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Undiscovered Lands

Big Blood

I can’t even begin to estimate how many hours I’ve spent daydreaming to the music of Portland, Maine’s Big Blood. The band’s music is hard to describe. Though there are hints of influence from groups like Caroliner Rainbow, Comus, and Spires That in the Sunset Rise, name-dropping for comparison’s sake only takes away from the wholly unique world Big Blood inhabits. It is a world both intoxicating and strange—a fully actualized and singular aesthetic that is like something out of a dream, or maybe even a circus carnival. Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin, the husband and wife duo behind the band, were previously members of the Portland-based avant-everything collective Cerberus Shoal, before that band dissolved in 2005. They have been recording as Big Blood for nearly eight years and have already released 17 albums.

My very first exposure to Big Blood came through a friend’s recommendation of their album Space Gallery Jan. 27, 2007 / Sahara Club Jan. 28, 2007. The album, which must be considered one of Big Blood’s high points, begins with a few mournful accordion chords before Colleens’s otherworldly vocals propel the song “Glory Daze” into the cosmos. The album’s second track, “The Rise of Quinnisa Rose,” is about Colleen and Caleb’s daughter and it is one of Big Blood’s very best—an exhilarating and life affirming sing-along, an exemplar of so many of their best tracks. The Space Gallery album is the best representation of the kind of music Big Blood made prior to 2010—sprawling folk music with a sinister sense of backwoods magic and disparate references from Satie to Syd Barrett. 2010 brought an album of Gamelan music and then two of their best and most accessible works yet, Dead Songs (released as an LP on Time-Lag records) and Dark Country Magic, one of the most aptly titled albums in existence. The artistic direction has changed slightly since these albums, with the band opting to go in a heavier, more psychedelic-oriented route.

Each of Big Blood’s albums is graciously available for free download on, a means that has allowed the band to gain exposure and convert new fans from all over the world. Further, the couple runs an Etsy page to distribute lovingly packaged Big Blood CD-Rs and cassettes as well as Colleen’s own artwork, and other albums from the couple’s label dontrustheruin, which focuses on like-minded Maine artists. Colleen promises that three more Big Blood albums are currently in the works and that the band will eventually tour when their schedule allows—their daughter Quinnisa Rose is now six years old, and her school schedule takes priority. For now, Big Blood’s most recent release, Unlikely Mothers, is available as a deluxe double-LP from Blackest Rainbow.


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Christopher Nelson

CHRISTOPHER NELSON lives and works in Brooklyn.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2014

All Issues