For Immediate Release
July 23, 2014
HESSISMORE, COPENHAGEN / NEW YORK MUSIC ENSEMBLE LED BY MIKKEL HESS, TO RELEASE MYHEADISABALLROOM / WHONEEDSAPLACEANYWAY, AUGUST 19 VIA THIS IS CARE OF AND W. ANDREW RAPOSO’S CONCIERGE RECORDS
Follow-Up to Acclaimed 2011 Album Creation Keeps The Devil Away
Is the First To Feature Full Band
Band Will Perform at the Kennedy Center (DC) on July 29; the Wassaic Project Summer Festival (Wassaic, NY) on August 1; Five Shows at Nublu (NYC), August 18-22
In the ten years since the Danish-born, New York-based musical auteur Mikkel Hess began performing and recording as Hessismore, both Hess and his avant-pop / electronica project have grown considerably. While Hessismore was once little more than a moniker for Hess himself—with other musicians making guest appearances and helping to perform Hess’s music live—it has solidified into a band with core personnel who have written songs and performed together regularly, in a wide range of contexts in New York, from the New Museum to the Elizabeth Street Gardens to Nublu. (Other musicians sub in in Denmark, where Hess is a veritable star, and in other countries around the globe.) Hessismore will release their new album, Myheadisaballroom / Whoneedsapalaceanyway, August 19.
Mikkel Hess, as a writer of songs and instrumental music defying categorization, has scored films as well as theater and dance productions. He has recently written and recorded the soundtrack for Jonas Arnby’s When Animals Dream, which premiered to acclaim at this year’s Cannes Film Festival; written for, and performed with, the Royal Danish Ballet; and, with Rasmus Bille Bahncke and brother Nikolaj Hess, collaborated with Danish designer and musician Henrik Vibskov at the Kennedy Center last year.
Myheadisaballroom / Whoneedsapalaceanyway arose from yet another collaboration: a concert created by the band and the Icelandic artist Shoplifter at the legendary Tribeca art space the Clocktower Gallery last year. Following the concert, Alanna Heiss, the Clocktower’s founder and director, invited Hess to be an artist-in-residence, and he and the band used the opportunity to flesh out the songs and hone the interplay between the musicians. At the end of the residency, Midnight Magic’s W. Andrew Raposo recorded the band at Midnight Sun Studio; helped Mikkel Hess and Bahncke produce the album; and is co-releasing the LP on his Concierge Records label with This Is Care Of Records, a label that Hess runs with Bille Bähncke and graphic designer Jacob Wildschiødtz.
Hessismore is: Mikkel Hess (vocals, drums, percussion), Michael Hanf (vibraphone, bass, gang vocals), Matt Parker (horns, keys, gang vocals), Pavel Kogan-Liakhov (guitar, gang vocals), David Mason (electric drums, gang vocals), Nikolaj Hess (piano, keys, gang vocals) and Rasmus Bille Bahncke (SH101 bass synth, gang vocals).
Myheadisaballroom / Whoneedsapalaceanyway is the first album to feature the whole band throughout the recording process, and, as such, is the first to capture the energy and interplay of their beloved live show. The music is as playful and stylistically varied as ever, navigating jazz, folk, disco and electronic music.
And it sounds otherworldly. Upon hearing the music, Scott Hull, a veteran mastering engineer who has worked with everyone from Lou Reed and John Zorn to Bruce Springsteen and Edie Brickell, said, “There was just one track that reminded me of something I have worked on before.”
In addition to releasing the album in vinyl, CD and digital formats, Hessismore will release sheet music, remixes, a band jersey collaboration with New York-based clothing brand Isaora, and more.
Hessismore will perform at the Kennedy Center (DC) on July 29, the Wassaic Project Summer Festival (Wassaic, NY) on August 1, and five shows at Nublu (NYC), August 18-22. In Denmark, the band will appear at the Skarø Festival July 11; will perform a concert marathon (five shows in one day) at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival; and will perform September 29 & 30 at Skuespilhuset / The Royal Theatre. Additional U.S. dates will be announced soon.
From the Liner Notes by Jay Ruttenberg
In 2012, Hessismore was invited to perform at the Clocktower Gallery, the legendary Tribeca art space. The concert was a collaboration with the Icelandic artist Shoplifter. The gallery was perched atop a dramatic government building. Arriving concertgoers were escorted through metal detectors and directed to a fleet of elevators, then a staircase, and finally a second, more narrow, flight of stairs. The performance area was intimate and circular. Behind the musicians, Shoplifter had erected a fluffy multi colored installation piece; on the side, a terrace loomed over Manhattan. A concert in the clouds.
