A whole new branch—a whole new forest!—of my music has been growing out of the vibrating body of a 12-string guitar modified with electronics by my son Kenji Garland. During the last couple of years I’ve been cultivating this forest, and I’ll soon invite you in. My four-hour album Verdancy will be released on my own Tall Owl Audio label on March 20, 2018. Critic Steve Smith provides some good background on the project on National Sawdust Log. Verdancy is now available for pre-order on Bandcamp, and when you order you immediately get “Color Piece,” with music by me, and words by Yoko Ono.
“David Garland has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary composers. Like many great songwriters before him, he pushes the limits of acceptable harmony and dissonance, yet never at the expense of beauty. He is able to take the listener through what might otherwise be quite perplexing musical architecture, and guide them along as if floating effortlessly on a cloud. The fact that Garland is not more known is an indication that much of the world has forgotten why it is we make and listen to music in the first place. If it’s not possible for popular music to reach the heights of the great classical masters, it seems no one has told David Garland.“
—Sean Ono Lennon
“[David Garland’s music] was a big help for me in trying to formulate my own song style, just as Deerhoof was about to start.”
—Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier
“Garland is a superb, crazily imaginative songwriter. Singing through a Synclavier or banging on a piece of Styrofoam, he’ll sing about how insane the nightly news is, how painful true love is, how scary getting to know other people is, and it all quietly creeps up and hits you right where you live.”
—Kyle Gann, Village Voice
“Mr. Garland [is] an accomplished pop baritone and determinedly self-choreographed dancer… His lyrics mix droll directness and evocative ambiguity, and he sets them to catchy tunes. His persona — a fallible character trying to make sense of his life — is unpretentiously appealing.”
— New York Times
David Garland: music, lyrics, vocals, string arrangements, 12-string guitar, drone-modified 12-string guitar, clarinet, flute, piano, Dulcitone, bass, etc. • Vashti Bunyan: vocals • Sean Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, drums • Charlotte Kemp Muhl: vocals, accordion • Osso (Rob Moose, Olivier Manchon, Marla Hansen, Maria Bella Jeffers): strings • Otto Hauser: drums • Kenji Garland: acoustic feedback guitar, inventor/builder of the drone-modified 12-string guitar • The Garland family chorus
“Witty, melancholy songs, arranged and performed with such careful skill and a natural unforced originality; David Garland and his friends have done it again!”
— Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine, etc., etc.)
“‘Conversations with the Cinnamon Skeleton‘ makes use of its components the way a gallery shows its works: sounds, words, instruments and guest musicians each feature as distinct and respected pieces. Woven together, these varied parts form hued structural songs that refigure the experimental New York sound into songs that have a sleeves-up accessibility. Garland’s baritone is a compassionate guide that accompanies listeners through studied verses into addictive choruses…This confidence to combine the avant garde with everyday musical tactics reflects Garland’s engaged knowledge of both underground and aboveground music scenes.”
— Alex Gallacher, Folk Radio UK
Family Vineyard, 2007
David Garland: vocals, 12-string guitar, acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic and electric bass guitar, flute, clarinet, pocket clarinet, recorder, piano, reed organ, banjo, bowed psaltery, rebec, bul-bul, mandolin, xylophone, percussion, contraption, etc. • Sufjan Stevens: vocals, oboe • Mira Romantschuk: vocals • Diane Cluck: vocals • Brendon Massei (Viking Moses): vocals • David Deporis: vocals and acoustic guitar • Greg Saunier: drums • Liam Hofmann: sarode • Kenji Garland: backing vocals, electric bass, electric guitar, Max MSP patches • Anne Garland: backing vocals
“Garland’s new album is a tour de force. When is the last time you listened to a record that rendered subject matter such as dioramas, pyschoarchitecture, the typographic landscape of comic strips, anthropomorphizing of time, and one of the hottest choruses ever constructed solely from the names of clouds…with elegance and ornate beauty? Well, for us here at Asthmatic Kitty, even our collective music nerd ears haven’t ever heard anything like this. … we think the album is a thing of strange beauty that should heard by many.”
