Edward Gorch : Born at Sea
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Edward Gorch : Born at Sea


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"past reviews"

edward gorch : knotworking

Reviews of The Garden Below

Raising the Bar (From The Metroland, June '03)

A Garden Below (One Mad Son)

The colorful cover of the new CD by alt-country-folksters knotworking drives the point home: Ed Gorch and company have burst into Technicolor. Knotworking’s first two albums were pensive little curiosities adorned with grainy, gray photos and packed with Gorch’s stirringly poetic sentiments and lo-fi production. The group’s charm lay in rough-hewn, brooding (yet pretty) minimalism; this time around, however, the group have shed their hairshirts and left the sober environs of the bedroom behind.

A Garden Below—which is bolstered by warm, full production (courtesy of Saugerties’ Nevessa studios) and the lengthening shadow of Gorch’s songwriting talent—is a leap forward for an already strong unit. The album features outright rockers (“Blossom”), rousing alt-country beauties (“A Time Ago”), and the kind of acoustic rumination Ed rode into town on a few years back (“When We Were Small”). The folk-rocker “Decided to Walk” is already one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s been fun watching knotworking develop by bounds, and A Garden Below clearly marks them as one of the artistic success stories in our area.

Beyond the professional production and fuller arrangements, a good indicator of the sea change is guitarist Mike Hotter: Behind his benign, hobbitish presence lurks a rock god. Hotter’s spare, intelligent playing was a highlight of the group’s previous effort, Notes Left Out, whose title seemed a tribute to his perfect economy. That said, it’s great to hear him knock off a searing, several-bar solo in the middle of “Blossom” and launch a euphoric coda on “Listening.” Meanwhile, on “Long Step,” Hotter bursts forth with the brand of fuzzed-up twang that would do Bakersfield proud.

A wealth of local talent—including John Brodeur, Dan Winchester and Kamikaze Hearts Matthew Loiacano and Bob Buckley—help knotworking out, along with longtime allies Karen Codd (cello) and Megan Prokorym (violin). Gorch, Hotter and co. deserve a big pat on the back; A Garden Below is a great album. Look for an official release in July.

—Erik Hage

Delusions of Adequacy
June 2003

The third album from the Woodstock, NY (sic), band Knotworking is a breezy ride through an acoustic folk landscape. Singer-songwriter Ed Gorch isn’t breaking any stylistic ground, but he’s got a unique voice (both literally and figuratively) that keeps the sound fresh and interesting. The best move on this effort is the addition of two strings players, Karen Codd on cello and Megan Prokorym on violin and mandolin. They join singer-guitarists Gorch and Michael Hotter, plus a rotation of different bassists and drummers, and their strings more than anything else on the album chart an agile path through the country, folk, rock, and even (occasionally) Celtic backdrops that frame Gorch’s melancholy lyrics.

This is lazy, low-key, front-porch music, but it rarely bores, thanks to both the aforementioned strings and also to Gorch, whose voice at times calls to mind Cat Stevens. He sings in a spidery, cracked voice, making the most of a limited range, and just off-kilter enough to avoid having his sad songs turn maudlin. The production by the band and sometime bassist Frank Moscowitz is crystal clear, allowing all the trebles of the vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar leads plenty of room to be heard. The rhythm section for the most part rolls along and stays out of the way. If anything, it’s a little too much, maybe highlighting a need for someone who can sing a low harmony to provide counterpoint to Gorch’s voice, but Hotter and Codd mostly sing quietly and in the same range, which can get to be a little much after a while.

While Hotter does electrify a few of the songs, this is mostly an acoustic album, and that provides a lot of its appeal and sets it apart from the alt-country masses (there’s no barroom, “Casino Queen”-type numbers here). The most energetic track is “Blossom,” and appealing pop song that would be a perfect single for a good college radio station if there were all that many around anymore. Gorch, as the main songwriter, stays firmly in sensitive singer-songwriter territory without ever sounding like a James Taylor wannabe. What he wants, it seems, is innocence, and the effect is appealing: he’s “had enough of callous hearts,” he sings (on “Callous Hearts”), and, hey, who hasn’t? The standout for me is the opening song, “When We Were Small.” The violin and cello rise and fall under a gorgeous melody and regretful lyrics about a lost relationship or friendship. Gorch sings, “Maybe I could make excuses, but I know it’s not my fault / Or maybe I could make you laugh, like I did when we were small” (again with the innocence).

