When Magnet hails your first release as the work of “an elliptical and underrated genius,” the bar is set high. However, with each release following Slow Road To Tiny Empire (Rykodisc), Gordon Zacharias, along with an ever-changing cast of East Coast heavyweights he refers to as “Fan Modine,” has delivered on that initial promise.
2004’s Homeland melds classic pop with an outsider artist’s sensibility. Following the bursting of the dot-com bubble, Homeland was written while Zacharias was living in a record store in Downtown Manhattan on a cot above the vinyl aisle and working as a professional dog walker for a host of Page 6 notables. The album went on to score high marks in the press, including an 8.0 in Pitchfork. After relocating to Carrboro, NC, Zacharias formed a solid lineup to promote the album’s release with Ash Bowie of Polvo, Jeremy Chatelain of Jets to Brazil, Lee Waters from Dean & Britta, and Chuck Johnson from Shark Quest.
This same lineup laid the groundwork for 2011’s Gratitude For The Shipper; an ambitious collection that retains the magic of the previous releases, with its lush orchestration and rich production courtesy of years of sporadic basement overdubs. Zacharias completed the record with help from indie pioneers Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter. The extravagance all nods to chamber pop heroes Procol Harum, The Left Banke and XTC, yet breaks new ground. Gratitude feels like a song cycle, but without pretension; a concept record that allows you to choose your own adventure. The album was toured heavily with featured slots at NYC Popfest and the Chickfactor festival.
Considering previous Fan Modine releases have come along once every six years, the fact that a new album will be hitting the streets in under three implies that Zacharias may be in the midst of his most fertile creative period to date. With a new band consisting of Alex Maiolo (libraness), Tony Stiglitz (lakes&woods), and James DeDakis (Wages), the record was recorded with Mitch Easter at Fidelitorium, and mixed by celebrated Boston recordist and Tape-Op contributor Pete Weiss at his Verdant studio in Vermont. Featuring vocal and guitar contributions by Joah Tunnel (Lost in the Trees) and Stevie Jackson (Belle and Sebastian), Cause Célèbre crashes down the gate of social divides and existential yearning -- with a nod to glam and psychedelia.
Due in April 2014 on Lost Colony Music, Cause Célèbre sets a new standard for Fan Modine, both thematically and in its concise execution.