Caverns of Pine and Comic Artist Katie McBride Collaborate on Imagery for the Songs of Dissociate and Its Harrowing and Cathartic Stories of the Survivors of Sexual Violence

Caverns of Pine Dissociate cover (cropped)

The idea behind Brad Perry’s project Caverns of Pine was to, as he says, “dedicate an entire musical project to the ways different people survive the traumas of sexual violence.” The album was intended to reflect various stories from different perspectives to give voice to a broad swath of the experience of survivors and how they have continued to find a way to live. The single “Carved,” which includes vocals from Julie Karr, uses archly distorted guitar, tribal drumming and emotionally heavy but defiant vocals to create a complex narrative about how an experience can cut us in ways that perhaps alter the course of our lives. Using the concept of a “carving” as a metaphor for how an experience can change how we see ourselves and how we interact with the world on such a visceral and deep level with impacts that last the rest of our lives. The song also suggests that in spite of the experience we can use it and the energy it has dropped into our psyches to attain something positive in the end even if it requires more work than we think we’re capable of putting forth. Fans of Kylesa and Big|Brave will appreciate how the song combines abrasive sounds with flow and emotional catharsis.

“Carved” is part of the album Dissociate which first came out in 2018. But in 2019 and 2020 the record garnered renewed when a notable undeground comic artist was inspired to create short pieces from the lyrics of the album. Katie McBride is perhaps most well known for her striking graphic design work in Richmond, Virginia for event posters, record labels and the like. Her interpretation of the music started with a conversation with Perry and that turns into going down a rabbit hole of art history and the resonance of the themes of the album throughout history. McBride was kind enough to let us in on some of the fascinating process involved in making images from the lyrics of Dissociate, one of which is posted at the end of this piece.

“When Brad and I sat down, I had read through the lyrics and listened to the song several times, but hadn’t come to any conclusions about what visual narrative it was calling for,” says McBride. “The only thing that had really come to mind was the variety of ways in which you could interpret ‘carved.’ Is it a destructive act – possibly self-destructive or an act of creation – like carving something beautiful out of raw materials? Brad then framed the song as a story coming from shifting and overlapping perspectives. That framework helped me understand the need to represent the song in a way that depicted complex feelings within a single person – both empowered to break a silence, and wanting to retreat into a hole.

“In thinking about the creative aspect of carving, this Michelangelo quote came to mind: ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’

“In the context of the song ‘Carved’ I thought that the idea of the sculptor taking powerful agency to release a trapped figure would be a good visual metaphor for breaking a long held and painful silence.

“This sent me down a path to Michelangelo’s series of unfinished slave sculptures. I’ve always found these really compelling, and I think it’s because the unfinished statues look as though the figures are fighting to escape from marble blocks, and have been arrested in various states. I knew that the sculpture in my piece would reference these figures, and would be representative of a positive and hard-won creative release.

“I was then reminded of the Italian baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi, widely considered to be one of the most noteworthy female painters, and more broadly one of the best painters in the style, regardless of gender. During her lifetime, she was also well known for having been raped, and subsequently participating in the trial against the man who raped her. Despite this, she did have a very successful career as a painter, and depicted a variety of biblical scenes in which women were in positions of power over men.

“Looking at her paintings, I realized that a way to show the shifting perspectives of the song’s narrator and different responses to trauma was through not just one sculpture, but a body of work. The sculptor in the the piece for ‘Carved’ then took on some of the physical characteristics of Artemisia herself, referencing her self-portraits interpreted through a modern lens. An artist’s studio took shape around her.

“I reproduced Gentileschi’s painting ‘Jael and Sisera’ on an easel behind the sculptor, then added a variety of other paintings from across eras. All hold either personal or more broadly sociological meaning with respect to bodily autonomy. Each painting suggests different emotional responses to a traumatic experience, and the idea that they could all be created by the same person tries to capture the complexity of holding multiple feelings at once.

