Post​-​Empire

by Will Stratton

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Post-Empire is Will Stratton’s fourth full-length record, and it is his subtlest and most devastating album yet. The album’s skeleton was recorded at Rare Book Room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn by Nicolas Vernhes (famed engineer for Spoon, Deerhunter, Cat Power, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, et cetera). After laying down the basic guitar and vocal tracks there to tape in a day and a half, with one or two takes per song, Will carefully wrote out arrangements for string sextet and, after a quick rehearsal, recorded them with friends in his Red Hook, Brooklyn apartment, with three players playing two parts each. Then vocalists Amelia Meath (Mountain Man, Feist) and Maia Friedman (BOBBY) lent their lustrous voices to several songs in between touring commitments. The result is a record that is strikingly spare and lush at the same time.

Like Will’s previous record, 2010′s hastily-recorded New Vanguard Blues, the focal point of Post-Empire is his insistent fingerstyle guitar playing, descended as much from British folk icons like Bert Jansch and Davy Graham as from American avant-gardists like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. But what sets Post-Empire apart from its predecessor is the newfound urgency to his lyrics and his singing, the increasing dissonance in his harmonic sensibility, and the dark, dense, and hovering presence of the string section. This is not exactly a folk record in the classic sense, and Stratton tries to disavow the current folk movement, but at its heart, for all its high-minded aspirations, Post-Empire runs with the mercurial American folk tradition. While some music writers may talk themselves hoarse about the dueling narratives of hype and authenticity these days, there will always be artists quietly making music impervious to buzz, telling real stories of decline, romance, hope, regret, and renewal.

credits

released 20 March 2012

Engineered by Nicolas Vernhes at Rare Book Room, and by Will Stratton at his apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Mixed by Will Stratton.
Mastered by Paul Gold at Salt Mastering.
Cover art by Jared Ragland.

Amelia Meath - vocals on 3, 8, 9
Maia Friedman - vocals on 1, 6, 7
Heather Sommerlad - violin on 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9
Cori Tolda - viola on 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9
Adele Mori - cello on 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9
Field Recording on "You Divers" by Matthew Carefully.

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Track Name: You Divers
You Divers

I woke, and I did not know who had spoken
The sun spilled all over my floor
The shades sighed in and out with the wind
I rose right from the fire that had done me in
Don't make false steps, you divers
I don't know where you'd hide them
Broken bones and high breakers
Empty rooms with no takers
I hope that I am alive, I am alive
To see the afterlight of spring
When the, the coats of arms do not rust
And the, the amber women don't stop singing
You are anathema
To the curses I know
You are not the answer
You are just a way to go
Track Name: When You Let Your Hair Down To Your Shoulder
When You Let Your Hair Down To Your Shoulder

When you let your hair down to your shoulder
Call me a coward, but I'm not a fool
The wind lets it loose and you let it blind you
I may be lazy, but never untrue
And with your gloves on above the causeway
I deign to unveil you as you may desire
Your hands full of packages, bound to deliver
Your eyes of the coldest fire
And you look at me blindly as I do
As if to say that i have been wrong
Well I'm only the sundial sitting
I haven't moved all day or night long
Maybe it's you that's been rootless and changing
Always the first to call yourself ice
When in fact underneath it's a basin
The bottom deep out of sight
Track Name: Tell Me, Where Do I Begin?
Tell Me, Where Do I Begin?

Tell me--where do i begin?
With your lips, with your hair or with your skin?
All three fall as hard as stone
Into the hour of the snow
Tell me--what do i see first?
The scythe, the sickle, or the curse?
All three come up from the ground
And spread, so pretty and so brown
Tell me--what comes next?
Is it the hour of love or the hour of the hex?
Both thaw in summer but harden in the cold
It's time to let them settle, and together they'll grow old
Tell me--where do I leave off?
With the scythe, the sickle, or the cloth?
All three replenish what is gone
The aftertaste of wormwood, the ending of a song
Track Name: Colt New Marine
Colt New Marine

You stalked along the old canal
And you wiped the salt out from your eye
And you said Suzanne, we'll have this child
I've done no gambling in my life
She began to count her debts and weep
As her fingers pulled down at her ring
Looking down into the clearest deep
Where the piers recede into the sea
And she said oh lord,
I don't think you understand
You may have four years on me
But you'll never be a man
She then disappeared from you
Til the wedding in closest June
When the air hangs like a gavel stuck
Suspended just before it's struck
You bought a Colt New Marine
Like a true dramatic fool
Tucked inside your jacket's seam
As you shook the hand of the groom
And you said oh lord,
What a pleasure this has been
I once knew your bride-to-be
Long ago in sin
Track Name: Honey Diamond
Honey Diamond

