by Big Bend

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Big Bend's primary songwriter is Nathan Phillips, an Ohio native. His mother–daughter of a 12-tone composer–wrote music and sang in operas and musicals in Mansfield, where Phillips grew up playing piano. Her voice is featured on Radish, Big Bend's second release and first non-instrumental recording. Throughout the album, Phillips is both vocalist and keyboardist.

From April 2016 to 2017, Phillips arranged improvised recording sessions in groups of four, with acclaimed musicians, Clarice Jensen, Laraaji and Susan Alcorn, as well as friends at the New York studio, Figure 8. The collection was eventually condensed into smaller pieces that became the source material for Radish.

Inspired by the free-form singing styles of Lonnie Holley and Van Morrison's "When Heart Is Open," Phillips wrote melodic lines while playing Arvo Pärt's Pandora station, late at night while mopping floors at the cafe he's worked at since 2014. When customers weren't around, Phillips tried out the lines, experimenting with singing outside familiar meters. The music became a backdrop for storytelling, emphasizing the voice as if it were speaking out loud, giving simple instructions or stating events. "It was the jumping-off point" that, according to Phillips, transformed into his desire to "give the feeling that you've read something as straightforward as a children's book," set to the backdrop of acoustic, sometimes synthesized sound.

The music from the cafe's station became the basis for the songwriting, "Before" stemming from Pärt's Fratres, and "Can't Get Around" from Tabula Rasa. Unfamiliar with much of Pärt's work, Phillips would guess the sequential chord coming from the speakers and "improvise lines that fit the moment, not knowing where the chord would land." Eventually when the vocal melodies gathered momentum, the previous music could be removed, and new music built up around it, later in makeshift studio arrangements; a residency in a farm town in Nebraska (crickets on "Floating"), his hometown in Ohio, as well as band rehearsal spaces in NYC. This exercise, combined with the improvised recordings of the quartets, created most of what remains on the album.

Radish is a literal take on spiritual phases, or a matter-of-fact documentation of large pivots in religious leaning. A personal story, it tracks the influence of environment and circumstance on individual understanding. In eight songs, it moves from familial beginnings to loss of certainty, pain and desire, aging and memory.

In addition to his solo keyboard and vocal work, Phillips has supported bands like Julianna Barwick, Qasim Naqvi, and, as a member of Youngstown's The Building, The War On Drugs.


released May 10, 2019

“Four” written by Nathan Phillips and Laraaji, courtesy of Warp Records
"Swinging Low" by Pam Phillips and Nathan Phillips
"12'-15'" by Susan Alcorn and Nathan Phillips
Cover photo by Vivian Weidmann
Mastered by Taylor Deupree
Mixed by Mike Odmark
Additional mixing by Joe Visciano on 3
Production by Aaron Roche on 1, 2, 4, 5, 7

Clarice Jensen - cello on 5, 6
Shahzad Ismaily - percussion and engineering on 1, 4, 5. moog on 4, 8. guitar on 7
Zosha Warpeha - violin on 1
Susan Alcorn - pedal steel on 3, 8
Derek Barber - guitar on 8
Pam Phillips - vocals on 5
Rob Nairn - double bass on 3, 6, 8
Laraaji - zither on 5, 6
Christopher Botta - guitar on 1, 2
Aaron Roche - guitar on 2, 4, 7. organ on 2, 5. vocoder on 2. rhythm on 2, 5, 7, 8
Michael Coleman - wurlitzer on 3, engineering on 3, 6, 8
Nathan Phillips - vocals, piano, remaining instruments


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Big Bend Ohio, New York


May 10, 2019




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Track Name: 1000 Ways
When I looked I knew I had to find
Where it hit my blood I had to know
When my dad was there, i felt the air
Right when I looked away
From the ladder of DNA

Next step is complete devotion to any cause
Yeah I am him, he is me
In a thousand ways
Can I change, can I get above
Or will I keep climbing up
The ladder of DNA
Track Name: Before
I couldn't be alone
Had to see what happened
It just grew
Chasing my mind, every corner I could find
Fire splitting in two, now spreading in five
It's trying to stay alive

You said keep going
I wanted to know what you knew, it just grew
You closed every door, i was fine before
I was fine before I met you
Chase that spirit out
Track Name: Can't Get Around
Where did it all turn, did I learn
How to be an enemy to everything
The change full in my eyes
That I don't want to go home like this
But I can't seem to pivot around
No matter what I do I can't get around
Can't get around

I was just getting back, learning the ropes
Push, pull and cut off
Even without a crowd
I still can't get around, can't get around
That’s where I am now
Track Name: Swinging Low
I gave birth to seven
But only five survived
I gave everything I could
And I looked around

You can see there is no day
In your mind, no way
If there's a beam swinging low
(Your heart is changed by both)
Lay down
Track Name: Long Time
It was a long time
I wore my worst shoes, waist deep
Greg Frankenfield stood behind in a hoodie
I drifted by the edge
Turned a page
Found new age

It was a long time
Couldn't keep my head up
I drifted by the edge
Turned a page
I found rage

Then fell with pond water on the sand
It was a long baptism
Track Name: Floating
Floating in a cloud and getting old
Gliding up the levels
Finally sold on the idea of getting old

I was choking on a radish I thought was a cherry
Like the way it was with your power
That looked like love, that looked like love

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