On Pillars and Tongues, The Pass and Crossings + New Single

The Empty Cellar crew can talk your ear off about why we believe Pillars and Tongues make powerful beautiful music, but we will spare you our inarticulate yammering. Instead we offer you the first round of praise from the world of music criticism for their forthcoming album, The Pass and Crossings, and unveil the second single “Thank You Oaky” for your listening experience:

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One of the hardest aspects of describing Pillars and Tongues is describing Pillars and Tongues… and one of our favorite past times is reading the descriptions. While some publications like The New Yorker strived to capture the bands essence with broad brushstrokes “an indefinable, primal jazz outfit with a strong ear for improvisation” others decided to brave the challenge of really pinning the band. Some of our favorite comparisons this time around were rather lofty including Dead Can Dance, Alice Coltrane, Popol Vuh… and of course, Alice in Chains.

…on the album The Pass and Crossings

“There’s something exhilarating about the way they court the darkness in their own music, as if it is something which swims around them and envelops them, and is something they encourage and indulge. …an absolutely gorgeous album.”
Song By Toad

“Without a reliance on electronic drones and over saturated vocals Chicago’s Pillars and Tongues seem to have a much more organic sound to it. While their overall sound is dark in nature I find it to be rather seductive as if you’ve stumbled upon a few friends in the basement of a 400 year old cathedral.”
Head Under Water

“This Chicago three-piece clearly possesses a total disregard for structure, big choruses and standard arrangement. Which is probably why they are so original, bewitching and contently working to their own, unique guidelines – however doomed they might be. It feels like the record is a collective thought process, unburdened by the outside forces. Yet it is their apparent freedom of expression which has created this challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience.”

“Over 6 tracks, The Pass And Crossings formulates, constructs and exhibits some of the most unique (yet not unfamiliar) music being recorded today. In the most simplistic terms, you can file this album under genres like folk, drone and even blues; what’s unique about it is that the music doesn’t sound played, but rather it sounds induced. Rather than compacting the human experience into the smallest convenience, with The Pass And Crossings, Pillars And Tongues expand moments of it, indulge in and honour it.”
[sic] Magazine

“Soaring strings and the near chanting vocals allow the listener to float seemlessly through this album. However it is not filler or noise, but the music sucks you into the enchanted world of Pillars and Tongues.”
Deli Magazine

…on the lead single “The Making Graceful”

“This song [The Making Graceful] is totally rad. It’s tribal – maybe a bit Persian. It makes you wanna tap your toes. I love it. You could totally get high to this song. In fact, it’s probably preferable.”
— Kyle Dean Reinford, KDR Gives You 5

“Singer Mark Trecka entrances with his deep chanting vocals on new single “The Making Graceful” from Pillars & Tongues upcoming third album The Pass and Crossings. “The Making Graceful” channels Dead Can Dance’s hypnotic, almost sermon-like pop song structure. It draws you in and doesn’t let go until the end.”
Loud Loop

“A six minute composition [The Making Graceful] of meditative percussive thumps overlain with fluctuating strings, it is actually aided by its length. Each pass builds the hypnotic mystique, coaxing the listener down its cathartic emotional gauntlet.”
Nothing Sounds Better

“A perplexing array of instruments filter through the cracks in the walls, joining arms and become a solitary wave of almost wistful, flowing noise. ‘The Making Graceful’ sounds pagan-like; how music would have been made when we had castles for skyscrapers and rituals for the internet. Its six minutes rush by in no time at all because you’re given so much to ponder. Each second provides a new rush of instrumentation or a textural adjustment. A truly fascinating work.”
Music Fans Mic

“[The Making Graceful] An Eastern-influenced (visions of Ravi and Zeppelin dance in our heads) texture-and-tone heavy track. Violins and accordions blend perfectly to create a transcendental feel, while an array of syncopated percussion maintain a solid substratum of beats throughout. … both masterful and graceful.”

“Pillars and Tongues are magic. A proper review is to come, but in the meantime you can listen to that song [The Making Graceful], and I can consider just how exactly I will be able to put into words something that is already distilled darn-near perfectly in its own language.”
Satellite for Entropy

…on the band

“What makes Chicago’s Pillars and Tongues so enchanting is the disarming alchemy with which the ensemble stirs up its otherworldly song. Straddling the vocal out-of-body keening of Daniel Higgs and the levitating musical atomic peace of Alice Coltrane at her most drone-leaning, P&T swirls old-timey folk around the third-eye cosmic to yield something that feels of its moment.”
Baltimore City Paper

