- Add to Cart
Screen of Province
In Slow Arcs
- Artist/Title: Autumn in Halifax - Kites With Broken Strings
- Format: CDR
- Label: Carbon Records
- Price: $8
- Catalog ID: CR117
autumn in halifax is "the quiet avant folk drone guitar and voice of david merulla." and this release showcases pretty much every aspect of that description. in addition to his amazing guitar/looping and vocal work, he is joined on a number of tracks by various friends from his previous stomping grounds in the San Diego (post)pop/rock scene. David does an amazing job of mixing delicate (and catchy) melodies and looping, with abstract sounds and textures . www.autumninhalifax.com
Reviews (4):Two Way Monologues
A lot of people have a tough time understanding how I can appreciate watching baseball, golf or even (gasp!) curling as much as I do, and I can understand that. The reality is that those activities just move too slowly for the majority of people.
It can be the same way with a movie, like one of my all-time favourites, Waking Life. I find that movie riveting, and to date I still am trying to wrap my head around the intricacies of what it all means. I'd be an idiot to expect everyone to have the patience for that type of movie. And I would be an idiot to expect everyone to have the patience for Autumn in Halifax's record Kites With Broken Strings.
Patience is absolutely crucial to enjoy Autumn in Halifax. There are moments that occur in the album that are absolutely crushing. The music has a way of lulling you into a mesmerized state where it is just you and the music; and then, like a cold bucket of water to the face, an abrupt change in the pacing or volume awakens you. It is just an incredible feeling when music can do that to you. The key is in the build up, or what I referred to as the lull. Rudimentary rules about song lengths are ignored here, and whatever length it takes to satisfactorily complete the song is used instead.
The album title is fascinating, isn't it? Kites With Broken Strings -- what does that mean to you? To me, the one word that comes to mind is potential. A kite with broken strings at is useless; the sole function of a kite cannot be performed without strings. But that doesn't mean it can't regain that potential again and that it hasn't done beautiful things before. Maybe I am completely wrong and the band just named the album what it did because it sounds cool. I hope not. I also like my analysis because it fits well with this music in general. It is only as rewarding as you let it be. A casual listen to songs like "Farewell" just isn't going to cut it.
"Farewell" actually offers the listener a great microcosm for what they going to experience during Kites With Broken Strings. Clocking in at 10:38, it is a slowburn, to say the least. In many ways I am reminded of Raising the Fawn but with a heavier emphasis on folk and more of a hint of fragility in David Merulla's vocals. Repeatedly, Merulla plays this quiet tranquil melody against the rhythmic drums, and the melody has more of an effect on me than most hard rock riffs ever do. When I listen to this song I know that everything will go on hold for ten minutes of my life and I can just let myself get lost into this music. And this, as I am discovering, is the true beauty of the drone style.
For a minute and thirty seconds "Memphis" plods forward as it builds toward something, but the repetition soothes you -- and then it happens and demands that you perk up and listen. Merulla's voice couldn't be described as polished, it has a raw quality that contrasts well with the meticulous thought that goes into the guitar and instrumentation. I wouldn't suggest playing any of these songs at your next social gathering, but in those late artistic, contemplative hours of the night this is the soundtrack that you are craving.
I am asking/encouraging anyone who reads this and would like to share an opinion on what they think the following lyrics mean to post or email and let me know, because I find them utterly fascinating:
"Ghostly coma breaks/the radius of your smiles/when I need them most/Sparkles rival faith/Rivals sparkles truth/Sparkles rival faith/Rivals sparkle truth"
Those lyrics come from "Stinger Glows Relief," another of the many excellent tracks Kites With Broken Strings has to offer. The song is constructed to force the listener to focus on Merulla's voice and those mysteriously beautiful lyrics. In spite of not knowing precisely what the lyrics mean, the sadness or despair in this song is still bordering on overwhelming.
