Noe Venable

music

Five years in the making, Cascadia features 11 songs and one spoken word piece in honor of the natural world.

The album was inspired by an experience Venable had while living in Oakland, California.  “It was after a gig and I was coming home late, when I found myself face to face with a wild deer.  He was huge and majestic, and he was standing in an urban gutter.”  For Venable, the encounter was galvanizing.  “He was perfect in himself, but so out of place in his surroundings.  It really brought home for me the plight of wild species in the city, and how far I felt from any real natural way of living.  This album was my attempt to find my way back.”

Cascadia was produced by Noe with the support of her long time collaborator, bassist Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Anais Mitchell).  The album’s acoustic arrangements find Noe’s voice and guitar at play in a field of sound, surrounded by marimba, hammered dulcimer, orchestral strings and a chorus of voices.  The rhythm section features upright bass and a wealth of world percussion instruments, deftly wielded by Mathias Kunzli (Moby, Yo-yo Ma’s Silk Road Project).

With its improvised soundscapes and intricate chamber arrangements, Cascadia is the soundtrack to a world you’ve never seen, or maybe you’ve dreamed it– a forest of imagination, where disenchantment gives way to wonder.  The songs celebrate the lure of wilderness, the quiet power of human resourcefulness, and the discovery, amidst the challenges of modern life, of something which can be trusted.

Cascadia was partially funded by Noe’s listeners, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.  More on the album, including behind the scenes footage, collaborator bios, and more can be seen in our Kickstarter video, here.

 

Noe Venable – voices, guitar

Todd Sickafoose – bass, piano, xylophone, hammered dulcimer, zither, glockenspiel

Mathias Kunzli – drums, percussion

Yair Evnine – cello, vocals

Alan Lin – violin, vocals

Odessa Chen – vocals

Asa Marder and Calvin Wisner – additional vocals

Payton MacDonald – marimba, vibes

 

1. Lights and Fences

Howl to the eternal wind

I howl to the undivided sea

oh the agony of separation

oh the agony

I spoke to the almighty wind

I called to the undivided sea

oh the agony of separation

oh the agony

 

Where is my garden out of time?

we had one face, we had one name

in restless spirals of attention

were we one and were the same

as the undying wind

same as every shore and every shell

as if in us the world awakened

to look at last upon itself

 

Oh, have I a hunger to arise

escape my size and lose my name

and every hour of inattention

al the vestiges of shame

rain will come to wash the castles down

waves to throw the fish over the sea

rain is pouring down in exaltation

rain pours down on me

 

I’ve known the world of lights and fences

every animal’s afraid

I have known pain and subjugation

in a word, within a frame

and so I whisper to you, love

my other heart, my only trust

this is my one purification

wash my body from the dust

to wash my body from the dust

 

Plant the garden in the world

2. Sorrow's Ending

If all the bells in the forest shook

so at once the birds began

they couldn’t sing this love out to its end

no they could not sing it, sing it, no

if til sorrow’s ending they kept singing

 

Hold it in my hands

I turn, turn it over in my mind

Sorrow’s Ending

sky wide and gentle as a mother

I want to find

Sorrow’s Ending

if that road can ever be known

be it low, steep or wending

if that ground can ever be found

it’ll welcome us somewhere

 

My song, my song

grows stronger, stronger

the song beyond my song

grows stronger, stronger

 

If all the sleeping colors woke

so the night reached out her hands

she couldn’t reach this love out to its end

no she could not reach it, reach it, no

if til sorrow’s ending she kept reaching

 

Hold it in my hands

I turn, turn it over in my mind

Sorrow’s Ending

sky wide and gentle as a lover

I want to find

Sorrow’s Ending

if that road can ever be known

be it low, steep or wending

if that ground can ever be found

it’ll welcome us somewhere

 

My song, my song

grows stronger, stronger

the song beyond my song

grows stronger, stronger

3. Goldenrod

Was I given this life

just to spend like a bird in a mine?

was I given this life

to work all day, all night?

when the mountains call

with the goldenrod

and I call my God

I call my God

 

Was I given this life

to bind and trade?

