City Paper is not for tourists
Edsel’s Sohrab Habibion recently self-released Songs from…, a two-CD collection packaged in a highly designed full-color, 64-page hardcover book under the name Margo. After my initial, Phil Rizzuto-style reaction of “Holy Cow!” I immediately wanted to know if the boy was living on food stamps.
“I’m broke now, definitely, but I knew I would be after finishing the Margo book, and so, thankfully, it’s not as if I’m shocked by my destitution,” Habibion says from his new New York City digs. “Besides, I have something to show for the effort and time that went into it, which buoys any overwhelming moments of panic or self-pity.”
Habibion gathered paintings and drawings by Nancy Ford (who had worked with Edsel before), Marty Ackley, and Jef Scharf, and photographs by Jim Saah, and along with co-designer Vida Russell began matching up images with his songs. Each track has its own page or spread of equivalent visuals.
“Matching the music and images proved to be one of the most difficult and exciting parts of the project. Tapes of each record were sent to the artists, and then, upon receiving their work, Vida and I had to figure out which picture corresponded with which track. Some were obvious, and some were incredibly abstract,” he explains. “So it boiled down to the designers’ interpretation of the artists’ interpretation of the musician’s idea. A fun game of sortslike Pictionary crossed with pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.”
“One of the real drives behind this that really inspired Vida and me was to open a different dialogue between how music, image, and text meet,” Habibion says. “It’s a dialogue that exists but is often overlooked or supplanted for one or the other. I was really interested in using images in a way that they were as much of the focus as the music, and not just background textures or promotional pieces.”
With Edsel still a band only in theory, Habibion felt it was time to bust out on his own.
“Basically, it breaks down to the fact that I’d been wanting to do something more conceptually expansive and simultaneously more intimate than I’d ever done in a band context,” he admits.
“Also, since it’s the first real thing I’ve done away from the familiar mode of ‘rock band,’ I wanted to hint at a wide variety of ideas and leave as many options [as possible] open for what I may do next.”
Habibion’s music is a dreamy hodgepodge of singer-songwriter tunes run through an array of lo-fi soundscapes. The songs are broken up into two camps over the CDs: Songs From the Woods and Songs From Before and After the Leisure Class.
“The division was easy: Woods were all the songs I wrote and recorded while at [my family’s] cabin in [Virginia]. Leisure were all of the songs I’d stored away over the previous years, revisited and touched up,” Habibion says. “The overall structure of the two discs is purposefully similar, and there are stylistic consistencies that carry over as well, but I consider Woods much harsher, and therefore considerably more difficult to listen to, than Leisure. Apparently they both do well for background music at dinner parties, though personally I like to drive long distances to them.”
Though probably not in an Edsel.Christopher Porter
Songs from… is available for a $20 check or money order from DeSoto Records at P.O. Box 60335, Washington, DC 20039, or inquire at DeSotoRec@aol.com.