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 freemusicarchive.org, 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.
Alan Bishop continues to carry on the volatile spirit of Sun City Girls with his paranoid, brilliant, and frequently hilarious solo act. youtube.com/watch?v=2ve8P91wXKo
Call Back the Giants
Tim Goss’s post-Shadow Ring project fittingly broods with hopelessness, damaged synths, and ominous minimalism. youtube.com/watch?v=NFk1U4n66Kw
The Cherry Blossoms
Anarchic, Nashville-based jug band that gleefully harnesses the power of the occult while embracing the purest distillation of backwoods Americana. youtube.com/watch?v=mIZew57KXkk
The Garbage & The Flowers
New Zealand’s most faithful Velvet Underground impersonators craft the best post-coital, narcotic haze of ramshackle noise since the V.U. themselves. youtube.com/watch?v=lSza-9XDECo
A brand of ’90s-era lo-fi indie rock with buzzing guitars that you’ve probably heard before but maybe never done this well, and it’s a shame that almost nobody knows. youtube.com/watch?v=yXTDZOS7Zh4
The adventurous British folkster had two superb records re-issued by Paradise of Bachelors earlier this year and collaborated with guitarist Steve Gunn on yet another. youtube.com/watch?v=439J7bV9HGE
A twee group from Australia that is so sweet you might almost be sickened, but their brilliant songwriting and irresistible melodies are up there with anything you’ve ever heard from Sarah Records. youtube.com/watch?v=NUQ3ZnElHPg
His contributions to the avant-garde are essential, and of particular importance are his explorations of the physicality of music, but he remains supremely under-appreciated, especially in America. youtube.com/watch?v=BJ9bPQhBR0I
Village of Spaces
Further proof that a strange, potent magic persists in Maine’s surprisingly deep and progressive folk scene. youtube.com/watch?v=xhnSyrtTgxY
CHRISTOPHER NELSON lives and works in Brooklyn.