WISCONSIN musician? Sound artist? Explorer? Curator? – all of these things, Jon Mueller is always seeking new confluences of thought and sound.
He may be best known to you as part of Volcano Choir, in which he lined up alongside Justin Vernon of Bon Iver to push out the boundaries of alt.rock into weirder, treated shapes, employing electronica and post-rock texturing to refashion the possible new directions of American indie.
He’s also overseen the mantric, chanting disciplines of Death Blues, who sought to look at that universal final curtain through the medium of propulsive drone blues; and in Jaime Fenelly’s edgy ambient project Mind Over Mirrors.
By day, away from sonics? He runs a little curiosity shop, Within Things, in Sturgeon Bay, out on the Door Peninsula: a little gold mine of “obscure music, small press limited edition books, esoteric literature, mystic folk art, herbal tinctures, primitive decor, traditional instruments” and more.
He’s set to release a quartet of pieces gathered together as Family Secret, which explore drone, percussion, and in a more abstracted creative catharsis, changes in lighting as a spur to bring forth ideas – and the subject of divorce, and how that can rent and jag a brain, even beyond the immediate parties involved.
Family Secret was composed and recorded under abstracted lighting conditions – a technique of setting he came across many years ago, leading to hypnotic, hypnogogic states, the likes of which leak through and inform the lead track he’s dropping from the album. the aptly titled “Welcome”, which you can delight in below.
We’ve embedded the video, composed by Kaveh Soofi from the photography of Niki Feijen, who glories in the stunning imagery possible from urban exploration – places of warmth and human transaction now grown cold.
Jon says: “I’m always excited to see what Kaveh will come up with for the videos we’ve made.
“For Family Secret, pairing his work with Niki Feijen’s desolate photographs doubled my anticipation. Seeing these visuals combined with the audio totally captures many of the ideas I had with this project.
“What was the story, what went wrong, and what sense can be made in what’s left behind? How can the past speak in the moment? Regardless of my thoughts, I think there’s a real sense to take away from the video, however one feels it.”
And combined with the textural beauty of “Welcome”, you get a powerful emotional reaction. Jon isn’t afraid to let a tone breathe, explore every nuance of its attack and decay, with all manner of percussive tools – cymbals, singing bowls, gongs, more – given centre stage over a chill backdrop of drone, still like winter air, reminiscent of Thomas Köner. It’s truly beautiful, with a creeping, cold edge to keep you alert.
Jon Mueller’s Family Secret will be released by American Dreams Records on digital, CD and vinyl formats on January 22nd; there’s even five test pressings, for you wax exclusivists. It’s available to pre-order now over at Bandcamp.