Medicine Singers – Honor Song Single Review

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To honor Indigenous Peoples Day, Medicine Singers share their latest single “Honor Song,” which features Sonic Youth‘s Lee Ranaldo (guitar), Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s Timothy Herzog (drums), Swans’ Thor Harris (drums), Dean Running Deer Robinson (powwow drum) and Zoon‘s Daniel Monkman, a Canadian Ojibwe artist (backing vocals). The song is meant to transport and connect both the performers and the listener to their departed loved ones wherever they may be. Shoegazer-meets-no wave guitar textures and swirling electronics are paired with the propulsive dynamism of the powwow drums and the Medicine Singers’ haunting cries.

Originally written by William Ruben Helms for The Joy of Violent Movement (READ HERE)

Medicine Singers is an experimental collective that can trace its origins back to a chance encounter between the Eastern Medicine Singers, an Eastern Algonquin powwow group and Israeli-born, New York-based guitarist and producer Yonatan Gat, who invited the group to a spontaneous collaboration on stage at SXSW 2017 after seeing them play outside the venue he was about to play.

That chance meeting led to a five-year live collaboration that saw Gat and the Eastern Medicine Singers playing festival stages across the US, Canada and Europe — and in many cases, those shows saw the Algonquin powwow group bring powwow to audiences and places that had never heard of it before.

The collective’s highly-anticipated self-titled debut was released last year through Yonatan Gat’s Stone Tapes, an imprint of Joyful Noise here in the States and through Mothland in Canada. Their acclaimed self-titled debut saw the Medicine Singers expanding into a full-fledged experimental supergroup that also included Swans’ Thor Harris and Christopher Pravdica, ambient music pioneer Laraaji, former DNA drummer and no wave icon Ikue Mori and the acclaimed trumpeter Jaimie Branch, who we tragically lost too soon last August, along with contributions from their co-producer and longtime collaborator Yonatan Gat.

Through their live shows and their debut album, the collective creates a spellbinding, mystical musical experience that cycles through a kaleidoscopic array of sounds including psychedelic punk, electronic music, acid jazz, spiritual jazz and a list of others. But, the genre-blurring approach is firmly rooted in the intense, physical power of the power of the powwow drum — and the Eastern Medicine Singers’ deep connection to their ancestral music and connections. The end result is material that lovingly honors and celebrates tradition while boldly breaking free from its restrictions — or in the words of Medicine Singers’ leader Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson: “These two cultures can work together, and blend together. We created something that needs to be out there in the world, to show people how we can work together and make something beautiful.”

To honor Indigenous Peoples Day, Medicine Singers share their latest single “Honor Song,” which features Sonic Youth‘s Lee Ranaldo (guitar), Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s Timothy Herzog (drums), Swans’ Thor Harris (drums), Dean Running Deer Robinson (powwow drum) and Zoon‘s Daniel Monkman, a Canadian Ojibwe artist (backing vocals) — all of whom make their official recorded debut with the collective. Recorded live at famed Montréal-based studio Hotel2Tango, “Honor Song” was produced and mixed by Gat with help from Swedish electronics maverick and frequent Fever Ray collaborator Peder Mannerfelt and Josh Berg, who previously worked on albums by Kanye West and Earl Sweatshirt.

Building upon the collective’s groundbreaking approach to Eastern Algonquin powwow music by blending it with elements of spiritual jazz, psych punk and electronic music to create a wholly unique post-genre sound, “Honor Song” is a brooding song fueled by heartbreak, loss and remembrance. Shoegazer-meets-no wave guitar textures and swirling electronics are paired with the propulsive dynamism of the powwow drums and the Medicine Singers’ haunting cries. The song is meant to transport and connect both the performers and the listener to their departed loved ones wherever they may be.

“Honor Song” is a dedication to loved ones, who have passed, namely vocalist Arthur Red Medicine Crippen’s partner Kathleen, who he lovingly refers in a statement you’ll see below as Ms. cat, as well as their collaborator Jamie Branch. The track was recorded two weeks after Branch’s death, in a recording session she was scheduled to appear on.

On this, his recorded debut with the band, Lee Ranaldo remarked, “Joining the Medicine Singers, both in the recording studio and live on stage, has been a highlight of the last couple years for me. Breaking boundaries and stressing the shared similarities between indigenous music and more modern styles has been a profound, expansive experience. Recording sessions with Native Americans, Canadian First Nations and local Brazilian players, along with an amazing crew of sympathetic collaborators, has, I think, opened up new avenues and ideas for us all. I’m very happy that ‘Honor Song,’ sung so beautifully by Artie Red Medicine Crippen, joined by Zoon’s Daniel Monkman, is the first released example that includes my participation in the group. More to come!”

Medicine Singers’ Arthur Red Medicine Crippen says in press notes: “’Honor Song’ was given to me by my uncle Wayne Red Dawn Crippen. When my wife Ms. Kat wasn’t feeling well I used to sing it to her when she was in the hospital every night. Ms. Kat is from the Ramapo tribe of NJ and NY, she’s also Montauk, her name is Spirit Dancer. When we were in the KEXP radio station in July, that was the song that came to my mind – the ‘Honor Song.’ I didn’t know how sick Ms. Kat really was, until I came home and she passed away in August. This song lingers because we lost her since we recorded it. When I sing this song I think of her the whole time. It’s a part of my prayer, I end each day singing this song and I know she’s listening. ‘Honor Song’ is a travel song, when people leave this world they travel to another dimension, and songs like this reach them.”

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