“The Chicago trio Pillars and Tongues makes very serious music. The group’s droning pieces—too monumental to be called songs—feel heavy, ancient, and spiritual, like they’re intended for something besides just entertainment. The best comparison might be Popol Vuh, the German band best known for providing the haunting minimalist soundtracks to Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Cobra Verde. It’s too heady to be pop, too viscerally ritualistic to fit into the academic confines of modern composition, too ponderous to be jazz—but whatever it is, it’s powerful.”
Metropulse, Knoxville

…and for the french speakers:

“Bon sang. Il n’est pas encore sorti le nouvel album de Pillars and Tongues que déjà, on sent comme un engouement, comme les prémices d’un succès annoncé. Il faut dire que ces chicagoans ont de quoi intriguer. Imaginez un peu : ils sont trois et, à les entendre jouer, on a l’impression qu’ils sont un orchestre. Du violon par-ci, du tambour par-là, une contrebasse, un orgue, des cloches. Un véritable orchestre, je vous dis.”
My Car Is Full of Plums

The Sandwitches Tour the Pacific Northwest with Sonny & The Sunsets (Midwest / Northeast in July)

Polaroid by Chris Cantalini Gorilla Vs. Bear

The Sandwitches are on the road with Sonny & The Sunsets in support of Mrs. Jones’ Cookies (Empty Cellar). They are making their way up the pacific coast towards Calgary, Canada for the big Sled Island music festival where they will be playing a bunch of shows. If you live on the other coast and are jonesin’ for The Sandwitches live… then fret not, as they will be headed your way via the midwest (also with Sonny and his gang) in July. If you catch them during these summertime tours, you just might be treated to some Earth Girl Helen Brown crossover action!

June Dates:

06-22 Portland, OR – The Record Room
with: Calvin Johnson

06-22 Portland, OR – Cherry Sprout Grocery
with: Sonny and the Sunsets, Calvin Johnson, Earth Girl Helen Brown

06-24 Calgary, Canada – Bamboo
with: Sonny and the Sunsets, Chains of Love, Louise Burns

06-25 Calgary, Canada – The Ship & Anchor
with: Sonny and the Sunsets, Jim Ward, The Lusitania, Heart Failure Research,

06-25 Calgary, Canada – Marquee Room
with: Sonny and the Sunsets, Jim Ward, Shuyler Jansen

06-27 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – The Waldorf Cabaret
with: Sonny and the Sunsets, Shannon and the Clams, Hunx and his Punx

06-28 Seattle, WA – Funhouse
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

July Dates:

07-01 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
with: Sonny and the Sunsets, Calvin Johnson, Wounded Lion

07-22 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-23 Pontiac, MI – The Pike Room
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-24 Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Sneaky Dee’s
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-26 Montreal, Quebec, Canada – Divan Orange
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-27 Philadelphia, PA – North Star Bar
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-28 Washington DC – DC9
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-29 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

07-30 Brooklyn, NY – Glasslands
with: Sonny and the Sunsets

City Limits Records Treats us to another San Francisco Compilation


Geography breeds and cultivates its own particular sound. In our case, a slew of local bands transmit San Francisco’s foggy charm into catchy, dazed melodies. Inspired in part by the Secret Seven Records compilation, In A Cloud: New Sounds From San Francisco (recently profiled on pitchfork), the bloggers behind Ears of the Beholder and See the Leaves have compiled 14 Bay Area tracks as their first installment in their City Limits Presents project, which aims to showcase and invigorate music from varying regional scenes. Featured on this release are songs by Empty Cellar family artists The Sandwitches, Tim Cohen, and Joseph Childress, along with a bunch of other buzzworthy artists. You can preorder the 12″ (on orange vinyl, no less) or download the tunes instantly from their bandcamp . The release party for the comp will be June 17th at Milk Bar. Support our scene!!

Listen to “Sirens and Bells” by the Sandwitches:

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Track listing:

1. Young Prisms – Weekends & Treehouses (Acoustic)
2. Tim Cohen – Wake Up In Another Dream
3. Exray’s – Paper Bag ft. Heidi Alexander
4. Magic Bullets – No Longer There
5. Fiveng – Meant To Be
6. The Sandwitches – Sirens & Bells
7. Joseph Childress – Last Days
8. Sunbeam RD. – Prismatic Surface
9. Melted Toys – Lost Connection (Demo)
10. Phantom Kicks – Cut From A Different Clay
11. Maus Haus – You Made My Radar
12. The Soft Moon – Bones
13. Skeletal System – Cue To Remind
14. Kites Sail High – Trip

The Sandwitches Play with Michael Yonkers Tuesday

June 14th, The Sandwitches will be playing with the quietly legendary Michael Yonkers at Amnesia. It will be Yonkers’ first performance in San Francisco in his evolutionary 40 year career. Yonkers’ foundational stylings ignited the origin of fuzzy “garage rock” and corresponding psych-folk endeavors.