You're cloudy in the center,
You're cut wrong on the edges
You've got a dark past
Of which I never ask
Your color's all wrong
So I got you for a song
You're set in cheap metal
I got you from the devil
But you're a diamond, baby
You're a diamond baby
You're a diamond honey
You're a diamond
You're from a dark mine
Should've took that as a sign
The blood like a dress
Coming off when it's wet
The hand of a slave
Carried to his grave
Dug up by the archangel
And sold to a stranger
You're a diamond, baby
You're a diamond baby
You're a diamond honey
You're a diamond
I've kept you forever
Here in my quiver
I'll never let go
Not til hell snows
I bought you this way
And I'll make you stay
No matter the cry
You'll stay til we die
You're a diamond, baby
You're a diamond baby
You're a diamond honey
You're a diamond
Track Name: Post-Empire
Post-Empire

If you felt any less,
If you felt any less,
If you felt any less you'd be dead
Summer is over, i swear
Who knows what you see
If you're underwater, get out
Before you freeze
Track Name: At The Table Of The Styx
At The Table of the Styx

Are you the sun, or are you the moon?
Shall I speak or is it too soon?
When you take all the blankets when we sleep
Am I the watchman at our keep,
Or does anything matter to you?
When you're down in sleep's dark bliss
Do I play you with a kiss
Or does it all fall on deaf skin
When I'm awake and you're all in
At the table of the Styx?
Do I place a coin in your mouth
As you murmur, drifting south
Like Ophelia at the end
Or Elaine all wrapped in linen
Or do I lie and try to rest
With an arm under your neck
What good is stillness when you're gone?
At least I can hum a song
Why would I ever lie
Would it be just to find myself beside you
A dream half-dead?
How could I ever live
With the blood of a half-formed bird upon me,
Draped on my head?
How could I?
The light, it asks to peer through
So we've survived another day
How could I nigh deceive you?
When I'm just a broken knave?
How could I?
Track Name: If You Wait Long Enough
If You Wait Long Enough

Don't die pretty
Don't die young
Just wait with me til the evening
We all will have won
Don't die bitter
Don't die crass
Just wait until the morning
All will come to pass
If you wait long enough
If you wait long enough
I remember
The first time
That I felt so jealous that my heart stopped on a dime
Can you tell me
How it feels
To be so content that your heart turns like a wheel
Track Name: The Relatively Fair
The Relatively Fair

All my friends are in New York and California
Trying for something big, what it is well they won't bore ya
They just want to make a mark that'll stay around when they're gone
All my friends are actors and musicians
Myself included, man, this ain't no inquisition
If there isn't beauty in a world like this then what have we got?
But I don't want to wake up one morning with just a bible and a cot
When I was younger I made my mother worry
She said "Will, you'd better study in a hurry;
You don't want to come to one day in a job that you hate"
When I was younger I passed the time so slowly
I had a hunger, but for what I could only
Guess the root of the cause of my distractions one by one
My dumb teenage heart like the surface of the sun
What if every florid metaphor is running kinda thin?
What if I already know how all of this is gonna end?
What if all I really need is for my head to be up high
Above the trenches and the vapors, the sirens and the sky
I've never known you, and chances are I never will
But if you hear this, know that I love you still
You're the most beautiful girl, you're the bravest man there is
I've never known you, but you know everything that I've known
You know the balance to be struck when you're all alone
There's a need to be happy and there's a need to be safe
And you'd better pick one and hope that the other gets to stay
But what if all you want one day's a husband or a wife
Just a job, just a house, just a child, just a life
Would you give up the poison call of fame to drink up the last air?
Would you forsake the absolute for the relatively fair?
Track Name: Mercury Id Blues
Mercury Id Blues

Hey, you found me at long last
I've been pacing here all decade for you
Can you feed me nice and slow
Like I'll never eat again,
It's true you know
I've been rootless, possessed by what I can't find
Now I'm useless, in love out of my mind
My friends shake me and they say
Don't you speak too soon, my William
This might not stay
But I scorn them and reply
That it matters not one whit
What lives and dies
I've been restless, caressed by eaves so tall
Now I'm bested, a trophy on a wall
Will I ever have another like you?
Don't you dare tell me the truth
I'd rather spend the rest of my life
Trying in vain to reel in that line
When water is the only proof
Maybe nothing can compare
But I'll sit here catching nothing,
There's nothing there
And I'll dream here, only you
Coming in and out of focus
Black and blue
I've been senseless
Mercury on my hands
I'm defenseless
Against my id's demands