Acclaimed songwriter, singer, film & television composer and Shudder To Think frontman Craig Wedren has added another title to his already expanded resume: podcast creator. Today he releases the first episode of his Sabbath Sessions podcast — a collection of musical meditations that he has been crafting since 2014. This new podcast represents his first explorations of ambient choral music, where Wedren developed his technique of sampling and looping his famously elastic voice resulting in a unique kind of sound bath. Sabbath Sessions was born out of the introspection of Wedren’s longtime mindfulness and wellness practices, embracing everything from Transcendental Meditation to yoga. He sees the experimental, inclusive bent of Sabbath Sessions as uniting many different strands of his varied musical aptitudes. “Think of it as Smile-era Brian Wilson singing ambient Brian Eno—who is a huge influence–from Music for Airports to his fondness for feather boas; or shoegaze ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” he notes. “My love of John Cage and Steve Reich is in there, too.”
Each episode will run approximately twenty minutes, providing an aural correlative for meditation practice. Listen to episodes 1 – 3 here: https://anchor.fm/craig-wedren.
Wedren notes that the the first three episodes were recorded “in Idlewild, CA where my son’s school was having its annual campout. A whole lotta parents were sprawled on the grass, staring at the sky or at the back of their eyelids, while our children zoomed through the woods on bicycles. We were all in dire need of a deep dive -some dreamtime to ourselves, untethered from responsibility and relieved of gadgets/fidgets. On a splendid Saturday in October, we had the chance to unwind and briefly ride the mind’s wild waters. Hopefully you can do the same.”
Long an experimenter with pedals, samplers, and digital recording, for his first Sabbath Session, Wedren brought it all back home with a performance at D.C.’s revered punk temple, Dischord House – in the process, establishing a key tenet of his approach. “Every Sabbath Session captures the acoustics and innate vibration of a space that’s sacred to me,” he says. “That’s why I chose Dischord House – it’s where I began, really.”
In his recent support slots for the reunion tour of fellow D.C. punk heroes Jawbox, Wedren began bringing the Sabbath Sessions-aesthetic into his more song-based live solo shows for the first time – balancing his stripped-down rendition of Shudder to Think’s beloved breakout hit “X-French Tee Shirt” with amorphous, undulating vocal symphonies. While vitally connected to Wedren’s previous oeuvre, the Sabbath Sessions aesthetic also proves decidedly contemporary. Despite this modern sheen, however, Wedren’s inspiration proves more spiritual and sublime.
Sabbath Sessions also reflect Wedren’s own journey to wellness: as Shudder to Think began to end its first run in the early 2000s, Wedren was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease – triumphantly surviving it, he remains in remission. Last year, however, Wedren experienced a heart attack – powerfully renewing his focus on health and greater spiritual concerns, which culminated in the Sabbath Sessions podcast series. “Above all, Sabbath Sessions are all about memory, nostalgia, space, and the vibrations that accompany them,” he concludes. “For me, they become a healing catharsis taking me through the kinks of life, and helping to work them out. For listeners, I hope they become a kind of sonic, psychedelic mantra, with just enough to hold onto to take them to another place. The way dreams cleanse the mind at night – this is the musical version of that.”
The 2020 release of Sabbath Sessions follows a prolific prior year for Wedren. He released Adult Desire Expanded—a reimagined version of his 2017 album Adult Desire, supported his longtime friends in that dog. and The Messthetics (featuring his former Dischord labelmates in Fugazi) on tour, and released My ’90s–a limited edition hard-bound book featuring photos he took on his Polaroid Spectra in the 1990s and early 2000’s. The photos documented his late nights and early mornings on the road with Shudder to Think and time with friends including Fugazi, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, members of The State and more. Read more on My ‘90s and see photos via Vanity FairHERE. He closed out 2019 by sharing a new song, “Sanctuary,” on Randall Poster’s compilation Hanukkah+.