By May 2020, Marc Ribot had begun to find being depresseddepressing. The guitarist and his Ceramic Dogtrio—bassist/multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismailyand drummer Ches Smith—hadn’t played for months.So, allinvolved decided to head to Ismaily’s Figure 8 Recordingstudio in Brooklyn to record what would becomeHope,setfor release June 25 on Northern Spy. “Originally,”Ribot says, “we were going to call itBetter LuckNext Time, but thatfelt… somehow unnecessary.”The band, which has been releasing music since 2008,devised an order of operations to enter the studio,wash theirhands and set up at a safe remove. Ribot, Ismailyand Smith never actually saw each during the sessionsbecause ofthe safeguards; they were working to keep the bassist’s“fucked up“ lungs from compromising his health. Butbecauseof Ismaily’s technical facility, they all „heard eachother better than ever,“ Ribot said. With precautionsin place, the trioset about capturing eight originals that reflect theera’s uncertainty and cap it with a reimagining ofDonovan’s “WearYour Love Like Heaven,” where the trio turns the idealisticpsych-folk effort into a ruminative, spoken-wordpiece.Harnessing pent-up artistic longing, the sessionsalso yielded enough material forWhat I Did On MyLong ‚Vacation‘,something of a teaser for this current dispatch backin October 2020. “When I took a taxi over to thestudio with myamp, that was the first time I’d been in a cab inthree or four months,” recalled Ribot, who’s performedwith TomWaits, Jack McDuff, Diana Krall and countless others.“And I only took a cab once; the other times I wenton mybicycle. I was a very good boy.”“Wanna,” a tune on the new album, simply reflectsthe band’s incalculable joy at being able to playsome rock ’n’ rollagain. But on a few songs [check out “B Flat Ontology”]Ribot flexes minimalist storytelling skills to sketchlife’sennui—a kind of pointlessness that goes far beyondexistentialism.“My ‘No Wave’ roots are showing” Ribot said about“They Met In The Middle,” a tune that pulses and shuffles,andbenefits from the outside contribution of alto saxophonistDarius Jones. “It’s a song about not going anywhere.Youcan go nowhere by staying in the same place, or bygoing in circles. This song is about people who goplaces andthen go back. There are a lot of ways to go nowhere.”Some of Ribot’s recordings have been more immediatelypolitical. HisSongs of Resistance1942-2018from2018was unapologetically agitprop, and Ceramic Dog’sYRUStill Here?, from that same year, spanned the perenniallypoignant „Muslim Jewish Resistance“ and the punky“Fuck La Migra.“ OnHope, “The Activist,” is moresatire thanrebuke.“I wrote that after sitting at the millionthpolitical meeting that didn’t get anything done,”said Ribot, “So, in thissong, I was channeling people who really enjoyed mouthinga bunch of radical sounding shit, as opposed to actuallydoing what urgently needed to be done.” Smith furthercontextualized the tune, and the album overall: “Thisrecord,versus that last one, has more of the effects of politicalburnout.” ***Resisting musical, historical and political categorization,“The Long Goodbye” and “Maple Leaf Rage”—a pair ofinstrumentals toward the end ofHope—move throughmoods and attitudes while providing a 23-minute ballasttoRibot’s poetic commentary. “I think Marc has a painterlyway of following his intuition about whether we needaninstrumental moment or not after some lyrical, text-basedmusic has happened,” Ismaily said. “I think it’sjust followingthe subtle intuition of balancing the scales and what’staking place in a listener’s emotional experience.”Even as the bandleader crafted detailed snapshotsof pandemic-era life forHope, the overriding passionthat droveCeramic Dog back into the studio last spring is palpablyaudible on every track. “We were so happy to be playing,recording, and making music again,” Ribot said. “Infuture times—if there are future times—when peoplelook back onthe last year, they’re not going to believe it. Butthis record was our witness… and our life-line.”*** Ribot, on the steering committee of MusicWorkersAlliance.org,now goes to more meetings than ever.
B-Flat Ontology 00:05:40
The Activist 00:07:03
Bertha the Cool 00:05:07
They Met in the Middle 00:05:49
The Long Goodbye 00:10:02
Maple Leaf Rage 00:13:30
Wear Your Love Like Heaven 00:05:30