Saturday, January 30, 2010

Des Ark


Some songwriters are widely praised and well known. Their stature as masters of their craft and acclaim for their songwriting abilities spreads, and they become nationally, or even world famous. All too often, however, some of the most talented, gifted songwriters get swept under the rug, or hug the coattails of obscurity willingly. There are those songwriters who develop intense cult followings, suspended on a pedestal for lucky individuals in the know.

Aimee Argote's consistent output since 2005 under the moniker Des Ark has suspended her to such a cult status. Argote's early material, raw, blistering post-punk with a heavy nod to the blues, has given way in more recent years to a restless, Appalachian-laden folk style since the loss of her drummer, the only other true "member" of Des Ark. Loose Lips Sink Ships, the band's first true LP puts Argote's talented guitar playing on display as she rails through eight songs, howling, sobbing, and sometimes outright screaming.

It is a far cry from the place we find her now in recent recordings; live she may bring the electric band with her, but on the live recording from WXDU, we find Argote as her most intimate and delicate, where newer songs like "Bonne Chance, Asshole" show off her incredible voice, as well as her creative and under appreciated guitar playing and tunings. The first song on Live on WXDU Vol. 1, "The Artistic Possibilites of Sub-Standard Housing and Food Stamps" even features Argote's parents clapping and stomping along. And the first two songs on Vol. 2 feature banjo, and are perhaps some of the finest tracks Argote has ever laid down.

2008's Battle of the Beards, a split with Ben Davis and the Jetts, is Argote's finest studio outing. A coherent EP that showcases her newer, country-tinged anarcho/blues/folk/punk/what-the-fuck-ever styling perfectly with accompaniment from piano and a string section.

If you have been sleeping on giving Des Ark a try, wait no longer. Aimee Argote deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest songwriters alive today; one that is able to capture and dissect the most secretive, taboo parts of the human psyche. Casual sex, homosexuality, alcoholism, and self-loathing are often given the nod amidst a wave of gentle, article finger-picking and a voice that creaks, moans, coos, and shrieks, demanding your immediate attention.

I am missing her first release, a split 7" with Bellafea put out in 2005. Anyone got it?

* * *

Day of Prole (20??)

Loose Lips Sink Ships Des Ark

Loose Lips Sink Ships (2005)

Des Ark Live on WXDU Vol. 1

Live on WXDU Vol. 1

Des Ark Live on WXDU Vol. 2

Live on WXDU Vol. 2

Battle of the Beards Des Ark

'Battle of the Beards' Split with Ben Davis and the Jetts (2007)


where are we! said...

Had an irrational grudge against this band, but I'm gonna take your word for it and try some. Thanks brothers.

Ross Grady said...

I don't quite understand how/why you'd write such a glowing, deeply-felt review of an artist's work, and then post MP3 copies of her entire catalog. It's not like she's rich; she's been working low-wage jobs for most of the last decade so as to have time to write & freedom to tour.

She probably doesn't sell that many of these CDs, but she does sell them, and particularly on tour they can be the difference between breaking even vs. having to go into credit card debt to pay for gas, van/car repairs, etc.

I'm actually 100% in favor of blogs posting 2 or 3 songs per release, so that people can have context & opportunity to get a feel for the breadth/depth of an artist's work. That's how I find out about a lot of new music that I grow to love (and buy).

But posting all of it just feels kinda sketchy, despite all your sidebar text about "delete after 24 hours" and etc. Which, as I think we all know, nobody ever does.

Full disclosure: I recorded two of these records. I did it for free, so I'm not losing anything either way, but I figure as long as Aimee is selling them at shows, and Brian Lowitt is basically singlehandedly running Lovitt Records (in whose online store you can find most of these) out of his own pocket, I'd hope that their fans would want to help 'em out with a few bucks to keep the music coming.

Thanks for listening.

where are we! said...

Pretty into the punk side of things. I'm gonna buy Loose Lips Sink Ships.

CHUG LIFE said...


I always encourage people to buy physical copies of CD's and records and go out to shows whenever possible. I hope you're not deeply offended, but I personally believe that blogs are an amazing way to spread music across the world to people who may not otherwise get subjected to some of these artists, and hence, create a larger market for the artist's to be appreciated and make money. I can say that I've worked low wage jobs to support myself on tour and to record, I think that's a pretty common thing in the DIY punk community. I never have a problem removing links at the artists or label requests, so I don't see a problem. I personally own some Des Ark merchandise, as well as merchandise from about 90% of the other bands posted on this blog. If Aimee or Lovitt has a problem, they can air their grievances to me and I won't have a problem removing the links. And thank you for recording this music.

