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Hite — Light Of A Strange Day (March 24, 2017)

Hite — Light Of A Strange Day (March 24, 2017)

        Hite — Light Of A Strange Day (March 24, 2017)  Hite — Light Of A Strange Day (March 24, 2017)Location: Georgia ~ Brooklyn, New York
Album release: March 24, 2017
Record Label: Six Degrees Records
Duration:     37:50
01. Eliza Jane     4:26
02. If You Begin To Notice     4:13
03. Light     4:14
04. Lockstep     2:56
05. Old Crow     3:51
06. Hattnaru     4:33
07. Miss You     3:41
08. Nocturne     4:30
09. Spears     1:38
10. Try     3:48
℗ 2017 Six Degrees Records
•→√•→    Julia Easterlin voice / harp / viola / guitar / ukulele / piano / bass / percussion
•→√•→    Charlie Van Kirk   programming / percussion / synths / piano
•→√•→    Christopher Marion   violin / viola / cello / string bass
•→√•→    Shahzad Ismaily   bass / programming / synths
Rob Ross
•→√•→    Getting out of my “comfort zone”, this debut album from the artist Hite, is something different for me and is as interesting as it’s intriguing.  Julia Easterlin, who is Hite, did her earlier work by combining looping and layering her voice to create her music. On Touristes, an album done under her own name in collaboration, she began to move away from what she calls “the looping artist pigeonhole”.  The current incarnation of her work, Hite, is more of a vehicle for lyrical expression. This record, Light Of A Strange Day, she says, “is a natural progression, away from loops and into more flexible, expressive forms of storytelling. In the making of the album, I left behind all my familiar tools (loops, computer, effects pedals, rhyming lyrics) and played only acoustic instruments; one take, one mic, open ended, stream~of~consciousness. It was a completely different approach to music making, and releasing it under the Julia Easterlin name (which is so attached to loops and upbeat, poppy vocal music) felt somehow… dishonest. It’s been a decade since I wrote my first piece of looped vocal music, and I needed a fresh new home for my new music; so different from previous work.”  The songwriting process further explained, “In all my other work, I’ve recorded the music after having performed it at a number of shows. I know how it lands with a live audience, I know if it’s something people enjoy hearing. For Light Of A Strange Day, the songs were barely formed when I brought them in for recording.”  And for this first entry as Hite, the Georgia~born artist has sculpted something fully-formed and refreshing to these ears.
•→√•→    Case and points:  the opening track, “Eliza Jane”, which has vocal layers that tend to offset themselves with percussion and loops/splice of freeform jazz bits is instantly enveloping; her voice(s) are warm and inviting; “If You Begin To Notice” has nuances like the sound of breathing; a “close up” delayed quasi~lead vocal in a whisper and a distant musical background that’s both haunting but not intrusive and “Light” is fairly straightforward — driven with an acoustic guitar and some highly melodic and lovely background fills (sounds like keyboards, etc. — the vagueness of what the exact instruments makes it more interesting).  “Miss You” is uptempo; a musical loop and Ms. Easterlin’s self~harmonies are terrific — I love the echo effect and melody — and note how the soundscapes come in towards the latter~half of the song and “Try”, which opens with a just piano and Ms. Easterlin’s bluesy vocal, and is a perfect way to end this album.
•→√•→    Between the ambient textures and the perfectly balanced production, Julia Easterlin as Hite offers up a stellar debut.  Give it a listen; I don’t think it’s too difficult to find a place for it in your head. RECOMMENDED
•→√•→    http://popdose.com/
•→√•→    Lovely and unsettling. Brightly arranged and shot through with darkness. Rooted in folk yet still using the language of art rock and electronica. In her striking debut album Light Of A Strange Day, the artist Hite revels in these contradictions.
•→√•→    Hite is someone we’ve met before: she is the singer, multi~instrumentalist, and producer Julia Easterlin, who collaborated with the famed Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure on their album Touristes.