Was I given this life

to rise some other day?

like the Pleiades

in Orion’s sky

where I call tonight

 

Was I given this life just like a bird in a mine?

Was I given this life to grind and while away?

Was I given this life to rise some other day?

like the Pleiades

in Orion’s sky

where I call tonight

 

Was I given this life, just to spend like a bird in a mine?

Was I given this life to barter, bind and trade?

Was I given this life to rise some other day

with the Pleiades

in Orion’s sky

where I call tonight

and I call

4. Hidden Word

They say she lives here somewhere

where, they do not know

when storms jangle the valley

she wears a robe of snow

they say she lives here somewhere

for the soul on foot to find

and makes her morning rounds

leaning on a cane of pine

 

And if she lives here somewhere

then all of this she sees,

from spring’s remembered beetles

to the last bones of the trees–

the owl in the twilight,

the hour that lifts your eyes

from the question in your pocket

to the wandering of the light

 

And as I behold the autumn’s

fiery eyes beholding me

there are times when they must see her

other times they must see me

are we one and are we only

like a wind moves through the world?

like a God moves in its garden

to become the hidden word

 

When the autumn smells of ashes

where your feet have left the road

when the road is just a memory

and the future just a word

when all that is of value

lies hidden in the world

I lie down beside the river

to become the hidden God

5. Water Carves the Mountain

Far across the skies of gold

clouds will slide

clouds do scroll

all of these things come and go

while water carves the mountain

water carves the mountain

 

Water, water– mystery!

drawing mazes in the rock

arcing through the trees

on and on I followed your streams

how yielding you seem

yet shape this dream

of centuries

 

Oh, it’s gonna take a long, long time

it may feel like the world is slowly dying

but in the mountains of my mind

I can feel

there’s a new world softly winding

winding

 

Softly you sing

with the will of the wildest ocean, rushing

gushing in your rain fed streams

clean and wild I mean

one sweet drink in the mouth of another lover

lying on your banks of green

and when it may seem

all our striving may come to nothing

struggling up against their fears set free

remind me–

 

“Just as water carves the mountain

we will move this stone.

Just as stone gives way to water

it will move, it will move.”

6. Song for Dan

Dan, If you can hear me let me know

I never got to say farewell, oh Dan

how swiftly all of this goes by

now visions of your thread-cut life

become my mothers hand to hold

become my lover’s eyes so old

 

Beauty out and beauty in

forget all you know about it

years ago and years again

I’ll find you in the world

I’ll find you

inside a baby’s waking eyes

outside a crow flies high

carry wide, wide

these dreams, these prayers, his soul, his life

 

Beauty out and beauty in

forget all you know about it

years ago and years again

I’ll find you in the world

 

Beauty in and beauty out

water comes to drink the ground

mountains rise and years like whales

and find you in the world

 

Dan, if you have flown I understand

If you have found your wingspan again. . .

7. Honey of Experience

Take my life, a small sip of eternity

this is how the thimble taught the bird to drink

stars will die but oceans live their lives in me

all of my life

 

All my loves, how one by one I drank their names

all our lives like lights upon a single string

in the rain one or another held my hand

all of my life

 

Beloved, return me to my innocence

carrying the honey of experience

for the friend I have been missing all of my life

all of my life

 

Take my life and tell it with your laughing words

all of our lives, like feathers on a rising bird

all of the time, I was possessed of all the world

all of my life

 

Beloved return me to my innocence

carrying the honey of experience

for the friend I have been missing all of my life

all of my life

 

Horns of life and music in my champing hooves

pound through time and die the way that oceans move

stars will die and none of this is what I love

all of my life

stars will die and all of this is what I love

stars will die

8. The Feather and the Quill

Dans mes rêves. . .

 

Hold fast to me

hold fast that you may see

high climbs the wall

long gone, the creatures of the fall

loud shouts the gun

long gone, the feather and the quill

long have I run

long will be running still. . .

 

And as we ride

the dream mare cries

all life is falling from her eyes

all life is falling from her eyes

the world so precious and so wild

they were so precious and so wild

 

Look there, the dream mare

cantering through the rocks and clover

look there, the dream mare

black as the galaxy above her

wild as a blooming rose

come and we go, the ones that love her

wild as she first arose

to run forever

 

Hold fast to me

bright blossoms falling from the trees

I’ve watched them fall

long gone, the talon and the claw

bright blooms the flower

but for an hour, and is gone . . .