Secret Seven Records reissued his early 70s album “Goodby Sunball” last summer. As you may recall, Grace Sings Sludge (Grace Cooper of The Sandwitches) recorded a beautiful cover of his song “Oh Can You Tell Me”. You can listen to that track here. Michael Yonkers with the sonic support of The Sandwitches and Bronze this coming Tuesday will certainly be a show not to miss!

Pillars and Tongues announce new album, on tour

Earlier this week No Fear of Pop premiered the first single from Pillars and Tongues‘ forthcoming LP on Empty Cellar, The Pass and Crossings. You can listen to it “The Making Graceful” here now:

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“Employing mainly violin, double bass, drums, bells and occasionally organs, and relying on the marvelous baritone of Mark Trecka, Pillars and Tongues’ music always has one foot in the avant-garde, while never completely abandoning pop, which in this case is gloomy, dark, and dreamy, almost cinematic, evoking pictures of lost and doomed landscapes. The Pass and Crossing is close to nothing contemporary, a truly outstanding piece of sonic art.”
No Fear of Pop

The Pass and Crossings tracklist:
1. A Dance In The Billowing Absence
2. The Palms to Tell
3. Thank You, Oaky
4. Oaky (Doting)
5. The Making Graceful
6. Decadent Crossing

Once based entirely in Chicago, and now in near-constant motion, Pillars and Tongues is a formidable force, large and looming. The Pass and Crossings is the third full-length offering from the trio, and their second for San Francisco vinyl label Empty Cellar out June 28th (pre-order link below), and are currently touring the US in support of the record (tour dates below).

Having spent years developing a uniquely textured sound, Pillars and Tongues have now given teeth their creation, and the doom is manifest. Like French experimental chanteuse Catherine Ribeiro’s early ’70s collaborations with Alpes, Pillars and Tongues brings passion, cohesion, and lyricism to the avant-garde. This is immediately apparent in the lyrical depths of the album opener, “A Dance in the Billowing Absence”, a song seemingly conjured by seduction from some very dark places. Beth Remis’ lush violin lines swell and sing over plodding, taiko-like drums, moving at a pace and with a weight that would not be out of place on an Earth record. Mark Trecka’s baritone pleads with absent forms and howls haunted poetry to reach them.

Heavily melodic, rolling, desert drones permeate this album, rendering the listener captive to deeply hypnotic vibes punctuated by the heavy, danceable and almost tribal rhythms on tracks “Thank you, Oaky” and “The Making Graceful”. As with their previous album, Lay of Pilgrim Park, Pillars and Tongues continues to evoke a certain era of 4AD releases – think the goth-drama and global grooves of Dead Can Dance.

When Trecka, Remis, and Hydzik hit it just right, their voices and instruments blend like the reeds of a pipe organ to create something that is altogether far greater than the sum of their parts. This sort of alchemy is just the type of thing they have been honing for the past few years, accepting invitations to tour as support for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Joan of Arc, opening for Dirty Three with Nick Cave, Bill Callahan, Daniel Higgs, Sir Richard Bishop, Red Red Meat, etc., and performing hundreds of concerts in various other scenarios from basements to cathedrals, from Albuquerque to Lisbon.

Trecka has kept busy in what would otherwise be moments of calm, touring much of the past year, as the drummer for Dark Dark Dark or performing solo; and Remis has loaned her voice and violin to recordings and performances by Elephant Micah.

This is a record full of dark moments and seductive pleas. Engineered by Mike Ursey and Theo Karon, and mastered by Paul Oldham. Performed with contributions by Ben Babbitt and Theo Karon from the band This is Cinema. Available in CD and LP formats via Empty Cellar June 28th. Keeping with the times, the LP comes with a high quality digital download and 16×23″ poster.

Tour Dates

05-27 Lincoln, NE – Cultiva
727 S. 11th St., Lincoln
w/ Woven Symbol, Cool it Action!

05-28 Iowa City, IA – White Lightning Wherehouse
700 S. Dubuque St.
w/ Buoyant Sea, Zodiac

05-30 Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago
w/ Ga’an, Axis:sovA, Ancient Ocean

06-01 Columbus, OH – Iuka House
2131 Iuka Ave., Columbus
w/ Time and Temperature, Zac Little (fr. Saint Seneca)

06-02 Pittsburgh, PA – Garfield Artworks
4931 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh
w/ Gallina and Mike Tamburo

06-03 Baltimore, MD – 2640
2640 St. Paul St., Baltimore
w/ Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors) and Hiro Kone.

06-04 New York, NY – Cake Shop
153 Ludlow St., New York (LES)
w/ Hiro Kone, Effi Briest

06-05 Biddeford, ME – The Oak and the Ax
140 Main St., Suite 107
w/ Hiro Kone

06-09 Brooklyn, NY – Zebulon
258 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn

Pre-order The Pass and Crossings HERE

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