Before formally investing energy in her debut album—which was a long time coming—Ali Beletic was a proponent of outsider art of all forms for years. An installation artist, Beletic has lived in New York but has spent much of her time in the American Southwest, where she’s installed sculptural pools and used motorcycles to form lines of fire. In addition to that she’s worked alongside Akron/Family and Cy Dune’s Seth Olinsky to co-found and maintain the tape label, print magazine, and photography and narrative journalism outlet Lightning Records, home to releases from Chris Forsyth and Sam Amidon, among many others. It seemed inevitable she would release her own music in due time.
“Play your typewriter like you do the piano / paint the canvas like you did the streets,” Beletic sings to open “Ends of the Earth” from her forthcoming full-length Legends of These Lands Left to Live, her voice crisp and heated. It’s as much a description of herself as of another: wherever it’s directed, whatever medium she’s working in, her attention is unbroken and intense. The song is sparse and concentrated, with the alternating strum and wail of two guitars, later a subdued piano—even as it builds to a crashing chorus it refuses to scatter, instead garnering a terrifying concentration not too far off from Patti Smith’s growling fury and triumph on Horses. The heartfelt line “We’ve lived so well” sinks deeper with each reiteration and each breath between, and it’s hard not to be swayed.
The album was recorded in the studio Beletic set up in the Sonoran Desert with Olinsky and traces her experience there after all the time she spent in the city. This song is a distillation of that narrative, Beletic says:
“Ends of the Earth” is a very personal statement about myself and my artist friends in New York. To me, it’s an anthemic song about making your own path and reflecting back on that. The story references Bob Dylan’s Dream and talks about reflection and traveling west. The imagery is from my time in New York living as an artist, the NY blackout of 2003, having a bonfire in the streets of Pittsburgh off the Monongahela, and then in my studio out West in conversation with all these memories.
Legends of These Lands Left To Live is out June 17 on Lightning, and you can hear “Ends of the Earth” below.