Way Out Weather
A1. “Way Out Weather” 6.18
A2. “Wildwood” 5.38
A3. “Milly’s Garden” 5.34
A4. “Shadow Bros” 4.29
B1. “Fiction” 5.44
B2. “Drifter” 3.59
B3. “Atmosphere” 5.09
B4. “Tommy’s Congo” 6.34
We are now accepting pre-orders for this title, which will be released on October 7, 2014. We anticipate that pre-orders will ship at least a week in advance of the release date. All pre-orders come with an immediate, free 320k MP3 download of single “Milly’s Garden,” as heard on NPR’s All Songs Considered. Pre-order customers will be entered in a drawing for a PoB t-shirt and signed test pressing, and the first 20 people who order will also get a free Way Out Weather poster. If you don’t yet have a copy, Steve Gunn’s Time Off will be on sale ($15 LP/$10 CD/$24 LP+CD) for the entirety of the pre-order period.
In Donald Barthelme’s 1982 story “Lightning,” the narrator, a journalist investigating lightning strike survivors, reflects that “lightning changes things; the soul burns, having been struck by lightning.” He wonders about aesthetic (and supernatural) dimensions—is “lightning an attempt at music on the part of God?” Three decades later, as the catastrophic effects of climate change encroach upon the realms of science fiction, how might our communications and social conventions change, becoming correspondingly weirder and darker? Weather is, after all, both a formulaic conversation starter across cultures and a shared condition that connects us experientially. So what happens when “How about this weather?” becomes a less banal and much more compelling, and dangerous, question?
While ecological unease worries at the edges of Steve Gunn’s bold new full-band album Way Out Weather—the breathing sea of the billowing title track, the bad wind and moon over “Wildwood,” the polluted pyramid and blue bins in “Shadow Bros,” the desert heat sickness of “Atmosphere”—the resonance of the title is primarily metaphorical and oblique. Written largely while on tour, the record is an elliptical but seductive travelogue, more engaged with navigating foreign (“way out”) emotional landscapes, and with grasping at universal threads of language and narrative, than with bemoaning rising sea levels.
Despite the album-opening lyric to the contrary, “Way Out Weather” is an uncommon song in Steve Gunn’s discography. Sonically and lyrically the album demonstrates a radical evolution, lighting out for lusher, more expansive, and impressionistic territories; it’s his first major work as an artist for whom the studio provides a critical context. A more enigmatic and elevated affair than its predecessor, Way Out Weather completes Gunn’s satisfying transformation into a mature songwriter, singer, and bandleader of subtlety and authority. It ranks as most impressive and inviting record yet, an inscrutable but entirely self-assured masterpiece.
The critically acclaimed Time Off (2013), his first full-band album highlighting his vocals, represented the culmination of Steve’s steady fifteen-year migration from the frontier fringes of the guitar avant-garde, where he is regarded as a prodigy, and toward his especial style of more traditionally informed (albeit deconstructed) songcraft. Those songs developed from years of woodshedding and performance, offering a linear, local narrative that mapped the contours of Gunn’s Brooklyn neighborhood and a matrix of musical friendships, earning him a broad new following.
Less patently intimate, Way Out Weather angles for something far more cosmic, dynamic, and widescreen in sound and sentiment. In contrast to the interiority of Time Off, these eight decidedly exterior songs aren’t grounded by the specifics of geography, instead inhabiting headier, more rarefied altitudes (see in particular the ethereal “Shadow Bros,” “Fiction,” and “Atmosphere.”) They step beyond home and hover above horizon, unmoored from immediate circumstances and surroundings. Here Gunn’s discursive, mantric guitar style, at once transcendent and methodical—and as influenced by Western guitarists such as Michael Chapman and Sonny Sharrock as by Ghanaian highlife, Gnawa, and Carnatic forms—maintains its signature helical intricacy and mesmeric propulsion, while buoyed by a bigger crew of musicians, a wider instrumental palette, and higher production values than ever before.
Belying their ambitious new scale and scope, most of these songs arrived at Westtown, New York’s scene-seminal Black Dirt Studio as skeletal solo demos. An enthusiastic and generous collaborator—recently he has partnered with Kurt Vile, Michael Chapman, Mike Cooper, the Black Twig Pickers, Cian Nugent, et al.—Gunn assembled an accomplished group of comrades to flesh out the full arrangements, trusting the germinal songs to an instinctual process of spontaneous composition, transposition, and improvisation. The WOW studio band comprised longtime musical brothers Jason Meagher (bass, drones, engineering), Justin Tripp (bass, guitar, keys, production), and John Truscinski (drums), in addition to newcomers Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, keys: Black Twig Pickers, Pelt); James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro: Freakwater, Jeff Tweedy); Mary Lattimore (harp, keys: Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile); and Jimy SeiTang (synths, electronics: Stygian Stride, Rhyton.)
This preternaturally intuitive and inventive band allowed Gunn to sculpt the album as a composer and colorist as well as a player. The cascading runs of “Milly’s Garden,” the menacing urgency of “Drifter,” and the alien, galvanic syncopation of album closer “Tommy’s Congo” (the latter unlike anything Gunn has heretofore recorded) display a thrilling mastery of heavier, increasingly kinetic full-band arrangements. His vocals throughout are more present, commanding, and refined, revealing a restrained but highly nuanced baritone capable of remarkable grace.
