Pale Cicada

by Makeunder

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Nerve Salad
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Nerve Salad Easily some of the best experimental R&B this side of Saturn. Everything about this shines.
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Lurr Experimental r&b with plenty of soul and funk; this album is a fantastic listen all the way through. Favorite track: In Between My Dead-End Jobs.
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about

When people ask me, “where are you from?”, I tell them I was born in California but grew up in Texas. The longer version has always felt too complicated – when I was two, my unorthodox parents moved my siblings and me from rural northern California to suburban San Antonio hoping to find work. We struggled, never really finding our place there, and those impressions of alienation and hardship have left me feeling like a stranger everywhere I’ve ever lived since. And even this longer version, which took me years to learn how to express, doesn’t do the story justice. After a lifetime of composing music as a means of escaping these feelings, I recorded Pale Cicada to come to terms with my impressions of growing up poor and out-of-step in America, and to reflect on how my eccentric family and I managed to survive through it. Ramshackle and chaotic, the songs migrate from R&B to clav funk to country, as if Stevie Wonder, Prince, Sturgill Simpson and St. Vincent conspired to make a voodoo doll out of me and pushed air through my vocal chords in the studio. The stories told on the album are meant to be both subversively upbeat and crushingly tragic, greatly complicated by the questions left unanswered when my father died of lung cancer in 2011, before I was old enough to see things from his perspective. Truthfully, I found the songwriting process overwhelmingly painful, but ultimately cathartic – and now that the record is done and I’ve gotten my own story straight, I feel a little more at peace when I tell people the shorter version.

credits

released June 28, 2019

Hamilton Ulmer – vocals, keys, guitars, synths, production
Van Jackson-Weaver – guitars
Scott Padden – bass (01, 02, 07)
Nathaniel Brenner - production (04), bass (05)
John Doing – drums (01, 02, 05-08)
Matt Schory - drums (09)
Mario Godoy - saxophones (01, 02, 03)
Carolyn Walter - saxophones (01)
Sasha Launer - flutes (07)
Sarah Bonomo - clarinets (06)
Jeff Anderle - clarinets (07)
Ross Eustis - trumpet (02)
Danny Lubin-Laden - trombone (02)
Cassandra Bequary - violin (03, 07, 08 ,09)
Tatiana Trono - viola (08)
Charly Akert - cello (03, 08, 09)

LYRICS, SONGWRITING & PRODUCTION –
HAMILTON ULMER

TRACKING –
IAN PELLICCI

VOCAL PRODUCTION (02,04,05) –
DOUGLAS SHOWALTER

PRODUCTION (04) –
NATHANIEL BRENNER

MIX –
NICK LOBEL

MASTER –
DALE BECKER

ALBUM COVER –
GABRIEL SCHAMA



released on Good Eye Records

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about

Makeunder Oakland, California

Led by songwriter Hamilton Ulmer, Makeunder wrestles diverse tastes - from Renaissance motet, to art rock, to 90's R&B, synth pop, soul, & modern orchestral music - into powerful songs about death, survival, migration, & loss.

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Track Name: Pale Cicada
I wanna drift away from this brutal town
let it sink into the ground with no story to tell
a dying thunder in the darkness
rattling in its mouth

These days I'm living in a run-down plaster home
where I witness the years peeling off one by one -
The pale cicada in the autumn
singing all alone

I know that I can't help myself
How do I live
with this sadness?

Give me something real

I can't help myself from feeling down
When I know what I'm predisposed to
Don't tell me who I am

I can't help but make you the effect of my cause
Oh yes I wish I could believe I was someone that I never was
And will never be

What is that shadow need that's telling you to say
That you claim my spirit but you never did relate?
Telling me I'm a dying thunder in a wreck-yard chest
Driving over the tracks, clapping hands with the Dead

singing I know that I can't help myself
How do I live
with this sadness?

