Two years ago, before all the hype and hoopla and name change, Richard and Brandon Laws—the brothers and principle songwriters of experimental-pop quartet Hosannas—dropped two self-released EPs. Sparse and tense, filled with just as much open, silent space as analog synth noise, 2008's Gold
was one of my favorite releases on the year despite featuring just four songs. The one problem? Those handmade CDRs are long out of print. Fortunately Hush Records is stepping up to the plate, and in May the label will release Then & Now & Then
, a collection of Hosannas' older tracks when they will still known as Church.
Back then Church was a trio (Gold
was recorded before drummer Lane Barrington joined the fold), and the compilation features 14 songs, three of which are previously unreleased. Besides the jumpy single "Happiness," my favorite song of the set is "Cloud," which is just a beast on headphones, with the lonely acoustic guitar and Cristof Hendrickson's buzzing analog synths. The version on Then & Now & Then
was cleaned up by engineer Carl Saff, but here's the old unmastered version and the full details from Hush:
Then & Now & Then captures Hosannas at a defining moment. Collecting the first fruits of brothers Richard and Brandon Laws songwriting with the mellifluous accompaniment of Cristof Hendrickson, this is a slightly warmer and more comprehensive introduction to the band (formerly known as Church) than their well-received Song Force Crystal, which in addition to their intense tour ethic and consistent presence in the Portland scene, helped Hosannas amass a sizable following.
Photo by Devin
At the center, the brothers vocals dovetail with a rare sensitivity and tenderness, floating over a shifting landscape of warm, distorted guitar figures, found sounds, electric piano, analog synth squalls and the occasional tribal percussion rave up. It's a complex tapestry that revels in willful discord, textural juxtapositions, and arrangements with intense mood swings. Hosannas is experimental in the same way that the Beach Boys were experimental in their day: challenging assumptions and conventions of pop songwriting, while honoring the fundamentals: melody, ethos, harmony, golden ratios, modulation, surprise.
But, it may come as no surprise Then & Now & Then was recorded to analog 4 track tape in the living room of an old Portland house. One can almost hear the freedom of time and space in these songs, as if they were discovered, explored and mapped in the same place. Culling from two short-run CDR EP releases and adding 3 previously unreleased songs, this collection has been wholly reinvigorated with a much-needed mastering from Carl Saff, and a song sequence that takes the listener on a journey with a beginning, middle and end.
The Sea (alternate)
Seen You But See Through
Asleep In The Weeds
Catch Up To You
Onward With Bravery
Right As Rain
Song Force Crystal