•→√•→    The new moniker marks a new direction for Hite: as Julia Easterlin, she made her initial reputation by looping and layering her voice to create her music. On Touristes, she began to move away from what she calls “the looping artist pigeonhole.” This record, Light Of A Strange Day, she says, “is a natural progression, away from loops and into more flexible, expressive forms of storytelling.”
•→√•→    Hite is New York~based, but she grew up in Georgia. “I grew up hearing a lot of southern Appalachian folk music,” she explains. “Maybe that doesn’t seem to fit with Björk and the rest of the things I listen to, but when I open my mouth to sing, one of those two things comes out.” In the process of arranging these songs, sometimes both of those styles share the same space.
•→√•→    Working with the multi~instrumentalist and producer Shahzad Ismaily (Lou Reed, Carla Kihlstedt, Marc Ribot, Sam Amidon, etc.), Hite began to flex her muscles as a producer and arranger. “I’d been in the studio with other producers before,” she says, “and I was always the only woman in the room. Without fully realizing it, I often conceded creative decisions to whatever guy was at the recording console.” But Shahzad encouraged her to trust her instincts — with the result that a lot of the songs on Light Of A Strange Day are first takes, and the arrangements were often done on the fly, a layer at a time. The resulting debut album is as unique as it is assured, a work that points towards the emergence of an exciting new musical voice.
Hite “Light of a Strange Day”
•→√•→    Lovely and unsettling. Brightly arranged and shot through with darkness.  Rooted in folk yet still 
using the language of art rock and electronica.  The artist Hite revels in these contradictions in her 
striking debut album Light Of A Strange Day. 
Hite is someone we’ve met before: she is the singer, multi~instrumentalist, and producer Julia 
Easterlin, who collaborated with the famed Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure on their album 
•→√•→    The new moniker marks a new direction for Hite: as Julia Easterlin, she made her initial reputation 
by looping and layering her voice to create her music.  On Touristes, she began to move away from 
what she calls “the looping artist pigeonhole.”   This record, Light Of A Strange Day, she says, “is a 
natural progression, away from loops and into more flexible, expressive forms of storytelling.”
•→√•→    Like the music on the album, Hite’s lyrical storytelling also plays with contradiction.  Songs like 
“Eliza Jane” and “Old Crow” sport titles that suggest old folk songs and could present themselves as 
trippy versions of old ballads about universal topics like love and loss.  But in fact, both songs are 
taken from Hite’s own experience.  “Eliza Jane” was written about the birth of her younger sister,
Eliza. “My family used to sing that old song (the folk song “Eliza Jane”) to her when she was a baby,” 
Hite recalls.  Her “Eliza Jane” is stormy and almost folky, building gradually with a series of eerie 
sounds that hover around the song’s edges.  As the opening track, it is a statement of intent — some 
of Hite’s songs may be quiet, but they are also disquieting.  “The album is admittedly contemplative 
and dark,” she says; “I had a heavy year and this album is the direct result of those experiences.” 
Perhaps nowhere is that better displayed than in “Old Crow,” based on a recurring dream she had 
several years ago, while living on a farm in North Carolina.  “For about two weeks I dreamt of a 
crow landing on my bed and looking at me, trying to say something, and then diving under the 
sheets.  I kept waking up and looking for a crow under my covers.”  The image of a bird that speaks, 
or tries to, is an old trope in folk music — and usually the harbinger of bad luck or death.  In this 
case, Hite says, “the crow and heartache are related.  I was going through a difficult breakup and 
started thinking about that dream; it felt like a good place to start a song.”  A timeless~sounding 
melody over a drone hints at American roots music; the ghostly strings and voices that appear and 
recede suggest some of Hite’s other musical heroes, art rockers like Radiohead and Björk. 
•→√•→    Hite is New York~based, but she grew up in Georgia.  “I grew up hearing a lot of southern 
Appalachian folk music,” she explains.  “Maybe that doesn’t seem to fit with Björk and the rest of 
the things I listen to, but when I open my mouth to sing, one of those two things comes out.”  And in 
the process of arranging these songs, sometimes both of those styles share the same space.  Which 
brings up the album’s other major storyline.
