Horse Feathers conjure an older definition of â€œgothicâ€ in their music. It is the term as used in Southern fictionâ€”at once horrible and beautiful. Like Flannery Oâ€™Connorâ€™s short stories or Tennessee Williamsâ€™ plays, the songs are populated by families and lovers that are grotesque in the way that they can barely conceal their terrible pain, yet they experience moments that approach transformative grace.
Horse Feathers is composed of one man (Justin Ringle) writing, singing and playing guitar and a constellation of musical acquaintances filling out the aural space with string arrangements and traditional instrumentation. The Broderick siblings (Peter and Heather) have offered the greatest contribution to Horse Feathersâ€™ recorded output, laying down pining cello and violin lines, vocal harmonies and folk and classical instruments such as celeste, saw, banjo and mandolin. When touring, the trio of Nathan Crockett, Catherine Oâ€™Dell and Sam Cooper are Ringleâ€™s backing band. Their music is a co-mingling of pastoral folk with classical and avant arrangements.
The band released their debut record Words are Dead on Lucky Madison in 2006 (and reissued on vinyl in 2008) and quickly cultivated a positive reputation and a devoted following. They subsequently signed to Kill Rock Stars and released House With No Home in 2008, and have been restlessly touring in its wake. If you catch the band on their tour, perhaps you can acquire their new 7â€, with the song â€œRoad to Ruinâ€ from the PDX Pop Now! 2008 compilation as the a-side and â€œWill Not Tryâ€ as its b-side. And you should see them at all costsâ€”I have been reminded of why I like music so much each time I have watched them play, from Justinâ€™s first time performing these songs in a friendâ€™s living room, to witnessing them hush a noisy crowd with their whispered performance at the Sunset Tavern this past winter.
Ringle grew up in rural Idaho, an experience that compelled him to seek out and create his own ethos, and that still informs his music. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 2004 and established connections with musicians there. In the arrangement of Horse Feathersâ€™ music, one can hear the soft, graceful foliage of the hemlocks of western Oregon, and one can feel the shadow and shade provided by their near-impervious canopy. But listening to Ringleâ€™s words, stories and his plaintive voice, and instead you hear the stolid and open lodgepole and ponderosa pine forests of his home. This part of Horse Feathersâ€™ music is from the other Pacific Northwestâ€”the Inland Empire, and its sound is of lonesome wind moving through the pines, of austere sunshine, cool summer nights and hard winters.
Horse Feathersâ€™ music is wrought with reckonings, heresy and redemption. Through it, Ringle embodies the clairvoyant seer, casting judgment while shaken by what he has seen. His body seems to act as a vessel for his voice, and the intensity and tautness that he brings to his delivery is astonishing. Horse Feathers not only offer the sound of the eventâ€”the exorcism, the baptism, the fight that ends the marriage, the funeralâ€”but of the days and years that follow, the solitude and contemplation. Theirs is a music that demands a quiet, a stillness, and concentration.
Horse Feathers: Curs In The Weeds [mp3]
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