Yeah give me something real
Before I sink into the ground with no story to tell

I can't help myself from feeling down
When I know what I'm predisposed to
Don't tell me who I am

I can't help but make you the effect of my cause
Oh yes I wish I could believe I was someone that I never was

Maybe I'll always be
The pale cicada,
Singing alone in this rough trash city

I know that I can't help myself
How do I live
With this sadness?

Give me something real
Before I sink into the ground with no story to tell
Track Name: In Between My Dead-End Jobs
Snap out of the dream-like fix
When I run to punch the ticket
That's when I start my second shift

Step with me on the warehouse floor
I can barely make the rate
When I move across these packages

In between my dead-end jobs
What do I do
If I lose every reason
And I can't make it through

I'll paint you another picture
Put on a part-time retail skin
That's how I start my first shift

Step with me behind the counter
Boss berates me every day
When I serve a million endless faces

See, my eyes are glazing over as my focus sits on the truth
The world spins indifferently
I can't get a break for nothing
It costs an arm and a leg
So I spend the youth that's left in me

In between my dead-end jobs
What do I do
If I lose every reason
And I can't make it through

In between my dead-end jobs
Where do I go
If I'm stranded, broke and hopeless
My future illegible
With so much to lose

Now I hold on for a distraction
Keep my breath above the water
Forget the nature of the question

Now I hold on for a distraction
scraping one paycheck ahead
Of the three stamp claps of a disposession

I hold on for a distraction
But I know it just don't matter
Can't seem to climb up on the latter

You tell me we'll be all right
You believe it
Well, we ain't got another plan
So snap out of the fix and wait for the sun to come up and do it again

In between my dead-end jobs
What do I do
If I lose every reason
And I can't make it through

In between my dead-end jobs
Where do I go
If I'm stranded, broke and hopeless
My future illegible
With so much to lose
Track Name: Ringing Chord
You're a flash of light
Against the monochrome
And from the mouth you strike
A ringing chord that I've been listening for

You whisper "yes, it's real"
I touch your electric skin
How do we live in this forever
A lone verse apart from a ruined world
That don't sing much anymore

Maybe I haven't found
My people yet
Ayahuasca in
The desert with a stranger I just met

I take you to the river
Get hitched D-I-Y
Your mama cries "what a life!"
And though your daddy don't approve
In time, he'll see my follow through
We'll dance the hora to the B-52s
Yeah

I wanna show you the mind
What is real and what is not
I tell you what I want
Leave your afflictions at the door
Don't matter what came before
Forget your distant woes

I came alive at twenty-four
And then at twenty-five I died again
Well, that was long ago
And now I'm old enough
To see the difference
Between withdrawal
And survival
Yeah
Track Name: Begin in the Middle
Begin in the Middle
Two-Thousand Eleven
Long after you first saw your daddy communing with the dead
He's a tongue-spitting fire, he's an old faded wreckage
He never thought to pass on the message

What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold on -

Let's begin in the middle of the progression
These houses rise, they fall -
"Crumbled, extended, removed, forgotten"

There's the open field where nothing's ever happened
And the redwood grove where they spread his ashes

You never thought to ask him
Now you look for an answer
Begin in the middle
You look in vain
For a rumination
Haunted by the pain


What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold onto?
What do I have to hold onto?
Track Name: Promethean Heat
V1
The memory gone
The forest with the fire
But I can still taste the sweat on the tongue
After it all

O nameless bird in flight!
Never settles on its feet
A vision of another time and song
After it all

Whisper into my ear
Don't tell them 'bout the ember
I will hold it in my head till it boils
After it all

I need to make you understand
Deliberate the point of the land
I can still taste the sweat on the tongue
After it all
After it all

CH1
You can never say these things to another soul you tell me
"Tell no one"
But I will never forget that day so I sing it softly to myself
In my own way

V2
Faint stars in your eyes
Your hair smells like lavender
We're walking deeper through the understory
After it all

