Acclaimed electro-acoustic composer and performer Sxip Shirey’s new album A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees, is out now on VIA Records. Preceding release Billboard premiered the video for his new track “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” featuring vocals and performance from Rhiannon Giddens. See the video and accompanying interview HERE and view/share HERE. Giddens and soul-singer Xavier both appear on multiple tracks on the album.
Composed and produced by Shirey with co-production and engineering by Don Godwin and mastering by Greg Calbi, much of A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees was created over the course of the two years that Shirey spent touring the world as performer, composer and music director of LIMBO, an explosive circus arts show for which he composed the music, played the role of “head angel,” music-directed and led the band for 425 performances. On breaks he returned to New York and worked with Godwin in the legendary BC Studio of Martin Bisi in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and it was there that the album ultimately took shape as the non-linear story of an artist living the life of an international artist-nomad—a member of a creative community of collaborators and colleagues who intersect, perform and create together all over the world. The music boxes and harmonicas with which Shirey regularly fills his pockets are joined on the LP by cooking implements, cocktail glasses, bells, whistles and whales, among many other sources of sound.
Of the album’s title Shirey says, “Bees hold perceived value. They are like little coins. They work. They make honey. Hold them lightly or they will sting. When they do, take a slug of whiskey and keep going.”
The album follows 2010’s Sonic New York and 2006’s Sombule. Shirey has also released three albums with Luminescent Orchestrii (Neptune’s Daughter, Too Hot To Sleep and the self-titled Luminescent Orchestrii), of which he is a founding member, plus one EP on Nonesuch Records as a collaboration between Luminescent Orchestrii and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Known for his experimental use of found objects, computers and traditional, rare and modified instruments, Shirey has toured the world and shared stages with the likes of Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, Jason Webley, Rhiannon Giddens, Reggie Watts, Evelyn Evelyn, French musician Féloche, the Boston Pops and the English National Opera, among many others. He has played the Sydney Festival, Adelaide Festival, Brisbane Festival, London’s South Bank Centre, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Celebrate Brooklyn!, the Big Ears Festival, FloydFest, Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, and in New York City has been a regular fixture at Joe’s Pub, The Knitting Factory, CBGB and now National Sawdust, where he is also currently an artist curator. He was featured at TED in Monterey, California in 2008, which may be viewed here: https://www.ted.com/talks/sxip_shirey_at_the_breathing_place.
Composition highlights include Neil Gaiman’s short film Statuesque, a mini-opera for English National Opera (What Dreams May Come), director Douglas Keeve’s feature film Hotel Gramercy Park, playwright Lisa D’Amour’s Marsupial Girl at The Minneapolis Children’s Theater and five George Méliès silent films, including A Trip to the Moon, for The Museum of The Moving Image in Queens with presentation by writer Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret). Shirey’s latest work, The Gauntlet, a “choir you walk through,” in which audience members travel between two rows of singers, was world-premiered on The High Line in New York City and a new iteration, The Gauntlet—Fredrikstad, recently premiered in Norway as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations for the city of Fredrikstad.
A BOTTLE OF WHISKEY AND A HANDFUL OF BEES TRACK LIST
1. Over the City
2. Penny Red (Internationale)
3. Woman of Constant Sorrow (feat. Rhiannon Giddens)
4. I Gotta Man (feat. Xavier)
5. Latency (Jetlag)
6. Grandpa Charlie
7. Cinnamon Stick (feat. Xavier)
8. This is How You Break into My House to Find Me
9. So Stay
11. Fat Robot
12. Just Drive By, Firefly (feat. Rhiannon Giddens)
13. I Don’t See Her Walking In (feat. Xavier)
14. The Land Whale Choir Sinks The Albert Hall
15. Bach, Stevie Wonder and Janelle Monae (feat. Rhiannon Giddens)
17. The Last Walk Through The City