When pioneering Portland author Ursula K. Le Guin passed away last week at age 88, she was remembered as one of the world's most inventive science fiction writers.
While it was left out of many of the obituaries and memorials, 1985's Always Coming Home was among her most ambitious projects. Part novel, part anthropological study, it imagines a future civilization of people living in Northern California named the Kesh, whose culture Le Guin brings to life in meticulous detail. She invented tools, instruments, recipes and even a whole language. It wasn't just confined to the page, either. Early editions of the book came with a cassette tape of fictional "field recordings" of indigenous Kesh songs and poems, played on instruments designed by Le Guin.
Now, for the first time, that tape is being reissued on vinyl. The New York-based record label Freedom to Spend had been working with Le Guin, her literary agent and her friend, Oregon musician Todd Barton—who built the "traditional" Kesh instruments and performed them on the album—to release Music and Poems of the Kesh at the time of her death. With the approval of Le Guin's family, the record will be released on March 23, with a jacket featuring some of the author's illustrations, a recreation of the original lyric sheet, liner notes from writer Moe Bowstern and a bookmark from local printing press Stumptown Printers.
Today, Freedom to Spend issued a preview of the album. According to the label's press release, the opening song, "Heron Dance," uses an instrument called a Wéosai Medoud Teyahi, which is "made from a deer or lamb thigh bone with a cattail reed," and the Houmbúta, which is "used for theatre and ceremony." It is preceded by a poem spoken in the Kesh language Le Guin invented. It's all…pretty trippy.