North American exclusive: Album stream of Willis Earl Beal's Acousmatic Sorcery | Bleader

North American exclusive: Album stream of Willis Earl Beal's Acousmatic Sorcery

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Last May I visited Wicker Park coffee shop Filter to meet local antifolk musician Willis Earl Beal for the first time—I'd gotten in touch after coming across a flyer of his at Myopic Books. Beal was in a bit of a bind at the time; a couple months earlier, he'd brought two cassettes of his music to Roscoe Village studio Handwritten Recording to get the material digitized and transfered onto CD, but he didn't have the $100 he needed to actually walk out with the disc. Beal handed me a business card from Handwritten co-owner Rick Riggs and told me, "There's some good music at this place." On the back of the card Beal had written the name of his recording project in all caps: ACOUSMATIC SORCERY BY WILLIS EARL BEAL.

A lot has changed since then. Found magazine, which put one of Beal's flyers on the cover of its January 2010 issue, picked up Beal's tab at Handwritten and eventually released Acousmatic Sorcery as part of a small-run box set called The Willis Earl Beal Special Collection. In July 2011, my B Side feature on Beal introduced the world to his music and to his story; it caught the eye of photographer Jamie-James Medina, who signed Beal to his new XL imprint, Hot Charity. Next Tuesday, Hot Charity/XL will release Acousmatic Sorcery, and the Reader is the first North American outlet to host a stream of the album. (Full disclosure: Because of my Reader story, Hot Charity/XL asked me to help write Beal's press bio for the release.)

I keep flipping over that Handwritten Recording business card and thinking back to last February, when I found that flyer and discovered three of Beal's tunes on a blog by Albuquerque's John Mulhouse called City of Dust. I remember playing those songs over and over again for weeks, mesmerized by the raw, moving sounds and wanting nothing more than to share this wonderful music and track down its creator. Getting the chance to write about someone like Beal, someone who makes music I'm passionate about, is the reason I got into this business in the first place.

I had hoped my B Side story would introduce Beal to more listeners, but I never imagined it would lead to him getting a record deal, touring Europe, fielding offers to open for Bruce Springsteen, and doing interviews with Pitchfork and GQ. I guess it's safe to say "mission accomplished."

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