The pace of this album, like the words, is thoughtful and careful throughout, but the winning melodies and arrangements never fail to draw the listener back in. Knotworking has produced sparkling, quiet masterpiece, and the band shows they have the agility to branch off into new directions on future records.

August 2003

Last time we caught up with Knotworking, the Albany-based traditional folk/alt-country band was basically guitarist and songwriter Edward Gorch and singer and guitarist Michael Hotter, supplemented as needed by friends and acquaintances. This time out, in Knotworking's excellent third album, there is a far richer, more varied feel to the band's sound, guitar and vocals supported by a sweetening blend of cello, violin, electric bass and drums. And while Gorch's songs will never be exactly upbeat, there is something more hopeful here, not just in the words but in the music as well.

That's the positive, but there is a downside. Of the 12 tracks on The Garden Below, none have the stunning, stripped-down urgency of "Lawn Plastic Santa" and only "You'd Be Queen" comes close. There's some sort of trade-off here between the much stronger musical arrangements and the less compelling songs underneath. Say the last album was a dirty window, looking out onto almost unbearably intense scenes of poverty and hope and failure. With this one, the glass has been scrubbed with Windex, the car on blocks outside removed and the lawn mowed.

The Garden Below is also a lot more varied than the previous album, with rocking tracks like "Blossom" going head to head with the introspective soft pop of "All You Could Bring". Highlights include the plaintive, cello-warmed "When We Were Small", the slow-building anthem "Listening" and the starkly excellent "You'd Be Queen" (Sample lyric: "You can't tell a kiss from a mouth full of blood / Why would you / Stay with him.") Best of all, though, may be the sole Hotter-written tune, the gospel-flavored title track. It's of a class with Waits's "Come on Up to the House", a sweeping, life-affirming, death-denying ballad that lifts your heart with every Sunday-school piano chord.
Jennifer Kelly

September 2003

Knotworking – The Garden Below

Garbage collector and ace songwriter Edward Gorch returns with the third album from his revolving Albany collective. Gorch is a budding master of laid-back and literate songs with a country music feel that move along like a perfectly slow Sunday morning. The Garden Below showcases Gorch’s gift for cleverly thoughtful lyrics and pleasing melodies matched by this band’s considerable skills. Attention grabbing first lines like, “you can’t tell a kiss from a mouthful of blood” from “You’d be Queen” or “I was looking for your record on a ‘jukebox’ labeled sin” from “Long Step” are guaranteed to hook you. Gorch and gang are equally capable at more rowdy fare, too: “Blossom” is a fuzzy and fun kiss-off to a former lover, and the slow building “A Time Ago” features the hot licks of lead guitarist Michael Hotter, who also wrote three of these songs. A highly enjoyable album from a talented group on the rise.

Reviews of "notes left out"

The Big Takeover

"Edward Gorch and his association of cohorts and collaborators have concocted a wonderful stew of stripped down alt-country folk that truly deserves your attention. Never mind the impenetrably dark sensibility that governs his work; that's only part of Gorch's songwriting genius! Fans of Will Oldham, Alejandro Escoveda, and David Pajo's latest should seek this out. A solid piece of work from an emerging talent."

All Music Guide

"Knotworking consists of singer/songwriter/guitarist Edward Gorch and a revolving circle of musically inclined friends from his adopted hometown of Albany, NY, though given the spare, understated approach and consistently strong material on the album Notes Left Out, it appears Gorch doesn’t need a great deal of help from others. Gorch’s songs seem to travel the same long, lonely road as Will Oldham, Richard Buckner, and Souled American, though Gorch’s simple but evocative melodies and literate, well-detailed lyrics make it clear he’s found his own distinct voice as a songwriter; and his ability to write with equal passion and emotional impact about themes both personal (“Not Bigger,” “Last Went First”) and political (“Lawn Plastic Santa,” “Manuel”) reveals an encouraging broad thematic palate. Most of Notes Left Out was recorded in Gorch’s attic on a four-track tape machine he rescued from the trash, and while the production is low-tech, it’s also clean, well-recorded, and serves the material quite well - and “Imbecile Smile” and “Came to Save” show that he also knows what to do with the dynamics of a full rock band as well as the smaller ensembles which dominate the album. Notes Left Out may be modest in its means, but it’s rich in fine songs and memorable performances, and makes clear that Edward Gorch and company are artists to watch." - Mark Deming


Poetry, they say, is compression, where one perfect word makes a more powerful impression than the three or four approximate ones it replaces. Notes Left Out is a masterful illustration of this concept. Not just words, but as the title says, notes, are used sparingly and to maximum effect. Stripped down to acoustic guitar and Edward Gorch's flutish tremolo, lines reverberate in your head, even as you lean forward for what comes next.