Following the show, Alanna Heiss, the gallery’s founder and director, asked Mikkel if he was interested in serving as an artist-in-resident at the Clocktower. The residency came at a strange period for Hess Is More. Not long before, Mikkel had learned that one of his old songs, “Yes Boss” (2006), had received prominent, lascivious placement on the web channel of a famous Russian exotic dancer, propelling it to unlikely Russian popularity, which led to a series of Moscow concerts. Additionally, Hess traveled to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for a collaboration between Danish and African musicians—his first time on the continent—coming away with an even deeper appreciation for African music, not to mention at least one killer saxophone riff. At the same time, his band was in flux. For a period, Mikkel had maintained separate Hess Is More touring units in the States and in Denmark; increasingly, the group seemed to be solidifying under its unconventional New York lineup. Onstage, its songs were taking new and sometimes unexpected shapes.
As a resident artist, Hess clocked into the building daily, using the gallery space to concoct a new set of songs. Band members came and went, rehearsing with Mikkel and filling in his songs’ skeletons. At the end of the residency, Hess Is More returned to the Clocktower’s performance space for a second concert, presenting a virgin airing of the new material; within a week, the musicians found themselves at Greenpoint’s Midnight Sun Studio. After releasing his previous record—the deeply personal, at times dark Creation Keeps the Devil Away – the drummer had broached the possibility of never again recording a proper album. Instead, he gave birth to what might prove Hess Is More’s shining moment as a unit: MYHEADISABALLROOM / WHONEEDSAPALACEANYWAY. The LP is divorced from any genre boundaries, conventions, or even the expectations of creating a record. As a joint release on This Is Care Of (which Hess runs with Bille Bähncke and graphic designer Jacob Wildschiødtz) and Concierge Records (operated by Midnight Magic’s W. Andrew Raposo, who played a crucial role in the album’s production), it is divorced from conventional label strictures. The LP is informed by Copenhagen, Ouagadougou and perhaps even by Moscow. But it is predominantly a creature of New York City, and of the berserk arts tower in which it was birthed.
In the past, Hessismore (heretofore, Hess Is More) records were studio creatures, crafted by few hands—its last primarily being the work of Mikkel with producer Rasmus Bille Bähncke. At times, the studio work could seem tangentially related to the group’s live act, which blew up the framework of once tidy pop songs. Recorded mostly live in studio, Myheadisaballroom / Whoneedsapalaceanyway is the first album to unite the band’s studio and stage facets. The album gives voice to an unusual musical unit with widely dispersed roots. Bille Bähncke—who, like Hess, traded Copenhagen for New York City years ago—has worked as a producer on records by Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, and the Backstreet Boys. Nikolaj Hess, Mikkel’s big brother, is a highly respected jazz pianist. Irish-born New Yorker David Mason, who complements Hess’s beat on electric drums, forms the one-man electronic act Listening Center. The guitarist, native Brooklynite Pavel Kogan-Liakhov, performs with a sly rhythmic touch, redolent of his work in Afrobeat ensembles. Michael Hanf plays vibraphone, elevating what is typically a minor component to center stage. Perhaps most improbable is Matt Parker, the bearded jazz saxophonist, working valiantly to redeem his instrument’s years of corniness in pop music.
A true LP, Myheadisaballroom / Whoneedsapalaceanyway falls in two distinct halves. Side A tilts toward pop, with shorter songs of shifting style and temperament: The title track evokes Weimar-era pop music via 1967 psychedelia—and returns in a recap, to close out the side, as a piano ballad performed by Nikolaj. “Stupidface” and “Bearsong” each spotlight Parker, the former dominated by Kogan-Liakhov’s surf guitars, suggestive of a B-52’s party anthem, the latter moody and spare. And what of “Heyithinkyouareterrific”? For months, I lobbied Hess to begin the album with this song. I now see that my efforts were unsuccessful. Never fear! I hereby launch my campaign to employ “Terrific” to inaugurate every possible movie, ballgame, wedding, bar mitzvah, business meeting, hostage negotiation, and NASA launch. Perhaps it can be used as the national anthem of an obscure island nation, too.
Side B opens with vocoder—employed, in the contemporary fashion, for its sci-fi aura of Internet-era loneliness—leading into a nine-minute instrumental jam, “Dontgotohollywood.” A brief lullaby featuring an antique rhythm ace machine, “Toughenup,” follows. The side’s jewel is its longest piece and conclusion, “Youarenotaprimate,” a seamless marriage of the organic and electronic that tucks a handful of pop songs into one huge dance piece.
Hessismore will play the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on July 29, and the Wasaic Project Festival in Wasaic, New York on August 1. More dates will be announced soon.
Myheadisaballroom / Whoneedsapalaceanyway
– arranged, performed & co-produced by Michael Hanf, Matt Parker, Pavel Kogan-Liakhov, David Mason, Nikolaj Hess, Rasmus Bille Bahncke & Mikkel Hess
– written by Mikkel Hess with additional lyrics by Grace Yu
– recorded by W. Andrew Raposo at Midnight Sun Studio
– mixed and produced by W. Andrew Raposo, Rasmus Bille Bahncke & Mikkel Hess at Midnight Sun Studio
– mastered by Scott Hull, Masterdisk New York
Additional bass on “Bearsong” and “Stupidface” by W. Andrew Raposo
Additional engineering by Morgan Wiley
Mix consulting: Theodor Clausen & Natal Sachs
Artwork by NR2154