Loma is a new project from Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg and the members of Texan proteges Cross Record. Having met on tour in 2016, the trio decided to join forces, sharing a love for the more intricately produced and downright strange elements of the musical landscape. Together they created an album’s worth of material, each track different in texture and sound to the last but all sharing an off-kilter sensibility and an embrace of the details that can transform a track. It’s an almost genreless project, incorporating ghostly vocals, intense production and strange, clockwork grooves in equal measure.
That album, the self-titled Loma, is out today and in honour of the release, we got Meiburg and Emily Cross to break down some of the tracks that were essential to its creation. As well as that their playlist is a homage to some of the weirdest crossover moments in musical history with ambient Eno, Bjork and even the Alien soundtrack all making an appearance. Headphones on for this one.
The Flamingos – ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’
Jonathan Meiburg: The trouble with making a list like this is that your album seems tiny by comparison. But you might as well reach for the stars when you’re making a record, even if you don’t have the skills or tools your favourite artists do (or did); and it helps to have a shared set of impossible dreams. Like this song.
Emily Cross: For some reason one of us would just randomly start singing this in the studio. It’s like it was stuck in our collective consciousness and bounced around between our heads endlessly.
JM: (sings) “I don’t know if…we’re in…a garden….”
EC: I get a creepy feeling from it, and I like that.
JM: It’s so wonderfully trippy and strange. The reverb, the vibraphone (?), the out-of-tune guitar, the piano that carries on like nothing’s wrong, the lyric that stretches out like taffy…they should have put it on that gold-plated “Sounds of Earth” record on the Voyager. Doo-wop disappearing into the cosmos.
The Silver Apples – ‘Seagreen Serenades’
JM: Jeez, where to begin? The drum groove, the oscillators, the recorder—
EC: I think that’s an ocarina.
JM: Whoa, you’re right. I never noticed that. And then there’s the very “proper” vocal…like a singer from The Weavers walked into the wrong session. All the ingredients of this song shouldn’t belong together, but they do.
Serge Gainsbourg – ‘Manon’
EC: Perhaps the slightly wonky, shifting, dramatic orchestra backing this track inspired us. It seems to meander with no destination..in moments it gets unglued from the vocal- maybe it was never glued in the first place, I’m not sure.
JM: The arrangement is glorious. But I remember listening to this because of how titanically loud the vocal is compared to the orchestra. It sounds like his head is 50 feet tall—that, or the orchestra is tiny! On our record, I wanted to push Emily’s vocal as far forward as we could in some places, and this song is a good reference point. It’s about as far as you can go.
Björk – ‘Family’
EC: Such a varied landscape of sounds. It’s a bit nauseating, too… a combination of beauty and grossness. The lyrical content of this song hits hard. Then there’s the ‘bridge’ I guess you would say- what an interesting change of pace. When you listen to this, you remember that songs don’t have to do anything in particular. They don’t need to adhere to a set structure. They can be weird and morphing and indeterminate.
JM: I’m in awe of this song on many levels, but I’m also painfully aware of how expensive it must have been to make. I bet twenty seconds of it cost as much as our whole album.
Mark Hollis – ‘A Life (1895-1915)’
EC: I can’t remember, but we might have listened to this to initiate a conversation about clarinets?
JM: That and the children’s voices— so light they’re barely breathing the notes, and right in your ear. It’s really disturbing and very beautiful. And you never know what this song is going to do.
EC: I like how the shaker comes in… just slides in when it feels like it. We were similarly chill about most of the songs on our record, adding things when it ‘felt right’.
JM: Hollis is nothing if not intentional, but he’s also obsessed with capturing moments of satori. Nothing sounds quite like this album. His, I mean! Didn’t you start a clarinet ensemble once?
EC: I did! It was my first musical group.
Pink Floyd – ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’
JM: Pink Floyd played this song a lot in the early days before Dark Side of the Moon, and it evolved into a big, doomy set piece that boils over halfway through. But I love this early version that just simmers, with the organ and vibraphone and open-tuned guitar. It’s still dark, but there’s a delight in it—the joy of just making sounds with other people, not knowing what’s going to happen.
EC: The vocals are my favourite part of this. Singing, whispering, screaming—and those evil kissy noises at the end.
JM: I think that’s Roger Waters, but it sounds like a pack of foraging rats.
Jerry Goldsmith – ‘Alien OST Main Title’
EC: It’s amazing how those two notes on the flute have such an emotional effect.
JM: This is a great example of collaboration. Jerry Goldsmith thought Ridley Scott butchered his score…and in a way, he did; but the effect is just incredible. I love the echo on the orchestra, and all those tiny, high-pitched sounds on the violins, almost ultrasonic—and then these romantic themes break through every so often. You don’t hear music like this in films anymore.
Brian Eno – ‘Shadow’
EC: That trumpet is like the vocal in the Serge Gainsbourg song. You’re listening so closely to the background, and then when it comes in it’s right there. It’s scary.
JM: It’s also hard to tell what the hell it is… it seems halfway between a human voice and an electronic instrument, though there’s actually nothing electronic about it.
EC: ‘Relay Runner’ has a bunch of sounds like that.
JM: Yeah. When I recorded the cicadas outside and dropped them into the song I was definitely thinking of this album. I probably listen to it at least once a week. There’s such a depth to it—it almost seems like it’s listening to you—and the way he combined artificial and natural sounds in it is mesmerizing. Eno’s made a lot of great records, but I think this one’s his masterpiece.
Buffy Saint-Marie – ‘Cod’ine’
EC: The vocal performance on this song is strong, fierce, angry, but sensitive at the same time. It’s sort of all over the place, in a good way. It’s certainly expressive, which is what I was attempting to channel whilst tracking vocals. I tend to deliver kind of dead-pan, so it was a challenge for me to open up like that.
JM: I’d definitely put Buffy up against Bjork on this one. She sounds very, very alive, but also enervated. It’s like hearing life fight death to a draw.
Clinic – ‘For the Wars’
JM: I’ve never understood why Clinic isn’t more revered. They’re not like any other band. Even when they’re making really ugly sounds, which they sometimes like to do, there’s always this melodic signature that doesn’t sound like anyone else. This is them at their most clean and lyrical, but the singer’s still seething with an emotion that’s hard to define…disgust? Despair? But at the same time, it’s all so pretty. Great music always leaves you with questions.
Loma will tour the UK and Ireland later this year, they play:
May – Brighton @ The Hope
31 May – London @ The Lexington
1 Jun – Bristol @ Rough Trade
3 Jun – Manchester @ Gullivers
4 Jun – Leeds @ Headrow House
5 Jun – Glasgow @ Hug and Pint
7 Jun – Dublin @ Whelan’s (upstairs)
8 Jun – Liverpool @ Buyers Club
9 Jun – Oxford @ The Cellar
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