The first four songs on the album shoot you dead with a rifle fire intensity. If you've ever lost patience with a singer/songwriter whining about his love life, Knotworking provides a remedy. "Blankets" sketches a passion so overwhelming it drowns and envelops two lovers "pretending the bed is the sky, infinite under the blankets." "Not Bigger" turns to the downside of attachment, a two-minute elegy for a relationship gone bad. There's a crazy, contained energy in "Imbecile Smile" which erupts at the end in a reeling cacophony of drunken sound. And if "Lawn Plastic Santas" doesn't break your heart, go to Hollywood and start making situation comedies, because there is no hope for you as a human being. It's a novel in miniature -- a stark three and a half minutes on poverty and loss that leaves you gasping. There are seven more songs on the album, and some of them are quite good, but once you've reached the peak at "Lawn Plastic Santas", there's nowhere to go but down.

Knotworking, based in Albany, New York, calls up comparisons with other reimaginers of traditional forms, like The Palace Brothers (and other Will Oldham projects). It has the same minor, Appalachian lilt and barely contained feeling. But ultimately, Knotworking's Notes Left Out is a work all its own, as remarkable for the sounds and words implied as for those plainly stated. --Jennifer Kelly

Ink 19

"Imagine if Tracy Chapman was a male folk/country singer -- no, really! -- and you're on your way to imagine the lovely sound of Edward Gorch's Knotworking. The lush, quietly strummed songs betray the dark matters that exist within the confines of this record, late-night readings of intensely personal reflections and confessions. The album's quiet, hushed country is at times reaching backwards to traditional western folk music, such as on the lovely "Came To Save," while at other times, on "Imbecile Smile," say, Knotworking wouldn't seem out of place in company with contemporary roots-y Americana artists like Will Oldham. A sprawling affair, then, but still impressively united and considered, thanks in no small part to the beautiful voice of Gorch as well as the sparse instrumentation and the careful delivery from all involved, highlighting the songwriting and the songs themselves. A remarkable achievement."

The History of Rock and Roll - www.scaruffi.com

Knotworking's second album, Notes Left Out (One Mad Son, 2002), another solo acoustic work with the occasional friends dropping in, presents a mature, self-assured artist. Blankets is Tea For The Tillerman-era Cat Stevens, a soaring melody, a tender hymn, a solemn lullaby, as the strumming of the guitar follows the ebb and flow of Gorch's voice. However, Gorch is engaging in a subtler game of words and sounds than it appears to be. His ballads hark back to a tradition of acoustic folksinging but, rather than subverting it, he enhances the old craft with a stronger symbiosis between the voice and the guitar. The two play a role that involves more than "storytelling". Gorch seems lost in a trance when he delivers Not Bigger on middle-eastern sounding chords. A martial tempo in Imbecile Smile propels the intense soliloquy of a whispered spiritual and sudden bursts of gypsy music.
The second half of the album indulges in thicker arrangements that are a mixed blessing. Rhythm, mandolin and organ benefit the pathos of Manuel, perhaps the strongest cut here, and the bard easily tames the rocking lament of Came To Save, the folk-rock shuffle of Central Bridge, and the stomping cajun waltz of Prison Love, but the "noise" detracts a bit from the magic of Gorch's voice/guitar setting.

The Aquarian
A 37-minute slice of thoughtful genius and sad sideways glances, the 11-songs Notes Left Out dares to include a banjo on the Matthew Sweet-meets-Cat Stevens opening track; a ringing mandolin on the captivatingly dark, “Imbecile Smile”; chilling visions of death, demoralization and decay on the starkly stunning “Lawn Plastic Santa”; the tragic sadness of tear stained recollections drenching “Castle”; the sardonically bleak, title-says-it-all (or does it?) “Prison Love”; and a stinging guitar melody that drives the direct-to-Dear Abby “Last went First”.

