Flowers / for a ritual coming soon

Artist's Statement 

Flowers / for a ritual - an album by Teo Blake 

 

I’m interested in the ways in which rituals inform meaning and intention.  We are in a time of unprecedented access and control over how we experience the world; and in this, there is both potential peril and power. While rituals can reinforce a sense of detachment, they can also provide the necessary structure for achieving meaningful experiences. This tension between the human need for structure and the desire to question the nature of a given construct lies at the heart of this album. 

 

While I appreciate technical skill, I am most drawn to subversion of expectation.  Our artistic lexicons allow us to make assumptions about what we see and hear and while this familiarity can help us follow, understand, and enjoy art, it can also leave us wholly unchanged. I get very excited when I see established constructs subverted because it serves to remind us of the mutability of ourselves and the world more broadly. I think this has important personal and political implications as well. We can project attributes on people or groups that limit both our conception of them and who we are and if left unchecked this myopia can become progressively narrow. I find art that viscerally reinforces the instability of our schemas to be the most liberatory. This destabilization can also be the very thing that many people find off-putting, I can only hope that my work is not for them.  

 

Ultimately, structure must serve content. Subversion for its own sake is as vacuous as conventionality. The twists and turns on this album mirror an emotional labyrinth. Sometimes we say goodbye before the words are spoken and other times it isn't until long after that connections are dissolved. It is with this emotional space that much of the album is preoccupied. Lives unrealized and people remembered can be perfect in ways that the lives we lead and the people we encounter can never be. We know that these people and paths untaken are fantastical and yet we often experience them as more real than the very things that stand before us. This dreamscape leads to the second half of the album, which consists of reimaginings of songs by Scott Walker, David Bowie, Daniel Johnston, and Leonard Cohen. We lost Bowie and Cohen in 2016 and Johnston and Walker in 2019. These people have all been pivotal figures for me. As different as they are, they each challenged norms and expectations in beautiful and inspiring ways. The specific songs that were selected are intended to continue the narrative of the album as a whole and maintain a musical cohesiveness. While the lyrics of these songs are not mine, the sentiments expressed are articulated more acutely than I could have achieved on my own. And I am deeply appreciative of all of my collaborators on this album. There is a level of creativity and expertise that I feel privileged to be associated with.

 

Why Flowers? The day that David Bowie passed away, I left work early and went to his apartment in SoHo, first stopping at Dean & DeLuca to pick up a bouquet to leave on his steps. I did a similar ritual for Leonard Cohen, flying to Montreal and leaving flowers on his grave. But flowers are not simply solemn, they are equally celebratory. I've given flowers to the people whom I write about in the music as symbols of support and affection. Flowers often accompany large-scale ceremonies and daily rituals. What they represent changes dramatically depending on context, just like the music we play and give to one another.

 

I know that once you put something out into the world, it’s no longer yours. I’m grateful to anyone who listens to my music. I don’t care so much if one listens to the album and its entirety, puts a song or two on a playlist, or uses an excerpt on what would probably be a pretty strange TikTok. But in the silos of nearly infinite options, it is easy to get lost in the expansiveness. So, I do hope that we are able to continue to develop rituals that allow us to have experiences that we ourselves determine and that are not predetermined.

Credits 

"Fly" feat. Savannah Burke and Deen Chase

Guitar - John Michael Sherry

"So Pretentious" feat. brz

Guitar - John Michael Sherry

Bass - Elijah Pouges

Drums - Carlos Del Castillo

Drum programming - Elijah Pouges & Teo Blake

Piano - Noah Cheven

Synths -Teo Blake Elijah Pouges, & Steven Mashaka

Produced by Teo Blake & Elijah Pouges

"New Way" feat. Aviva Jaye

Drums - Carlos Del Castillo

Drum programming - Elijah Pouges & Teo Blake

Guitar - Nicolas Azlon

Synths - Nicolas Azlon & Teo Blake

"Flowers" feat. Deen Chase and John Michael Sherry

Additional vocal production by Leah Shaw

 

"World's Strongest Man" feat. Sagittaire

Piano - Noah Chevan

Written By Scott Walker

 

"Be My Wife"

Piano - Noah Chevan

Guitar - Noah Chevan

Synth - Cody Boyce

Written by David Bowie

 

"Some Things Last a Long Time"

Guitar & Piano - Michael Cassady

Written by Daniel Johnston

"Famous Blue Raincoat" feat. Aviva Jaye

Piano - Leah Shaw

Synth - Cody Boyce

Written by Leonard Cohen 

Album art by Jordan Artim

Album cover design Marcel Andre

All tracks written, produced & performed by Teo Blake except where otherwise noted

Mixed by Teo Blake

Mastered by Steven Mashaka for Whistling Kettle Studios