Led by drummer José Medeles (Breeders, 1939 Ensemble, Revival Drum Shop), Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems is a drummer’s tribute to guitarist and DIY iconoclast John Fahey. Joined for a series of guitar and drum duets with M. Ward, experimental guitarist Marisa Anderson, and Chris Funk (Decemberists, Stephen Malkmus), it’s a genuinely honorific project, featuring not Fahey compositions, but rather a series of improvised rendezvous inspired and informed by his looseness and rhythmic idiosyncrasies. Though Medeles knew and had interacted with all of his collaborators, the record represents the first time he’s played on a record with Anderson and Funk (though he’s contributed to Ward’s indie pop band She & Him). Recording in the comfortable setting of Bocce Recording in Vancouver, WA, in 2020, these duets are playful and spiritually deep, presented with snapshot clarity Medeles likens to the recordings of Alan Lomax or Chris Strachwitz, “who boldly captured field recording of Southern chain gangs and juke joint raconteurs decades ago. The result here is similar: pure and honest recordings.”
Today Medeles drops one of the strongest songs coming off the forthcoming release, “Golden” featuring Chris Funk (Decemberists, Stephen Malkmus). Accompanying the single is a breathtaking video, made by Rachel Blumberg.
Going along with “Golden,” Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems connect to Fahey’s transcendent states. “It’s past physicality. You’re not thinking, you’re listening,” Medeles says. “Things like that don’t happen if you have any hang ups.
The record concludes with “Voice Of The Turtle,” a reverie from Funk and Medeles, who trade washes of cymbals and swells of slide guitar underneath a sample of Fahey speaking, describing the light trance he enters when playing and a scene of Robert Johnson, sans his guitar, entertaining spectators by clapping his hands. “I tried to imitate his rhythmic creativity…I had a lot of old blues records around…I listened to those and tried to imitate them as best I could.” With Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems, Medeles does the same, creating a generous space that invites the listener into the collective unconscious.