20th Studio Album On Double LP! Etching On 4th Side!
With her twentieth studio album, Binary, the iconic
singer/songwriter/activist/poet/DIY trendsetter returns to territory that
brought her to the world’s attention more than twenty-five years ago. One of the
first artists to create her own label in 1990, she has been recognized among the
feminist pantheon for her entrepreneurship, social activism, and outspoken
political lyrics. At a time of global chaos and confusion, DiFranco is kicking
ass and taking names, with a set of songs offering a wide range of perspective
and musical scope.
On Binary, DiFranco tackles the challenge and necessity of teaching non-violence
with "Pacifist’s Lament" and the need for empathy in "Terrifying Sight."
Remarkably, though, these songs—recorded, in her usual fashion, in a couple of
short full-sprint sessions spread across several years—were all written prior to
the 2016 elections and attendant political turmoil.
She notes that Binary’s title track is key to her intention on this project.
"I always title a record from the song that seems to be at its core," she
says. "An underlying theme in the songs, and in the feminism I want to engage
society with, is the idea that autonomy is a fallacy—nothing exists except in
relationship to something else. We are, in some senses individuals with
individual liberties and unique powers, but that’s only a surface story."
Though this concept is closely tied up in our present-day obsession with
technology ("Sitting alone at home, staring at a screen, you can’t really
know anything, because knowing is engaging," she says), DiFranco also
reveals a growing connection to nature and the physical world.
The backbone of Binary’s sound is DiFranco’s long-time rhythm section of bassist
Todd Sickafoose and drummer Terence Higgins, but on much of the album, the trio
is augmented with some all-star guests. "I knew I wanted to involve some of
my brilliant friends this time out," she says. "We made some calls and
got a party going. That was the idea, to reach out and have some other spirits
Virtuoso violinist Jenny Scheinman and keyboard wizard Ivan Neville both join in
for more than half of the record; "they are so captivating and they elevate
my shit whenever they come near it," says DiFranco. Other contributors
include the legendary Maceo Parker, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and Gail Ann
Dorsey, longtime bassist for David Bowie. New Orleans resident DiFranco takes
special pride in the Crescent City funk spearheaded by natives Higgins and
Neville on a number of the tunes. "Their souls are of this place," she
says. "The feel they bring is something they got in utero."
Binary, of course, is being released into a world in which music distribution
and consumption have transformed rapidly and dramatically. For DiFranco, a true
pioneer in the music industry with her Righteous Babe label, it’s a time to
reconsider the possibilities and ambitions of her business.
"While I was precedent-setting at one time with Righteous Babe and my indie
crusade, I feel like, in the time it took me to nurse another baby into being,
I’ve fallen behind," she says. "The universe and technology have
continued to evolve, and the idea of harnessing technology and crowd-sourcing
everything—money, knowledge, revolution—is a very powerful concept that I’m
ready to get more involved with. Righteous Babe is starting to grow now into
something that will hopefully become avant-garde once again- more of a
collective, more dynamic."
• Vinyl LP
• Double LP
• Etching on Side Four
2. Pacifist's Lament
1. Play God
4. Even More
3. Terrifying Sight
4. Deferred Gratification