And it doesn't end with the three songs I mentioned. On their own these songs are decent, but as a whole the album is a more powerful and rewarding experience. The learning curve is higher, so you make the call. The flavour of the month or something that you won't be sick of this time in July? That is up to you.
Songs to hear: As your attorney, I'd advise listening to the entire album. (Fear and Loathing reference, for those who just decided that I am crazy.) SCORE: 8.5 - Dan
Cover story excerpt Rochester City Weekly (OCTOBER 26, 2005)
A brisk wind blows through David Merulla's music
At times, he inhabits his own music with such a gentle touch that he may as well be a ghost himself. His playing also moves forward at an unhurried pace almost unheard of in this day and age.
The arrangements, which feature light electronic touches and playing and recording by members of Kill Me Tomorrow, Bartender's Bible, and the Black Heart Procession, leave ample room for echoes. Echoes in the spaces of buildings, echoes that span the rural American West... echoes of a tree-lined Rochester street bracing itself for the cold. - Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
Autumn in Halifax is (mostly) David Merulla, and to get an idea of his music, it helps to know that he’s intrigued by both nature and architecture, and these two obsessions shape his music. Like the former, his songs are often unconstrained and unpredictable, changing direction and feel without warning. But like the latter, Merulla’s songs possess shape, though it’s not always apparent. This is the rewarding part of his music—a few listens just do not suffice. You have to live with the songs to discern the overall harmony and symmetry of its components, and what first sounded like random noise reveals itself to be part of a larger structure. Merulla, you might say, paints on a large canvas, and standing too close prevents you from seeing the complete picture. Once you see it, though, you can’t look away, despite that it’s often haunting, lonely, and unsettling.
Kites with Broken Strings is Autumn in Halifax’s new album; consisting of eleven tracks, it exemplifies Merulla’s eccentric brand of folk. Merulla handles vocal and guitar duties, but it would shortchange him to say he “plays” the guitar. All the conventions of guitar playing—pleasing chord progressions, catchy hooks, pyrotechnic guitar solos—are absent from Merulla’s songs. Lest you think, though, this means Merulla doesn’t know the tool of his craft, he does. His approach, however, is completely different from the classic pop model of verse/chorus/solo/chorus/fade. Instead, his guitar lines drift back and forth, moving in and out of frame, disappearing only long enough to instill a sense of unease and anxiety, returning to both please and taunt. His playing has been described as “quiet avant folk drone,” and while it’s all of these things, it might be more apt and succinct to say it’s surreal. Each song on Kites with Broken Strings sounds like a collage of fragments of dream or memories, juxtaposed against one another, the interplay equally revealing and disturbing.
Adding to the illusory feel of Autumn in Halifax’s songs is Merulla’s voice, which is always shaky, often shrill, and deliberately off-key. Yes, this doesn’t sound like the kind of music you play at a party, and it isn’t—at least, that is, not until all the obligatory guests have left and only your core group of confidantes remain. Autumn in Halifax, you see, isn’t for everyone, but only those who enjoy investing in the listening experience, those who know that rewarding art often requires something from the observer. And Merulla’s voice and songwriting do require that you pay attention, but together, they are hypnotic, each chasing after one another until they collide.
Overall, Kites with Broken Strings is disquietingly serene, much like a memory that has no tangible power in the present, but still manages to disrupt. Indeed, songs like “A Quiet Long Enough” and “In Slow Arcs” capture the transitory nature of memories, each based on loose guitar patterns that repeat themselves. “A Quiet Long Enough” is an instrumental song, and the repeating guitar patterns are complimented with backwards electric guitar notes. This gives the song a reverse momentum, as if any forward progress is always determined, and ultimately thwarted, by what came before. “In Slow Arcs” features vocals and instrumentation, but still feels transient. Drums crash into the middle of the song, accelerate the pace, but then disappear into the background. Later, they repeat the same pattern, creating a bizarre ebb and flow.
