March 24th, 2015
HH002 – What You Have Come For Is Death: A soundtrack for The Animals, a novel by Christian Kiefer
As a musician, Christian Kiefer has always been interested in narrative as a vehicle for sonic material. Whether working with songs—as evidenced by Dogs & Donkeys and Of Great and Mortal Men—or with instrumentals—such as Czar Nicholas Is Dead and The Darkened Mirror—Kiefer has used narrative as a vehicle to propel the idea of sound into new territories. As a novelist, Kiefer presents quietly contemplative narratives filled with sweeping landscapes and introspective characters. It is work resonant of the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman, filmmakers Kiefer adores, and so is perfectly in tune with his musical output.
What You Have Come for Is Death is the first sentence of Kiefer’s new novel, The Animals (Liveright). The novel is about, in broad strokes, wildlife rehabilitator Bill Reed, a man who lives a quiet life in rural North Idaho. He hopes to marry the local veterinarian and build a future with her and her young son. However, Bill has a dangerous, criminal past that he has kept hidden and when it resurfaces it threatens to destroy everything he has built in the Idaho forests.
The idea to make a soundtrack album for the book arose soon after the final draft had been completed. Kiefer produced a lengthy visual “score” for the book—mostly a collection of texts and images that he hoped would inspire the musicians involved, (a score available as a digital download with this release). This material was uploaded to the cloud along with sound samples, instructions, and ideas. He then invited various musicians to look through those materials. Tracks were flown into and out of the cloud and Kiefer set to assembling the project in his home studio in Northern California, recording more material, overdubbing, mixing, and mastering.
Kiefer’s projects often include collaborators, some of them quite well known. He has worked with Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low, Wilco’s Nels Cline, The Band’s Garth Hudson, Smog’s Bill Callahan, Califone, Rosie Thomas, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, Will Johnson of Centro-Matic, and many others.
The musicians who stepped forward to work with Kiefer on What You Have Come for Is Death are some of the greatest working today. Kiefer’s longtime collaborator, experimental guitarist and songwriter Jefferson Pitcher, is present here, as are Tetuzi Akiyama, Tom Carter (of Charalambides), and Kevin Corcoran, all of whom have worked with Kiefer on previous instrumental projects. Scott Leftridge and Jason Roberts, long members of Kiefer’s live band, contribute parts as well. Newcomers to Kiefer’s work here include violinist Caridwen Irvine-Spatz, novelist and guitarist Louis B. Jones, and guitarists Patrick Hargon and Ross Hammond. A longtime fan of instrumental masters Boxhead Ensemble, Kiefer also enlisted Boxhead’s Michael Krassner and frequent Boxhead collaborator Fred Lonberg-Holm.
The result is a finely textured sonic experience, moving from thick drone-based pieces to country-tinged melodies rooted in rhythm. The project is divided into two landscapes, that of North Idaho, where Bill Reed is trying to build his new life, and Northern Nevada, where his dangerous past resides. The listening experience is meant to resonate with the text itself, to be listened to separately or alongside.