Watch Captain Noel, the new video from Baby Copperhead, taken from his fourth album, The Serpent and the Sparrow (out 7 April on Tin Angel Records), an experimental landscape from a dystopian future featuring new songs arranged for string trio, banjo, acoustic guitar and electronics.
Traditional modal tunings from Southern Appalachia and sampled field recordings encounter stark expanses of synthesised sounds amidst contemporary classical arrangements for violin viola, and cello, alternately lush and spare. Building on his “otherworldly” folk roots, Brooklyn-based Ben Lee (a.k.a. Baby Copperhead) extends his explorations of a broken, dissonant sort of Americana, one in which repressed elements from our cultural past—the banjo’s African origins, polyphonic borrowings from 16th century European sacred music—return amidst the ones and zeros of digital metering, sonic figures sculpted by programmable machines, and distant voices broadcast as radio waves over discarded technological channels.
There is an elegiac beauty in Baby Copperhead’s music—a reverent memory of indigenous archetypes of the Southwest, of bird songs serendipitously synched to manmade tempos and tunings native to Lee’s teenage home in North Carolina; yet one can also hear in it the struggle against the tide of our current ecological crises and our unyielding political cynicism. Ruminating on the fragility of our existence, insurgent voices from the past and future mix together to form a polyphonic protest: a self-made baritone instrument constructed from a long-neck banjo with guitar strings, the syncopated picking styles of Appalachia, or even Berber techniques featuring melodic and rhythmical patterns and ornamental trills are integrated organically with 20th century inspirations as diverse as Laurie Anderson’s electronic experiments, Rzewski’s Coming Together, the poetry of Gary Snyder, the irresistible contrapuntal motion of Terry Riley’s In C, or even the plaintively plucked strings of Bob Dylan’s 4th Time Around.
The Serpent and the Sparrow was co-produced and mixed by Grammy-nominated Mike Tarantino and features Brent Arnold on cello, Jessica Pavone on viola, and Tom Swafford on violin. Other recent collaborations include works with Eugene Chadbourne, Ed Askew, and Room 21 with Jace Clayton (a.k.a. DJ/rupture), a project that demonstrates Baby Copperhead’s ongoing interest in exploring the nexus of European classical, North African, and Central American traditions through the prism of folk music and pop culture.
Baby Copperhead is supporting Devon Sproule on tour in March / April, see dates below
Tour: Baby Copperhead Supporting Devon Sproule
22.03.17 Exeter, The Phoenix
23.03.17 London, Roundhouse Sackler Space
24.03.17 Oxford, The Cellar
25.03.17 Bristol, The Lantern Colston Hall
26.03.17 Birmingham, Kitchen Garden Cafe
28.03.17 Edinburgh, Douglas Studio
29.03.17 Sheffield, Greystones
30.03.17 York, The Basement
31.03.17 Newcastle, The Cluny
01.04.17 Glasgow, The Glad Cafe
02.04.17 Aberdeen, The Lemon Tree
05.04.17 Orkney, King Street Halls
07.04.17 Shetland, Quarff Hall