Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cotton Mather harnesses the wisdom of the I Ching for massive 64-song, multi-album undertaking.

Austin-based power-pop maven Robert Harrison explains “The Book of Too Late Changes” single.


Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather. Photo Credit: Valerie Fremin.



Check out the premiere of “The Book of Too Late Changes” by Cotton Mather via Texas Monthly or listen at the links below!


Cotton Mather’s much revered album Kontiki – originally issued in 1997, and then again as a deluxe edition in 2012 – was heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy, and the band’s mastermind, Robert Harrison is mining that subject matter again with his ambitious new project which represents the first all-new Cotton Mather music in more than a decade.

“I’ve always been spiritually curious,” Harrison says of the subject matter.  “I studied the I Ching in college but didn’t delve deep until later.”  Delving is putting it mildly as Harrison intends to record one song for each of the ancient book of Chinese wisdom and advice’s 64 hexagrams, eventually packaging the tracks into several vinyl releases, but making them available digitally along the way.

The first track, “The Book of Too Late Changes,” was premiered by Texas Monthly in November as part of a larger feature about the project, and two more songs will become available before the close of 2015.  Harrison explains that he consults the I Ching “at the beginning of most days,” but it wasn’t until recently that he decided to let it motivate his songwriting and birth this massive project.

“I wrote a song titled ‘Call Me The Witch’ for Nicole Atkins,” Harrison tells Texas Monthly. “I got the idea for the song after consulting the I Ching.  I began to ask myself, ‘Should I do a project based around the I Ching?’ I’d get a gentle ‘No,’ but this spring I was in Europe and realized it was burning in me to do the whole cycle, because I’d already written a dozen or so songs in this method.  I realized attempting all 64 at once wouldn’t be true. So the songs are my responses to the readings as I receive them, happening in real time and real weather.”

This thinking explains Harrison’s choice to release the tracks one by one, sharing the material in an organic, non-contrived way.  Harrison says that 18 of the 64 songs have already been written, and the process of recording them is ongoing.  The first tune to surface, “The Book of Too Late Changes,” is actually about surfacing itself.  Or re-surfacing in this case.

“The question was, where do I begin?,” Harrison tells Texas Monthly. “One problem is you have to convince people you’re worth hearing again. I knew it had to be  something explosive. I consulted the I Ching and got hexagram 24, ‘The Return,’ which is about turning back onto the path. So I thought, I’ll make it about the return of Cotton Mather.”

Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather is available for interviews.  Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic for more information.


More about Cotton Mather:

Cotton Mather was founded by Robert Harrison in Austin, Texas in the early 1990’s with an experimental sound that soon evolved into guitar driven pop defined by accessible melodies, strong vocal harmonies and lyrical wit. The group released its debut album Cotton Is King in 1994, but it was the follow-up album Kontiki, famously recorded on four-track cassette, that drew praise from critics and rock-stars alike.

Uncut Magazine gave the album five stars calling the record “music to smile yourself to death to.” Mojo said the songs were “brought to life with daring vitality,” and in its own five-star review, The Guardian called Kontiki “a bewildering, dizzy thrill.” It wasn’t just the press either.  Oasis brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher fell in love with Kontiki soon after discovering it. When Noel was asked “What are you listening to these days?” in the pages of Mojo, he answered: “Cotton Mather, Kontiki,” and went on to say, “I thought if that isn’t the best record I’ve heard in ten years, then I don’t know what is.” Brother Liam left his praise for the record in the pages of GQ, admitting “I fucking wish it was ours! I play it all day at home.”

On our shores, the bounce back of influence from across the pond was finally felt with Britt Daniel of Spoon being just one artist to say “Kontiki gave me something to shoot for.” In addition to the deluxe reissue of Kontiki on Valentine’s Day, 2012, Cotton Mather reunited that year for a special performance of full album at South By Southwest, marking the first time in a decade since the band last performed together.

In the years since Cotton Mather went on hiatus, Harrison stayed busy producing other artists, in addition to forming and fronting a new band, Future Clouds and Radar which was acknowledged for its “sprawling orchestral pop” by The New Yorker and named “Debut Artist of The Year” by Harp MagazineHarrison expects that with so many I Ching songs to record, Future Clouds and Radar will also be making an appearance on the project. 


Cotton Mather Links


Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic Promotion

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