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 (Sylvan Esso, Mountain Man) 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.
released March 20, 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.