News: Cheval Sombre to release a new EP, including a Dead cover – see the video for ‘Althea’

Chris Porpora, aka Cheval Sombre, photographed by Luz Gallardo

CHRIS PORPORA, the artist whose twin album releases from earlier this year, Time Waits For No One and Days Go By, are the gentlest, brittlest sucker punches to the heart and so should be in your turntables if not your Christmas list, isn’t done with dirty old 2021 yet; he’s looking to round off a gorgeously productive year with a new three-track EP entitled Althea, out on November 5th.

The EP is named for the first of two covers on the three-tracker, in which Chris takes the 1980 Grateful Dead track and makes of it ethereal delicacy – watch the video for that below.

“I’ve always loved the Dead,” says Chris. “A cousin of mine showed me how to play ‘Friend of the Devil’ when I was real small, and I was mystified.

“Luckily, I got to see them a few times before Jerry Garcia passed away. I always found his voice to contain all the very best things about music – tenderness, toughness, knowing, humanity, sweetness, experience, weariness, innocence.

“I had never heard ‘Althea’, but a few years ago my father fell ill, and I heard it on the radio en route to the hospital – my jaw dropped. It seemed at once to be a song about everything – about all that is crucial.”

The other cover may challenge the preconceptions, and may indeed push the British listener out into guilty pleasure territory: it’s a reworking of the Dire Straits mega-smash, “So Far Away” … right? But trust your humble correspondent: Chris works lonesome, ice-brittle alchemy on it and refashions it as a weary, ghostly ballad, sirens interjecting in the background. There’ll be no need for examination of its potential cool; it is, effortlessly.

“Just as my punk rock friends despised the Dead, so too would Dire Straits have been considered a joke,” Chris confesses. “But I always found beauty in ‘So Far Away’. Recent experience with isolation brought it back from nostalgia to the fore.

When I recorded it, I had hustled out of town amidst some heartbreaking circumstances – just a bag and a guitar on the way out the door. That old song came to me, sitting in a room by the sea – it was a late August evening, about dusk. All I had on hand was a laptop perched on a wooden table; I leaned into it and recorded the first take.

“That’s what this version is. It was just right. When I sent it to Pete he remarked on the cicadas and cop car blowing by. The windows were wide open, and everything came in.”

The two choice covers bookend a subtle remixing of the Days Go By track “Are You Ready”, polished to a new, spacey sheen by Sonic Boom.

Round the time Pete sent me that version, I was listening to it on headphones while walking, and I saw this beautiful car,” explains Chris.

“I blinked three times. I don’t think I’d ever seen an Aston Martin before. I wrote Pete and told him: ‘Your mix sounds like this car looks. I want to call it the Sonic Boom AM Mix’.”

Cheval Sombre’s Althea EP will be released digitally by Sonic Cathedral and on limited edition clear vinyl 10” by Fat Elvis Records on November 5th.

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