Now I Feel Adored
JE Sunde’s sophomore LP is an exercise in careful subtraction. The first LP “Shapes that Kiss the Lips of God”, (which itself followed complex LPs with his former band The Daredevil Christopher Wright), was an exercise in layers of sound…built up and presented like a spinning fan seen through a kaleidoscope. This number two LP “Now I Feel Adored” strips away the slowed blades and peers through a clearer, but darker lens.
The detailed weavings of melody found on previous recordings by the Minneapolis based songwriter are present, as always in the light strums of nylon string guitar, piano (electric and acoustic), occasional strings, synths and percussion, but the real feature here is in the bass guitar and vocal. Referred to as a “bass forward” effort by Sunde himself and played by Andrew Thoreen of Har-Di-Har fame and at times Pat Keen…it shows. This bass presence is best heard on the track “Wedding Ring”, a kind of ode to commitment to belief. Juxtapose that with the shadowy tune “Prism”, a sad observance of the faults of man and perception (or lack of). The hint of darkness shows itself again on the reckoning tune “Capsize and Sink”…beware censors, there is a word or two that the FCC would not approve of there. All the tracks on this LP flow from the beginning number, a duet with Monica Martin of Phox on the Irish folk-type tune “I Will Smile When I Think of You”. The essence of a kind of full minimalism starts there…it takes some time to notice how little is going on with the richness of what is heard.
As opposed to his first LP which was recorded over a long-ish time and mostly by Sunde himself, this second offering was done in just a few sessions, with his core band of , Shane Leonard (Kalispell, Field Report), Andrew Thoreen and Pat Keen. Augment that with Marty Breuggemann on keys and a smattering of real strings and flute and the sound becomes its realized self. The production quality of Hi Fi and vintage meets 70s am radio softness permeates the entire effort. The Victorian mansion in Neenah, Wisconsin that houses the studio sports a wood paneled dining room with a large table in the center where the band would share meals and breaks. The connections made at that table wove their way into the tightness and timbre of every track. This record will connect with anyone who sits at that metaphorical table to listen.
Preface from 'Now I Feel Adored'
The songs that constitute this album found their beginnings somewhere between 2007 and 2016. My Attempts to Grow A Beard being the oldest. I wrote this in Eau Claire, WI and for years it had a bridge section that was ok, but ultimately unnecessary. If you want to hear that version, you can check out The Daredevil Christopher Wright Daytrotter session from July 30th, 2008. Called By Our Names is the youngest tune. It came together within the two months leading up to our time in the studio. Without fail, all the songs were completed within the twelve month leading up to the start of our recording in April 2016.
Considering the span of time represented by the origins of these tunes, I can’t say that there was a unifying poetic concept that wove these songs into a collection. That is, beyond the generally unifying fact that, with the exception of Jacket, I wrote them all and it’s become clear to me that my thematic interests are rather narrow (Love, uncertainty, existential and metaphysical questions. Rinse and repeat). However, at the risk of retrofitting a through-line into the album where there isn’t one, I will say that three words did stick out to me as I considered the possibility of just such a thing, “Why, hope, trust.” Perhaps that is general enough to mean nothing at all or maybe there is something there. Regardless I hope that these songs prove to be helpful. They were a help to me to write.
Shapes That Kiss the Lips Of God
Ten years ago I started a band with my brother Jason and our good friend Jesse Edgington called The Daredevil Christopher Wright. We were living in and around Eau Claire, WI and found ourselves learning to write and perform in what turned out to be a fertile community of like-minded musicians and creative types. The last three and a half years found us doing it full time, touring across the U.S. , Canada and Europe, trying to make a proper go of it. At the end of touring our second full-length record, we realized that a change was in order. Jobs were to be had and the prospect of being in one place and investing in a community again looked rather good. So we decided to put the band on hiatus and try a different balance of things for a while.
Over the years of writing with Daredevil I had gathered a fair amount of songs that for various reasons the band hadn’t used. I would pick up a solo show now and again when we weren’t touring and found myself performing songs from that collection.
The notion of one day taking some time to try my hand at a solo project had entered my mind, and when the band decided to take a break, I thought it would be an opportune moment to give it a go. Inspired by the sound of the 60’s and 70’s, and musicians like Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen, I started writing and arranging. Most of the material was drawn from that back catalog of tunes that had been patiently waiting. I decided not to shy away from the shadow of my influences but to draw from familiar sounds and tweak them enough to create something that would hopefully feel comfortable but not entirely derivative. With that loose framework in mind, I followed a pretty intuitive creative process: grabbing onto what felt good and trusting that that would lead to something interesting.
In April 2013 I headed to Honeytone Studios in Neenah, WI to start tracking the record. The engineers and partners in the studio, Patrick Boland, Marty Brueggemann and Mark Zbikowski have created this beautiful space and came at the project with an energy and respect that was really humbling.
I had decided for creative, and economic, reasons that I wanted to perform as much of the album myself as I could.
I knew however, that achieving the drumming that I was hoping for would be well beyond my meager abilities and so I enlisted the help of my friend Shane Leonard (Kalispell, Field Report) to take on the drumming and percussion duties. I can’t overstate how great a job Shane did. He took my two dimensional drum ideas and brought them to a wholly other place. And the sounds that the guys were able to capture were really exciting. I had at that point been writing and arranging for five months on my own, and so it felt amazing to bring people into the process and hear these ideas become enfleshed. Shane did the drumming and Marty stepped in on bass for a tune and offered up an organ solo on another, otherwise I performed everything else. It was a fun challenge to take on but it made for exhausting tracking sessions. In the end we tracked the record in 13 days over three months, finishing up at the end of July. In August I brought the tracks to Pat Stolley in Davenport, IA. We had met several years before when he recorded Daredevil for a Daytrotter session. We got on quite well and after knowing each other for a few years, he recorded the second Daredevil full length. Through that experience I really came to trust his esthetic sense and his technical abilities. So early on I knew that I wanted him to mix the solo record. Later he took on the mastering duties as well.
Somewhere in there I decided to call the record Shapes That Kiss the Lips of God. It’s a line from a tune on the record that’s a description of birds migrating south.
In the end I think the album is something of a chronicle of the last ten years for me. Not that I can call it strictly autobiographical, but there is a sense about it as I listen, that it seems to capture tones and themes that had significance in that stretch of my life. Perhaps there’s some closure in it. It’s interesting, that thought hadn’t struck me until just now as I write this. I hope you like the record.