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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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