Release: November 20, 2020
Available via: Bandcamp + Digital Retailers Worldwide
Popular Music is a new duo of Zac Pennington (née Parenthetical Girls) & Prudence Rees-Lee (aka Prudence).
Our full length Popular Music Plays In Darkness — is a twelve-track reimagining of songs from 20th Century cinema that was conceived when we met in Los Angeles, and recorded in a turn-of-the-century barn in a secluded corner of Upstate New York.
TITLES: POPULAR MUSIC PLAYS IN DARKNESS
INT. LOS FELIZ APARTMENT – DUSK
OUR STORY opens in a haunted apartment on the eastern edge of Hollywood — the parlor’s yawning interior originally designed during the industry’s Golden-era by session players in the 20th Century Fox orchestra. The room is preserved in perfect mid-century detail: a Steinway the size of a station wagon sits in the corner, draped in a dust cover; the walls are dark with reverberant wood-paneling, saturated with a half-century’s worth of cinematic string rehearsals and impromptu chamber run-throughs. There are inexplicable sounds at night.
This is the place that Popular Music comes from. It’s where — following a cataclysmic collapse of confidence — Zac Pennington (former leader of the group Parenthetical Girls) has been generously invited to crash for a couple of months. It’s where — paralyzed with writer’s block and eager for escape — Pennington persuades Australian composer Prudence Rees-Lee to join him in a humble experiment.
Armed with a Tascam 8-track cassette recorder, a small arsenal of analog synthesizers and rhythm boxes, and a shortlist of songs written for films, Popular Music begins as a deconstruction of the musical language of 20th Century cinema. The songs are borrowed indiscriminately, with silent era standards (“Smile”) sharing tape alongside sex-schlock obscurities (“The Way Love Used To Be”). As the tapes speak with one another, throughlines emerge: these were songs of hope against hope, of longing, of lost causes; songs aching for the horizons of a “Somewhere” — a vanishing point sunset painted on a soundstage backdrop, eternally out of reach.
Using Hollywood’s own texts, Popular Music engages in a conceptual dialogue with the myth of cinema — an attempt to embody the very literal darkness of sitting silently in an unlit auditorium, alone together, at the altar of an industry built on a semi-religious devotion to the escape fantasy.
INT. UPSTATE NEW YORK BARN – 1 YEAR LATER
Escape fantasy fully realized, the duo relocate to a remote corner of the Northeast, living modestly beneath the cathedral ceilings of a turn-of-the-century barn near the Massachusetts state line.
The cassettes have evolved now — expanded with Rees-Lee’s sumptuous arrangements for string quartet, live percussion, plus atmospheric overdubs courtesy of long-time Parenthetical Girls collaborator Jherek Bischoff. The resulting record is a cohesive concept piece — a dozen haunting threnodies for the darkened theatre. To Hollywood, with love and horror.
FADE TO DARKNESS