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Lonely astronauts

Cecada’s new album is a lesson in method and perseverance


Greg Bollinger

The new Cecada album almost didn’t happen. Six years of setbacks and challenges nearly broke the band. Their lead guitarist moved to Portland in 2011, and hopes of finishing the record seemed lost. The album was buried by the typical struggles of 30-somethings: divorce, careers, babies. Despite the difficulties, Cecada’s members did finally finish their second album, Nothing Known Unseen, and will release it on November 4 with a live performance at Mainline.

Nearly a dozen names are featured in the liner notes of this album, but Cecada’s creative core includes Brian Rawson (vocals/acoustic guitar), Dougal Hansen (electric/acoustic guitar, banjo and melodica), David Council (banjo, electric/acoustic guitar), Micah Green Clopton (bass, electric guitar) and producer Costa Upson (vocals, synths, programming, keys). The album also features the drumming of percussionist Andrew Bones, who played on the band’s first album.

“We’d just done so much work,” said Clopton on finishing the album. “You don’t go three-fourths of the way to your destination and turn back. So, we decided to keep pushing. We weren’t playing live, so we didn’t have any pressure. We could just take our time and make a record the way we wanted to.”

This slow work gave Nothing Known Unseen a uniquely nuanced and sophisticated sound. These are folk songs, but the sound runs a wide gamut. The production is rich and textural—layers of folk instrumentation centered on Rawson’s warm and insouciant voice. The guitars act as complimentary voices, sparkling with reverb and blurring genre lines. Guest guitarist Clay Welch’s solo on the album’s title track is a particular moment of brilliance. His pleading voice hangs in the air even as the track fades. Creating a record whose tone falls somewhere between The Books’ Lost and Safe and Ester Drang’s classic album, Goldenwest, Cecada has crafted an introspective, meticulous epic.

But the band’s long process came at a cost.

“Honestly, when this thing came out, I finished it, but I had reached a point of manic craziness,” said Upson. “I had heard it so many times it was clinically insane. The band basically made me destroy this behemoth stone of an album and whittle it down to these little figurines. These types of super-detailed passion projects that take years to develop just don’t happen anymore. There’s an assembly line process in the production of a lot of music these days. This culture of bang-wow-now mentality and the fear that the internet will crush you if you don’t constantly put out new material.”

Rawson weaves a parable of contemplative longing across the eight tracks. An array of ragged—but not broken—characters inhabit these songs and their desolate landscapes. There are images of lonely astronauts dreaming of the ground, false gods and cities burnt to a cinder. There’s a strange, stoic beauty to the album—a weary, pleasant sort of peace.

“These songs all come from a similar emotional place and they’re all written around themes, but I don’t like to think of them as just one thing,” said Rawson. “Personally I just hope this album would be soothing to the general confusion of being alive.”

Cecada Album Release Party
with live painting by Caleb Burgess
Saturday, November 4, 8:30–10:30 p.m.
Mainline, 111 N. Main St.

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