Lyrically, Merulla isn’t interested in telling stories or creating character sketches; rather, he gives the listeners images and lets them make connections. You might, for instance, think a song titled “Memphis” would tell of drunken nights down on Beale Street, but that’s too obvious. Instead, Merulla presents a series of snapshots that, while loosely related, don’t tell a coherent story: “The sound of winter... I came to... Memphis... we left it in the sea.” Likewise, in “Water + Wire,” the listener is forced to make coherence out of fragmented thoughts: “Nothing left unless we rest / Accidents, they... they test / The gentle texture of water and wire.” Only half the words in most the songs are discernible, which somehow makes the lyrics all the more intriguing. Of course, such lyrical wordplay would be easy to dismiss as artistic pretension, but Merulla’s lyrics make perfect sense within the context of his songwriting.
Like both architecture and nature, Autumn in Halifax’s songs deal with the role of space—the space between people, the space between the past and the present, and the space between reality and illusions. Kites with Broken Strings is perfect for pondering such reflective matters, and while it offers no answers, it makes you realize that questioning is better than knowing.
Transitory and haunting, Autumn in Halifax's songs sound like all those past moments that determine your present situation. - Michael Franco
Delusions of Adequacy
“Thank you...from the bottom of my bloody folk heart,” David Merulla writes in the liner notes for Autumn in Halifax’s Kites with Broken Strings, and I’m struck with what an interesting description that would be for this band: bloody folk. Take your structured folk music, and dissect it, sometimes into its barest components and sometimes into delectable chunks of folk goodness, and you get the unique and endearing sound of Autumn in Halifax.
Rochester native Merulla is the heart of his bloody folk sound, assisted on the album with assorted friends, and on this release, he delivers one of the most intriguing albums I’ve heard in ages. There’s tracks here for those who love traditional song structures and those who eschew them, and sometimes both will be pleased in the same song. At the heart of these songs is a moody folk sensibility, but Merulla and friends get so creative in mixing these songs and adding in ebow, lap steel, Rhodes piano, and assorted noises, that the result is something truly unique.
The album opens with the quiet “A Quiet Long Enough,” which warps its guitars forward and backward, creating a kind of ambient soundscape. It’s merely a prelude, though, to the lengthy and brilliant “Farewell,” which gives perhaps the perfect feel for Autumn in Halifax’s sound. It’s flowing, eerily moody at times and yet striking in Merulla’s lyrics and lilting vocals. The drums are booming, the guitar repeating its lines in the backdrop, keyboards lilting and pretty by contrast, and what seems incohesive in theory comes together beautifully.
“In Slow Arcs” brings to mind Joan of Arc in structure as well as Merulla’s purposefully off-key singing style. “Water + Wire” is sweet and gentle, and Merulla’s singing style is endearing more than jarring, nicely complimenting the rich tones of this quiet yet poppy track. “Echo in the Lower Case” is a gentle instrumental, lilting and smooth and evocative. It leads nicely into the album’s centerpiece, the brilliantly powerful and instrumentally textured “Memphis.” The album is rounded out by the more folky “Aluminum Smile,” creative found songs to back up “Lemon Tigers,” more poppy “Pretty Noise,” the stark and stripped-bare “Stinger Glows Relief,” and the esoteric “Screen of Province” that provides a nice bookend to the opening instrumental.
