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Here’s the album’s opening verse:
when you’re mourning the past / you’ll try / to
remember your ass / when i was twenty five / amy
said / do your naked portraits now
A fun and surprising way to open a record, right? Aren’t those drums crisp? You hear this verse
delivered over strings, horns, and congas. On the next one, von Schleicher worries her “tight five needs work” and name-drops the one and only Dwayne Johnson
. It’s clear this is a different side of von Schleicher, but she’ll be the first to assure it’s always been there, just not in her music. “How can I reach out to the poems that I’ve loved, embrace plain speech more, and how, for just one goddamned time, can I bring my sense of humor into my music?” she asked me, rhetorically. but the basic premise / somehow / still eluded me til now / let me try and say it right
There’s of course more to von Schleicher’s arrival here. Her last LP—May 2020’s urgent and propulsive Consummation
—was a critical success with accolades from NME, NPR, and Pitchfork. But it wasn’t the best time to release music, so by the end of the year, von Schleicher was without a booking agent or plan. She took creative writing classes that were supposed to be good, wrote poems that were trying to be good, and began engineering and producing for others, something she’s actually good at. After spearheading Cassandra Jenkins’ An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
and Ichiko Aoba’s Windswept Adan
releases at Ba Da Bing,
her longtime label job, she gave up her teenage dream of marketing other people’s records to engineer full time, co-producing and recording the latest from Frankie Cosmos and Dougie Poole.
sometimes it feels too much / and i duck it / an alarm going off under 400 pillows
For her own album, von Schleicher turned to pandemic poker buddy Sam Griffin Owens (aka Sam Evian)
and frequent collaborators Nick Jost (Baroness), Sean Mullins (Andy Shauf) and Brian Betancourt (Hospitality)
to huddle together in a room. “When we got to Sam’s and set up on the first day, we played ‘400 Pillows’ first, just after dark. It felt immediately like a warm blanket,” von Schleicher tells me. The group worked daily and concluded promptly at 5pm so that Owens could make an elaborate meal. And then: poker. “Poker! This record was punctuated by a lot of hanging out. I put my trust in the people making it. I wanted to listen back and hear their voices, so to speak, and less the echo chamber of my own interior obsessions.” The string arrangements, written afterward by Wilder Maker’s Gabriel Birnbaum,
go from melodic to dissonant, developing into lush expanses on songs like “Ruby” and “Every Step Is an Ocean.” Upon hearing them, von Schleicher happily informed Birnbaum that “people will be eating your ass after this.” you don’t have to die, just stop trying / and then… poof
Von Schleicher also leaned into her players’ shared musical history, culled from years of playing music in the van on tour. “It’s the internal language of our friendship, our shared touchstones, and I am unapologetically going for them. It’s for pleasure I guess. I wouldn’t say I made music just for pleasure before.” So while “Cranked” was written on piano with Kevin Ayers’
“Whatevershebringswesing” in mind, von Schleicher threw out all notion of balladry, instead using organ, phaser and drum machine (the same one used by Shuggie Otis on Inspiration Information) to punch that shit up. It has a wordless chorus and slap bass that you’ll be
imitating for weeks.
you’re a kid / feels wonderful / make it a boat you set on fire / and keep laughingA Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night
coheres through an array of moods and characters. The widescreen “Texas” closes side A with sketches of frozen moments in the southwest. On “Overjoyed” she chases enjoyment despite having a migraine that lasted two weeks on tour. The record concludes with “Jeanine,” a love song for assholes, written from the POV of an asshole. “I’m drawn to unreliable narrators,” she says, winking overdramatically.
Let me spell it out for you: A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night
is the act of von Schleicher letting down her guard and unwinding her grip. Lyrically wry and classically lush, it’s a songwriter album that nuzzles up to the Arthur Russell and Kirsty MacColl
LPs in my vast collection. In narrowing the gap between her personality and her songwriting, von Schleicher has made her most untroubled album to date. By giving up a little, she’s likely going places.
“Poof.” See ya on the big screen.