a couple things on Things You Already Know
my friend Steve McPherson who’s a talented musician and writer wrote a couple of things about
the upcoming album:
Any composer brings a new recorded project into being through a fundamental three-step
process. It begins with the first stirrings of a way of seeing the world and the slimmest notion of
how that connects to a way of hearing the world. As that seed begins to grow, the concerns of
how to best build an ensemble, a human machine to share this vision, begins to come to the
fore. And then, when all of the grit and sweat has been poured into it by every hand involved, we
are left with the thing itself; if the work is good, it’s more a place than a recording, a space to sink
into and explore.
There are thus three parts to Chris Campbell’s Things You Already Know: the conception, the
construction and the recording itself.
As a concept, Things You Already Know represents the confluence of a set of interlinked
questions and concerns. It stems in part from the idea of absorption, the question of how
something becomes a part of your life. There’s an inescapable element of time involved in this
question: things (ideas, concepts) outside of ourselves are first encountered as foreign, then
challenged or understood in pieces until they eventually sink into the marrow of ourselves,
becoming inseparable from us.
Beyond time, though, that process of becoming also involves movement, even if it’s only
internal. Represented musically, these concepts manifest themselves as a slow becoming, a
gradual approach from an aural distance. In some ways, it makes Things You Already Know a
demanding, yet not challenging listen. It demands your trust and your time and doesn’t push you
so much as pull you.
Bringing all these threads together into the music was the first step, but the hard part is finding
the right people to realize the music in a collaborative way. In order to accomplish this, Campbell
brought together members of local bands Zoo Animal and Aaron and the Sea with top players
from the Saint Paul Chamber and Minnesota Orchestra. Thus the recording itself came to
embody the bridging of certain distance between two musical worlds, between the unwritten and
the written, the heart and the head.
Campbell also brought in unique tonal colors thanks to instruments like homemade propane tank
drums, bowed psaltery, singings bowls and other unusual objects to work alongside more
traditional bowed instruments, drums kits, keyboards and guitars. Running all of this through
amps and pedals further warped and softened or hardened the sounds and the formal structure
of the pieces as first imagined began to fray and bend, opening up and allowing for genuine
collaboration and coloration by the players themselves.
Once work on the recording was completed at the Hideaway in Northeast Minneapolis came the
task of putting this all together into something that could not only make sense but actually create
sense. The record would be pressed on vinyl, a gesture towards making it an artifact, and
consist of two long sides in that format or as one long track in digital form, re-emphasizing its
cohesion. Minneapolis photographer Alec Soth provided the cover art, a hauntingly disorienting
image that upends you expectations and reinforces the album’s theme of shifting perspective, of
the journey from perception to understanding.
Conception, construction, realization. Things You Already Know has taken its own journey from
seen to thought to felt, from glimmer of recognition to something built into the bones. It’s a
document of that trip, as well as the trip itself. Now it wants to take you along on that same