“The other paintings from the art historical canon seen here are Andrew Wyeth’s ‘Soaring,’ Frida Kahlo’s ‘The Wounded Deer,’ and ‘The Unicorn in Captivity’ from the Unicorn tapestries. The large painting of the angry, defensive fox, hiding amongst pine branches is original, but strongly based off the work of John James Audubon, and George Stubbs, both of whom painted scenes from the natural world.”

Listen to “Carved” on Bandcamp, where you can also explore the rest of Dissociate and follow other work from Caverns of Pine (linked below as well). Connect with Katie McBride at

“Carved” by Katie McBride, image courtesy the artist

Jessica Genius Dives Into the Depths of Delusional Obsession on Synth Pop Funk Song “You Don’t Belong Here”

Jessica Genius, image courtesy the artist

Jessica Genius sets the stage for us at the beginning of “You Don’t Belong Here” with the sound of the street outside a mall shop window before a minimal, effervescent synth stream accompanies the words of a guy who imagines himself falling in love with someone in the window who he’s never spoken to but, in typical creep fashion, projects a whole romance behind that momentary, yet obsessive, attraction. The line “You don’t belong here, neither do I” offers a peek into the depths of the delusional projection. Halfway through the song it turns from ethereal pop song to something with wilder beats and dynamics like the synth funk soundtrack to a scene in which the creep and the object of his obsession are entwined in scenarios you’d see in a typical romantic comedy of the montage of dates and activities, dancing. But the warped fantasy fades out without a return to the glimmering, misty-eyed infatuation from the first part of the song. What happened? Did the creep get caught and hauled off, slapped with a restraining order? Hit by a bus? Is this the first part of a larger narrative? One can only speculate but the dual sides of the song provide an interesting and unconventional structural and tonal contrast. Listen to “You Don’t Belong Here” on Soundcloud.

Ion Stream’s “New Rhea” is Melodiously Ambient Soundtrack to the Exploration of Star Systems Beyond Those We Already Know

Ion Stream Outer Worlds cover (cropped)

“New Rhea” by Ion Stream is flowing with twinkling, arcing melodic tones like the analog of a journey into star dense space. Rhea was the mother of the gods in Greek mythology after which the second largest moon of Saturn was named after being discovered by Giovanni Cassini in 1672. The title is perhaps not a reference to but suggests the exploration of another solar system populated by planets in homage to children of Rhea after which the planets of our own were largely named. The track opens with sweeping drones like solar wind and a melody reminiscent of the main theme to Profondo Russo by Goblin. But that melody expands into a spacious plain of sound. A dual melody carried both by strings and bright and ethereal synth tones trace the journey with impressionistic pulses of sound in drifty arpeggios while the aforementioned white noise of solar breezes washing through intermittently to give accent to the impression of movement and wonder into new vistas of human exploration and knowledge. Fans of the Hearts of Space program will find much to like here. Listen to “New Rhea” on Spotify and follow Ion Stream at the links below.

Jess Chalker Captures the Way Modern Life Demands of us a Brisk Pace and an Upbeat Attitude Even When We’re Not Feeling it on Her Second Single “Secrets”

Jess Chalker, photo courtesy the artist

With her second single “Secrets,” Jess Chalker channels a bit of mid-80s synth pop but through a modern production lens and with a self-awareness reminiscent of Lower Dens. The electronic drums are straight out of 1985 as are the spare, clipped, clean guitar work and the bouncy dynamic and the declarations of forever love. But Chalker mixes those elements with a song structure more in line with songwriting from the current era with a moment of clarity mid-song. What this format helps to highlight is the way perhaps an 80s song, sounding shiny and upbeat, concealed an emotional nuance, complexity and ambivalence. Like you’re feeling everything at once and having to juggle it all and try to process it all with integrity. Chalker sings about how everyone has secrets but some act innocent while concealing a “monster in the back yard.” The brisk pace of the song and its bright melody reflects how these days you’re expected to put on a positive face despite dealing with a lot of stimulation and expectations even when you feel like you can’t–that we all have to maintain a secret in modern life or seem like failures, a state that feeds into one’s dark side on the regular. Listen to “Secrets” on Soundcloud, connect with Chalker on Spotify and look out for her LP due out late 2020.

