Presented by KRCL 90.9FM
Jake Troth
Friday, January 31, 2020
Doors 8 | Show 9
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Bedouine, a gallicized riff on bedouin, the nomad, the wanderer. Anyone can assume such a name, but Azniv Korkejian has an experience of what it means, the type of ground it covers. “Moving around so much caused me at some point to feel displaced, to not really belong anywhere and I thought that was a good title.” Her development was shaped by political landscapes and family opportunities, her adult life patterned by paths of her own. Born in Aleppo, Syria to Armenian parents, Korkejian spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia, moving to America when her family won a Green Card lottery. They settled in Boston, then Houston, but she split for L.A. as soon as she could. A casual offer to stay on a horse farm took her to the rolling hills of Lexington, Kentucky, followed by a year in Austin, and a trip east to Savannah for a degree in sound design. Returning to L.A., she discovered a close-knit community of musicians in Echo Park that started to feel like home. Maybe America is just a highway that leads back to L.A.

Korkejian works with sound professionally, in dialogue editing and music editing, a slice of Hollywood’s sprawling industry. She never set out to be a singer in L.A., taking a zen approach to that part of her life, thinking that if it happens, it happens. “I just kept meeting the right people, who were professional musicians, and even though they were going on these big legitimate tours, they were still coming back to this amazing small scene, still demoing at home, and I immediately felt welcomed to join in on that. L.A. actually made me less jaded.” One day she walked into the studio of bass player / producer Gus Seyffert (Beck, Norah Jones, The Black Keys) to inquire about portable reel-to-reel tape machines and ended up cutting “Solitary Daughter in a first take. So they began another kind of journey.

Bedouine has a sound. Sixties folk meets seventies country-funk with a glimmer of bossa nova cool. Lithe guitar picking and precise lyrical excursions. That mesmerizing voice and phrasing. Working on around thirty tracks over three years, with contributions from a remarkable cast of players like guitarist Smokey Hormel (Tom Waits, Joe Strummer, Johnny Cash), Seyffert and Korkejian brought a selection of ten songs to Richmond, Virginia. She specifically sought out Spacebomb, approaching Matthew E. White after a show in L.A. He remembers listening to the song she sent over and over, on and off the road, “‘One of These Days’ became our alarm when we woke up for almost all of that tour.” Anticipating this future collaboration, the tracks were created with breathing room for the Spacebomb touch and Trey Pollard’s sinuous symphonic arrangements. Back in California, Thom Monahan (Pernice Brothers, Devendra Banhart, Vetiver) brought all the elements together in a masterful final mix.

Eschewing notions of nomadic chic, Bedouine represents minimalism motivated by travel, paring down and paring down until only the essential remains. Her music establishes a sustained and complete mood, reflecting on the unending reverberations of displacement, unafraid to take pleasure along the way. At the end of “Summer Cold” Korkejian composed an interstitial piece to recreate the sounds of her grandmother’s street in Aleppo. Partly due to America’s role in destabilizing Syria, this sonic memory is the only way to return to her birthplace. Worlds that have been lost might only be accessed through a song, in a line or a melody or a trace of tape, but they must be looked for in order to be found, so she wanders on.

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Jake Troth

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There’s a certain type of song Jake Troth realized he most enjoys creating: the simple one; the honest and no-nonsense, almost meditative one. To hear the contemplative, soft-spoken singer-songwriter tell it, these songs have no agenda. “It’s about not trying to yell louder than everyone else,” Troth says of the almost Zen-like creative mindset he takes to his songcraft. “In that way you can sing a song, and maybe even do it very quietly, and still have a profound and dramatic effect on people.” Having spent years penning mega-wattage pop singles for an A-list assemblage of some of music’s biggest names, including Big Boi, Lizzo, Sia, and Kehlani. Troth yearned to connect to his work on a deeper and more personal level. “I didn’t want to focus on making a hit song anymore,” the North Carolina-born musician says bluntly. “That torturous weight to get a hit that one puts on their shoulders is so detrimental to creativity. I’m trying to get myself out of that mindset.” Troth pauses, endures a brief moment of silence and then adds quite simply, “I just wanted to make really great songs.”

Troth is speaking to the multi-year process that resulted in It Is As If, the singer-songwriter’s stunning major-label debut album anchored by refined melodies and deft lyrical observations. “It’s a very comfortable project,” Troth says of the Dave Cobb-produced LP that was recorded with pristine clarity in the producer’s iconic RCA Studio A in Nashville. “This is the first time I’ve made the album that I’ve set out to make,” Troth offers of the album, set for release this year via Atlantic Records. Troth calls it the project he’s been waiting his entire life to complete.

Discovering the LP’s sweet and succinct sound -- and along the way learning that sometimes the spare and undecorated song is the most gripping -- saw Troth venturing from L.A. to New York, and at one point even hunkering down in a remote Woodstock cabin to free his mind of distraction. The musician points to one particular evening, however, that he says marked a key turning point in the album’s genesis.

One evening, in the winter of 2016, a house party was winding down and Troth and a small group of his friends, were seated on the floor of a living room doing little more than relaxing and listening to music. As if by instinct alone, Troth picked up an acoustic guitar and began performing a few smaller-feeling songs he’d been working on. “And these songs I was playing were ones that I had initially thought were either underwhelming or were too cheesy to record,” Troth, who along his musical journey had experimented with nearly every genre, from hip-hop to heavy metal, recalls. “But in that moment something clicked: I realized I was extremely happy to be there performing these songs for those people. And I knew I wanted to put them down on record and capture that intimate vibe.”

Since he first signed to Atlantic in 2015, Troth had been working tirelessly on his debut album, but not until that evening’s revelation did he truly understand its sonic blueprint. Near immediately after that late-night session, the musician retreated to Woodstock for two weeks, rented a cabin up in the woods “and basically wrote the entire album,” he recalls of the burst of creativity that followed. “When I was done I came back to L.A. and showed the songs to Atlantic and that was the moment when everyone was like, “This is it! This is the vibe!””

Yes, that late-night, small-group atmosphere he’d experienced at the house party had been deftly translated into a batch of cozy, instantly familiar songs, many of which, Troth explains, deal with the way we betray our natural instincts and spend a lifetime “playing make-believe and telling themselves we can be bigger, better versions of ourselves.” No song more directly addresses this notion, he notes, than “Alive and Well.” It’s the album’s opening track and the one Troth calls “the cornerstone of the project.” In Troth’s eyes, the song is “self-deprecating and romantic and big and intimate at the same time.” Like many of the songs on the album, including the warm “Open Door” there are heavy lyrics and sometimes even those with overtly dark sentiments (“I feel like lying/holding a sign that says ‘Here lay a man well before his time’”). But via their sprightly melodies and carrying the overarching belief that even the most loathing self-despair can be warded off by love and a sense of community, the light always seems to find its way through here.

“Everything is heightened on this album,” Troth says, from the weight of the songwriting to the precise melodies and fine-tuned production. And after years of searching for the sound that moves him, the singer-songwriter has never felt more confident in his craft. “I feel personally it says a lot about who I am and how I feel right now,” he says. It’s the first time I’ve created something that exists in its own world.”