Music heads have fantasies about certain types of projects. Just try and recall the amount of times you’ve thought that artist X would sound dope up against artist Y. Music listeners pine for that sort of experience, and it isn’t often that one is presented with a project that can fulfill a desire like that.
Last week marked the introduction to the Genius Loci cassette compilation, spearheaded by musician and composer Gabriel Birnbaum. The idea of the project is to commission different artists to write songs based on a prompt or inspirational guideline. That could result in anything from artists ending up using only lyrics taken from a certain poem to capturing a specific mood with via similar themes. What’s interesting for Birnbaum is the way in which some of the songs, made often by musicians who don’t necessarily know each other, can start to reflect one another; something Birnbaum looks to highlight by releasing them in pairs. The compilation features songs from a large cross section of artists from Renata Zeiguer of Brooklyn’s Cantina to Jonah Furman of Boston trio Krill.
The first release came in the form of “Might” and “Thirsty Sponge” by Felicia Douglass (Ava Luna and Gemma) and Brooklyn pop outfit Tiny Hazards respectively. This pairing features the songs “Meat” by Jonah Furman (Krill) and “Lightning Dream Shuffle” by Will Stratton. Both songs, played only with an acoustic guitar, exude a kind of low-fi intimacy. “Meat” trades in Furman’s signature nasal vocal delivery for a smoother and more even one, while “Lightning Dream Shuffle” finds Stratton playing a very Nick Drake-esqe chord progression under lyrics like “How does one write about who one needs to be before the sterilizing ways of the redeemer / Particularly when it’s so hard to find a pen.”
This summer’s collection takes inspiration from the poetry of Frank Stanford in his book The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You. In essence the book is 500-plus pages of nearly unpunctuated epic poetry. The compilation’s title Dreams Like Bark Peeled Off By Lightning is a nod to a popular line from the book.
“Genius Loci is partly an experiment to see how much of a set of songs can be unified by a concept or mood, partly an excuse for me to commission new work by some of my favorite songwriters,” says Birnbaum. “An experiment in pushing people out of their comfort zones & giving them new creative avenues in their writing”
You can learn more and order a copy of Volume One: Summer 2015: Dreams Like Bark Peeled Off By Lightning here.