27 July, 2022Print
GRAMMY-Winning Songwriter (Norah Jones, Maya Hawke) Jesse Harris Refracts Exquisite Melodies Through Mechanical Chaos On Silver BalloonOut October 21 On Secret Sun Recordings
Watch A Video For “The Hanged Man” — A Placid, Postmodern Waltz — Here
Today, Jesse Harris — the GRAMMY-winning songwriter and producer known for his work with Norah Jones, Maya Hawke, and John Zorn — announcesSilver Balloon, a new solo album due for release on October 21 on Harris’s own Secret Sun Recordings. Borne from a period that saw the NYC mainstay obsessed with the metaphysics-addled sci-fi of Philip K. Dick, Silver Balloonfinds Harris counteracting the tumult of the post-COVID political climate by leaning into the chaos.
These 10 exquisite songs — assembled like miniature Goldbergian contraptions whose machinations, while beautiful, confound expectations — rely heavily on another big science fiction fixation: the ever-blurred line between man and machine. In the case of Silver Balloon, Harris and longtime collaborator Kenny Wollesen (Norah Jones, Tom Waits, Bill Frisell) made frequent use of the H3000 Harmonizer, a piece of outboard gear first designed in the 70s and employed by artists as far-ranging as Prince, Laurie Anderson, and Steve Vai, to introduce a mechanical randomness to the recording process.
“People have asked me and Kenny what we did to the guitar on “The Hanged Man” and the honest answer is we don’t know,” says Harris. “Often the H3000 would seem to make decisions on its own, and we began to see it as a kind of medium.” The results, as exemplified on “Hanged Man” — the first track released from Silver Balloon — lend Harris’s jazz-steeped, classically-inclined compositions a fascinating and alien sonic signature, a refreshing break from any notion of staid tastefulness.
Silver Balloon was recorded over the course of 8 days by Harris and Wollesen in Harris’s home studio. The longtime friends — in the late 90s in Denton, TX, they once hitched a ride from a college student who ultimately turned out to be an incredible singer and future collaborator named Norah Jones — took a casual approach to recording. Wollesen would swing by Harris’s studio at around 1pm. By 7pm, having recorded a complete song, they’d go out to dinner at Frenchette before returning to work into the night. Songs would begin as skeletal recordings — or, in the case of “Out In The Storm,” be written the morning of recording — and by dinner would be completely transformed as a result of Wollesen’s overdubs and generous application of the harmonizer.
The laid back, exploratory approach yielded serious dividends — and a serendipitously idiosyncratic sound. “When we started, I never planned to mix it myself,” says Harris. “But we grew so attached to the sound and were afraid someone would make everything too correct and get rid of the chaos.”
It’s this element of playfulness and discovery that permeates the entirety ofSilver Balloon. Classic musical stylings are reshaped into impressionistic forms: “On This Lonely Night” is a minimal blues that wafts by like smoke on a humid day, while “Yankee” is an ominous bossa nova, bubbling with syncopation and a sense of mystery. Meanwhile, “Hummingbird” takes a torch song and backs it with percussive static and a saxophone solo that ricochets across the mix, undulating with reckless abandon. Like master artists rediscovering fingerpainting, Harris and Wollesen revel in the rough edges and happy accidents afforded by their approach.
Pre-order Silver Balloon here.
Jesse Harris will be performing songs from Silver Balloon at a series of upcoming performances in Paris and Los Angeles — see dates below.
“The Hanged Man”
“Out In The Storm”
“One In A Million”
“On This Lonely Night”
“New Year’s Day”
“The Good Morning Song”
Oct 5 — Paris, FR @ Le Baiser Sale
Nov 5 — Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon
Connect With Jesse Harris