All of your favorites, in one place.
There’s a particular twinkle in the great expanse of American songwriting. This has seen countless nostalgic exploitations over the years – collections of popular songs strung together under the banner of the so-called Great American Songbook that have reiterated the form of many of these songs without contemplating their depths. In terms of thoughtful, emotive synthesis, few have understood it in the way that Cara and Mike Gangloff understand it on this new album. They take have taken older American songs, popular songs that we’ve come to understand as standards, and stretched them out into the rolling hills and vast expanses that gave birth to the nation’s earliest music. American history is a history of tension. A group of aristocrats saw fit to bestow a limited degree of freedom upon the underclasses. They called this democracy, coopting a concept that terrified them in the hopes that the implications of its meaning might placate the unwashed masses. Within that sliver of freedom, incredible heights were reached. Blues. Jazz. Mountain music. And on and on. The songs on this record are recognizable. They’re classics. And yet here they play out in ways the songwriters could never have predicted. Cara and Mike Gangloff have married the colloquial with the eternal.
With certain songs, like “Sentimental Journey,” they lift the material out of its saccharine setting and into the troubling and sublime nation from which it springs. “All of Me” is rendered utterly psychotic, teasing apart the song’s desperate, masochistic, violent implications. The songs become essays about themselves, investigations into their own histories of terror and escape. “Mood Indigo” becomes a haunting dirge. “Cry Me a River” is a rhythmically jarring lightning rod of unease. The inventiveness of interpretation is spirit-raising. The cultural history of the country is one of cosmic entertainment in the face of excruciating injustice. Transcendence has always been necessary. For better or worse, the United States of America is a nation defined by expanse. The negative aspects hardly need be mentioned, but there’s a flipside, a cosmic expanse worth not only celebrating, but exploring further. An expanse that brings honor to the term. The drone exists in music as an attempt for humanity to somehow meld with the temporal. It reduces music to its most basic elements while lifting it out of itself. An area for contemplation, reflection. An opportunity to exist in space. A friendly reminder that life might possess something resembling a core. Cara and Mike Gangloff don’t so much reimagine old American music as infuse it with the life it’s always had. A life always just below the surface and a life far beyond the stars.
– Matt Krefting, Holyoke, MA 2016
Cara sang the lead parts (co-lead on Cry Me a River), arranged the singing, and cooked the food; Mikeplayed strings and percussion and a flute and led the band. The Great American Drone Orchestra is: Sharon Stacy, Charlie Andersen, Matt Peyton, Sonya Austin, Joe Dejarnette, Sally Anne Morgan, Isak Howell, Scott Prouty, Anne Hartman, Tatsuya Nakatani, Nathan Bowles, Michelle Dove, Reilly Stacy Blackwell, Abriel Stacy Blackwell and Willa Shea-Gangloff. Recorded January, February 2015 at Joe’s House, Studio 808Ambient, Topeka, Virginia, with only acoustic instruments and voices and no overdubs, the singers up in a balcony over the orchestra, all played and sung live, like floating on a trapeze.