Take off your disguise
Celebrate Promethean Heat
The sun setting on canopy edge
After it ends

Lead me into your arms
Lead me upon your lips
I can still taste the sweat on the tongue
After it all

Cry from the distance "NO"
The ember flees the cavern of my mouth
And sets flame to the hole of it all
Whole of it all
After it all

CH2
You can never say these things to another soul you tell me
"Tell no one"
But I will never forget that day so I sing it softly to myself
In my own way
Track Name: Another Ruse
You shed your lovely golden skin
And I stayed the whole of the summer span
All alone thinking where do I begin?
I rest my eyes and hope for another plan

I feel my red emotion begin to fade
Tied up in a vernacular pain
I've seen the dirt flood the streets and the tract homes erase
I wanna give you the truth, wanna give it to you straight

Before I run into another ruse
Until I run into another ruse

It takes a fool to breath in the air
It takes a fool to leave all that behind
It takes a fair bit of cool to begin in the fall
So take that despair and find me after it all

Before I run into another ruse
Until I run into another ruse
Into another ruse
Before I run into another ruse
Into another ruse

No - I can't run
Track Name: There's Something That's Moving in Me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There is still something that's moving in me
There is still something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me

Can we re-live back when we were kids
Walking through the neighborhood stoned
Camped in the ditch behind the power grid
Talking shit and laying low

Let's dump those fifths from your mama's liquor cabinet
While she sleeps in her chair
That summer it hit one hundred six
And whiskey never fixed the central air

There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There is still something that's moving in me
There is still something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me

Greek chorus declaiming on the pavement
"Time to lose your woes!"
You've got to give yourself some distance to figure it out
Before you lose control

What you wouldn't give to relive that bruised
Fist to your father's nose
I bet you couldn't hit him hard enough to atone
For all the years he stole

Will you spend forever paying down that heavy debt
You never asked for?
Can we pretend we're fifteen and forget the rest?

There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There is still something that's moving in me
There is still something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
There's something that's moving in me
Track Name: I'm Still Living Wrongly
There's an overgrown garden that's claimed the yard
A tangled mess of thorns that never let in a love song
Dishes stacked in the sink, three months of clothes piled on the bed
I can't get out of my head for a minute
Lead me back to heaven -

I used to get on unattended
In a trailer marooned on a roadless stretch of the north coast
I never needed that much, just a roof in the right place
When we save up enough and move back
The struggle won't seem so bad
They can never take that from us

Do you think that you could love me the way that I need?
Would you settle on me if I'm still living wrongly?
I'm still living wrongly
In denial and withdrawal
I am a broken road, run down by every lover, drifter and ghost

That's ever come along

I'm still living wrongly
At least I know
I know where I belong
I know where I belong

There's an overgrown garden planted in the heart
And a home painted ochre and blonde
That I'll get around to fixing up, time permitting
And when your hair turns to gray, I'll still love you
The same as that first day
We sat upon the front step, arm-in-arm
Lead me back to heaven - I wanna stay lost
I swear they'll never take this from us
Track Name: Ain't That a Trip?
Ain't that a trip the way the existential story took a dive
A new age hippy quaker looking for a place to hide
What a gracious golden gift the world's lucky you're alive
Yeah you look back you wonder what you missed
Out on that trip.
What did you miss?

You put some ochre on the palette when the painting's looking dry
You're waking up defeated - how affecting was the lie?
Syncopated hallelujah in a heathen's nine-to-five
I'm looking back and wondered how I lived
... Maybe I never did -

Yeah
Ain't that a trip?
Oh yes, it's real!

Everybody wants a permanent location
At least a way to pay the rent
A gentle soul who's on your wavelength
Put a life back together again

In the third act when the aspartame becomes formaldehyde
Before the vedic heat death claims the oceans and the skies
Stay with me now stay forever - stay as long as you like
You don't have to wonder how you lived
Cause I know we'll be just fine

Ain't that a trip?
Oh yes, it's real!