Cassowary Announces Debut Album and Shares New Video for 'Belt Notch'
Cassowary, the moniker of 25-year-old artist and multi-instrumentalist Miles Shannon, has announced details of his self-titled debut album, which will be released April 24th via Fat Possum. The announcement arrives with the video for new single "Belt Notch!", premiered via The Fader.
An instantly enticing track of low-end, cosmic R&B, with a spidery guitar line and a smouldering instrumental mid-section bookended by Shannon's silky vocals, it's a tantalising preview of the dazzling musicianship and effortless songwriting to be found on this spirited debut. It follows the recent self-directed video for "She Funked Me", which also appears on the 11-track album.
"I wrote the song while reentering the dating scene after a relationship," says Shannon, "'Belt Notch' is about wanting more from a one night stand, and looking for love in the wrong places, how two people can hook up and walk away feeling differently. The notion that you're marked as a trophy is a common one in communities dominated by heartless dating apps and surface level interactions.I felt that the Wild West backdrop and femme fatale lead of the video would represent this "quick draw" "high noon" situations that I was going through at the time. My villain is seen with many hand made notches on her belt, takes the belt notch saying to another level be seemingly making a notch for each kill. She is loosely inspired by "Kissing Kate" from Holes by Louis Sachar."
On his self-titled debut, Cassowary evokes everything from the loping electronics of the Low End Theory "beat scene" to the freewheeling chops of the jazz fusion resurgence, from the murky textures of Odd Future's genre-hopping basement rap to the vintage funk revisionism of labels like Stones Throw. It's an artistic statement that's as beautiful and strange as the flightless bird that shares its name.
For Cassowary, Shannon's first solo vision, he spent two years hopping between the Valley's professional recording studios and friends' home rigs. It is produced, composed, arranged and even funded by Shannon, who scratched together cash from months of playing pick-up gigs, washing dishes, waiting tables and selling weed. A pair of high school friends - bassist Aidan McDonough and drummer Sean Tavella - round out the album's core ensemble. Emerging MC Tyler Cole provides an emotive guest rap.
Textures move between twisted post-disco haze ("She Funked Me"), blunted soul ballads ("Price Went Up"), Glass-inspired minimalist fusion ("Moth"), and head-boggling polyrhythmic jazz experiments ("Roach"). "We're actually using a 15 over 3 time signature," says Shannon of the lurching "Roach". "It's, to date, our hardest tune. Whenever we get a new instrumentalist, we teach them that one first. It's never easy."
Holding the album together is the three-parts '114°' series, excerpts from a single take of a funky, simmering jazz instrumental performed alongside McDonough and Tavella during 2018's record-breaking heat wave. Explains Shannon, "It was 114 degrees in the studio 'cause the A/C was fed. In fact, it was hotter in the studio - 114 outside."
Shannon's recording debut was nothing short of playing piano on childhood friend Earl Sweatshirt's landmark 2015 album I Don't Like s, I Don't Go Outside, and the two spent hours bumping austere, lyrical rappers like Mobb Deep, MF Doom, Talib Kweli and Juelz Santana, with the video for his breakthrough 2010 video 'Earl' being partially filmed in Shannon's home.
Studying under tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, Shannon was given the opportunity to play alongside greats like Gary Smulyan, Eric Reed, Gerald Clayton and Terrell Stafford. After graduating in 2012, he opted not to attend any of the esteemed music colleges that had accepted him, instead moving to New York to hit the club circuit. Embedded in New York's local jazz scene for a few months, he promptly grew frustrated by its competitive one-upmanship and its focus on half-century-old standards.
Instead, Shannon retreated to the places he was crashing at and played guitar. He had received a powerful jazz education at LACHSA, but had also met classmates that had opened his ears to the classic rock canon he had once shunned - bands like the Beatles, the Who and Pink Floyd. He was getting into the hypnotic rhythms of composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. He returned to California with a new vision, an armload of new compositions and a dream.
That dream is fulfilled on Cassowary, an unclassifiable 38 minutes that seamlessly weaves through jazz, R&B, hip-hop, funk, minimalism, avant-garde electronic music and more.
"I really wanted to make a record that I would listen to," Shannon says. "I want people to listen like a musician, with that intent. It's clearly not just a pop album with pop songs. I wanted to challenge people, sonically. I want people to go in there and be surprised."
Cassowary - Tracklisting:
1. 114° (part 1)
2. She Funked Me
4. Price Went Up
5. 114° (part 2)
7. Belt Notch!
11. 114° (part 3)
Photo Credit: Kristy Benjamin