Charlie LookerSimple Answers
Last Things Records
June 15 2018
1. What Dawn is This? (Overture)
2. Ritual Fire
3. Golden Flesh
4. Fascist Moments
5. Black Sun
6. Speak Until Death Comes
7. What Dawn is This? (Return)
ABOUT THE RELEASE
On June 15, native New York composer/vocalist/multi- instrumentalist Charlie Looker (Psalm Zero, ex-Extra Life, ex-ZS) will release his solo album Simple Answers, on limited edition double-LP and digital formats, via his own imprint Last Things Records. Featuring a 17-piece chamber orchestra, and four years in the making, this highly experimental concept album is his most ambitious project to date. After a decade of accolades for his work leading underground bands spanning the experimental, indie, and metal scenes, this will also be the first record released under Looker’s own name.
Looker was a founding member of the experimental collective ZS, establishing his roots in the early 00s Brooklyn DIY scene. In 2007 he formed his own band Extra Life which built a devout international following before disbanding in 2012. Since then, his main performing vehicle has been metal/electronic project Psalm Zero (Profound Lore Records), as well as his chamber works. Looker’s diverse credits as a sideman and/or producer include Dirty Projectors, Tyondai Braxton, Amanda Palmer, Zeal & Ardor, Mick Barr, and Jherek Bischoff. Looker has received commissions and residencies from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Yarn/Wire, Ostrava New Music Days Festival (Czech), SEM Ensemble, Experiments in Opera (New York), and the Stone (New York). Voted one of the top 100 American composers under 40 by WNYC (2011), his music has been performed at festivals including Primavera Sound (Spain), Ecstatic Music (New York), Bad Bonn (Switzerland), Villette Sonique (France), and Sound Forest (Latvia).
The wildly hybrid sound of Simple Answers is based on an orchestral core of strings, winds, brass, and piano, blended with an electronic pallette of 808 drum machines and synths, with Looker’s tenor voice front and center. A departure from his more metallic, guitar-centric work in Psalm Zero, the record forms a unique bridge between disparate sonic realms. The drones and dissonance of abstract modern classical composition, dramatic post-punk vocal hooks, lush 19th Century romanticism, Medieval choral beauty, horror film score cacaphony, and even some rhythms and textures from trap rap and R&B, all come together in cinematic epics, many of which stretch toward the 10-minute mark. Special guest sopranos Daisy Press and Megan Schubert join Looker in harmony on several pieces, after opening the album alone, with an oveture of gothic chant. Members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Wet Ink Ensemble, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra comprise the wind and brass sections, while strings are rendered by the acclaimed Mivos Quartet. Rising virtuoso pianist/composer Kelly Moran provides piano and keyboards throughout.
Lyrically, the conceptual foundation of the song cycle is an equally gnarled intersection. Using as a departure point the works of two very strange bedfellows, French feminist psychoanalyst/philosopher Julia Kristeva, and legendary American comedian Patrice O’Neal (RIP), Looker uses tropes from both thinkers’ oeuvres to understand the psychology behind today’s global rising tide of fascist ideology. Inherently political, yet primarily psychological and personal, the eight songs spiral further outward, through themes of power, masculinity, Jewish self-hatred, addiction, brainwashing, and the occult, often within a single line.
Simple Answers is a piece of crossover art music as complex and severe as both the city, and the times, in which it was created. Fans of Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, ANOHNI, Arthur Russell, Zola Jesus, and Hildegard von Bingen, will resonate with this radical form of dark orchestral pop. As a text, the album will appeal to those eager to confront today’s fascist psychic currents in a nuanced way, lest those currents consume the world with the simple answer of their flames.