John Vanderslice Breaks Down His David Berman-Inspired EP With A Track By Track

All through quarantine, John Vanderslice reimagined his ways as an analog purist, diving deep into electronic composition, unlocking a new sound for himself and yielding a truckload of new music.

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His latest EP is inspired by a friendship he struck up with the late David Berman. They traded postcards, photos of pro wrestlers, and Berman imparted timeless songwriting advice.

Vanderslice also made a move to Los Angeles — coming on the heels of his storied career — making him the definition of an American Songwriter.

Berman died on August 7, 2019; this EP is a love letter to Berman and an anti-suicide pact for Vanderslice. Having described Berman as his favorite lyricist, Vanderslice has used this EP as a way to break away from lyric-driven song structure. It is an EP full of glitch, crunch, and synthesizer chaos. It is a deep-dive into his newfound obsession with electronic music. 

With its release, if you dig it buy it, Vanderslice penned a track-by-track of what inspired each song.

1. Uncommon Love 

In “uncommon love” is the most abstract song I’ve ever released. An eight-note sequence repeats for 4+ minutes, a 1904 upright piano joins halfway in. I wanted to make glacial changes to the sequence to simulate the time dilation we were all feeling during the pandemic. THe piano provides a very human presence after 3 minutes of automated madness.

2. I Get A Strange Kind Of Pleasure From Just Hanging On
This is the most straightforward song on the EP. It was written and finished quickly, maybe over 2 weeks. It has a very simple pop structure, there are 6 verses, all with exactly the same structure and melody line.

3. Late Life Realization
A crazed ARP 2600 sequence song i wrote for an Insta live show. These shows kept me sane and honest during the darkest days of Winter 2021. THere are two main components: colliding melodies written for ARP and a Mini Moog being altered every pass.

4. Don’t Forget About Me
A straight up pop song/love letter to David about memory and the power it has to keep someone alive. Please don’t forget about me, I won’t forget about you.

5. The World We Had 

Three ARP 2600 sequences left alone in the wild. Sometimes these machines drift and change as the patterns run their course and the synths heat up. IT’S CRAZY. Sometimes when you’re behind a wall of synths running melodies it feels like you’re piloting an AI system of neural learning.

6. Taverns Of The Neo Subcortex
This song is filled with nods to David’s writings, especially his amazing “The Portable February”. The last song on the EP with any kind of guidance, the lyrics warn the listener to be vigilant about their mental health. “Don’t leave death a nice clean shot”.

7. White Chalk
What we’re left with when someone dies. The despair and loneliness is unbearable and another way of looking at this madness must appear. A ping-ponging drum loop keeps agitating the listener, as a steady Prophet 5 bass line marks out time.

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