It didn’t take 15 years for Cotton Mather’s Austin-based main man,Robert Harrison to write the 64 songs (64 songs!) that comprise his latest musical vision: one song for each hexagram (or reading) of the I Ching. That’s actually the amount of time that has passed since the last full-length album of new Cotton Mather songs was released. With so much new material on deck, it seems like Harrison is making up the difference.
Half a dozen tracks from this treasure trove of new tunes have already been posted one-by-one in “real time and real weather” as Harrisondescribes this creative process, and now the first of an eventual four albums that will ultimately contain much of the entire song cycle, has been announced.
Arriving on July 29th, the eleven-track Death of The Cool contains another nine of Harrison’s pure pop meditations on Chinese philosophy, along with the two currently available tracks that initially announced the project – “The Book of Too Late Changes” (based on I Ching hexagram #24: The Return) and “Child Bride”(based on #4: Youthful Folly.)
15 songs deep into revealing such an ambitious undertaking to the public,Harrison reflects, “These are my reactions in song to illuminations from the I Ching about life unfolding. Some of the songs directly reference the text and others use the readings as a starting point. Until I started this project, it had never before occurred to me to seek counsel with respect to songwriting, but after I turned to the I Ching for artistic guidance on several occasions with nice results, I thought ‘Why not go for the whole cycle?’”
Harrison’s commentaries about each of the songs can be found at the website for the project,ichingsongs.com.
“Each song’s commentary at ichingsongs.com reflects how a translator traditionally shares thoughts on the reading,” Harrison says. “However, I will limit my commentary to the readings themselves, and let the songs enjoy a free-range lifestyle.”
For anyone thinking that 64 songs written around a single theme can’t possibly maintain a standard of quality, then welcome to the unlikely world of Cotton Mather. Founded by Robert Harrison in Austin in the early 1990’s, the band initially had an experimental sound, but soon evolved into a guitar-driven pop group defined by accessible melodies, strong vocal harmonies and lyrical wit. Cotton Mather released its debut albumCotton Is King in 1994, but it was the follow-up albumKontiki, famously recorded on four-track cassette, that drew praise from critics and rock-stars alike.
Uncut Magazine gave Kontiki five stars calling the record “music to smile yourself to death to.” Mojo said the songs were “brought to life with daring vitality,” and in its own five-star review, The Guardian calledKontiki “a bewildering, dizzy thrill.” On our shores, the bounce back of influence from across the pond was finally felt with Britt Daniel of Spoonbeing just one artist to say “Kontiki gave me something to shoot for.”
Death of The Cool, the first of four anticipated albums comprisingRobert Harrison and Cotton Mather’s endeavor to write and record 64 songs for each of the I Ching’s 64 hexagrams is set for release on July 29th 2016 on CD & Digital & September 9th 2016 on Limited Edition 180 Gram White Vinyl via The Star Apple Kingdom which is distributed by Monostereo DLM Inc. Four additional non-album tracks can be heard now via ichingsongs.com with additional non-album tracks forthcoming.
Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather is available for interviews. Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic for more information.