The inspiration and ingredients for Up Above came from two recent tours. Town and Country toured in Japan, at the end of ‘03, where Jim Dorling first performed a solo piece with some throat singing. On the same tour in Kyoto Jim bought a shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and Josh bought a khaen (Chinese bamboo mouth organ). The following spring Town and Country toured with Tony Conrad. “This tour was a great honor for us as he has been a huge influence since our first album in 1997. An extended improvisation we did with Tony’s violin in the lead was the germ for the music on this record. Ben had already started playing the violin at that time and I was doing the overtone singing with the harmonium (Josh on bass, Liz on viola).” says Dorling. The experience deepened the group’s long-standing fascination with the big drone. During the tour Tony gave a lecture at Bard in which he discussed (among many other things) the work of Milton Erickson, the foremost hypnotist of the 20th century. Some psychiatrists preferred to read Erickson’s lectures rather than attend them as his manner of speaking tended to make them woozy. Up Above may tend to make you woozy. It’s a sleepy, trance-inducing affair, an effort to engross the black bee of our minds on the blue lotus feet of our divine mother. This is a first for cover tunes and a first for singing. “Blue Lotus Feet” is a yoga tune and apparently there is a Will Oldham version of this tune floating around as well. “King of Portugal” is based on Cancao dos Reis from an old Folkways 10 inch of Portuguese Christmas carols. Only the first line was printed in the liner notes so to learn the words Jim Dorling listened to the song over and over again one day while home sick from work until the other words sounded like something to him. He wrote that something down and sang it.
It was recorded in the hot summer of 2005, almost entirely in Jim’s living room 2 track to portable hard drive recorder. Home recording and the lack of soundproofing of his Chicago apartment added some unexpected treats. On “Sun Trolley” there’s a truck that sounds like the beginning of a bass line and a chair being scraped across the floor upstairs. “Blue Lotus Feet” and “Fields and Parks of Easy Access” were recorded by Jeremy Lemos at Semaphor. “King of Portugal” was recorded at Sparrow Sound by Todd Carter. Up Above refers to the Paul Bowles novel Up Above the World. Psych folk drone may be the flavor of the month but Town and Country have been doing this for 8 years.
JAMES DORLING Vocals, tambura, autoharp, harmonium, organ pipe, hmong harp, shakuhachi
JOSHUA ABRAMS Drarp, slit drum, karkabas, celeste, khaen, guimbri, string bass, glockenspiel, vocals
BENJAMIN VIDA Guitar, violin, mbira, slit drum, karkabas, hand chimes, vocals, accordion, mandolin
LIZ PAYNE Viola, guitar, percussion, kalimba, hand chimes