Review Records, 2003
David Garland: vocals, acoustic and electric bass guitar, piano, vibraphone, acoustic and electric guitar, flutes, chord harmonica, analog synth, accordion, bowed psaltery, percussion, drums, Taliesen quartzite, branches, etc. • Karen Mantler: vocal and harmonica • Michael “Sport” Murphy: vocal, lyrics, backup vocal • Meredith Yayanos: violin; vocal melismas • Ron Horton: trumpet and flugelhorn • Anne Garland, Kenji Garland, John Michael Riley, Aurelia Riley: chorus • Mark Abbott, Chris Abbott, Brooke Abbott, Nigel Rollings, Carol Murikami, Rob Schwimmer, Marty Cutler, Cinnie Cole, Meredith Yayanos, Anne Garland, Kenji Garland: singing friends • The Four Bags: special guests in the background
“‘On the Other Side of the Window’ is lovely, a great surprise—I recommend it. Don’t think you know what it is until you’ve heard it. It’ll make you feel good, this I guarantee.”
—Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine, Matching Mole, etc.)
“He sings about the search for comfort, but the songs are restless and exploratory, an impression reinforced by his ambitious harmonic ideas. … Garland wants to kick the pop song out of bed, then take it uptown to a museum and downtown to an avant garde club.”
—Clive Bell, The Wire
Review Records, 2000
Gently re-mastered in 2011
David Garland: vocals, bass guitar, flute, psaltery & recorder, toy piano, guitar, accordion • Brian Dewan: electric zither, autoharp, taisho koto, accordion • Will Holshouser: accordion • Fay Lovsky: theremin on one song • Kenji Garland: vocals on one song
“My Vortex Camera … was a shock: the hair-raising discovery of a songwriter alone in his kingdom, freed completely of servitude to pop-rock and detached from the traditional frames (blues, country, folk) onto which so many his countrymen still stick their writing. Shaded by an accordion, an electric zither, a flute, a bass, a toy piano, a theremin or a very discreet guitar, the undefinable songs of My Vortex Camera bear the stamp of a musician whose ears are open and keen, songs which manage to be of a profound peculiarity without systematically playing the card of oddness.”
—Richard Robert, Les Inrockuptibles (translated from French)
Ergodic Records 1999, gently re-mastered in 2010.
Cover art by Richard M. Powers, painted in about 1955.
David Garland: vocals, acoustic and electric keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, accordion, vibraphone, flute, theremin, bowed saw, rebec, whistling, ocarina, percussion • Guy Klucevsek: accordion • Kate Light: violin • Bobby Previte: drums • Brian Dewan: electric zither • John Zorn: alto sax • Mark Dresser: double bass • Jim Staley: trombones • Carl Parens: cello • Anne Garland: vocals • Kenji Garland: vocals
[rated “A”] “Richly detailed and elegantly produced … Underlying it all is a deep compassion for the daily sadness of being human, couched in a comforting voice that can sustain a low B-flat below the clef like it’s no big deal.”
“Togetherness is a disc of ideal proportions, a perfectly blended synthesis that one can consider Garland’s masterpiece.”
—Richard Robert, Les Inrockuptibles
Review Records, 1986
David Garland: vocals, acoustic and electric keyboards, electric guitar, bass, accordion, Synthabbott, flutes, bowed psaltery, ocarina, percussion, lamp, and chair • Guy Klucevsek: accordion • Mark Abbott: bass guitar • John Zorn: alto sax • Christian Marclay: turntables • Clive Smith: trumpet • Meredith Monk: vocals • Anne Garland: vocals • John Alexander, Wayne Diana, and Nancy Gassner: vocals
“David Garland’s Control Songs are now digital, signaling (one wishes) the return to public consciousness of the best songwriter of my generation, bar none. Filled with remarkable poetry of both words and notes, the songs draw humorously unsentimental insights into the realities of emotional life.”
