[video of the week] Old Fire – Don’t You Go (ft. Bill Callahan)

Taken from the album “Voids”, available November 4th 2022 on Western Vinyl.

On “Voids”, composer and producer John Mark Lapham turns his recording project Old Fire into a sprawling mural illustrating the isolation and decay that defined growing up in West Texas, and the losses and frictions he has endured amid such a bleak backdrop. A largely collaborative album, “Voids” employs the talents of featured vocalists Bill Callahan, Emily Cross, Adam Torres, and Julia Holter, along with a myriad of musicians, across half of the 12 genre-fluid, yet impressively cohesive tracks. Combined with the additional instrumental songs, the album spans baroque dream-pop, filmic ambient, raga-like drones, avant-country, and even spiritual jazz—all imbued with poetic heft and seared by the West Texas sun. It was beneath this same sun that, over the past five years, Lapham lost both of his parents, mourned two withering relationships, and shouldered the fallout of the pandemic, before turning his life experiences into the rusted-out scraps that built Voids from the ground up.

In the age of remote collaboration, features can easily feel glued-on; the disparities in recording locales, artistic visions, and sensibilities sometimes compound inside each psychoacoustic detail to the point of disproportion. Voids makes clear, however, that one of Lapham’s many talents is selecting contributors whose timbres and temperaments soak effortlessly into every atom of his sonic sculptures. “I usually send a collaborator a piece of music with some general ideas of what I’m looking for, and let them develop it as they see fit. I give them some preliminary lyrics I’ve written, or at least some themes of what the song is about, then they write lyrics and ideas based around that,” he explains. “Sometimes there is a lot of back and forth before we get it right, and almost always there are unexpected turns in the process where it ends up being something very different from what we started with. I bring it all together, but the album exists because of their contributions.”

Lapham’s music and visual art—he doubles as a video editor and animator, and has made music videos for bands such as Goat, Throwing Muses, Night Beats, Moon Duo, Jane Weaver, and many others—are stitched with threads spun from the dissonance between his identity and the doggedly conservative cultural atmosphere in which he was raised, ventured away from by adulthood, and ultimately returned to in 2013. As evidenced by the alternating apprehension and expansion on Voids, Lapham wields his creativity as a covert weapon against his once and future surroundings as if the act of creating something, anything, is in itself defiant of the cultural, structural, and even climatic deterioration of many West Texas towns. Across the album, and through the concept of Old Fire as a project, he builds a mythical, noir-ish version of his home state and its wide open spaces, painting these fictional narratives with the music.




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