SONGS: OHIA

LISTEN // Jason Molina “September 11, 2001″ Featuring Will Oldham, Alasdair Roberts







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Written by Alasdair Roberts
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The late Jason Molina and I had met a few times in England (when Jason was studying for a period in London) and in Scotland (Glasgow, where I lived then as now), after being introduced to one another by Will Oldham in late 1995. The recording session by Jason, Will, Will’s brother Paul and me was Jason’s idea originally. The prospect of working together with these musicians whose work I admired, and who were also cool people, was very exciting; so that’s how I found myself in Paul’s Kentucky farmhouse that historic weekend in 2001.

Of course, what made that weekend historic was certainly not this humble meeting of musical minds; rather, it was the fact that it coincided with the unanticipated and awful events of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks and the collapse of the World Trade Center. I am convinced that my memory of that period has been heightened by this coincidence; I have a strong recollection of Jason, Will, Paul and me recording on the evening of 10th September. I remember the warm southern evening sunshine (a particular delight for one accustomed to Scottish autumn weather), streaming through the window and infusing everything in the room with a kind of preternatural glow, as we recorded a version of Owen Hand’s wonderful song ‘My Donal.’ Will was playing a Nord synth and singing, Paul was on drums, Jason played bass guitar and I was playing Paul’s bright blue Telecaster. I remember walking by the barns that evening and seeing row upon row of tobacco drying, shining golden and lovely in the twilight. But none of us was to know that that would be, in some sense, the last twilight of an old world.

Jason woke me at about 10am the following morning with the words: ‘Ali, you should come downstairs. Something really bad is happening.’ My initial thought was that perhaps someone in the household had been injured or had fallen seriously ill. And so I went downstairs to confront the new global reality. Most of the rest of the day was spent watching the television news in numbed disbelief; in the evening we dined and talked together with some other members of the Oldham family. And then it seemed that the only thing to do was to carry on as normal – to pour ourselves a large Highland Park each and to make rock and roll, like we were born to do. So that’s how this piece of music came about – it was a spontaneous response from Jason’s soul to the unimaginably terrible events of that day, and it was one in which he invited Will (on piano), Paul (on Nord synth), me (on bowed mountain dulcimer) and every listener to cast their own offering.

ALBUM RELEASE // Songs: Ohia ‘Didn’t It Rain’ Deluxe Reissue Out Now



“This is the sound of Molina standing on the brink of something. He didn’t seem to know quite what yet, and that stark uncertainty imbues Didn’t It Rain with a sickening yet heroic alchemy: the ability to make smallness and helplessness feel somehow brave.”

- Pitchfork “Best New Reissue”

12 years after its initial release, we are proud share with you the deluxe reissue of Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain, out now worldwide. The album is Jason Molina’s first perfect record and an ode to the Midwest Rust Belt under which Molina was born and Molina’s newfound Chicago home. This expanded reissue presents Molina’s home demos of the record, eight previously unreleased tracks, complete with a distant playground full of children chiming in the background for a few songs. The glorious juxtaposition of Molina’s songs’ desolation and the blissful playing of children is about as haunting as it gets. Listen to an alternate unheard version of “Ring the Bell” above or here on Youtube / Soundcloud.

You can purchase the special deluxe bundle including 2xLP, 2xCD, download codes, and a giant 27″ x 39″ Didn’t It Rain cinema style poster via SC Distribution. The reissue is also available via iTunes, Amazon, and your local record store.

ALBUM ANNOUNCE // Songs: Ohia ‘Didn’t It Rain’ Deluxe Reissue On Dec. 2, Hear Alternate Unheard Version Of “Ring the Bell”


Today we are pleased to announce the reissue of Songs: Ohia‘s Didn’t It Rain, with an expanded 2XLP/CD deluxe edition featuring unreleased demos including an alternate unheard version of “Ring the Bell” above or here on Youtube / Soundcloud. The expanded edition will be out on Secretly Canadian on December 2nd.

You can pre-order the special deluxe bundle including 2xLP, 2xCD, download codes, and a giant 27″ x 39″ Didn’t It Rain cinema style poster via SC Distribution. You can also pre-order the re-issue via iTunes, Amazon, and your local record store.

Didn’t It Rain is Jason Molina‘s first perfect record. Recorded live in a single room, with no overdubs and musicians creating their parts on the fly, the overall approach to the recording was nothing new for Molina. But something in the air and execution of Didn’t It Rain clearly sets it apart from his existing body of work. His albums had always been full of space, but never had Molina sculpted the space as masterfully as he does on Didn’t It Rain. The creaks and scraping of strings are all part of the Didn’t It Rain choir. So when Molina hoots for another chorus during the album’s eponymous opening gambit, it feels less an off-the-cuff call, and more an essential piece of the tone and structure. Midway through the same song, we hear the long, low woosh of a passing bus. Distant traffic has forever been a trope of lo-fi, but here, it is a pristine woosh. The highest of fidelity and sure of purpose. The same can be said for Molina’s always remarkable voice, here settling into a matured, assured, and subtly lowered tenor. It all adds up to something near in mood to Neil Young‘s song “On The Beach,” and maybe even Boz Scagg‘s 1969 self-titled album laid to tape at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio.