Anna Belle’s “Tokyo” is a Lush Piano Pop Song is a Meditation on Inspiring Yourself Out of Your Current Malaise

Anna Belle “Tokyo” cover (cropped)

Anna Belle is based in Nashville but her song “Tokyo” is about how she hasn’t felt like she fits in or is accepted by the local music world. The lonely, introspective piano line compliments well her fantasizing about Tokyo perhaps being a place where she would find a place. The lush production of the song imbues the song with a dreamlike quality that rims one’s fantasies that distract one from one’s place in life at the moment that dwelling on about might bring you down and make doing what’s important more challenging. There’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy to get you through a period of self doubt or other struggles and anyone that’s been a musician in any local scene or in the underground knows what it feels like to not be appreciated or understood. What makes the song especially poignant and interesting is that isn’t written to sound what Tokyo might be like and it doesn’t come off quite like someone who thinks moving to a place so culturally exotic will fix all her issues with feeling like a musical misfit. It’s the idea of that being a potential option and imagining what it might be like to be in a place like Tokyo. The reality of Tokyo, though, is that it is not a city of the future no matter what you’ve seen on TV. It moves at a fast pace but has rustic parts of the city as well. There are distinct districts and it is connected to a massively sprawling metropolitan area where an American would be shocked by how un-futuristic it is while also seeing phenomena that doesn’t often happen in America like a Denny’s being on the third floor of a tall building, quality and even healthy food at a convenience store, masses of people dressed like they’re going to an office job and then the occasional person dressed like they’re from a live action animated movie headed to Harajuku. But it all seems surrealistically mundane, just as can be seen in the movie Lost in Translation. Anna Belle apparently hasn’t been to Tokyo but in a roundabout way has intuited that Tokyo while an amazing place to visit is not indeed the land of her dream fulfillment. But, instead, it’s a place that can guide her out of a period of malaise and inspire a song that can perhaps guide you out of one of your own. Listen to “Tokyo” on Spotify and connect with Anna Belle at the links below.

The Sense of Mystery and Movement on Stephen Caulfield’s “Everything is Remembered” is Driven by the Lingering Effervescence of its Omnichord Melody

Stephen Caulfield To The Lighthouse cover (cropped)

The lingering effervescence of the Omnichord that carries the melody of Stephen Caulfield’s “Everything Is Remembered” gives the song a constant, nearly even flow. When the drum loops ease in, its soothing, almost hypnotic quality is reminiscent of early 2000s IDM. Like the song “Passing Through the Town” from Caulfield’s excellent 2019 album To The Lighthouse, a deep dive into various flavors and textures of ambient music, there is a sense of movement to a mysterious destination here, perhaps as suggested by the title of the release. But that mystery is something welcoming to which you are drawn by a promise of emotional fulfillment. Not the dramatic kind after a long period of struggle, but the kind where after long searching you find a space, a place, in your mind where you can experience a deep solace before wanting to or needing to be on to the next chapter of life. Listen to “Everything Is Remembered” on Spotify and connect with Stephen Caulfield at the links below.

BELORUSIA Takes Us Out of a Conscious Linear Sense of Time in the Collage Drones of “Non Era”

BELORUSIA “Non Era” cover

In naming this song “Non Era” BELORUSIA perhaps gives us a lens by which to interpret its layers of streaming drone. There is a great sense of space but one conveyed as if a collage of projected visuals with layers taking on different degrees of opacity. We hear an underlying drone bordering on a hazy wind of a sound, other drones flood in and hop back and forth between a higher and lower frequency, giving a bright tone with two different frequencies perhaps the difference between a bright blue and a luminescent violet. It sounds like what a time lapse film of an overnight flight through banks of clouds into the dawn looks like. It conveys a sense of time but one not tied to the utility of time as we often impose on time in our everyday lives to give it the contexual meaning that connotes such things as an era. Fans of the less guitar-oriented compositions by The Sight Below, Labradford and Stars of the Lid will find some of the same kind of mystery and sense of psychological vistas here. Listen to “Non Era” on Spotify and follow BELORUSIA at the links provided.