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The Burning Hell – Garbage Island


The Burning Hell
Garbage Island
Cat#: YC-056
Released: June 24, 2022
Format: LP/CD/Digital
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Gatefold LP with art by Emmie Tsumura. Ecovinyl — random colour splatter from reused off-cuts at pressing plant.

As a companion piece to the album, the Garbage Island Ornithological Society is proud to announce the publication of the first edition of the Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Garbage Island, edited by Mathias Kom and featuring work by Shary Boyle, Toby Goodshank, Booboo Tannenbaum, Jeffrey Lewis, David Ivar ‘Yaya’ Herman Düne and many more.

The first 100 Garbage Island LP orders will receive a free copy of this groundbreaking ornithological study of future imaginary birdlife.

During that first pandemic summer, I walked down to the shore every morning and watched the seabirds shriek and dive. Despite their constant scavenging and my own beachcombing, the ocean was always redecorating the rocks with more old lobster traps, buoys, plastic water bottles, bits of rope, and other ambiguous treasures, like a broken claw machine spitting out knick-knacks at a child who had already claimed her coveted stuffed dinosaur and didn’t want to play anymore. I was reminded of Garbage Island, imagining a volcanic mountain of trash rising from the ocean, perhaps playing host to colonies of screeching gulls or harbouring post-apocalyptic pirates. Also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, Garbage Island is, in reality, an enormous mass of floating marine debris, mostly microplastics, trapped in an endless gyre by ocean currents.  There are no pirates living there.

The image of Garbage Island wouldn’t leave me alone, and somewhere in the dark, soupy brain-place that songs come from, a world began to emerge. A world made from the flotsam of our lives, the ultimate repository for the human race’s epic collective moulting season. A world where birds reasserted their prehistoric dominance, a world where new forms of plant life sprung up, leaves veined with translucent plastic. There were humans in this world, too, but not many. Those that survived relied on endless improvisation, the ingenious repurposing of whatever physical scraps of the old world they uncovered in the elastic soil of their island refuge. Their main pastime: birdwatching.

Garbage Island is an album about what we lose when things fall apart, and what we can gain from collaborative regeneration. It takes place in this crumbling near-future world that bears a distinct resemblance to our own, beginning with the violence of collapse, loosely chronicling the escape of the album’s unnamed protagonists on a pedal-boat swan, as they trade doom for danger on their way to a future home built from the detritus of the past.

Along the way, the album narrates both the need for action and the joys of refusing the hustle, imagines a futuristic nostalgia for the days of post-apocalyptic touring life, celebrates escape and solitude, and concludes with the hesitant suggestion that the end of the world can’t last forever. The songs feature the omnivorous genre-bending and rapid-fire surrealist lyricism the band has been known for in the past, but while there is humour and playfulness in abundance, there are few jokes. It’s either the darkest record The Burning Hell has made, the most reassuring, or the most fun. It might be all three.

Making a record about a future world of disintegration and renewal while the real world seemed to be collapsing around us felt right. Ariel Sharratt and I were locked-down on our farm on PEI, forced to embrace the slowness, patiently collecting sounds and ideas, orienting ourselves toward process. With tours perpetually cancelled, rescheduled, and cancelled again, we reconnected with the primal urge to simply make music, rather than perform or manage it. Our collaborator Jake Nicoll was stuck in Ontario, where he had been visiting his dad’s farm when the pandemic was declared, but he was able to cobble together some forgotten recording gear in an abandoned sheep pen, and we started sending tracks back and forth.

This is the first record the band (Mathias Kom, Ariel Sharratt, and Jake Nicoll) has engineered, produced, and mixed entirely by ourselves, and time and distance allowed us to revel in the slow joy of collaboration and discovery, a joy that leached out onto the tapes and circuit boards. Our comrades in St. John’s (Darren Browne, Jud Haynes, Kelly McMichael, Krista Power, and Mara Pellerin) contributed musical brilliance, and cameos from Ariel’s brother Jesse and her dad Steve enrich the album. We painted over our usual canvas of bass, drums, and guitar with a homemade dulcimer and glass harmonica, ASMR-inspired breakdowns made from the sounds of actual garbage, watery synthesisers, harmoniums, woodwinds, and field recordings of oceans and bird sounds contributed by supporters all over the globe, which stitch the songs together as the album transitions from the end of the world to “The End of the End of the World.” As the first snowdrops emerged in the spring of 2021, what was becoming Garbage Island was mixed in a 1970s camper trailer Jake had spent the winter converting into a mobile, solar-powered recording studio.


– Mathias Kom
Garbage Island will be released on June 24, 2022, through You’ve Changed Records in North America and BB*Island everywhere else, with artwork by Emmie Tsumura. A companion comic book, Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Garbage Island, will accompany a limited first edition, with contributions by artists including Shary Boyle, Darren Hayman, Shotgun Jimmie, Booboo Tannenbaum, David Ivar Herman Dune and more.

Track Listing
  • No Peace
  • Nigel the Gannet
  • Birdwatching
  • Dirty Microphones
  • The Last Normal Day
  • Empty World
  • Minor Characters
  • All I Need
  • Swan Boat
  • Bird Queen of Garbage Island
  • Speechlessness
  • The End of the End of the World
  • Recorded in St. John’s, Newfoundland at Studio J, in Baden, Ontario at the Weber Farm Cabin and the Scamper, and in Fairfield, PEI at the Fairfield Social Club.
  • Produced by Jake Nicoll with Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Kom.
  • Mixed by Jake Nicoll in The Scamper.
  • Mastered by Norman Nitzsche at Calyx in Berlin.
  • Artwork and layout by Emmie Tsumura.