From The Desk Of Entrance: Marisa Anderson

Entrance (a.k.a. Guy Blakeslee) just released the great Promises EP and is gearing up for a full-length early next year via Thrill Jockey. In the meantime, he’ll be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Readers, you’re in for some really good stuff.

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Blakeslee: In late June, I was on tour by myself in Europe, and I listened constantly to the new record Into The Light by guitarist Marisa Anderson. It felt like the perfect soundtrack to the strange journey I was on, waking up before dawn in Geneva, Switzerland, to walk with guitar and suitcase to the train station, the light starting to break over the old buildings, everything vivid and unfamiliar, the motion of my steps urgent and a bit shaky, as I made my way down the broad avenue to the train and got onboard toward the airport, asking a strange woman for re-assurance I was on the right train, running late for my flight to Stockholm. The womb-like familiarity of the tremolo guitar was a soothing companion in such an alien situation, providing a much-needed anchor in the swirl of so much uncertainty and movement. And in a way, the music was American in a way that comforted me so far from home, filling my mind with visions of the West, of wide-open spaces and uncharted possibilities as I closed my eyes on the plane and sank back in my seat. I asked Marisa about her new record and was taken aback by the similarity of her vision for the record and the way I had experienced it: “The new record was created as the soundtrack to an imaginary science-fiction Western movie. I was considering the word alien, a word that can either mean someone from outer space, or simply, someone not from ‘here’ and I started building a character in my head. The record follows that character through many scenes, some very distinct for me, and others more general.”

Her previous record, Traditional And Public Domain Songs, features interpretations of a cohesive and carefully chosen array of gospel and folk songs, including Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” and Italian anti-fascist anthem “Bella Ciao”—all filtered through her personal approach to the guitar, loose and in-the-moment yet exceptionally precise and grounded. I also wanted to know about her take on these songs, many of them religious or patriotic, in the light of our current situation, and she replied: “I definitely come at my song choices from a radical perspective. My arrangements of traditional patriotic and religious songs are a personal reflection on U.S. militarization and the violent interpretation of Christianity that is destroying life here and around the world.”

I’m excited to see what Marisa will do next and truly admire her commitment to the guitar and to taking a stand for the purity of human expression in this crazy, over-saturated and mechanized world.

Watch her Tiny Desk Concert for NPR here.