Didn’t It Rain is an ode to the Midwest Rust Belt under which Molina was born and Molina’s newfound Chicago home. When we move to a new place, we must truly confront all our own weaknesses and strengths, and Molina puts that all on the table with this one. The album’s triple-threat center pieces come by way of “Ring The Bell,” “Cross The Road, Molina,” and “Blue Factory Flame.” Strung together, they present clearly Molina’s specific set of mythological symbols that had been forming on previous recordings. But the journey across these three songs – with their circling serpents, their neon-flame wreathed moons, their swinging blades, their debilitating emptiness – also feels like a cleansing, a catharsis, a sort of primal therapy.

This expanded reissue presents Molina’s home demos of the record, eight previously unreleased tracks, complete with a distant playground full of children chiming in the background for a few songs. The glorious juxtaposition of Molina’s songs’ desolation and the blissful playing of children is about as haunting as it gets. The expanded edition of Didn’t It Rain will see release via Secretly Canadian on December 2nd.

SONGS: OHIA // Label Co-Founder Ben Swanson On Jason Molina And SC200: Record Store Day Exclusive Box Set ‘Journey On: Collected Singles’

Tomorrow, April 19th, is Record Store Day across the world and we are marking this years’ RSD with the Songs: Ohia Exclusive Record Store Day Box Set Journey On: Collected Singles [more info here]. This release has already been featured in RSD must-have lists on KEXP, Pitchfork, and now Secretly Canadian label co-founder Ben Swanson has a few words on Jason Molina and this special box set.

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Words by Ben Swanson, Secretly Canadian Label Co-Founder

We’ve been talking about this release for years with Jason. At first he was reluctant, as he always kept his eyes on the road ahead, never in the rearview. For those of us that have been long time fans, this had always been one of the most exciting and exhausting aspects of Jason’s live shows. Limited set time was ever given to the current release’s songs, and rarely were you treated to the “hits”; instead Jason used the stage as his workshop where he would hone the nuances of his early morning sketches. As a fan, it was a treat to watch the new songs evolve over a tour until finally – usually somewhere in the middle of the run – they were laid to tape, often live in the studio, and then quickly jettisoned from the set list. The work was done, time to move on.

For Jason, each recording had its own life, and, regardless of its scope, there was something sacred to which the tunes were ultimately presented. Besides, there were new Ghosts to discover, or Wolves to ride, or Moons to bleed (go ahead and choose your favorite Molina metaphor).

Early on Jason imbued the label with the preciousness of the release and we largely agreed…in spirit. However it could be maddening that some of these gems never got their due. Only to be enjoyed by the 1,000 people that bought the 7″, and the super fans that traded high quality FLACs of shitty vinyl rips.

As fans, we loved the new stuff, but we were in love with the old stuff.

Eventually, Jason relented and began to entertain the notion of revisiting these semi-lost recordings. Maybe he was far enough away from the material where he could see the merit in taking a peek back. Or maybe he was just sick of us asking.

Either way, this collection follows Jason’s career throughout his Songs: Ohia period, from 1994 to 2000; from Oberlin, OH, to Bloomington, IN, to Chicago and back again.

I was first introduced to Jason’s music through the Freedom 7″ on Palace Records. My brother, Chris, had sent me a dub of it during my last year in high school during the period we began talking about starting a record label. The 7″ was otherworldly and Jason seemed untouchable. I don’t remember exactly how, but eventually my brother Chris tracked down an email address and we huddled around the computer. We had nothing to offer but our enthusiasm. It feels naive to think about now – we found his email! he wrote back! – but in the mid-90s, this was new terrain.

Through a handful of emails that were – much like Jason himself – short and cryptic, Jason mentioned he was playing an in-store at Adult Crash in New York, and if we came, he’d give us the master for our first 7″. To anyone that’s familiar with Jason, they know he appreciates hard work, and whereas a normal person would’ve sent the DAT through the mail, there was an implicit challenge in inviting us to New York. If we put in the work and showed up, we’d get the tape. And what did we know? Fourteen hours later we arrived in NYC to collect the tape of what would eventually be the One Pronunciation of Glory 7″.

There’s a similar history to each of the songs on this collection and lets be clear, not all of these songs are gems. However, each song is a snapshot of Jason at various points in the first half of his career. They’re Jason at his most loose, his most feisty; always inviting new friends to play. He was quick and generous when it came to recording. To Jason, it was situational – with the right ingredients, the right temperature, and, if the humidity is just right, you can catch that spark. He was after instinct, not training. He’d create structures for the musicians of the day, and line them with booby traps. It was a maddening but effective trick.

Anyway, I’m glad he finally relented. It was a rare treat to go through these old tapes and an incredible experience to watch a master grow into his craft.

AUDIO

Blue Chicago Moon by Songs: Ohia
East's Last Heart by Songs: Ohia
Farewell Transmission by Songs: Ohia

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