Early Day Miners' Debut 'Placer Found' Gets a New Life on Vinyl

Photo: John Lavin / Courtesy of XO Publicity

Early Day Miners' moody, ethereal gem Placer Found turns 20 and is ripe for reappraisal. This is warm, intimate, bracing music with no expiration date.

Placer Found (20th Anniversary Edition)
Early Day Miners

Secretly Canadian

13 March 2020

There's no denying it – it's definitely weird realizing that an album released in the year 2000 is now 20 years old. In the year 2000, Bill Clinton was well into his second presidential term. The internet, while not nearly as ubiquitous as it is today, was off and running. It may have been pre-9/11, but it was post-Cold War. Hearing the debut album by the Indiana-based Early Day Miners, while already two decades in the rear-view mirror, one gets the impression of something that may contain the sonic markers of its time, but not at all in a "guilty pleasure" way. This is warm, intimate, bracing music with no expiration date.

Early Day Miners released Placer Found on 2 April 2000 on the Western Vinyl label, but it was only available in the CD format as the resurgence of vinyl was at least a decade away. For this anniversary release, Secretly Canadian (who released several subsequent Early Day Miners' albums) has taken on the task of bringing this unique, often overlooked treasure of an album back into the world, in a lavish two-record set, which includes two bonus tracks from the original sessions.

The music on Placer Found is largely informed by the environment where it was created. The vast expanses of the American Midwest are evident in the slowly unfurling sonic landscapes that make up the nine songs in this reissue, which were recorded in the band's home of Bloomington, Indiana, throughout 1999. The gentle, deliberate pacing of the title track that opens the album features bright, almost jazzy drumming from Rory Leitch, which works beautifully alongside the guitar work of Dan Burton and Joe Brumley, as Kenny Childers' bass playing provides a subtle anchor. "East Berlin at Night" follows at an almost glacial pace – the deliberate tempo is a leisurely treasure to get lost in.

There are times when Placer Found moves away from the slowcore and shoegaze labels that Early Day Miners tend to get saddled with. "In These Hills" is a beautiful, often breathtaking excursion into instrumental territory that covers acoustic folk with electric, country-leaning ambient textures. "Stanwix" also leans a bit into ambient territory, with gentle, almost whisper-quiet vocals that recall Jeff Tweedy at his most downbeat.

Placer Found picks up the pace slightly with the warm, engaging "Longwall", which benefits from perfectly meshed twin guitar work that sounds a bit like power-pop in slow motion. But most of the time, Early Day Miners are happy to keep the pace slow and relaxed, as on the original album's closer, "Desert Cantos", which includes dramatic piano chords and aching harmonica that give the song an alternating vibe of hymn-like and bluesy.

The two bonus tracks on the 20th-anniversary edition make up the LP's fourth side. "Prospect Refuge", an instrumental that hints at math-rock with guitar figures that frequently repeat before tempos shift into another section, which repeats, as the song is built block by sonic block. "Blue Casino" picks up the pace a bit but essentially retains the overall feel of the previous song, an instrumental with a variety of interesting subsections (using a riff they would later use for the song "Jefferson" on their 2003 album Jefferson at Rest).

Early Day Miners made several more albums in subsequent years, the last one being Night People in 2011. With the reissue of Placer Found, the band is touring once again (although the dates are probably being altered significantly in the wake of coronavirus). This deluxe reissue is the perfect opportunity to discover a band and an album that may have flown under the radar upon initial release but deserves a great deal of attention and appraisal. It seemed like a perfectly fitting album for 2000 but is just as satisfying to listen to today.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.