Lead Single for “The Turning: Kate’s Diary” Out Record Store Day 10/24
In the early aughts, art-rock provocateur Kristeen Young looked deeply into the soul of America and saw a void. So she scribbled down a set of questions. Today, those lyrics seem so prescient, they’re utterly gut-punching.
- “Are you having trouble breathing?”
- “Did you wake up to find you’re buried semi-alive?”
- “Can you get to what you feel?”
- “Do you need the jaws of life?”
- “Do you need a hand to dig the American landfill?”
The latter, “American Landfill,” also happens to be the name of her latest single. “It’s a reproduction of ‘Saviour,’ a song I wrote in the aughts intended to be a duet between David Bowie and myself. And it surprisingly happened,” Young says, of the midtempo indie-pop song. It was produced by Tony Visconti—a frequent Bowie collaborator—and appeared on her third album, 2003’s Breasticles. (Her self-released last album, 2019’s The SubSet, was her tenth full-length.)
On Record Store Day Oct. 24, Young will drop a reimagining of that single (that she co-produced with Justin Raisen), potently renamed “American Landfill” (KRO Records/Sony). A panorama of the culture around us, it oscillates between stark, Throbbing Gristle cacophony and gorgeous synth-and-strings soundscapes, capturing the cognitive dissonance we cannot escape.
The video for American Landfill was directed, shot and edited by Kristeen Young in New York City in late March/April of 2020 (utilizing whatever was available in the early shelter-in-place-corona virus-lockdown time period)….which now seems longer ago than the aughts.
Young grew up a foster kid (later adopted by her foster parents) in St. Louis. She worked round-the-clock restaurant shifts to afford a move to the East Coast, where very soon after arriving she met Tony Visconti (after she sent him her 2nd album, Enemy). He brought David Bowie to one of her NYC shows. “I was thrilled when Bowie heard ‘Saviour’ and wanted to record it with me. But, after we recorded it and played it for various industry people we got such strange reactions. At best, some said the song was ‘cinematic,’ and didn’t know what to do with it. But most would say things like, “We’ve already got a girl on our roster.” And “Why is Bowie still even making records? He is irrelevant,” she says, incredulously. “I say this to point out how time truly changes perspective.”
“Toward the end of 2019 I decided it was ridiculous that so few people had heard this song. It deserved a real release and a better platform for it.” Young kept the vocals—that otherworldly push-and-pull between her elastic Callas soprano and Bowie’s unique full baritone—but has changed everything else. She played the piano; her signature percussive piano punches and Monk style angularity are evident. Co-producer and mixer, Justin Raisen (who produced Kim Gordon’s phenomenal 2019 debut solo album, No Home Record) created the guitar noise and synths, while recording engineer Anthony Paul Lopez took on drums.
There is nothing polite about “American Landfill,” which is also the first track on the 2nd compilation for director Floria Sigismondi’s film, The Turning, and will get a digital release October 14. It’s an intellectually challenging exercise in extremes that stays true to Young’s avant-garde roots, a chutzpah that immediately won Visconti and Bowie’s respect. “We can rise up from this grave,” she sings with Bowie. “You could be my saviour. We could walk on water.”
Context is everything, and current events imbue “American Landfill” with even more urgency. “The world is a different place now,” Young notes. Besides, if her steady career trajectory is any indication, the path to least resistance is too far boring anyhow.
Young is now writing and recording her next album (which is a song cycle/concept album) in which each song embodies a core emotion in the arc of a serial killer’s life. “But,” she explains, “It’s really about how life kills off our emotions.”