Music

Now Hear This!: We Are Loud Whispers - 'Suchness' (album premiere)

PopMatters premieres Suchness, the debut album by trans-Pacific duo We Are Loud Whispers.

 

Trans-Pacific duo We Are Loud Whispers have a knack of making what doesn't seem possible. The brainchild of Sonya Westcott and Ayumu Haitani, the pair's debut effort Suchness was created over emails sent between their respective homes in Seattle and the Japanese island of Honshu, without the two principals ever coming together face-to-face again after briefly meeting in 2007 when Westcott's earlier gig Arthur & Yu toured Japan. And yet you wouldn't know that Suchness, which premieres on PopMatters, was the product of purely virtual interaction, considering the warmth and immediacy of the music therein. Indeed, the contradictions built into the band name We Are Loud Whispers reflect how Haitani and Westcott bring together contrasting elements so seamlessly, combining electronic atmospherics with gentle, organic orchestration. PopMatters caught up with Westcott via email -- naturally -- to find out more about how We Are Loud Whispers came to be and how, appropriately enough, the twosome collaborated with the Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello. PopMatters is pleased to share a stream of Suchness, out this week on Hardly Art.

We Are Loud Whispers - "This Time" (for sharing and downloading)

 

Photo by Charlie Schuck

 

PopMatters: Can you describe how We Are Loud Whispers came together and your process of working together transcontinentally via the Internet?

Sonya Westcott: I met Ayumu when Arthur & Yu did a small tour of Japan back in 2007. We hit it off right away and managed to stay in contact ever since. I was fortunate enough to see his band, 4 Bonjour's Parties perform while I was there and was absolutely impressed with all the instrumentation involved, which made for a great live show. Ayumu also did a cover of an Arthur & Yu song that I really loved. We Are Loud Whispers was really just a chance for me to work with Ayumu. We did one song a few years ago and were strongly encouraged to do an album.

PopMatters: How did you figure out that this was the right project for you? How did you decide to go into We Are Loud Whispers after being in Arthur & Yu?

Sonya Westcott: Arthur & Yu was on hiatus. Grant [Olsen] was working on his project, Gold Leaves. So it just seemed natural to pursue WALW based on the feedback we were receiving. It was nice to do things differently for a change and to be able to take the time I needed to focus on this album. We didn't rush it.

PopMatters: Considering the long-distance circumstances behind the making of Suchness, do you think We Are Loud Whispers could only have come together at this time, thanks to the technologies you use? Of course, other projects have come together via email or by post, but is there anything particular to the way you collaborated online that comes through in the music?

Sonya Westcott: I don't think so. I feel like even if we were living in the same town, the album would have sounded similar. However, I don't really know. I'll have to spend some time in Tokyo for the next one. What we come up with might be drastically different. =)

PopMatters: I think it's appropriate that your band name consists of contradictory terms -- loud whispers -- because there are a lot of interesting contrasts at play in your music. For starters, the sound feels completely organic, even though there are a lot of electronic elements to it. And despite the easy-going, chilled-out vibe of the music, there's actually a great deal of complexity at work in the compositions. What was the tone you are trying to set on Suchness?

Sonya Westcott: Honestly, it's those contrasts that you mentioned that I had hoped would come across. Music with as many electronic elements could arguably come off sounding cold, emotionless, sterilized...but I don't feel that with Suchness. Also, I love the myriad sounds that you hear after repeated listens that you may not have noticed the first time.

PopMatters: It's also fitting that the Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello has a guest spot on the album. How did you bring him on board for Suchness? And was it just a happy coincidence that he appears with you, in light of the seemingly similar ways both groups work?

Sonya Westcott: Needless to say, Ayumu and I are huge fans of Dntel, the Postal Service, James Figurine. I had worked with Jimmy before, contributing vocals for a James Figurine track. Also Arthur & Yu did a song, "The Distance" on Dntel's Dumb Luck. For "Glossolalia", we knew that we wanted it to be a duet, and we both immediately thought of Jimmy. So I just asked. I'm so happy he agreed to do it.

PopMatters: Do you have plans for a tour and, if so, would playing together live be a totally different experience for you?

Sonya Westcott: We don't have any immediate plans for a tour, but that being said, it's not necessarily out of the question. I would love to reunite with Ayumu, get some folks together, and play some shows. Perhaps we could do a few performances in Japan. I'm sure the experience would be different, having never played these songs live before and having to figure out how to do that, but it's a challenge I would gladly explore.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image