Munly, Merkstave, and 4 Other New Releases from Pesanta

There was a particularly poignant scene in the film adaptation of Carl Sagan's Contact (yeah, I know people shit on that film, but I loved it) where Jodie Foster's character, upon seeing the "alien" solar system, confesses, "I had no idea." I'm afraid that I must confess the same thing regarding this self-titled album by (Jay) Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots. Looks like it was originally released on CD by Alternative Tentacles in 2004, and so I feel rather ashamed, only hearing it now for the first time. But our friend Adam at Pesanta Urfolk is releasing this utterly magnificent album on vinyl, and my friends, you absolutely MUST hear this record. If it's one of the last things you do, make sure you hear this. It may literally knock your socks off.

I'll say that I grew up on a lot of country music - it was my dad's favorite music, and he was constantly playing his old Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings records and tapes. I wasn't always a big fan of country music, but the dark, sad stuff I loved. It had something that the rock and metal I listened to didn't, and I appreciated that, whatever it was. I don't listen to it much anymore, but I have some of dad's old records, and I put them on from time to time. It's safe to say, though, that none of them touch this. Of course, this is something very different. It's quite dark, but Munly and friends incorporate elements of rock, folk, gospel, and goth into their very unique and highly creative style of music. It would seem that first and foremost, Munly is a storyteller, and a damn good one at that, but these aren't typical country music stories. In fact, there isn't a thing about this album that I would call typical. And while (true) country music as a whole is pretty emotional, I'm not sure I've heard many country albums with this much heart in them. Munly lays it all on the line, his heart and soul stripped bare, as vulnerable as can be. His voice is all over the place (in a good way), from a very low bass drawl to a high soprano, and this only serves to increase the drama and tension that defines this record. The word "epic" has become a buzz-word for hipsters, but given its true meaning, it's a fitting descriptor here. The atmosphere is intense and highly powerful, but at the same time, there is something very sweet about most of these songs. The record feels like it has been playing forever, but I still end up wanting more when it's complete. I can't say that about too many records these days, so I know that means that this is something very special. Pressed on 200 gram vinyl, packed in double gatefold printed on a satin jacket stock, featuring the stunning Firebird egg tempera painting by Benjamin A. Vierling. Limited to 500 total copies - 400 on black vinyl and 100 on a red-yellow color combination that has only been done once before. Sure to sound and look absolutely stellar. I implore you not to miss this one. Order it here.

Munly's album is only one of the new Pesanta releases, and I'd be remiss not to write a bit on the self-titled Merkstave record. You may know that two Merkstave demo tapes had surfaced in 2011, but they were very difficult to obtain at the time, and near impossible to find now. I for one am very thankful that this LP is being released, as my copies of those tapes, while amazing, are damn near getting worn out from being played so much. The LP also sounds about 100 times better, which is no surprise. But the ultimate point to make about this record is that Merkstave, for me, represents the epitome of doom. Droning, imperceptibly slow, and as heavy an any metal you will ever hear. This takes funeral doom to new heights - or perhaps more accurately, new lows. The LP was recorded, produced and mastered using only analog methods. You can buy it here. If you are subscribed to the Pesanta mailer, you will have, or will soon be, receiving details on a limited edition that will blow your mind. But rest assured that it will be worth every penny. All 8200 of them.

Also now available is Deixademe Morrer no Bosque, the incredible double-LP from Galician nature-worshipping folk-masters Sangre de Muerdago. The CD and digital editions of this record have been out for a while, but it really belongs on vinyl, so this vinyl edition features a different mastering than those releases. Simply put, this is one of my favorite folk records ever, as it just exudes fearlessness and love, militance and peace, and everything else good about music. Truly a captivating and freeing experience to sit down with this record and give yourself to it. This is a split release between Pesanta and our close friends at Heathen Harvest. Pressed on 200 gram vinyl - 100 on transparent red, 400 on black. Absolutely essential.

Also not to be missed are are the Hale LP from The Sterling Sisters, and the Fields of Ash 7" from sterling sister Scout Paré-Phillips. By now, you should have heard the Hale LP, but if you haven't, you're missing out. These Baltimore, Maryland purveyors of Americana, country-style, led by George Cessna (son of the legendary Slim Cessna) have crafted a fine record that embodies all that there is to love about American music. songs of love and songs of sadness, all played with a certain punk attitude to make it both harrowing, somber, and playfully beautiful at the same time. There isn't a damn thing about this record to not love. From top to bottom, it is great. The Scout Paré-Phillips 7" is something a little different, offering two tracks of achingly beautiful dark neofolk that will stay with you for sure.

And last but not least is the first release of Pesanta imprint Saadi Saati, the debut solo album by Leila Abdul-Rauf, who you may be familiar with from her work with Hammers of Misfortune and Amber Asylum, among others. But this release, titled Cold and Cloud, is nothing like her work with those bands. No metal here - just ten tracks of cold, ambient soundscapes reflective of deep loss and mourning. The LP jacket features artwork from Tor Lundvall, and the LP itself comes in two editions - a colored edition, limited to 100, on sky blue and silver vinyl, and the standard edition on black vinyl. You can download or stream the digital album or buy the vinyl directly from the artist at her Bandcamp, or order it from Pesanta here.

Pesanta never fails to impress, and these selections are certainly no exception.

No comments: