Damon & Naomi - The Sub Pop Years

D&N - The Sub Pop Years.jpg
D&N - The Sub Pop Years.jpg

Damon & Naomi - The Sub Pop Years

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Compiled by Damon & Naomi from their four albums for Sub Pop Records (1995 – 2002)

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Compiling the best of Damon & Naomi’s records over the course of four albums on the venerable Sub Pop label, The Sub Pop Years commemorates a grand chapter in the career of a band who never planned an existence in the first place. After More Sad Hits, the duo were ready to call it a day with their music careers and concentrate on their book company, Exact Change.  However, they were convinced to continue onwards by Sub Pop poobah Jonathan Poneman, who saw potential in their continued collaboration. It was not the first, nor last time, his hunches proved right. For the next ten years, Damon & Naomi developed from a studio recording project to a fully fleshed out band, with a knack for articulating sounds and accumulating collaborators that continues today.

Every early Damon & Naomi release was an event by virtue of its very existence, and Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi was no exception. It was not the final signature to an abridged letter, like More Sad Hits was, but rather marked new forays down future pathways. An eagerness to experiment with folk music formats from around the world, combined with the developing abilities of two true artists play out throughout this compilation, displaying the duo’s growing sound. Each album is indeed a leap, the most notable being With Ghost, where a friendship with the Japanese psych band Ghost led to one of the great cross-cultural collaborations in the history of independent music. For a couple of musicians who prided themselves on minimal delivery, their goals went up against the opportunity of having a large ensemble at their disposal. This, along with their growing comfort as band leaders becomes clear upon a full listen to Sub Pop Years. What emerges is something real and human, with both foibles and innovations, resulting in a unique honesty both awe-striking and endearing to witness.

1  Eulogy to Lenny Bruce
2  I’m Yours
3  Forgot to Get High
4  New York City
5  Eye of the Storm
6  Judah and The Maccabees
7  Tour of the World
8  Song to the Siren
9  The Navigator
10  The Mirror Phase
11  How Long
12  The New World
13  The Great Wall
14  In the Sun
15  Turn of the Century

Damon Krukowski – Guitar, drums, vocals
Naomi Yang – Bass, harmonium, vocals

with:

Kramer – Electric guitar, keyboards, tapes (tracks 3, 7, 11)
Masaki Batoh – Acoustic guitar (tracks 1, 6, 10, 13)
Kazuo Ogino – Keyboards (tracks 1, 6, 10, 13)
Michio Kurihara – Electric guitar (tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15)

tracks 3, 7, 11 from The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi, originally released 1995 (Sub Pop 322)
tracks 2, 5, 14 from Playback Singers, originally released 1998 (Sub Pop 425)
tracks 1, 6, 10, 13 from Damon & Naomi with Ghost, originally released 2000 (Sub Pop 501)
tracks 4, 8, 9, 12, 15 from Song to the Siren: Live in San Sebastian, originally released 2002 (Sub Pop 592)

All tracks recorded at Kali Studios and produced by Damon & Naomi, except 3, 7, 11 recorded at Noise New Jersey and produced by Kramer

Remastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music

Released by 20/20/20 in 2009

Praise for The Sub Pop Years:

“So many beautiful, evocative, and (to these ears) classic songs” – Brandon Stosuy, Stereogum

ON DAMON & NAOMI’S SUB POP ALBUMS:

THE WONDROUS WORLD OF DAMON & NAOMI

“After my last shows in the 70′s, I became a Music Celibate for almost 20 years. In 1996 my son Dave gave me this CD. I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world, with songs I really needed to learn how to play. Damon & Naomi found ten ways of talking about sadness without being sad-a wondrous and necessary achievement.” – Tom Rapp (Pearls Before Swine)

PLAYBACK SINGERS

“I sat beside Damon and Naomi at a screening of the classic underground drag movie Flaming Creatures, which is very beautiful and very, very slow. As most of the audience gradually trickled out or fell asleep, Damon and Naomi got more intrigued, till by the end of the event-free film they wore beatific smiles. Soon afterward, they started their book-publishing company, Exact Change, which published Kafka ephemera and John R. Stilgoe’s Shallow-Water Dictionary, a paean to marshes and estuaries.

“So, years before hearing their music, I could visualize exactly what they were going to sound like: like Kafka, Kafka père and Josef K in drag, pulling a rowboat slowly and quietly through chartreuse reeds in the gray dawn. Not unlike their previous band, Galaxie 500.

“On Playback Singers (Sub Pop), recorded at home on digital eight-track, Naomi brings breathy singing to new plateaus, and Damon sings much like Neil Young slowed down. A few guitars, mostly acoustic, a little harmonium, noodling bass and occasional light percussion fill in the long pauses between such languidly intoned phrases as ‘It’s so hard being me.’ The undemanding lyrics are vague and filled with water, shadows, reflections and air. Those who think Nick Drake was a speed freak will love it, and those who like to fall asleep to music will never hear the last song, Tom Rapp’s lovely ‘Translucent Carriages.’

“In concert, Damon and Naomi perform unaccompanied, sounding even more bare than their records and just as languorous. They are probably the quietest rock group in the United States.” – Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields)

DAMON & NAOMI WITH GHOST

“If the soaring arc of Damon and Naomi’s melodies intersecting with Ghost’s earthly meditations doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, there’s a chance you are already dead. This is mountain-peak listening par excellence.” Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance)

“PS – And I don’t consider the mountain-peak comment hyperbolic. I have actually listened to this record on a mountain-peak!”

SONG TO THE SIREN: LIVE IN SAN SEBASTIAN

“One afternoon when we were 17 or 18, we went round to a friend’s house, and he played us ‘This Car Climbed Mount Washington’ by a new band called Damon & Naomi. A tough kid from the school burst into tears. It was an extraordinary moment; here was music capable of taming brute beasts, and here was also all the promise and strange, distant loveliness of Galaxie 500 reborn into something new.

“In the late 1990s, we heard they were coming to London. My band sent out carefully worded announcements that we were available as openers, forgetting in our excitement that we had yet to release any records, and that no one had ever heard of us. We wore the promoter down over the next two years though, and we finally got to play with Damon & Naomi in a small club in Wolverhampton in 2001, nervously tuning up and smoking cigarettes before taking the stage.

“After that we played together whenever we could, whether New York, Boston or London, in fact anywhere but Wolverhampton.

“Damon does not have a youthful voice, or an indie voice – he has an ageless voice, full of beautiful weariness, a gipsy voice. Naomi’s eerie, counter-intuitive accompaniments and Kurihara’s electric guitar mesh behind it perfectly. This recording captures their live sound, which I remember most clearly from Wolverhampton, sitting at a table in a town in the middle of nowhere, too delighted to even take notes.” – Alasdair Maclean (The Clientele)