my birthday party. She plays an important role in HNIA, she's a great singer and she's not afraid when the trombonist takes off his pants and pees in his trombone."
♦ The follow-up to Detrola, titled Xmmer, was released on September 18, 2007. Sweet Earth Flower, the band's tribute to free jazz saxophonist Marion Brown was released by High Two on November 6, 2007.
♦ In May 2010 His Name is Alive released their 11th full length album The Eclipse. Originally one of the ten CD's released in the limited edition box set also entitled The Eclipse. The album features Warn Defever and vocalist Andy FM. Other contributors include Steve Sparks on drums and Jeen Cook playing violin. The album was released for MP3 download, FLAC, and CD through the Silver Mountain Media store.
♦ In May 2011, His Name is Alive embarked on a "20th anniversary" series of shows which included a community bike ride in Detroit. Defever says 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of His Name is Alive even though the group's first record was released in 1990. Defever says one undisclosed year has been blacked out of the band's chronology for reasons he will not discuss.
Artist Biography by Heather Phares:
♦ Named after history class notes on Abraham Lincoln, the Livonia, MI-based sonic manipulators His Name Is Alive formed when multi-instrumentalist/producer Warren Defever (also of shockabilly group Elvis Hitler) was still in high school. Defever, former schoolmate Karin Oliver (vocals), and drummer Damian Lang released self-produced cassettes of their music, one of which made its way to Ivo Watts-Russell, founder of the pioneering art label 4AD. Intrigued with His Name Is Alive's blend of spectral vocals, poetic lyrics, and textural guitars, Watts signed the band.
♦ The group recorded its first release for the label, Livonia, in Defever's home studio. The album features Oliver's shivery vocals along with tape loops, samples, and guitar blasts, for a noise-damaged, ethereal collection of songs about ghosts, reincarnation, and dreams. By 1992's Home Is in Your Head, the band's lineup and scope expanded. New singers Denise James, Karen Neal, Melissa Elliott, and guitarist Jymn Auge added depth and breadth to the band's original lineup. An epic 23 songs long, Home Is in Your Head ranges from folky ballads to electrifying guitar maelstroms and tape collages. That year also saw the release of The Dirt Eaters EP, named for Defever's other, more rock-oriented group, of which Elliot was also a member. In 1993, His Name Is Alive released two albums: King of Sweet, a limited-edition release that mixed tape effects, samples, demos, and unreleased songs, and Mouth by Mouth, which added more pop structure into the group's inherently experimental and dreamy sound, resulting in its most accessible and diverse album to that date. A new drummer, Trey Many, took over Lang's duties.
♦ As Defever's reputation as an innovative producer spread, he lent his skills to bands like Grenadine, a side project of Tsunami's Jenny Toomey and Unrest's Mark Robinson, other 4AD acts like Liquorice (which featured Toomey, Dan Littleton from Ida, and His Name Is Alive's Many) and Tarnation, and other Detroit-area bands like Godzuki and Outrageous Cherry. Defever also worked on other projects, including the folky ESP Summer (with former Pale Saint Ian Masters) and the electronic Robot World and Control Panel, and founded the Time Stereo art collective with a childhood friend, artist/musician Davin Brainard. Some of Time Stereo's projects included films, coloring books, and cassette-only releases from bands like Princess Dragon Mom, the Crash, Godzuki, New Grape, and Noise Camp.
♦ Defever's diverse interests influenced His Name Is Alive's next release, 1996's Stars on ESP. Very little of the group's original ethereal sound remained, augmented instead with touches of dub, folk, gospel, and early- to mid-'60s pop like the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. At the time of the album's release, Defever claimed that he was so fascinated by the group's "Good Vibrations" that he listened to it for months at a time. The following year's Nice Day EP reached to garage rock and '60s R&B for its inspiration, and featured some of the gospel singers from Stars on ESP, including Lovetta Pippen, whose singing also gave His Name Is Alive's 1998 LP, Fort Lake, an earthy sensuality. Fort Lake also marked the first time the band worked with another producer, recording engineer Steve King. King, another Livonia native, had also worked with Funkadelic and Aretha Franklin, and his touch meshes nicely with the funk, soul, and classic rock allusions His Name Is Alive makes on the album. In preparation for recording Fort Lake -- named after a waterlogged Civil War fort in Michigan -- the group played monthly shows at the Gold Dollar, a tiny Detroit club. At this time, Pippen, bassist Chad Gilchrist, and additional drummer Scott Goldstein debuted as part of the new lineup.
♦ In 1999, His Name Is Alive released a U.S. compilation of tracks from their first five albums called Always Stay Sweet; at the time, those albums were only available as British imports. Like the rest of the band's work, the compilation highlights their mercurial, unique nature. Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth appeared two years later. Released in 2002, the darkly soulful Last Night ended up being the group's final album for 4AD, but His Name Is Alive found other outlets for their music, and were actually busier than ever. Time Stereo released several CDs, such as 2004's ten-disc Cloud Box set, Leaf Club, Brown Rice, and The Detroit River, as well as many MP3-only works, including the Summer Bird and Something_Nothing EPs and a remastered version of King of Sweet. UFO Catcher was released in 2005 on CD by the German label En/Of and on vinyl by Time Stereo, while Ypsilanti Records issued the full-length Summer Bird that spring. That year, Defever also set up the Silver Mountain imprint, which was distributed by Sony BMG.
♦ Late in 2005, His Name Is Alive released the Raindrops Rainbow EP via iTunes as a teaser for Detrola, their debut for Reincarnate, also the home of fellow former 4AD artist Lisa Germano and Sing-Sing, the project of former Lush member Emma Anderson. The album featured new vocalist Andrea Francesca Morici, aka Andy FM. In late summer 2007, His Name Is Alive released Xmmer, which expanded on Detrola's sound with African and Asian influences. That fall, Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown -- which augmented excerpts from a 2004 tribute concert to the legendary saxophonist with studio tracks -- arrived.
|His Name Is Alive — Two For Brown (2013)|