Photo credit: Jared Slomoff
Acoustic guitar pioneer Leo Kottke and Phish bassist Mike Gordon have announced the release of their first new album together in 15 years. NOON arrives via ATO Records at all DSPs and streaming services on Friday, August 28; the album’s physical release is set for Friday, November 20. Phish Dry Goods will have a limited pressing on clear vinyl with Red/Gold splatter. NOON is heralded by today’s premiere of new songs “Ants” and “I Am Random,” both available now at all DSPs and streaming services. American Songwriter premiered the songs earlier today with a Q&A feature.
Intricate, warmly askew, and indelibly dexterous, NOON showcases 11 remarkable new tracks created by two of the most accomplished and idiosyncratic instrumentalists in American music. The album – which marks Kottke’s first studio record since his previous collaboration with Gordon, 2005’s 66 STEPS – was recorded in New Orleans and Vermont, with music exchanged between the two artists by file, tape-sealed boombox, sheet music, and face-to-face. Working with longtime Gordon collaborator, producer/engineer Jared Slomoff, Kottke and Gordon have crafted a singular collection of improvisational mood music, including a stripped-back version of Gordon’s classic “Peel” and Kottke’s stark rethinking of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” NOON further includes a bopping cover of Prince’s “Alphabet St.” featuring Phish drummer Jon Fishman, who also joins Kottke and Gordon on four additional tracks. In addition, the LP includes nearly ambient appearances by pedal steel player Brett Lanier (The Barr Brothers) and cellist Zoë Keating (Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, Tears For Fears).
“The vibe is very different from the other two albums,” says Gordon. “I was hearing a darkness in the material Leo was bringing, and some of the material that I wanted to bring, that I thought just reflected going through 10 more years of life. There are overdubs, but it’s still more like you’re in a cafe or a living room with these two guys. And even when we had drums, we wanted to maintain that feeling.”
“I just knew there was a shape and that we were following it,” says Kottke. “We were trying to get to that place that we get to in a little room, just chasing each other. We’ve found that at soundchecks, and at my place, or his place, or some motel room. We wanted to get that late night feel. It’s a more intimate record than the others are, I think there are depths to it.”
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon have both staked out distinctive and original roles in the annals of American music. Beginning his career on John Fahey’s Takoma label in 1969, Kottke virtually invented his own school of playing with his distinct, propulsive fingerstyle. As a co-founder of Phish and solo artist, Gordon has both created both a boundary-pushing discography and helped inspire a generation of improvisers.
The pairing of Kottke and Gordon began some two decades ago when Gordon – a devoted fan of Kottke’s music – audaciously overdubbed a bass part over the veteran Minnesota guitarist’s 1969 solo track “The Driving of the Year Nail.” Gordon hand-delivered the piece to Kottke and the two musicians struck up a fast friendship and musical partnership, beginning with 2002’s CLONE and followed by SIXTY SIX STEPS.