•→√•→    Working initially with the multi~instrumentalist and producer Shahzad Ismaily (Lou Reed, Carla 
Kihlstedt, Marc Ribot, Sam Amidon, etc.), Hite began to flex her muscles as a producer and 
arranger.  “I’d been in the studio with other producers before,” she says, “and I was always the only 
woman in the room. Without fully realizing it, I often conceded creative decisions to whatever guy 
was at the recording console.”  But Shahzad encouraged her to trust her instincts — with the result 
that a lot of the songs on Light Of A Strange Day are first takes, and the arrangements were often 
done on the fly, a layer at a time. 
•→√•→    This way of working required an unusual amount of flexibility not only from Hite, but from her 
team, which included producer/percussionist Charlie Van Kirk, and multiinstrumentalist/arranger
Christopher Marion.  Marion did all of the string arrangements, 
performing many of the parts himself, and on “Old Crow,” he played all of the instruments.  Van 
Kirk added both live and programmed percussion to the album, as well as a bit of guitar.  Still, Hite 
recalls, “throughout this project, Shahzad was very insistent that I play as many of the instruments 
as possible (including ‘playing’ the recording console), constantly reminding me of my own deep 
desire for women to be more visible in the industry as instrumentalists, producers and auteurs. 
This record is my first time playing bass, strings, piano, electric guitar, ukulele and harp on a 
recording. It’s also the first time I've taken on editing and production responsibilities for an album 
of my own.”  
•→√•→    It was the ukulele — actually, a baritone ukulele — that spurred the creation of “Hattnaru.”   That 
song is sung in a made~up language — the result of Hite having a ukulele melody that she loved but 
hating all the words she was coming up with.   A similar process produced vastly different results in 
“Nocturne,” which again began with Hite playing chords on the ukulele.  “I didn’t even know what 
the chords were; I just played shapes on the instrument over and over until words came out.”  Softly 
sung vocals spin out over an almost Chopin~esque figure, tinged with melancholy and regret.  An 
enigmatic string section may remind listeners of some Radiohead songs, and Hite acknowledges 
that she was “thinking of ‘How To Disappear Completely’ (from Radiohead’s Kid A), where the 
strings become a point of tension that you feel rather than hear.” 
•→√•→    Tension is also the watchword for the song “Miss You,” which begins with a headlong rush of
electronic sound and a vocal line that becomes gradually more distorted, before the song ends with 
a brief squall of feedback.  It’s difficult, but it feels emotionally honest in the context of a song 
written during a period of intense anxiety for Hite. 
•→√•→    Another surprising emotion drives the motoric, minimalist song “Lockstep.”  Hite was inspired by a 
documentary on the author J. D. Salinger.  “I never knew he was a soldier in World War II,” she 
explains.  “The documentary talked about how it affected him as a person and a writer.  I was 
fascinated by that, and felt a compassion for him that I didn’t expect to feel.  That was one of the 
songs that just bubbled up all at once.”  And in another bit of sonic contradiction, the song’s military 
imagery is offset by the gradual buildup of strings. 
•→√•→    Of course, most art deals in contradiction of some sort, and one of the most intriguing forms of 
contradiction is the way one song can mean several things to different people.  The closing track, 
“Try,” built around a Southern Gospel~inspired piano part, seems like it might be about a woman’s 
place in what is still often a man’s world.  But that wasn’t Hite’s intention: “First, I was thinking 
about socioeconomic justice, particularly for my generation, which is particularly burdened by 
student~loan debt. debt. Then the second verse is about a failing relationship.  Clearly though, it’s open to 
interpretation because people who’ve heard it keep asking if it’s about equality for women or 
feminism.”  The song features increasingly agitated strings, but then at the end of the track the 
texture clears,  clears, leaving only the calm, unruffled chords of Hite’s piano.  It’s almost as if she’s paused 
to take a breath, to prepare for whatever the next journey will be.
Bandcamp: https://heyhite.bandcamp.com/album/light-of-a-strange-day
Website: http://www.heyhite.com/

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