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Steven Lambke – Volcano Volcano

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Steven Lambke
Volcano Volcano
Cat#: YC-053
Released: April 29, 2022
Format: LP/Digital
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NOTE #2: The Steven Lambke 3-Pack is a special offer that includes all three full-length Steven Lambke albums: Volcano Volcano, Dark Blue and Days Of Heaven at super-duper discounted price!


 

VOLCANO VOLCANO
album notes by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

I’d describe Steven Lambke as a working musician – that is, someone who is embedded in, responsible to, and who holds space for a community of artists that create against the odds of the music industry, without contracts, awards, and acolytes. Lambke is the sort of person that you can go to with nothing but an idea, and he’ll do whatever he can to support you in actualizing that idea. That’s rare.

I first met Steve several years ago in a park in Peterborough, ON. He was dressed in his own humility, apologetically selling his own merch. I bought a copy of his chapbook “Lyrics”. He seemed embarrassed at the very transaction. I liked that.

He’s seen the music world from all angles – as a singer-songwriter performing as Baby Eagle, as a touring boy-band rock-and-roller as a member of the Constantines, as the Creative Director of Sappyfest in Sackville, NB and finally, as a co-founder of the artist-run label You’ve Changed Records. These experiences have led Lambke to create on the margins of an industry driven by sales and a particular kind of recognition, and to think carefully about how he embodies his practice of art-making, and the work his music is doing in the world.

I’m writing this in the dreariness of the end of October in Ontario, while the pandemic continues to crush independent music and art-making. Tom Power is on the radio interviewing Ed Shereen on his new record. Shereen is talking about his worst nightmare – which is releasing a record into the void, with little engagement from the public, without radio play and without as Shereen says, being part of the conversation.

Maybe that sounds reasonable to the audience of CBC’s q.

This sounds absurd to me. Not only is Shereen’s worst nightmare the reality most musicians live within, but our reality is one that despite dismal bank accounts is a reality that is also full of joy, richness, community, and meaning if you know where to listen. Lambke’s new release, Volcano Volcano is the evidence.

Volcano Volcano is an invitation, an exploration of potential, an opportunity for listening and thinking and relating that holds space for otherwise thinking and shared meaning-making. The making of this record, from its sonics and aesthetics to its lyrics and composition communicate a vital potential to communally re-order, re-invent and re-connect to something beyond ourselves. This requires something out of the ordinary from both performer and audience. It asks us to think of music and performance in an open and expansive way, beyond the normal separate enclosures wherein the performer turns up the volume demanding to be heard and seen, basking in applause, before selling merch side stage, and then driving away to a sad motel somewhere. It requires us to meet.

Written over the past few years, not specifically during the pandemic, and recorded at Camera Varda (the studio built by Daniel Romano) in Welland in January 2021, the album’s approach spilled out of the studio and into the real world. Lambke took the basic studio-quality bed tracks home, taking responsibility over the rest of the process, experimenting with singing, mixing, and utilizing a series of (in his words) “junky instruments” – $30 guitars from Goodwill, a recorder and a melodica/melodion, dollar store shakers and the cheapest tambourine – sound making vessels that in the hands of an amateur might be cringe worthy heavy-handed metaphor. In Volcano Volcano, these are the moments where practice braids together sound and lyrics – and those are the moments that feel most alive, stretching one’s expectations of the very act of recording and listening.

It seems clear to me that the aural was a foundational methodology of the making of this record. In “Brave Thoughts”, the time is played loose, and playing like that requires a commitment to listening to the other sounds in the band and allowing the lyrics to become embodied in sound. That deep practice of listening then becomes a meditation on meaning making. Lambke’s lyrics are coded, layered, and full of multiple meanings, and yet free of symbolism for the sake of symbolism. Lyrically the album is specific, and an affirmation of the natural worlds around us. These songs are filled with tiny moments that daily life can gloss over, but where minds like Steven Lambke’s find abundance. Both lyrically and musically, this album makes songs and poems and worlds out of the rudimentary, ordinary, everyday things at hand.

There are parts of Volcano Volcano that are an excavation into the evils that engulf us, into the mess we’ve made of life and the world, but with the purpose, I think, of dreaming together a new world “re-ordered from below”. There is a cast of characters in these songs that provide the sustenance for this: high tides, worlds filled to the brim, full moons and shooting stars, sunsets, daybreaks and twilight, reconstituted truths and love anyway, sidewalk-crack flowers, sparks and moons in the ocean, a living, a singing anyway. A sort of way of living that mines the everyday for surprise, tiny burst of joy and a dedicated practice of hope. Listen to the chorus of the title track, “Volcano Volcano” and you’ll be whistling it around the house in your jogging pants for hours after the record ends. In “April, May, June” the choir of junk is a having a spoon fight, naked under the moon. The final track, “Dream with Me”, is the perfect summation of the record. It invites us, and compels us, creators and listener, to dream together, through sorrow, doubt and fear.

Volcano Volcano lets us all be “fear-filled dreamers, joyful, tall, and brave”, and within those dreams, we learn new possibilities.

Track Listing
  1. Volcano Volcano
  2. The World Filled To The Brim
  3. April, May, and June
  4. Brave Thoughts
  5. Bats In Blue Twilight
  6. Every Lover Knows
  7. Truth Marks
  8. Sea Level
  9. Turn The Planet Over
  10. Sorrow And Doubt
  11. Dream With Me
Credits
  • Performed by:
  • Steven Lambke – vocals, guitars, percussion, melodion, recorder
  • Daniel Romano – drums, organ, vocals
  • David Nardi – bass
  • with:
  • Carson McHone – vocals
  • William Kidman – guitar solo on “Sorrow And Doubt”
  • Recorded by Daniel Romano at Camera Varda and at home in Toronto by Steven Lambke
  • Mixed by Steven Lambke
  • Mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering
  • Written by Steven Lambke
  • Artwork by Shary Boyle
  • Layout and Design by Paul Henderson