Merulla spins tales in true folk style that take on an almost dreamy feel, his lyrics telling of “birds, avalanches, water, hearts, and silence,” as he notes in his bio. His instrumentation – at times quiet and moody, at times experimental in approach – is the perfect accompaniment to these tales and still works on its own in the instrumentals. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting lost in these songs, wondering where the time went, wondering where these strange and discomforting thoughts are coming from. Merulla’s music is meant to lull you disarmingly and strike you with its dichotomies. It’s enigmatic and unusual and startlingly effective. And I’ve yet to hear a release this experimental in approach work so well. This is truly a gorgeous album. - Jeff Marsh
- Add to Cart
- Artist/Title: Autumn in Halifax - Robert Frank & The Moon
- Format: BOOKLET and CDR
- Label: Carbon Records
- Price: $8
- Catalog ID: CR175
The short story Robert Frank & The Moon written by David Merulla began as a title written in one of David's notebooks and then continued to reappear in subsequent notebooks and on various scraps of paper. David's affinity for the Swiss photographer Robert Frank plays a subliminal part in seeing the story through however the story is more about memory, shapes and origami. The companion soundtrack ep is an instrumental music recording by Autumn in Halifax & The Leaves, meant to be listened to while reading the story, however can also be enjoyed by itself. The ep was recorded live to two track at the Wolf Den, Rochester, New York by Joe Tunis, mixed by Chris Reeg & David Merulla. Autumn in Halifax & The Leaves is David Merulla, Scott Oliver, Chris Reeg and Joe Tunis. [package include a 5x7 booklet with pro-printed cover, silkscreened cdr and silkscreened kraft stay-flat envelope]
This is an EP of instrumental tracks from the wonderful Autumn in Halifax – the band that is directly responsible for the existence of Pirtlegimp Promotions. These tracks are the audio portion of a package that includes a short story and should still be available from Carbon Records should you be interested. If you like the more minimal and lo-fi leaning post rock then you should be all over this; to me it sounds like a very slowed down collaboration between The Dead C and the pretty post rock band of your choice. - Rob Rioux
Indie Street Radio
Autumn in Halifax - The Story: Taking notes from Raymond Carver and Proust in a distinctly contemporary sense, Robert Frank & The Moon uses a traffic accident as the centerpiece to thematically explore and concretize an Augustinian conception of time.
The Music: The soundtrack to Robert Frank & The Moon stands on its own right as a contemplative (primarily) guitar-based piece with a distinct interplay between both arpeggio rhythm and warm-sunset-drone, and structured song and ambiance.
The “Total Package”: There is an inherent problem of putting story to music in this fashion: timing. That is to say, should one read the story to the pace of the music, is the music composed to fit the average amount of time one takes to read the story, how closely aligned is the music to the story, etc.? I chose to simply read the story at my own pace accompanied by the music without worry of any sort of artistic intention of alignment. While I finished the story sometime in the third song of the “soundtrack,” it would be inaccurate to say that this juxtaposition doesn’t have any meaning. My reading often became one with the pervading rhythm or mood of the piece, mimicking the narrative’s complex, intersecting, and inextricably tangled rhythms of life.
- Add to Cart
Dyed in the Wool
- Artist/Title: Autumn in Halifax - the soft, soft shakes
- Format: CDR
- Label: Carbon Records
- Price: $10
- Catalog ID: CR177
Recorded in multiple studios over the course of 2007 and 2008, in both Upstate New York and San Diego California, Autumn in Halifax; David Merulla and W.Dirk Doucette, along with various contributors put together another collection of songs with considered arrangements and colored by multiple instruments including Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes pianos, singing saw, accordion, trumpet, vintage effects and the familiar guitars,drums and bass. The warmth of 1970's rock and roll, concise pop songs and subtle experimentation all can be found within this particular song cycle.
Reviews (1):City Newspaper
Setting out to make a "more pop-sounding" album this time around, Autumn In Halifax leader David Merulla proves that poppiness doesn't have to come at the expense of substance. Merulla's work can flow as gently as a canoe being carried downstream by a slow current, but tends to be heavy on the atmosphere. He also writes prose, and his songs often come across like the sonic equivalent of pastoral scenes described in dense passages of literature. By contrast, "Soft Shakes" immediately gets off to a more anthemic start with the singalong-inducing "Sleepwalkers." As the album goes on, drummers William Doucette and Jonathan Stevens provide lively beats even as Merulla begins to evoke the deep stillness of vintage acoustic Neil Young. Merulla has an unparalleled knack for challenging your expectations while going easy on your ears. As accessible and beautiful as it is, "Soft Shakes" still commands a most rewarding kind of patience. - City Weekly