Sunday, June 17, 2007


ALBUM: Starvation Under Orange Trees
FILE UNDER: Visual / Big Beat / Acoustic
LABEL: howells transmitter

INFO: Songwriter Jon Bernson has relatives who are fossil hunters by trade. At his day job, he teaches DJ's how to sample and dig for vinyl. He named Ray's Vast Basement after an imaginary cave and made two albums about its' 100 million year history. The list goes on. He has an eye for unrealized possibilities from the past and keeps a machine in the cave to translate them into musical predictions.

The latest eureka began when the Actors Theatre of San Francisco asked Bernson to write and perform music for John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'. Three months later, he had a songtrack in place that gave voice to characters from across the Steinbeck catalogue and staked out a new forecast for Ray's Vast Basement. Over the next sixteen weeks, the band performed their cinematic folk to pin-drop audiences and seismic applause.

When the show closed, a natural momentum carried them into the studio. Songs were recorded, but before the album could be finished, their studio flooded. Though the tapes remained dry, few instruments were spared. A year later, the studio rebuilt, Ray's Vast Basement returned with a backlog of sonic ideas. Only the best tracks were kept, new parts emerged, a process of emotional archaeology began that unearthed layer after layer of music.

The result is a blend of obsessive songsmithing, acoustic rhythm loops, vivid melodies, kaleidoscope vocals, off-kilter arrangements and odd soundscapes. Folkish experiments appear throughout the album, beside unrepeatable live moments and patient studio soundcraft. 'Starvation Under Orange Trees' still contains the refugees of Steinbeck's shantytowns, but reincarnated in dustbowls of the future..

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