Emma Hill - Magnesium Dreams (Kuskokwim Records)
Add Date: 04/30/2019
Focus Tracks: 3, 7, & 1
Formats: Top 200 & Triple A
Artist Info: The first moments of Magnesium Dreams are arresting; Hill’s timeless, rapturous voice, soft yet strong, with the faintest hint of trembling edge, eases out of your speakers and into your heart. Imbued with an easy familiarity, yet speckled with unexpected sparking ornament, the record wraps itself around you, grasps your hand and waltzes you into its ornate, organic reality. Delicate melodies rise and fall as the tides, tender swirls of muse burst forth into lush, soaring arcs of song. Magnesium Dreams joyfully charts masters of their craft growing naturally into the next chapter of their unique creativity.
What started as a casual encounter more than a decade ago has evolved into a 2,500-mile-wide virtual rehearsal space. Hill was raised on a steady diet of 60’s and 70’s folk in a tiny, one-stop-sign Alaskan bush village. By eight she was writing songs, at thirteen plunking at piano, and by high school was strumming the guitar. Hill sang in symphonic and jazz choir with sufficient deftness to land a full scholarship for vocal performance to the University of Alaska. A year into her studies she headed south to the teeming metropolis (from her perspective) of Portland, Oregon to continue her education and begin her career in earnest.
Brian Daste grew up just about as far from Alaska as you can get in the Lower 48. New Orleans, Louisiana is and has always been a simmering musical melting pot, and Daste grew up figuring that being immersed in melody pretty much constantly was just normal living. By the time he hit high school he could play piano, guitar (acoustic, electric, and classical), saxophone, and pedal steel. In 2005 he too moved to Portland, slinging steel with Scotland Barr and the Slow Drags. In 2007 Daste got an email from a charming Alaskan inquiring about booking some time in his studio.
Hill’s brother Zach came down from Seattle, and they got to work. “A few days in, we were so impressed with Bryan's work, we asked him to co-produce” says Hill. “As I prepared to release my second album in 2009, I asked him to join the band.” Together, the duo has released seven full length record, and played hundreds of shows as part of dozens of tours across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Magnesium Dreams marks a turning point in Hills career. Written during a time of recovery following the f facing of some difficult truths – both intimate and existential – the record is intended to take the listener on a journey of spirit and mind. “The song “Magnesium Dreams” set the tone for how we approached this album” explains Hill. “It is based in a dream world and we built the album around that idea. We wanted to take the songs and showcase their lyrical depth along with their sonic beauty.”
Sonically, the record grows from Hill’s deep roots in folk and Americana into a glorious web of interwoven threads of synth-pop, world tones, and symphonic indie rock. “These new songs lent themselves well to sonic experimentation” says Daste. “Personally, I get excited when a song that has both synthesizers and pedal steel! We're just making music the way we want to hear.”
When Hill returned to Alaska in 2011 the pair were unsure of how smooth their collaboration would continue, but those concerns quickly proved themselves unfounded. Hill simply records rough demos to her phone and emails them Daste, who then goes to town fleshing out the compositions. “Often we end up with demos that are quite close to what ends up going on the record” says Daste. “In fact, I've even lifted instrumental parts directly from demos and used them on the final mix.”
When the time came to track Magnesium Dreams, musicians gathered in The Magic Closet, Daste’s Portland studio. In addition to Hill on vocals and acoustic guitar and Daste, on (ahem) vocals, pedal steel guitar, banjo, upright and electric bass, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, glockenspiel, Theremin, saw, and string arrangements, the record features performances by Joe Mengis (drums and percussion), Mont Christopher Hubbard (piano), Kyleen King (viola, violin) and Emily Dalsfoist (cello). It was produced by Emma Hill, Bryan Daste and Zach Hill and mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering.
Elegant, eloquent, and captivating, Magnesium Dreams is a multifaceted journey through the unique creativity of two soul-siblings, their spirits dancing and twirling together between the notes of this undeniable, timeless recording. “At its core this album is about the vulnerability it takes to face your own hard truths and seeing the beauty that lies in our shared humanity” tells Hill. “It's about working at being okay with not having all of the answers; and being thankful we have the ability to ask big questions at all.”