Jayme Stone breaks new ground with his new single/video “Awake Awake”
Jayme Stone has made a rare thing: a piece of work that asks us to both travel on his melodic and emotional journey and go on our own. And nowhere is this more apparent than on his single, “Awake Awake.”
The newest song to land ahead of his forthcoming LP, AWake, the song serves as a prescient preview for what’s to come – as Jayme breaks new ground, shifting from folk musician and composer to experimental pop singer and producer. Available Aug. 28, AWake offers a unique tonal palette blended with deft storytelling and disarmingly honest lyrics to create a sonic world both eminently engaging and full of nuance and surprise.
The songs mark a new creative start for Jayme, who is best-known for his banjo playing and world-wise roots albums like Africa to Appalachia, the Lomax Project, and Folklife. Now we hear him singing, playing guitar and OP 1 (a micro-synth, sampler and sequencer). He captures and sculpts sounds—felted piano, bass clarinet, analog synths and sequencers—until they’re hazy and unrecognizable.
AWake features Felicity Williams (Bahamas), Jason Burger (Big Thief), Daniela Gesundheit (Feist), Jason Linder (David Bowie), Alec Spielgelman (Cuddle Magic) and more. It was co-produced by Jayme and David Travers-Smith, his longtime collaborator who has recorded, mixed, mastered and co-produced all of his records.
“For years, I knew I had these songs in me,” Jayme said. “Like I had a premonition that some future me was driving backwards in time full of songs, and at some point, we’d meet.”
In July 2018, he had earmarked six weeks off the road to start writing a new record. On day one, his brother Michael, a well-known teacher of yoga and Buddhism, died suddenly and unexpectedly. In the yawning ache of being brotherless, the songs became oracles—new ways to reckon with who his brother was, and who he himself was becoming.
Jayme sings: “What you felt, we can only guess / There are mountains hidden in hiddenness.”
At times, Jayme felt himself to be the keeper of his brother’s shadow, having known him so long in all his complexity. The song “Brotherless” samples his brother’s voice and quotes zen poet D?gen’s Mountains and Waters Sutra.
“Awake, awake, the light has come,” Jayme sings on the title track; one of stargazing tales that sing from a white-hot core of love and loss, as the album as a whole consults the stars and planets for direction. In the song “Earthlight,” the sun reflects off the earth and onto the moon, capturing the mysterious ways in which the planets and constellations pull invisibly on our lives. And we feel it: the song wanders breathlessly with a sense of wonder, weaving intricate guitar melodies with unexpected offbeats and offset line-breaks, programmed drums interlaced with a drum kit, glitchy bass clarinet and vocal samples. In the glowing lostness that permeates these songs, we zoom through space as we listen: witnessing the invisible tug of forces we can’t control on our bodies and our lives.
“Mouth the Words” conjures the tumult and tenderness of Saturn’s return, that time in our lives when we reckon with the past to renew our lives for the future. “Strike a spark / Wrap your arms around the dark / Stars align Saturn turns / Redesign everything you ever learned,” sings Jayme, full of forgiveness and hope.
“My Woman’s a Nation” is a song about long-term love, a touring musician’s love letter home.
“My idol my altar / My sister my maker / My heiress my daughter / My circuit my breaker,” Jayme sings.
Sounds and styles cross-pollinate – such as the warm glow of a Prophet synth, surround sound back-up vocals and a bridge that draws from spoken word. “Wait for Heaven” features bursts of pitched up vocals and kaleidoscopic hooks in the song’s upper atmosphere.
AWake was recorded at Figure 8 in Brooklyn, a space that feels more akin to a community center or Japanese monastery than a studio. Entering from the street, musicians take off their shoes and walk through the kitchen with farmer’s market produce on the counter. The studio, made of reclaimed wine barrels, cork and felt, is drenched in sunlight. The studio’s owner, Shahzad Ismaily (who also guests on the album), has a dizzying collection of rare synthesizers and one of the world’s few Klavins Una Corda keyboards (which anchors several songs on the album).
AWake is available Aug. 28, 2020.
“Awake Awake” is available now.