Talkhouse Playlist: Drone Pieces and Classic Singers with Mood Tattooed

A playlist where ambient, experimental and folk collide.

Singer, producer, composer and performer Hagan Knauth released his first record, Hush Tarantula, on Blankstairs this year. The folksy, psychedelic experimental album is full of textures that go beyond traditional music, yet stay anchored in a familiar and memorable pop-folk style through acoustic guitars and haunting vocal melodies. Today, he shares some of his favorite songs and influences. Enjoy!
–Dave Lucas, Talkhouse Marketing Manager

Smog – “Drinking at the Dam”

One of my favorite songs.  I love how it staggers forward, both tired and content.

Bill Callahan once described his songwriting process as having a “huge block of silence and you carve little bits out of it by making sound.”

Angel Olsen – “Iota”

This is from one of my favorite records for this time of year. “Iota,” in particular, is burned into my brain with the image of driving at dusk, around Thanksgiving time. The drums are beautiful; I love the brushes and the soft strokes. Angel’s voice is monumental. In my mind, she is on par with singers like Loretta Lynn and Roy Orbison. A nod must also be made to the producer John Congleton. His ear for separation and space in a mix can be enjoyed here in “Iota.”

The Cave Singers – “Lost in the Tide”

I’ve been following the Cave Singers for years, and Derek Fudesco’s guitar playing has influenced me immensely. I love watching him perform because you can see him go into a trance. The repetition in his style allows for that and I see a similar thing when watching Afro-beat guitarists, who rarely deviate from their groove. Derek creates a bed of sound and singer Peter Quirk uses that freedom to riff in a really poetic way. Marty Lund contributes minimally on the floor tom, creating a kind of heartbeat.

Roy Orbison – “Trying To Get To You”

There are a few versions of this song out there. Roy’s recording steals my heart for its warbling guitar and slap echo delay. A lot of music from this era has a subtle psychedelic quality. For that we can thank producer Sam Phillips, who pioneered the sound at Sun Studios in Memphis.

Bill Frisell – “Disfarmer Theme”

This record was written as an accompaniment to the work of Mike Disfarmer. Disfarmer is famous for his photos of people who lived in rural Arkansas during the 1890s. I first encountered his photos in an exhibition at the Neuberger Museum of Art, and became lost in them for hours. Put this record on and look at Disfarmer’s photos! Keep in mind that many of the subjects had never been photographed before, and perhaps never would be again.

Roscoe Holcomb – “Moonshiner”

No one knows the true author of “Moonshiner.” There are dozens of versions out there, none of which compare to this. This is so raw. It’s like the human equivalent of a whale’s song.

Huun-Huur-Tu – “Don’t Frighten the Crane”

Like “Moonshiner,” this song comes from the pit of the human soul. We all have the ability to throat sing, and after years of practice maybe you can sound like Huun-Huur-Tu. Find the lowest or near lowest note on a piano that you can comfortably sing, and hum the note with your mouth closed. Slowly open your mouth and explore different vowel sounds.

Folke Rabe – “Was??”

I discovered this drone piece through an old interview with Bonnie Prince Billy. It is best experienced with headphones. Lock your bedroom door and turn off the lights.

Bing & Ruth – “Reflector”

I listened to this composition on repeat during a few very dark months of my life. I still love hearing it, even though it cracks me like an egg. David Moore is brilliant on the piano. I’ve been gravitating toward the keys because of him.

Les Troubadours du Roi Baudoin – “Gloria”

Two years ago, my college roommates were watching the film “If…” which features another song from this record called “Sanctus.” I heard the music from the other room and immediately walked over to investigate. I’ve been listening to this record ever since, playing it a few times a month.