Solo projects can often act as a return to an artist’s introduction to music, a reacquaintance with the instrument that started it all, and the enchantment affiliated with learning. And if you’ve ever heard the frenzied psychosis of Philadelphia/Miami noise rock duo Snakehole, it may come as a small surprise to hear that Autumn Casey (guitar/vocals) first approached music by way of piano. A somewhat recent conversation between her and writer/artist/label owner Jordan Reyes incited the return of a prodigal daughter to her musical foundation (not to say that she ever really left the keys, simply that she had perhaps not yet utilized them as a focal point for personal output). The result is Casey’s solo debut, This Is No Dream, just released this past Friday on Reyes’ brand new tape label, American Damage.
Beautiful and mystifying arpeggios descend down a wormhole of emotional release, their hushed tones permeating through the mix like rain through an overtired tent. Sure, the whole thing rings of a Walden-like woodland experience, the disappearance of all things electric allowing for the focus on self and the self’s place in the world. Field recordings weave in and out, in an eerie fashion – things like the rattling of chains and chimes to echo the solitude necessary for introspection. The twenty-nine+ minute piece picks up momentum, loses it, and picks up faster like the fluctuating perception of reality synonymous with a nervous breakdown. But that’s just tempo. Melodically, sped up or molasses-like, it’s calming as ever. What begins as whispered voices in the field recordings slowly reveal themselves to be Mia Farrow from Rosemary’s Baby, the film which inspires the tape’s title, as she realized that she is really getting impregnated by the Devil. Casey notes, “That screamed phrase always resonated. It’s easy to be deep in a situation before noticing what is happening.” The tape, which plays the same on both sides, acts as a dream into which you don’t realize you’ve fallen. It’s too late before you’re out cold and imploring unconsciousness but lucid and longing in ways that channel the process of awakening.
Check out a Q+A with Autumn Casey below:
Impose: How long have you been playing piano?
Autumn Casey: The piano was my first instrument. I think I was around 7 when I asked for piano lessons. I took them for about 4 years before the forced demands of having to practice every day strangled the joy out of it for me. I declared “I Quit”. Then at 14, I asked for my dad to teach me how to play the guitar. I grew up around music and the piano was always around. I’ve gone back to it over the years to see if I could still read music, but I would say around 4 years ago I went back to it with intention. I realized it was a great tool for making melodies that I could transfer over to the guitar for Snakehole or use to collaborate with KC for something cool to add to a record. I re-found the fun with the piano by allowing myself to be creative with it, instead of having to play songs out of a book. In some ways I’ve been playing the piano on and off for 23 years.
I: How did This Is No Dream come to fruition? Was this something you’ve wanted to do for a while?
AC: All the musical stuff I do seems to funnel into Snakehole. When Jordan [Reyes] asked me if I would consider doing a solo release, it made me more conscious about what was going to become a solo project for me. It was hard to understand where those separations should occur. It all kind of comes down to timing. This opportunity and goal presented itself at a certain time, and this is what was already beneath the surface.
I: This album was recorded after your move from Miami to Philadelphia. How would you say the move influenced you? Changed you?
AC: I think being able to watch the seasons change has influenced me the most. I love experiencing the seasons change. Being stuck inside during the winter is a great time to get weird as fuck and record an album. This album is more lonely. But lonely in a good way. I’ve dug into being alone. It’s nice to experience the other side of the spectrum, having gone from a popping, infectiously tropical place like Miami.
I: You had a ton of field recordings ready to go to “weave in and around the piano.” How did the pairing of field recording and piano parts go?
AC: I used the field recordings like collage material. Sometimes I would play the recordings and add piano to it to see what was inspired. Other times I would already have the piano part and just add the field recording on top because I thought it would be an interesting combination.
I: This is a project rooted in catharsis. Would you say there are different types of catharsis to be pulled from different outlets? Say, like, from playing piano vs. playing in Snakehole? Vs. sculpting or any other artistic endeavor?
AC: They all have different vibes – sure. Snakehole allows me to be more aggressive whereas the piano lets me go into a meditated trance, but those can both be switched depending on mood. You can make a sculpture with violence, and you can write a soft song on the guitar.
I: Will you be performing this live? What does the new year look like for you?
AC: I am not sure! I am still figuring it out the logistics of what it would take to perform this live. I have another solo release coming out on Primitive Languages and something also in the works for Lost In the Flood. This In No Dream untapped a process I enjoy very much, and I am excited to keep making more sounds. Snakehole has also been working on new music and we’ll hopefully get to record our new album this year.