Music

Liam Singer Offers "Test Tone" As Teaser for New LP, 'Finish Him' (premiere)

Photo: Julian Master / Courtesy of Clandestine Label Services

Hudson Valley musician Liam Singer draws on Elliott Smith, Steve Reich, B-Movies, and '80s kitsch for "Test Tone" video.

"Test Tone" is the new video from Liam Singer and culled from his new LP Finish Him. Directed by Shawn Ashley Collins, the clip carries an '80s VHS sci-fi/b-movie aesthetic married with elements of modern/experimental dance. While the visuals might add a dose of relief for listeners, the lyrics highlight something more serious, an examination of miscommunication and disconnect within relationships.

Singer, a native of Portland, Oregon makes his home in the New York's Hudson Valley where he runs a performance and arts space. Classically trained on piano he has embraced the music of both Elliott Smith and Steve Reich. (Iso Tomita, Wendy Carlos, and Tangerine Dream were also formative favorites.) One can also detect traces of acts such as Emperor X and Sparks lurking in the music, though perhaps only because of a shared interest in the marriage of the high and low, the haunting and the haunted.

Speaking about the track specifically, Singer says that he wrote in part after he "fully embraced the concept of returning to an earlier love of synthesizers and electronic tone-colors". He adds, "I'd been almost exclusively on piano and using mostly acoustic instrumentation for over a decade, and what had once felt like a move toward greater emotional authenticity was starting to feel limiting. It also increasingly felt out of step with the music I was actually listening to."

If there's a sense of the subconscious, elements that are not overthought coming across in the tune, that's no mistake. Singer offers, "In my personal life, I had committed to an ethic of trying to think less and feel more, to kill my brain. I was going out dancing most nights, connecting to rhythm and low end on a regular basis and realizing how crazy it was that my earlier records often lacked those qualities. I was tired of trying to write music that was self-consciously interesting; I was listening to music that spoke to my body, and wanted to make the same."

Although its creator was enamored of dance "Test Tone" itself, he says, isn't a dance track though, he offers, "In my creative process it was a step in the direction of writing songs out of a more physical place. I'll always be an overly-heady person but getting to a greater balance between mind and body was important to me both musically and personally."

Pressed about the lyrics for the track, Singer says, "They're about the way someone's memory can linger after they're gone and it connects that phenomenon to a larger sense of nostalgia by filtering the memories through the sounds and images created by analog technology. I've always had highly dramatic instincts in my songwriting while being simultaneously afraid of going "over the top," but here I decided to abandon those latter fears. I wrote the lyrics from a particularly goth-y, teen-angsty place. Thankfully, I still feel like I can stand behind them."

Finish Him was recorded and co-produced by Scott Solter (the Mountain Goats, Erik Friedlander, etc.) and features Cheryl Kingan (75 Dollar Bill, the Scene Is Now), Jesse Perlstein (Sontag Shogun) and David Flaherty (Cuddle Magic). Singer has played with Slow Six, Sontag Shogun, the Balustrade Ensemble, and Alexander Turnquist. He notes that the new record is a reference to Mortal Kombat, "but laced with religious and sexual connotations. I like over-the-top expressions of emotions. I'm drawn to the idea that intimate, whispered, Elliott Smith-styled vocals could impart the same drama that an operatic style can, even though they're on the opposite ends of the performative spectrum. Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, etc.) likes to invoke Edward Gorey and the Brothers Quay when we're working. There's a sense of playfulness and high drama at the same time."

Finish Him is released July 13 and may be ordered here.

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