Love and respect,

Sim said...

I would say you're going a little too far posting the actual records, but as far as I know, those two radio demo Eps are out of print, or at least I haven't been able to get ahold of vol. 1 (I bought vol. 2 last year when Des Ark passed thru Switzerland; I can honestly say that was the most amazing show I ever experienced).

If they are in print or are ever available again I fully intend to buy what I downloaded (plus copies for everybody else I know), but until then I'm really glad the EPs were posted on 1 or 2 blogs.

Apparently WXDU vol 3 is on the way; I was really bummed when I missed out on listening to it when Des Ark's live on the radio show was streaming in January, but Ross has been kind enough to post a podcast here:

But we absolutely owe it to ourselves and Des Ark to buy the CD when it comes out. And the next full-length non-live non-demo record is coming out soon too!

Jim said...

Hello! I used to have TWO copies of the split 7" (des_ark / Bellafea), but I traded it off. I MIGHT be able to get it back... ESPECIALLY if someone here was willing to trade me that for a copy of (REAL COPY) of "Days Of Prole"... I can't find that anywhere, but I know it was on CD, and the cover was supposedly pink.


Cardello said...

While I'd rather not make decisions for Aimee and I'm pretty sure that you're far from the only person offering up these albums for the masses to steal. I'm going to have to wholeheartedly agree with Ross on this one. I released "Loose Lips Sink Ships" and while I appreciate your kind words about Des Ark, I'd rather write her royalty checks and put out records for other bands than fuel this sick feeling of entitlement to free music that most folks seem to have subscribed to over the past few years. I can tell you from experience, this makes it really hard for folks like me and Ross and Brian to continue helping out bands like Des Ark. I'm not saying "take this down" I'd just like for folks to think about how they're effecting these artists and tiny labels like mine when the download this stuff.


Charles Cardello

sinktheboat said...

i can honestly say i thought i'd be the last person on earth to download music for free off of the internet. for one, i'm very "old school." when i was growing up, there was nothing greater than the hand-decorated, carefully prepared and arranged mix tapes/cds that we exchanged through the actual mail. i used to go to the store on monday nights and wait until midnight, when it would officially become "record release day," to purchase the albums i'd been anxiously anticipating. oddly, one of my favorite things about the music i really loved... was the wait. when you finally got it, the wait made it really worth it. when i get a new cd, i unwrap that baby like it's some priceless artifact just excavated from the earth. now, there's a million points that one could argue here, regarding the positives and negatives of the modern exposure/dissemination of music, so on... but i'm not going to try to touch that. the thing is... i agree with ross and cardello. i think these artists/labels (particularly these small ones, that work really hard, and certainly aren't lining their pockets with the proceeds) deserve the modest amount of money charged for their work. BUT, i'm as guilty as anyone. i don't have a job. i have no personal income. i have legitimate reason for lack of employment, imo. in theory, i still hold the same values in my mind. i find the whole thing to be really quite sad and tragic... in particular, what is being lost. a certain lack of appreciation that, ultimately, must be lacking amongst a generation so accustomed to... instant gratification. i want to support the artists whose work i truly value. it feels good to give something in return. it feels good to show respect and appreciation for what i've received through the music... which is often invaluable. i don't think it's right to steal music... but, when there's something available by an artist/band i really admire, and there is no other way for me to listen to it, it's difficult not to. if i have, or can somehow find the means, i will pay. if i had the means, i'd always pay. it would never cross my mind to do otherwise. though, more often than not, i do not have the means... and i really love des ark. so, i'm going to go download some of that music up there.

Anonymous said...

This music should be heard by more people and this artist should be better supported. The music profession is so f-ed up right now, but Aimee Argote is a special kind of songwriter that comes along only once in a while. They are a great live band. Go to a show. Book a show. Buy something. Spread the Word. Listen to the music! Share your experiences. Fall in love. Breakup. Cry. Laugh. Rock out. Write a song of your own.

Jkakob said...

i live in canada and am broke as shit, if des ark played my city/if record stores carried her music i would buy it. unfortunately neither of these things have happened. i don't have a visa so i can't buy it off itunes etc etc... i hate to pose and posture but i bought a copy of "don't rock the boat" and if i could find any of these in physical form i would. i really want to hear wxdu sessions 1+2, the few songs i can find from both of them mean a lot to me.

Tanya Sparke said...

What you say is true. She's truly brilliant.