With Bending the Golden Hour, the third album from Memphis, Tennessee’s Aquarian Blood, husband and wife team J.B. Horrell (Ex-Cult) and Laurel Horrell (formerly of the Nots) continue on their gorgeously stripped-down and atmospheric journey. Throughout Bending the Golden Hour, the duo masterfully zigs to country and zags to psychedelic folk, brooding on one song and soothing listeners with the next.
“There’s a big middle ground, like folk-psych, or weirder country music,” J.B. says, reeling off names like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett as stepping stones between the genres of punk and folk.
Check out the new song “Bolted and Embossed” below:
While Aquarian Blood has roots as a chaotic punk rock six-piece, the band shifted gears after two raucous cassette-only releases on ZAP Cassettes, a pair of seven-inches, and 2017’s Last Nite in Paradise, released on Goner Records. After drummer Bill Curry broke his arm, the Horrells redefined Aquarian Blood, reemerging in early 2018 as the more intimate, mostly acoustic balladeers behind the staccato, fever dream sound of A Love That Leads to War.
Like their critically acclaimed previous effort, Golden Hour was recorded at the Horrells’ Midtown Memphis home, the band turned over 43 tracks to Goner co-owner Zac Ives, who handpicked 17 songs for the album. The final result is shimmering and hopeful; as beautiful and sparse as a Rockwell Kent snowscape.
Inspirations came from myriad sources that document the milestones and minutiae in a family’s full life. Some lyrics name a time or a place; others reflect the fleeting moments that elapse unnoticed.
“Come Home,” which is sung by J.B. and his daughter Ava, was written the day Ava got her driver’s license. “Ava took the car out by herself afterwards, and I wrote the song immediately—she sang her part when she got home that evening,” J.B. recalls. Whether or not the listener knows the backstory, the song rings sentimental, with subtle, supportive instrumentation that underscores guitar and vocals. The bewitching “Rope and Hair,” on the other hand, is less sketched out, with lyrics that are simply a recitation of the talismen found on a silver sabertooth charm that J.B. purchased for Laurel at a Latin strip mall in southeast Memphis. That’s all to be said. “Sometimes when you know too much about what the song is about, it takes away the magic,” says J.B.
“Alabama Daughter,” says Laurel, is about a place where a childhood friend lived called Castleberry Holler. “It was really rural, just a lot of shacks without electricity—the kind of place you didn’t go to unless you were invited,” she says. “Probable Gods” is a hazy reflection on the struggle of such a strange year. “It’s been very cathartic to put all of this into words and not have it live in my head,” J.B. says.
That said, Bending the Golden Hour is not a pandemic record, or a political record.
The ethereal “Bending Time” references the way that summer light comes in through the wavy lead windows of the Horrells’ house. “When the days are long, the sun comes through at that exact time when we’re transitioning from work to making music, and so the song is actually about [that process of] writing songs,” J.B. says. Alternatively, “Boredom Hours” is about the process itself, describing the themes and patterns that emerge as a song is finished.
“We’re just making songs as we feel them,” says J.B., who credits the additional musicians on the album—Coltrane Duckworth (Crystal Shrine), Jesse Davis (Model Zero), Keith Cooper (Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks), and Graham Winchester (Cassette Deck, the Turnstyles, the Sheiks)—for sustaining the laid back approach. “Even then, we didn’t set out to make a record—we just made a bunch of songs,” J.B. says, crediting Ives as another musical partner. “We had no idea that these 17 songs would constitute an album.”
Photo by Natalie Hoffmann.