By: Staff –
To celebrate the release of The Fretless’ upcoming new album, Open House on October 22nd, the neo-trad string quartet curated a brand new Spotify playlist featuring songs that inspired the album.
Trent Freeman (Fiddle/Viola)
Cédric Dind-Lavoie – “Tenant Mon Frère”
This track, and the whole album came to my attention earlier this year, and it’s been a constant source of intrigue. The combination of archival recordings from traditional Québécois players beautifully matched with subtle modern accompaniment and production is masterfully executed. It’s a beautiful textural sound palette and a very pleasing journey through time.
Bongeziwe Mabandla – “masiziyekelele”
The simplicity and depth of this song have had me grooving all year. I love the layered rhythms, each one a party of it’s own. The vocals on this album are fascinating as well, perhaps having no idea what’s being said draws me in deeper, but I can’t get enough!
James Blake – “Retrograde”
James Blake has been a huge creative influence on myself and the rest of the band as well, since his self titled album came out in 2011. Covering this track for our latest record was one of the more challenging and rewarding songs on the album. Mimicking detuned contrapuntal synth lines with two violins, lifting 808 claps to the viola, digging into heavy bass with the cello, and floating Ruth Moody’s voice over top couldn’t have been more satisfying. I hope we managed to do this captivating original an ounce of justice.
Karrnnel Sawitsky (Fiddle/Viola)
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – “Rich Woman”
This album brought together two worlds that was completely unexpected and “Rich Woman” to me is such a perfect cross blend of these artist’s creative voices. Sneakily groovy, cool to the bone, and full of soul. When I think of what we were trying to create with “Open House”, I can’t help but think of this song. Leave the doors open to let creativity and collective artistic judgements decorate.
Begonia – “Fear”
The textures, sounds, and harmonies that are utilized to amplify the feeling and message of this song is absolutely incredible. Add to it the incomparable vocals of Begonia and it truly is a beautiful guided journey for 3:56. Whenever I think about our creative process for arranging the music for “Open House”, this song always comes to mind of how the vocals and musical pallet behind them so greatly make something more than its individual parts.
Eric Wright (Cello)
Baths – “Lovely Bloodflow”
This downtempo track is one of the most influential pieces of music in my life. It was the first time I heard electronic music truly sound human, and its ability to be loose but tight changed my whole perception of rhythm and groove. This shift in understanding affected my creativity, cello playing, and ability to listen – and I’m so thankful that I found this track when I did. I can’t put into words how much inspiration this particular track has given me over the last 10 years.
Frank Fairfield – “Ruthie”
When I first heard this track, I had just walked into a “Seasick Steve” rock concert. I was late and expected the opener to be another blues rock band. When I entered the theater, Frank was playing this song on his banjo and singing so delicately… and he had an entire room of rockers standing and listening silently in awe. Tears started forming in my eyes and I was stunned. I hadn’t heard old time music reimagined in this way before and I was instantly a mega fan. He reinforced my desire to write original “traditional music” and to arrange traditional music in modern/unique ways. Frank is honestly one of the reasons I still play traditional music today.
Ben Plotnick (Fiddle/Viola)
Death Cab for Cutie – “Brothers on a Hotel Bed”
This song comes to mind immediately when I think of music that’s impacted me deeply. I grew up in a musical household, playing in orchestras, quartets and fiddle groups since I was a kid.
Through my teenage years, I did so somewhat on auto-pilot – almost as if the music I was playing was a job, a necessary analytical discipline, and even though I enjoyed it, it was always separate from the music I listened to by choice. I always considered what played through my headphones to be an escape, something for me to enjoy in and amidst the music I was building and crafting. This song (really, the whole record) was the first time I can recall both loving music viscerally, but also appreciating the layers of beauty in the instrumentation, production and writing. This song is an exploration of texture, perspective, foreground and background, groove, lyrics, melody and harmony that I always found fascinating, and since much of my life still consists of putting those elements together in new and (hopefully) beautiful ways, I think of this song often. I still revere this album, and notice new things about it each time I listen.
Crooked Still – “Undone in Sorrow”
Despite playing “fiddle” music for most of my childhood, I grew up with a severe misunderstanding about folk music. Just because of the limitations of learning about fiddle styles exclusively in a children’s touring performance group, I had misconceptions about what American fiddle styles were. Bluegrass and Old Time music were old-fashioned, hokey and simplistic styles to me and I really had no interest in them, until I went to an American fiddle camp in 2006 and had 2 members of ‘Crooked Still’ as teachers. That week truly changed the course of my life, and that introduction into modern American fiddle music led to a fairly abrupt change in career direction, a lifelong obsession with Crooked Still, and a move to Toronto and eventually Nashville. This band was always finding new ways to approach string playing and traditional music, and I think it’s likely that they’re the ones most responsible for the cello techniques that define our band today. The fiddle player in the band remains one of my favorite players in the world.
Maggie Rogers – “Alaska”
Ever since we’d started talking about releasing an album of re-imagined vocal tracks, Trent had been thinking of this particular track. I’ve been a huge fan of Maggie’s since this album came out, and it’s hard for me to pick a particular favorite song. This album has been one that I can constantly listen to and find more in the lyrics, use of texture, foreground and background and groove. Maybe the thing that’s struck me the most about this song (and album) is its use of restraint. The vocals and production of this album always settle into what’s required to get the song across, and always feels like there’s more bubbling under the surface. I love that this candy-sweet pop record never falls into forced vocals, or busy instrumentation. I think that covering this track has changed the way we approach arranging for good.