Loma on Their Self-Titled Debut Album

Journeys Through Nature

Apr 03, 2018 Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett
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Jonathan Meiburg's favorite moment from Loma, his collaborative record with Dan Duszynski and Emily Cross of Cross Record, happened completely by accident. As Meiburg, best known as the mastermind behind 21st century indie mainstay Shearwater, tells it, the song "I Don't Want Children" "happened very quickly, but was completely random. I played the piano part, wrote some lyrics, sang a guide track, and [Cross] replaced my vocal."

What happened next was, miraculously, even more unexpected than the entire genesis of the song. When Cross played back the vocals she had recordedacross Loma, the lyrics Cross sings are written by Meiburgit turned out they had been captured at a slightly lower speed and pitch than she normally sings in. "I remember that moment so clearly," Meiburg poignantly reflects. "We all froze and stared into the speaker, and Emily said, 'I identify with this more than with my actual voice.'" For the remainder of the sessions that would come to comprise the adventurous 10-song journey recently released on Shearwater's longtime label home, Sub Pop, Cross would record her voice this way.

This anecdotea song coming together with little in the way of formal structure, the looseness of these guidelines enchanting these songs with magic beyond the realm of words and soundsdefines Loma, which traverses styles including, but certainly not limited to, rustic balladry and groove-infused rock throughout its faintly psychedelic, almost jam-like 40 minutes. There's an energy on songs like "Relay Runner," which plants a thumping bass line so strong it's bound to stay in listeners' heads for days, that feels like an unclassifiable aura released directly from a lost spirit ("While we were making [this song], we each said, 'This isn't like anything we would normally do,'" Meiburg adds, a hint of eternal incredulity in his voice). More drawn-out and reverberant songs including "Dark Oscillations" and "Jornada" recapture the terrorizing charm of later-era Portishead, and "Black Willow" feels like a eulogy performed by ghosts.

As with Shearwater's extensive catalog, a recurring theme throughout Loma's debut album is nature. Specifically, earthly sounds ranging from the chirping of frogs to the bursting of wind through nearby trees drift throughout Loma, empowering it with a primordial feel. These sounds are ultimately a reflection of Loma's formationjust as with Cross Record's previous album, 2016's brilliant and unsettling Wabi-Sabi, Loma was recorded in Cross and Duszynski's house in Dripping Springs, TX, a tiny, sparsely populated town 40 minutes west of Austin. The lack of urban noise pollution haunted and guided Loma's creative impulses; sounds ranging from hundreds of parrots shrieking every morning in the aviary up the hill to the barking of the dogs living in the house (Meiburg recalls Bobo and Ghost quite affectionately) both informed the trio's songwriting and appear as samples that offer a playful but grounding backbone for the music.

"The problem with using field recordings is that they're often more interesting than the music you're making," Meiburg says. "You have to be judicious about how you use them. We wanted to capture the whole environment around the house because it felt so special." The record's setting manifests throughout. For example, during the recording of "Shadow Relief," Bobo and Ghost began barking loudly, and the trio kept the barking in the song. It's a feature that's at once a notable distinction and one that might only start standing out once someone says that it's there. Likewise, what's ostensibly a messy saxophone on "White Glass" isget thisa "chair solo," as Meiburg winkingly describes it. "It's the sound of a chair being dragged across the concrete floor. It was in tune with the sound," he recounts, still in awe of how naturally this moment happened.

For the album to come together so spontaneously, Meiburg had to do something new: relinquish control. Cross, Duszynski, and Meiburg intentionally didn't relegate themselves to any one instrumental role during Loma's recording-the record's freeform, absorbing fusion of improvisation and standard rock structures is a thrilling result of this lack of structure-which was especially new for Meiburg. "It was like playing with a Ouija board-the thing is moving, but you can't tell who's moving it," he jokes.

He especially lacked control over one specific factorduring the recording of Loma, Cross and Duszysnki, who were married at the time, ended their relationship. The trio's fluid, shapeless songwriting process, as Meiburg recalls it, experienced no severely negative effects from his co-creators' impending divorce. Musician Emily Lee, who was present for the Loma sessions and has also worked extensively with Meiburg on Shearwater's recordings, observes that another comparison Meiburg makesLoma is the three branches of government, Shearwater is Meiburg's dictatorshipis especially apt for how the powers remained balanced throughout. "I was present for a couple of the recordings, and I played, but it was a very, very equal kind of relationship," she recalls. "With Shearwater, it feels very top-down."

Although learning to let go was tough for Meiburg, to say that he's glad he did would be an understatement. "I have a special feeling about this record.... When I hear the record, I'm very pleased with it as a whole," he says. "It's alive in a way I've always wanted a record to be alive. I hope it reaches people in the same way."

[Note: This article originally appeared in the digital version (for tablets and smart phones) of Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.lomatheband.com

www.lomamusic.bandcamp.com

www.subpop.com/artists/loma

 

 

 

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TomMartin
June 3rd 2018
10:24pm

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