—Kyle Gann, Village Voice
“Every song offers new delights.”
Review Records LP, 1989.
CD released December, 2000, with bonus tracks.
Cover art by David Garland
The Worlds of Love, a group consisting of Cinnie Cole: vocals, banjo, synthesizer • David Garland: vocals, synthesizers, accordion, bass guitar, flutes, melodica, theremin, toy piano, percussion, vibrolute • Ikue Mori: vocals, hand-played drum machines, powerbook, percussion
“The songs on the album work as adult, if weird, love songs. They’re funny, a reimagining of Weill, children’s songs and pop, all processed through a synthesizer swirl and informed with free improvisation…. [Worlds of Love is] an act of reclamation, mixing pop music with noise and turning them into something new.”
—Peter Watrous, New York Times
“[The Worlds of Love] creates an ingratiating digital-folk-love-song tradition I can’t hear often enough. Garland is somehow both mild-mannered and totally uninhibited, Cinnie Cole is homey, and the electronic/banjo arrangements (very well recorded) are funky enough to chase away self-pity.”
David Garland performs Brian Wilson
MSI, released in Japan only, 1993
Cover art by Rodney Alan Greenblat
David Garland: voice, piano, DX7II, accordion, pro-one, guitar, flute, acoustic percussion • Ikue Mori: voice, electronic percussion • Cinnie Cole: voice, banjo • Gene Bryan Johnson: voice • Chris Cochrane: electric guitar and voice • Anne Garland: voice • Kenji Garland: voice • All string parts played by members of the Akoshia String Quartet: Kate Light, Diane Bruce, Leslie Tomkins, and Allen Whear.
“Not only do Wilson’s slight, lugubrious tunes hold up to all the serious, chamber-style treatment…, but many are actually better for the wear. Predictably, Garland doesn’t miss the chance to resurrect some obscure numbers…. But the biggest surprise is the title cut. With its blaring, calliope rhythms, counterpoint vocals on the bridge to the chorus, and Garland’s friendly baritone throughout, the song is transformed from a maudlin whine about arrested social development to a spirited celebration of weirdness.”
limited edition CD, 2006
David Garland: vocals and 12-string guitar
Limited edition (300 copies) CD in hand-made packaging. From the liner notes: “Over the years I’ve organized many ensembles of unusual instruments to play my music, but recently I’ve been inspired by some of the wonderful guests on my radio show Spinning On Air to see what might happen if I perform my unconventional songs conventionally. On this recording I present my newly devised, innovative performance format: guy with guitar … ”
This album features songs by David Garland, plus the first-ever cover version of “One By One” by Connie Converse.
Music for Modified Guitar
Digital only, free download via Bandcamp, 2014
David Garland: modified 12-string guitar
Three improvised pieces on an acoustic 12-string guitar that has been modified with electronics by Kenji Garland. The music was quickly recorded and immediately released.
CDR, 2007 (limited edition)
3-D blue and red anaglyph glasses included
cover art by David Garland
David Garland: voice, bowed psaltery, soprano and tenor recorders • Sally Swisher: voice • Larry Lewis: banjo • Paul Henle: marimba • Paul Galasso: cello
Recorded June 7, 1981, at The Kitchen, 484 Broome Street, NYC
From the liner notes: “Long Song” is a buoyant bit of folk-minimalism. It lives up to its title not by having a lot of lyrics, but by putting its few lyrics through a lot of permutations. I wrote it in 1979. I wanted to stretch my ability to create a long, integrated composition, and to explore a blend of simplicity and complexity. A little, one minute-long sketch for the piece was released on the memorably named “Just Another Asshole” compilation album of 1981, curated by Barbara Ess and Glenn Branca. This is the whole 14 minute-long piece … “Long Song” was first performed in 1979 in a Soho loft a few floors above the old Broome Street location of The Kitchen Center in New York City. In 1981 I rearranged it for a performance at The Kitchen itself, featuring the ensemble recorded here.