Way Out Weather is Steve’s career-defining statement to date. Lightning changes things; the soul burns.
- A radical widescreen evolution, featuring a larger band and lusher arrangements, this is the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s career-defining statement to date
- Available on 150g virgin vinyl as an LP, with deluxe tip-on jacket and full-color inner sleeve, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
- Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon
- Featuring photography by KT Auleta, Dan Murphy, and Constance Mensh
* Time Off was recognized as one of the best albums of 2013 by The Washington Post, Uncut, Urban Outfitters, Aquarium Drunkard, The Wire, Buzzfeed, Other Music, Yo La Tengo, and PopMatters, among others.
The guitarist blends the traditional and the avant-garde, fusing the sounds of John Fahey, The Grateful Dead and Will Oldham into back-porch masterpieces. Gunn’s virtuosic guitar work is still the main attraction, but his backing band of session players gives the song a Rolling Stones-circa-Exile on Main Street vibe. The sick instrumental jam that unfolds after about two and a half minutes is simultaneously earthy and epic.
- Otis Hart, NPR’s All Things Considered, on “Milly’s Garden”
This is masterful, textured and gorgeous. The double-tracked melodic lead guitars billow in like warm sheets of rain. You can sense, as a listener, that every single player has the same overall shape in their mind, and you can feel them all pushing towards it.
- Jayson Greene, Pitchfork, on “Milly’s Garden”
Our heads are blown. How did this NY guitarist become a cosmic-psych visionary? Assured groover “Milly’s Garden” feels like it’s been around forever.
- MOJO Playlist, September 2014, on “Milly’s Garden”
Following 2013’s excellent Time Off, this is a fuller, richer-sounding album. Gunn is an incredible guitarist, [and this is] a sun-dappled, easy highway song, the gleam of guitar pressing against the tarriness of Gunn’s voice.
- Laura Barton, The Guardian, on “Way Out Weather”
After last year’s exceptional Time Off, the new guitar master continues to expand his vision.
- Uncut Playlist
This is the most elaborately arranged thing Gunn has ever done, jammed full of understated yet excellent guitar. Perfectly placed licks that reference Richard Thompson, Jerry Donohue, Robert Fripp, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, and Ali Farka Toure make it a veritable encyclopedia of guitar sounds. It moves with a blend of head-down purpose and furtive apprehension—an apt soundtrack for a world where you need to keep one eye on the street and the other on the weather.
- Bill Meyer, The Wire
Goes from ramshackle Southern-fried folk-rock to psychedelic intrumental jam and back again. It’s a gorgeous piece of work.
- Tom Breihan, Stereogum
Way Out Weather sees Gunn delving deeper into folk rock contemporization, now applying more intricate production and atmospheric arrangement, somewhat akin to early-’90s Crazy Horse playing a show in a city on the clouds.
- Mike Sugarman, Ad Hoc
Steve Gunn is maybe my favorite guitarist right now. His new LP is breathtaking.
- Steven Hyden, Grantland
Though Gunn’s throaty baritone and stunning guitar work remain pillars of his earnest sound, a new sheen of blues-inspired grittiness abounds throughout the track.
- Josh Terry, Consequence of Sound
It’s impossible to just talk about Steve. He’s too good! I just want to listen to him. Hearing Steve, I was completely blown away, beyond. It made me want to be a part of it myself.
- Kurt Vile
My favorite new artist.
- J Mascis, Pitchfork
Appalachian mandalas. Cosmic folk songs that feel highly intricate and effortlessly propulsive, like Robbie Basho sitting in with the Doors.
- Chris Richards, The Washington Post
Gunn is blessed with a voice as rich and warm as Tim Buckley or a young Van Morrison.
- Nick Southgate, The Wire
Spiraling guitar songs that give more than they ask: these are generous compositions, gently presented Gunn’s a descendent of the Dead, but also of J.J. Cale and La Monte Young and Bert Jansch and Frank Hutchinson, and his guitar playing has a mesmeric quality, a tender circling that feels almost like being swaddled.
- Amanda Petrusich, Pitchfork
Luminous, blooming, meditative chants. Just beautiful. I can’t really think of anyone who wouldn’t be into this excellent album.
- James McNew (Yo La Tengo)
In the John Fahey-inspired, post-Jack Rose world of American-primitive-folk-meets-blues-meets-raga-meets-noise music, Gunn is quite simply the best. Bone-chilling.
- Emilie Friedlander, The Fader
His tunes unfurl like bales of wire rolling down country roads.
- Alastair McKay, Uncut
Some examples of historical gamechangers are Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Radiohead’s Kid A, and Scott Walker’s Tilt. We may soon be adding to this list the new album by Steve Gunn… a prism of airy blues, ambling jazz-folk, and subtle but virtuosic guitar dreamweaving. Imagine the Dead’s “Bird Song” performed by guys who know all the Sun City Girls records by heart.
- James Toth (Wooden Wand), Aquarium Drunkard