Drawing fleeting comparisons to a wide range of possible inspiration such as Wilco, the Williard Grant Conspiracy, Camper Van Beethoven, R.E.M., Bob Dylan, Donovan, Tim Buckley, Skip Spence, Sparklehorse, Uncle Tupelo, Hank Williams, The Handsome Family and Vigilantes of Love – singer/guitarist Edward Gorch (an alt-dot-icon in the waiting) grows more in touch with what ails us the longer he continues making the rounds collecting life’s unwelcome and unwanted as an Albany, NY garbage man.

In Music We Trust

Acoustic-based singer-songwriter songs that will make you want to sit back and shed a tear or two. Knotworking's Notes Left Out is a promising album from a burgeoning songwriter, a kid with a guitar who can make you weep and feel what he is feeling, while writing sparse, low-key songs straight from the heart. Whether it's folk, country-tingled, or just emotionally pulling pop-based acoustic songs, Knotworking is able to hold your attention. I'll give this a B.

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"edward gorch : coward (album review)"

Ed Gorch
Coward (One Mad Son)

With last year’s Garden Below, Ed Gorch’s group knotworking broke away from their grainy folkscapes to wallow in polished production and increased contributions from other members. It makes sense then that Gorch made a subsequent turn back to his lo-fi roots, packing a bunch of avant-tweaked, stripped-down numbers into the grooves of his first official solo outing. The album represents a nice evolution for the Albany singer-songwriter, and his depressive, alt-Americana narratives are at their most mature yet on Coward.

Gorch is at his best when he’s at his least literal and most off-kilter, and Coward offers up plenty of both states. The album may not have the sheen of the last knotworking album, but the songs resonate with an unself-conscious originality that Gorch has always been headed toward. And Coward sounds like an arrival, like an album made as much for himself as anybody (a positive thing in this case).

Gone are the more direct (sometimes preachy) social narratives of the past and the occasionally dewy romanticism. (Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always liked Gorch’s stuff, and have said as much in print. But this time, I really believe him, from the first note to last. He’s confidently and quietly on top of his craft.) There’s also a sense of dislocation and tunefully abstract expression on the album that works really well. I’ve always thought of Gorch as a youthful wunderkind, but this album sounds like a man who’s grown into his talent. (And fittingly, the recording of this album is less of a social event of Lark Street regulars; it’s primarily Gorch with some recording assistance from Justin Mikulka.)

Befitting his relatively lo-fi medium, there are plenty of coughs and shuffles and mutters, and some unsettling, though effective touches: the clangy, metallic percussion of “Goliath”; the trebly, unprocessed vocal of “Slowest Fawn”; the buried speaking and creaks of “Viper.” But the bedrock here is primarily close-miked acoustic fingerpicking and some strong, often disquieting tunes (sometimes coming off like the soundtrack to a morose, small-town indie film set in someplace like Nebraska . . . or Duanesburg). And when it comes right down to it, the production itself isn’t that lo-fi: Gorch gets a full and crisp enough sound to befit the arrangements. This isn’t always an easy listen, but it sounds to me like Gorch is at his least compromised.

—Erik Hage

- metroland


knotworking : 2001 : one mad son music
knotworking : "notes left out" : 2002 : one mad son music
knotwoking : "the garden below" : 2003 : one mad son music
edward gorch : "coward" : 2004 : one mad son music



edward gorch began writing songs as a memeber of the hudson valley, ny band reservoir square. he recorded the first knotworking album on borrowed equipment in a renovated church in kingston, ny and released it through one mad son music in 2001. gorch then relocated to albany, ny and formed a live version of the knotworking band with guitarist michael hotter. the follow up knotworking album entitled "notes left out" was released in 2002. the knotworking band was well received througout upstate, ny and released the first studio album, "the garden below" in 2003. in 2004 gorch recorded and released "coward" which was his first solo album. "coward" features a collection dark tales supported by gorch's brand of basement music.

throughout his career gorch has been described as a gifted writer skilled in generating songs that challenge listeners to consider how their actions impact the people around them. during live performances gorch saves his dialog for the end of the set after the crowd has had an opportunity to process the messages within the songs. people are drawn to edward's touching voice and modest presentation.

edward gorch is currently living in his native city of brooklyn, ny while recording his second solo album.