Corntuth’s “The Desert Is Paper Thin” captures the desolate and delicate loveliness of the place I call home. Honestly haven’t stopped listening to it in the last 2 weeks. – Petal Motel
The album is conceived as a solo drive across the desert by morning, noon, and night. It’s a blend of 1983 Yamaha DX7 synth, acoustic guitar, and sweeping pedal steel — lonely, western, cosmic sounds
⁃The record is loosely conceived as a solo drive across the desert by morning, afternoon, dusk, and night. For this song, I wanted to open in the early morning, with a sense of purposefulness and direction, hence the metronomic beat. That’s actually a cowbell sound on a 1983 Yamaha DX7 that I played live, to allow for imperfections and variation to seep in so it wouldn’t feel *too* metronomic.
⁃On my last record, I improvised everything without a metronome. On this album, I wanted more rhythmic regularity to suggest the boredom of a long drive, and the even pace of lines on the road. That metering also allowed for more complex rhythms, as in the bass synth here.
⁃I made the record in my apartment, which is across the street from a specialty grocery store. Most grocery stores get one big delivery in the morning. Not this one. It gets 10+ deliveries a day, so the street is always quite loud, and you can hear it in the background of the acoustic guitar track. I decided to lean into it, so I only recorded a song at the time of day it was meant to represent on the record, and trusted the sounds might subtly suggest whatever time the song was trying to evoke. At the end of this song, you can hear a car passing by, which is a nearly identical sound to the rain that opens the next song
⁃It was raining on Christmas this year, and the wind was blowing hard. I recorded these chimes, and layered in light harmonics, bell sounds, and some E-bow strings on my guitar. This was originally a 4-minute song, and then I realized it could be 45 seconds.
⁃One thing I like about the title The Desert Is Paper Thin is it makes it sound like you might fall through it. I was thinking about the album as tracking that central, lone driver through the desert, and thinking about the lore of the desert — people who are escaping civilization, new agers shedding old selves in search of new ones. Roadrunner & Wile E. Coyote. I think there’s a kind of romance to the running man, but a kind of desperation too. This song was meant as a hinge, where lighting out for an isolated, spare place becomes less of a running-towards, and more of a running-from.
⁃There’s no two ways about it, this is just a Twin Peaks rip-off. What sets it apart, in my view, is the pedal steel composed and performed by Pete Finney. I met Pete when I was visiting Nashville a few years ago. I had flown in at 5am that morning, and was lying down in the early afternoon when I heard this incredible pedal steel from the next house over. After a half-hour, I decided I had to go and see who was playing. I met Pete, who first let me down by telling me that he was only listening to a Danny Lanois record, and then revealed that he also was a professional pedal steel player. It turned out that he is one of the greatest pedal steel players, and has played on some of my favorite records. He sent me 3-4 different versions of steel on each song. I typically edited together two complementary parts, slightly panned & treated differently. On this song, I left all four in for nearly the whole song.
⁃This is meant to be the start of a dusk/twilight sequence. I used a high-strung Nashville acoustic guitar as the harmony voice that comes in halfway through, to suggest a bit of starlight. It’s one of my favorite instruments because you barely have to touch the strings to make it sound like it’s breathing.
⁃This song I improvised at the end of the final D-001 take, hence the flubs. I left it because I liked the imperfections, and how the siren at :49 seconds calls the pedal steel in. I used a DX7 brass sound, which I love. I think the DX7 and pedal steel are two of the loneliest sounding instruments there are.
⁃This is the first song I wrote, and it’s when I had the idea for the project. I wanted to capture some of the feeling on Beck’s “Golden Age” from his excellent Sea Change record. Hence the tine-y synth sounds, and the whirring synth, like a road beneath you.
⁃This is part of that first session, though I worked more on it later. Julia Konrad played additional keys on this song — one take without having heard it before. I left much of what she played, but I also collected the sound of her trying the synth patch out at the beginning and looped it throughout.
⁃I was playing with the bass theme from C-001, just in a higher voice, and decided to take the guitar out of this and just have the synth ambience, since the guitar was often setting the rhythm for the song. I was imagining here that the driver has disappeared.
On a Different Note:
- Review – James Britt – Small Guitar Pieces
- Review: Dire Wolves / Headroom Split
- Review: Rootless – Live at Rhizome
- Review Batch: Jeff Mercel / Cloud Diameter / VUM / M. Shutak
- Track-by-Track: Broken Chip – Inside//Outside EP