Psycopomp, CA (2013-2016)

After ten straight years of college, I turned in my dissertation to the Northwestern library on March 7th, 2013.  On March 12th, I landed at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California.  I had recently been rekindling a love for many different types of pop music, especially from the 1970s.  I had been given a gift of creative time and space in a beautiful setting, and I decided to celebrate the end my degree by creating music that was imaginative, free-spirited, and Pop-inspired.  

You'll hear songs on the album that are directly inspired by Djerassi R.A.P.  The newness found in the warmth of the sun in Summertime Daydream, the daily rapture of the cloudworld: Into the Fog (glimpsed in the photo above), the kinship of this place with Avalon, which means Isle of Apples, the hare that ran ahead of me on my jog, who seemed to want to lead me into the woods: Follow Me, and a new friend, German poet/artist Werner Fritsch, whose poem of the same name inspired Nico, Sphinx of Ice, the first half of the album is truly connected to that time and place.

 

In January 2014, I put together a group of friends from Northwestern, Illinois Wesleyan, and the Bang on a Can Summer Festival to perform the first incarnation of this album.  It was a great deal of fun.  The video below is an excerpt from that performance.

The second half of the album, Psychopomp, 29 was written in the summer of 2015 in Amantha, NC a tiny town tucked away in the mountains near Boone, NC.  These songs are heavier and darker than those on the first half.  They are the other side of the same coin.  Free dreaming, indulgence, revelrie, and mysticism are happily enjoyed on Side A, and on Side B their darker side emerges.  I never intended to make the album this way, but there is a lot of truth in it.  I've found that songwriting, unlike the more abstract art of composition, is less predictable.  Songs take you where they need to go as you write them, and for me it seems wrong to force them another way.

The album coalesced on my thirtieth birthday in the summer of 2015 when I got to spend six very intense days arranging and recording the album with my three bandmates and friend Ryan, Chris, and Luke (see below).  I've never worked so hard and had so much fun at the same time.  We all hope you enjoy the results!

 

I performed vocals, guitar, piano, electronics/sequencing, and a few other things.

Below are the other personnel, to whom I'm greatly indebted.

Chris Fisher-Lochhead, viola, pedal steel, bass, trombone, vocals
Luke Gullickson, rhodes, piano, guitar, vocals

Ryan Packard, drums

Brendon Randall-Myers, guitar

Ben Willis, bass

Meerenai Shim, alto flute

Zach Herchen, bari sax

Elliot Cole, guest vocals

Madelyn Hjertmann, guest vocals

Kevin Lundgren, whistling

© 2019 by Ben Hjertmann, all rights reserved.