Ten Shots for Ten Songs: A track by track exploration of Gull’s Relative Stranger

Nathaniel Rappole’s solo project, Gull, is a bit of an enigma, an artist whose contributions belong to the world rather than any particular locale or scene. The project was conceived on an endangered wildlife preserve in Front Royal, Virginia in 1999, and became publicly active in 2007. Since then, Gull has recorded a 7″, six EPs, three full-lengths, and traveled vigorously—playing venues, on the streets, and in the wilds of Canada, United States, Mexico, Europe, Kenya, and Southeast Asia.

In 2012, Gull was featured in a movie about music in Mexico, Hecho en Mexico, and in 2014 he produced and performed in a documentary on street/public music in Kenya, Street Muse: Kenya, which premiered at The Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. In April of 2016, Gull performed and answered questions pertaining to his travels at TedX in Richmond, Virginia, and in 2017 he contributed an improvised performance to Grotesque Tables ii –Noah Wall’s anagramic reimagining of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies deck of cards from 1975. In December, 2019, Gull went to Thailand and Laos to film a new doc in an ongoing series about musical ecology and culture around the world.

Gull’s latest, Relative Stranger,was recorded, mixed, produced, and mastered by Cyrus Fisher (CyFi in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Brooklyn, New York. It featured guest appearances by Tristan Brennis on sax/Amanda Wilson on backing vocals and was released August 21 through Lagom audio/visual.

Making heads or tails of Rappole’s wildly interesting life experiences and music is daunting to say the least. So, Ghettoblaster caught up with him to discuss, track by track, the record. He provided us with this video companion, ten shots of video imagery taken by his father, paired with the ten tracks from the album. Below is his commentary on each of the video’s segments.  

I have been spending much of the pandemic with my folks in the wilds of western New York. This time has coincided with the release of an album I’ve been working on for over four years, and I wanted to make a video that paired certain natural spaces with these recordings. Ten shots for ten songs. My dad, John Rappole (a retired ornithologist), and I collaborated on the images and combined them with the tracks off the new Gull full length, Relative Stranger, to create a full album stream of environments.

Track 1. Lifted By Dance ~ 

Jekyll Island, GA. In February of 2017 my father managed to catch a clip of 2 gulls in the throws of courtship. It was not until I heard this song paired with the footage that I realized it’s about both the shorebird and persona.

Track 2. Find Out ~

Dobbins Woods, NY. I crossed paths with a wooden cave and heard this song immediately. The shot reminds me of Gmork in The Never Ending Story… Hunting eyes shrouded in darkness.

Track 3. Mouth To Match ~

Zoar Valley, NY. There were no effects put on any of these clips, but this shot in particular seems like it was treated in post. The western sun peered over the waterfall and just out of frame, and through the tree canopy and eye of the camera it appeared to flash like a strobing heartbeat. “Yes. That’s where the blood flows, from one heart.”

Track 4. Burning Shoals ~

Lake Erie, NY. I love this spot. It’s a lake like the sea, and depending on the season you can look out and feel like you’re in another part of the world. Winter is Antarctica. Summer is Nantucket. The shattered piece of flotsam floating in and out of the sun’s path made my mother think of Queequeg’s coffin in Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. The song is about changing climates and the collective human waste we leave in our wake… Ancient tongues and the fears of centuries.

Track 5. Harangue Gang ~

Dobbins Woods, NY. This features a close up of a young toad in a dirt-chunk nook at the base of a tree. Its breathing follows the beat of the song and in general its movements sync seamlessly. It has a look on its face that says “Stop messing with me man.” I knew from the start this was a keeper.

Track 6. Camry ~

Ellery Center, NY. My dad shot this on a piece of family land a number of years ago. The small section chosen was taken from over 40 minutes of footage that was initially intended to be played in a loop on a TV for ambience. The song is about a car wreck in the Alleghenies and I think the clip is a perfect fit.

Track 7. Losing Light ~

Chautauqua Gorge, NY. Tunnels can offer a path to another realm. This defunct bridge is being reclaimed by nature, and underneath a tunnel is revealed. It almost seems to echo a song about the death of a very good friend.

Track 8. Priest ~

Dobbins Woods, NY. Burnt hands of fungus springing out of moss. Take notice of the insects. The priest gives way to love and tells you it will be alright. 

Track 9. The Time We Have ~

Zoar Valley, NY. My dad and I traveled down a 10 mile stretch of water twice to get this shot. A waterfall flowing like the sands of time. Vultures fly overhead and show their shadows on the face of the primordial cliff. Forget all expectations. This is the time we have.

Track 10. Relative Stranger ~

Cattaraugus Creek, NY. This clip shows my father and I walking and wading through a body of water. Each of us reflecting the inescapable blood of our ancestors. They are the past in the present. We are relative strangers. Follow.

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