Influential album recorded on four-track cassette wins praise from Oasis, Spoon, Little Steven and others.
Cotton Mather (L-R): Whit Williams, Robert Harrison, Dana Myzer. Photo by: Bruce Dye.
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“Camp Hill Rail Operator” as heard on the original Kontiki album version and in never-before-released acoustic demo form.
“I fucking wish it was ours! I play it all day at home.” – Liam Gallagher of Oasis
“Kontiki gave me something to shoot for.” – Britt Daniel of Spoon
Austin, Texas-based band Cotton Mather will re-issue its influential 1997 album Kontiki on Valentine’s Day, 2012. Or, as band leader Robert Harrison points out, it will basically issue it for the first time. “People have certain assumptions when they hear ‘re-release,’” says Harrison. “But, if our US label at the time only printed two thousand copies and sent it to rarified writers and overseas, was it ever released in the US at all?”
Truly, it seems that most everyone that got to hear Kontiki, an album that has since gone on to be considered an influential, albeit hard-to-acquire classic, were those it actually influenced. In the US, early supporter Britt Daniel of Spoon talked about Kontiki as an inspiration and Little Steven Van Zandt of the E-Street Band gave it generous play on his nationally syndicated radio show. While the record never had a chance commercially in America, in the UK the album was an instant smash in the press, earning raves from Mojo, Uncut and The Guardian upon its European release. When Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis discovered the record, they talked about it in interviews, and ultimately invited Cotton Mather on tour.
Even though Kontiki suffered from a lack of a marketing strategy in the US, the music itself was no accident. “When we made Kontiki we’d been courted, groomed and disappointed by the music industry for three years already,” explains Harrison. “Records at that time were still being made under the authority of ‘professionals’ and the professionals up until that point had failed us. So we reacted.” Harrison continues, explaining, “We were a band operating with a punk rock ethos that eschewed music industry convention and embraced the garage as laboratory in the age before Pro-Tools. The headlines at the time were all ‘Holy shit! It’s four-track cassette?’ We decided the songs were tough enough to withstand our technical limitations and that we could capture the part of it that was pure rock n’ roll. I think that’s why musicians were into it.”
Continuing to reflect on that time nearly a decade-and-a-half later, Harrison adds, “I suppose that besides the songs, it was also the disobedience and daring we displayed when it came to recording and career path that made Cotton Mather loveable, and yet in some ways, it’s what made us little known, as well. Today, everybody is making their own records, but sometimes that’s not a good thing. We’re now hearing the first generation of artists who’ve modeled their whole aesthetic on crappy sounding home recordings. People have come up to me over the years to say ‘You inspired me to record myself!,’ and I think, ‘Sorry about that!’”
Harrison’s songwriting and ahead-of-his-time production skills on Kontiki can finally be heard instead of just discussed now that he has regained the rights to the album and scheduled it for a deluxe re-issue on February 14th, 2012 on his own Star Apple Kingdom label. In addition to the original album and copious liner notes, the package comes with the requisite second disc of outtakes, tracks that didn’t make the album and demos like the acoustic version of the rave-up of an album opener “Camp Hill Rail Operator” linked above.
Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather is available for interviews. Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic for more information.
Kontiki (Deluxe Edition)
(The Star Apple Kingdom – Feb. 14th, 2012)
01. Camp Hill Rail Operator (STREAM)
02. Homefront Cameo
03. Spin My Wheels
05. Private Ruth
06. Vegetable Row
07. Aurora Bori Alice
08. Church of Wilson
09. Lily Dreams On
11. Animal Show Drinking Song
12. Prophecy For the Golden Age
13. She’s Only Cool
14. Autumn’s Birds
01. Homefront Cameo (4-Track)
02. Pine Box Builder #1
03. Camp Hill Rail Operator (Acoustic) (STREAM)
04. Little Star
05. Baby Freeze Queen #1
06. Altar Boy (Live at The Hit Shack)
07. Flying Annie’s Kite
08. Innocent Street (Acoustic)
09. Spin My Wheels (Electric)
10. Church of Wilson (4-Track)
11. Private Ruth (Acoustic)
12. The Gold Gone Days
Cotton Mather Links
Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic Promotion