Early Day Miners - Biography
On the back of some canceled tour dates, a rumor surfaced that Early Day Miners had broken up, but guitarist/vocalist Daniel Burton dispelled the myth in a recent blog post, stating that financial difficulties were the cause of the cancellations. He quipped about the state of the modern music business then breezily moved onto other matters. Burton founded the Bloomington, Indiana band, which (in their own words) is really more of a musical collective, in 1999. With a revolving cast of musicians, friends and colleagues, they’ve toured with Wilco, released to date six full-length LPs, a handful of singles and split releases and have appeared on numerous compilations. Words often used to describe them are: bleak, fragile, moody, atmospheric, brooding and melancholic, but these only scratch the surface of any description of their nuanced, multi-dimensional work. The debut album, Placer Found (2000 Western Vinyl) is an exercise in stark beauty. The slowcore and post rock labels don’t go amiss, but they don’t sum it up, either -- there’s a confidence and self-assuredness at work here that make this record not so much challenging (as this would imply that it’s hard on the ear), as confronting. Over restrained, textural soundscapes the songs explore themes centering on nature, middle-American angst and urban ennui. The follow-up, Let Us Garlands Bring (2002 Secretly Canadian), is a more lush effort, with added string arrangements and female harmonies to support Burton’s hushed vocals. The starkness is still present, but these songs shimmer with more complex dynamics and lush arrangements. The eight-minute closer, “Offshore,” sets off with a fragile guitar riff and understated (but insistent) drums, patiently building in a series of mini explosions and a slow-rising intensity — a fitting close to a beautiful and varied album.
The third full-length release, Jefferson at Rest (2003 Secretly Canadian), moves on to more historical themes and a more straight-ahead rock approach. The record evokes vast landscapes and urban entropy, and the songs are so well crafted that the percussive and sonic textures offset the brooding quality with a lightness that showcases the skill and restraint of the musicians. “McCalla” is a good example, with its fragile arrangements and subtle guitar textures. All Harm Ends Here (2005 Secretly Canadian) is yet another forward progression for the band. It’s still rock and roll, but this highly expressive record exhibits a kind of ephemeral quality, with moods shifting as effortlessly as passing clouds. The subtle rhythms of “Errance” move into darker, more drivey territory on tracks like “All Harm” and “Precious Blood,” where the rhythm section (drummer Matt Griffin and bassist Jonathan Richardson) really shines, and the album closes with the supremely evocative and floaty “The Purest Red.” Offshore (2006 Secretly Canadian) is probably the band’s most poetic record. The amorphous, luminous cover artwork hints at the content of this mysterious, elliptical collection of songs. The intrigue lies in the spaces and unresolved tensions — this is an abstract painting of a record, whether it’s the barren dustiness of “Deserter” or the washy backdrop of “Return of the Native.” And it works; it evokes, it moves.
A lot of things coalesce on the sixth LP, The Treatment (2009 Secretly Canadian), where the band’s influences (including Joy Division) can be heard without overshadowing their originality, and the songs start to take on an unabashed eclecticism that proves to be continually delightful. This is an unpredictable and genuinely interesting record, from the minimalism of “In the Fire” to the swirly psychedelia of “So Slowly,” all the way to the last track, “Silver Oath,” a spare (and wonderful) folk ballad. On their Myspace page, in a humble and witty nod to their predecessors and contemporaries, Early Day Miners site their influences as: you bet. And perhaps their influences are Mogwai, Codeine, Low or Red House Painters (among many others), but it really doesn’t matter. They mine their resources unapologetically, and consequently end up not sounding like any of them. Their literate, intelligent brand of post rock/slowcore -- or call it just plain rock and roll -- is utterly and uniquely their own.