Owen Pallett surprise releases new album ‘Island’, tells us about the music that influenced it
This is a nice surprise. Owen Pallett has released a new album, Island -- out now via Domino and Secret City (Canada). Working a little differently than usual, Pallett wrote the nine songs on acoustic guitar and then worked out orchestrations for them, and recorded with the London Contemporary Orchestra at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. You can stream the whole thing below now.
The lead single from Island is "A Bloody Morning" which features Greg Fox on drums and comes with a very striking music video. Conceived and shot during lockdown by director Vincent René-Lortie and choreographer Brittney Canda, the video features dancers, who range in age from 6 to 72, filmed entirely through windows and doorways with no contact. “Honestly, at first I wasn’t sold on the concept,” says Pallett. “I worried that the video would end up pornographing the quarantine, and I declined.” Convinced by the directors to give the concept a shot, Pallet gave the OK and upon seeing the finished product, "I was floored,” Owen says. “I couldn’t believe how cathartic it was to see the video, how perfectly it fit the song, and how meaningful and necessary it was for me to see it when I did.” This is not your average isolation video shot on an iPhone, and dancers include members of Montreal's indie music community (Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, for example). Watch the video below.
Meanwhile, we asked Owen to tell us about Island's influences, and he gave us a list of 10 albums, which you can read, complete with Owen's commentary, below....
Owen Pallett: Music that influenced Island
Arca - Mutant
Arca opened my mind and my heart toward how I felt I could write “queer” on a fundamentally compositional level, like, write it right into the DNA of the music itself.
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
This album (and tabs for the songs on it) taught me how to play finger style guitar, and any album I make that is centred around the guitar is going to be indebted to it in some way.
Charles Ives - Concord Sonata
Bitonality— music that exists in two simultaneous keys— is a common early-mid 20th century compositional device that never really made it much into pop songwriting. I did a lot of this on Island. Ives wasn’t the only composer who explored this but he’s the one I listen to the most.
David Behrmann - On the Other Ocean
There are too many ambient albums that influenced Island for me to really Sophie’s-Choice it down to one, but this is a big one, I love this album.
Gyorgy Ligeti - Lontano
An obvious influence. I like an orchestra when it sounds smudgy. The latter half of the album, I wanted it to feel like the orchestra was a fire upstairs that was threatening to burn the house down — and eventually, it does just that.
Gerard Grisey - Partiels
Another obvious influence— you can hear Grisey-style chords all over “The Sound Of The Engines”, in particular. Spectral chords are the harmonic equivalent of the motorik beat, they go nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
Grouper - Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
Grouper made me want to hide the songs on Island, surround them with bushes so you’d have to look to find them.
Buffy Sainte-Marie - Illuminations
Impossible to really pick a single Buffy album, although “Poppies” clearly moved me to end Island the way I did. Going deep with Buffy’s music really challenges a songwriter to stop writing superfluous bullshit and get to the meat of what the song is about and I appreciate that about her.
Majical Cloudz - Are You Alone?
I did some work on this album, and it was a huge inspiration for me. I appreciate Devon’s directness of his lyrical approach, and Matt’s production decisions. I love and miss this band a great deal.
Jane Siberry - The Walking
My previous albums have been inspired more by Tori Amos than by Siberry but I really felt a lot of Siberry on Island. When Jane lets a song unfold she doesn’t rush it and I tried to take this to heart.