What’s in a name? After eldest Smith sibling finished his senior art school project and released it in 1995 under the moniker, “Danielson,” he brought his four younger siblings and a few friends from childhood into the mix for the critically-acclaimed, “Tell Another Joke At the Ol’ Choppin’ Block,” calling the group, “Danielson Famile.” This was followed by the back-to-back concept albums, “Alpha” and “Omega,” in 1998 and 1999 under the name, “Tri-Danielson.” It was a long and confusing study in the three sides of music-making: Famile, Brother, and Ship. The follow-up release was Danielson Famile’s “Fetch the Compass Kids,” celebrating family. Then came Br. Danielson’s “Brother Is To Son,” celebrating personal identity and community. Now, “Ships” is the resolution. Opening arms wider than ever, Daniel made a long list of artists who have worked with Danielson over the years and other folks who planned to work together at some point. This list led to working with family, making new friends, and keeping the old. All joined together – both the well-known (Deerhoof, Sufjan Stevens, Why?) and not as well-known artists (Sereena Maneesh, Leopulde, Half-handed Cloud) – each bringing his or her own skills and ideas to Daniel’s songs and voice, resulting in this crowning achievement.
This massive project has spilled over into an ongoing 7″ series of working with the friends for whom there wasn’t any more room on the full length. It has brought Danielson back from whence it came, by returning to the eponymous “Danielson” moniker and reuniting old friends and collaborators. There’s no avoiding that what began as a senior thesis project a decade ago has evolved into a musical world so rich with musicality and merry-making that the first six albums and ten years of touring pomp alone could nourish the most scrutinizing of thrill-seekers. Mythology-hounds have found in Danielson the full package – tuning into their frequency (whether on headphones or at a party) can be as deeply rewarding in a literary-visual-musical way as with canonical acts such as Sun Ra, Parliament and David Bowie.
With Danielson, there’s no hard distinction between the visuals (costumes and graphics) and the music from this group from suburban Clarksboro, New Jersey. “One enters your heart through your eyes, one through your ears,” says Daniel. In the past they have sported hand-made, old-fashioned doctors’ and nurses’ uniforms while performing as a “visual reminder of the healing taking place.” Daniel has worn a nine-foot tall, hand-made nine-fruit tree to “bear the good fruit.” And now Danielson will perform live in new hand-made uniforms, still wearing their trademark “hearts-on-sleeves,” with their names on their chests. This new uniform is inspired by the drawings and colors from the “Ships” artwork and the album’s inspiration of creative community.