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Alex York – Black Tupelo CD


Alex York’s Black Tupelo comments on the obscured line

between American folk music and spiritual minimalism. Through

sampling across analog and digital media, including vinyl, cassettes, and YouTube, Black Tupelo derives all its sonic

material from recordings of Powers / Rolin Duo. In the past, York

has primarily sampled jazz musicians, but gravitates towards

acoustic drones on this record, which lend to collage and

layering. In approaching these samples, York was inspired by a

Roscoe Mitchell live performance in which he plays with a video

recording of himself, as well as the call-and-response recording

technique of Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt’s Made Out of Sound.

Applying these concepts to his own method, York also adds pitch

shifting to the samples and doesn’t shy away from including little

idiosyncrasies, such as the resonance of someone bumping

into an instrument or tuning during a YouTube live performance.

To make each element a little fuzzier, York’s samples passed

through many permutations amongst tape, computer, and MPC,

ultimately forming a complete blend of analog and digital.

The title of the album, Black Tupelo, refers to the species of

tree found in the foothills of Appalachia where Alex York grew

up. On the record, he emphasizes the minimal qualities of

repetition, drone, and timelessness that are characteristic of the

region’s folk tradition. According to York, he draws upon and

transforms folk to “create minimalism’s spiritual and meditative

qualities.” Structured folk and blues on recordings struggle to

capture the minimal aspects of the tradition, such as how live

folk performances can continue for several minutes, droning

throughout on half of the instrument’s open-tuned strings. York

cites The Carter Family as a significant influence, describing them

as “ghost music, spiritual music” with a lo-fi essence. Listening

to their records is “like listening to a folk band play three rooms

away, from outside of the venue, from outside of the church,” he

said. For York, there has never been a place where American

folk music ends and spiritual minimalism begins. Coreleased by

Fourth Floor & Helicopter. (Hannah Blanchette)

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