Avant is at that stage where it has suddenly lurched in the direction of being complete. This usually means that at any moment, with everything about 95% finished, it will slow to a crawl as a thousand small details scream for attention.
That said, the bulk of the writing and recording is done, so this seems like a sensible time to take stock.
First the new news, then a summary of previously announced stuff, such as track titles and the artists associated with them.
Number of Tracks
In total there will be 20 tracks, well over an hour of music.
I grew up in an age when albums were the dominant musical structure–singles were largely passé, but downloads didn’t exist yet. This means that I write albums, and whether or not they succeed in doing so, they are meant to hang together. There’s a theme of some kind, there’s a specific palette of instruments, and there’s a very particular order to the tracks, plus some kind of arc across the whole thing.
So, in that context, even though I haven’t specifically broken Avant down in this way, it’s clearly a double album.
The Unknowns and the Old Boys
Each track has an artist associated with it, and I focused mostly on those whose work hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves, especially woman, people of color, and artists who have publicly identified as LGBTQI. At the same time, I included some of the usual suspects as long as they didn’t threaten to take over.
I haven’t announced all the artists yet, but they’ve all been decided, so I can talk about the mix as between Relative Unknowns and Familiar Names.
Of the 20 tracks, 12 fall into the former category, and all of these but one are women, people of color, or in a sexual minority. The remaining 8 are names that you might well recognize, although they’re not necessarily the most popular, or even my personal favorites. They’re the eight who most insistently inspired a composition.
And here’s one more artist who can now be officially added to the roster: Japanese photographer Iwata Nakayama. His track is called “Eve,” which is the title his 1940 photograph, reproduced below.
Avant garde art–and especially surrealism, which is dominant on Avant–has always been self-consciously international, and therefore multilingual. Avant will mostly be in English, but with one track each in French (The Bride Stripped Bare) and Portuguese (one of the ones whose details I haven’t announced yet).
Maybe I could have performed in other languages by doing it phonetically, but I wanted each song was to be written in the language in which it was performed, not written in English and then translated.
If you speak French or Portuguese, you’ll see that the lyrics of the non-English songs include parallelisms and little bits of word play that wouldn’t be there, or would at least be strained, if they were translations from English.
So far nothing’s etched in stone, but many of the signs and portents are pointing toward July. It could be August, though.
Like my previous albums, Avant will come with a digital booklet in two versions, one optimized for portable devices and a higher res one for desktops.
I’ve slightly revised the previously announced cover art, with the new version below, and further down is a previously unreleased illustration from the digital booklet. The images may yet be tweaked, but the art is getting close to being finalized.
I’ve announced quite a few details up to this point, mostly via Facebook, but I haven’t gathered them all in one place until now.
So here’s what’s been decided and publicized as far as the track list goes, including song titles and the names of the artist whose work inspired each one.
- Dada Dance (Hannah Höch, Germany)
- Hexen Texte (Unica Zürn, Germany)
- Cathedral (Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Germany/US)
- Eve (Iwata Nakayama, Japan)
- Every Page (Tristan Tzara, Romania/France)
- The Bride Stripped Bare (Marcel Duchamp, France)
- The Burning Giraffe (Salvador Dalí, Spain)
- Daughter of the Minotaur (Leonora Carrington, UK/Mexico)
- Sui Generis (Claude Cahun, France)
More information as things unfold.