Friday, October 28, 2016

Decemberists' 'The Crane Wife' 10th Anniversary Special Re-release

Can you believe it's been ten years since The Decemberists released their album, based on Japanese fairy tale The Crane Wife? There's a whole new special re-issue box-set for enthusiasts being released on December 9th, 2016, and for Decemberist fans, sounds like it's more than worth adding to your collection.

For those wondering what The Crane Wife album, and upcoming box set, has to do with the fairy tale, here's a couple of excerpts from a long interview with Pitchfork, explaining the influence of the story, the importance of stories and narrative and how it was the central thread for this definitive album, which many critics hail as being The Decemberists best work:
Pitchfork: Can you amplify the symbolism of the crane wife? Not the album, but the actual story. 
CM: It's a story about a peasant living in, I assume, rural Japan, it being a Japanese folk tale. He finds a wounded crane on the road as he's walking one night. It has an arrow in its wing, and he pulls out the arrow and revives the crane. A couple of days later this mysterious woman shows up at his door and he brings her in. Eventually, they fall in love and are married. Although they're poor-- she's a seamstress, a weaver-- she suggests that she can make this cloth that he could sell and make money. But the one condition is that when she's weaving he can't look into the room at her weaving. This goes on for awhile, until eventually the peasant's curiosity gets the best of him and he looks in. It turns out that the woman is a crane, and she's pulling feathers from her wings and putting them into the cloth, which is what makes it so beautiful and soft. Apparently, having looked in at her breaks the spell and she turns permanently back into a crane and flies away. 
Pitchfork: Wow. That's almost identical to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, isn't it? Where he's leading her out of Hades and he's not allowed to look back, and finally his doubt and curiosity get the best of him, and he looks, and she fades away forever. It's the same narrative arc unfurling in a different culture. 
CM: Yeah, and having read the crane wife story, it's tough to pull a lesson out of it. It has something to do with greed, or curiosity, but why his looking in at her breaks the spell is a little ambiguous. The thing that I could tie it to was the Greek myth. It's interesting how they can be divided by centuries and continents, and these stories still manage to say these same things. It just shows you the universality of certain stories. 
Pitchfork: You seem as interested in the basic forms of storytelling, the way narrative elements play out toward an inevitable denouement, as you are the stories and characters themselves. Do you think the two constructs-- stories and how they're told-- can even be bifurcated that way, or are they inextricable?
CM: As important as it is, in novels or short stories, to have well-developed characters, it's just as important to abide by a strong narrative arc, where you have development and crisis and conflict and resolution. I think it's just another universality, that people like to have their stories given to them that way. So yes, the way the story is told is really important, because I think the story then dictates the lives of the characters.
Pitchfork: Are you interested in classical tale cycles as well, the tales-within-tales thing? I'm thinking of things like Boccaccio's Decameron and the 1001 Arabian Nights. It seems to have a lot of utility for records like The Crane Wife, being filled with trapdoors that plunge you deeper and deeper into the story.
CM: Yeah, I read that stuff in school; I don't know if I've gone back to it. But I think it's a nice literary concept.
Pitchfork: The Crane Wife also features a reappearance of what seems to be one of your favorite themes-- the doomed, star-crossed lovers divided by class and fate, who wind up horribly. What is it you find so resonant about this very Shakespearean concept? 
CM: I don't know, it's just a universal idea that's lasted over time. It's an archetypal storyline, so it means a lot; it carries a lot of baggage. You can draw a line through it to a hundred other stories. I've always been attracted to that sort of tragedy. 
Pitchfork: It seems that this is really where your interest lies-- these archetypes that are timeless and cut across cultures, occurring in different formats with the same narrative arc. 
CM: And hopefully that's what makes it something people can relate to. Because it's programmed into our heads to relate to these stories in certain ways.
Music folk will be interested in the whole article, which you can find HERE.

Here are the special 10th anniversary box-set details:

The Decemberists will reissue their fourth album, and major label debut, The Crane Wife, as a five-disc vinyl set packed with B-sides and demos, and featuring essays from Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda and Rolling Stone's David Fricke....The set will collect the original 2006 album on two LPs, while the other three discs will feature B-sides, bonus tracks, unreleased outtakes, alternative versions and frontman Colin Meloy's solo acoustic demos. Among 
those demos is a version of the three-part "The Crane Wife" together as a single song in its original sequence.An accompanying 20-page booklet will feature Miranda's essay alongside new liner notes from Fricke. The collection will also include a Blu-ray featuring the Decemberists' 2006 concert at Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club, which was filmed for NPR's second-ever webcast and had previously not been given an official release. 
The Crane Wife 10th anniversary box set is available to pre-order now via the Decemberists' website. The band is also offering a special version pressed on marbled red vinyl, limited to 500 copies. 
You can read the extensive track list for the five albums HERE.

There's also a short trailer showcasing the new package and some of the artwork. Enjoy:

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