 

Look there, the dream mare

cantering through the rocks and clover

look there, the dream mare

black as the galaxy below her

wild as she first arose

come and we go, the ones that know her

wild as she first arose

to run forever

 

Let me raise these ragged words

like feathers on an autumn wind

9. Antlers

Massive and strange

was the beast in the streetlamp

trembling and grand

in a halo of light

there in his eyes was the look of surprise

of a wandering king

with a face long forgotten

 

Where will he go

when the last night star has faded

chased from your gardens and into the hills

Why has he come?  Will he come back again

when the last tree’s been felled

when the last hill’s been taken?

 

I did weep to see him so

I would kiss him

would go with him

to shiver when the cold winds blow

follow him where he would go

where, where did he—

follow him where he would go

 

Father, brother oh,

where did you go

 

Daughter, I don’t know

to the sea, or through the snow

 

How will I know?

10. Spirit House

I lived in a spirit house

of blood and clay designed

and though I was a guest within

I lived like it was mine

 

At times I felt its poverty

and I thought that poverty mine

but when I needed shelter

into that house I would climb

 

For the rain it poured like music

while the lowly hearth did roar

and I sang inside my spirit house

as the wild wind raved at the door

 

The night I left the spirit house

I didn’t say goodbye

just heard the plainchant of an owl cry

and then I went outside

 

Where the night was strangely sonorous

and more fragrant than before

and I reached out for my spirit house

but those walls were there no more

 

And when I found it was a dream

I knelt down on the floor

and thanked those beams, so long-strong and so unseen

and gently shut the door

 

Bless this house

doorway hung with oranges and cloves

altars of cinnamon and rose

it’s granted you to live a while and know

 

Bless this house

morning when another day’s begun

find me on the hillsides where I run

gathering the white rays of the sun

11. Fathering Sun

Clouds, unlace your fingers

let me see him

through your hands

raise my palms

to the fathering sun

with his heels of clouds

with his fists of wind

Where, where have you gone

with your mouthful of air?

I need something strong

give me lungs of wind

give me wind

 

Traveled round the world

when I was a girl

he was there

with his fiery mare

with his herds of clouds

with his beasts of wind

Where, where have you gone

with your baskets of fire?

I need something strong

give me tongues of fire

give me fire

 

Where have you gone?

 

For love of you has

grabbed me by the color

in naked summer light

barefoot summer light

12. I Was Unnamed

Our hidden love is wilder than we know–

a let out breath of evergreen and spruce,

we cannot hold, we could not ever hold.

 

Before I was your love, I was that loose

and captivating dark, I was unnamed.

I was the shake of fur on shaggy buttes

 

and rivers swollen with the sheeting rains.

And I have been the valleys that were drowned,

and I have been the mountain that remains

 

as brown and certain as a muddy mound

that lived its lifetime in a rocky brook,

before I was your love, we were the ground,

 

where through the heated centuries we shook

beneath life’s smoky, undulating plume,

watched men like starfish spinning in the soot

 

where life throws up its colors in a bloom.

And earth will take their ashes back again

each certain that his time has come too soon.

 

But how we can forget these things, my friend,

beneath the clanging changing of the hour,

where clambering word over word, and hand over hand

 

in endless search of permanence and power,

in hurry as if the throne were never far away,

we trample over perfect, blazing flowers.

 

The glinting willows stop me where I stand.

I can remember long forgotten names.

I can remember stretching wide my hands

 

to summon something sentient and strange.

Our fire beating back the dark, we call,

all human only this side of the change

 

from something into something else; I fall

into the space between their names.

The age of mountains, the age of waterfalls

 

must flood our human frames, the age

of oceans drown the sound of clocks

in singing whales.  The dreamer turns the page.

 

There, on the evening shore, we stop to talk

where crabs bend their machinery to pray,

the moonlight carving faces in the rock.

 

The city’s cloak of noises falls away.

The ocean tumbles, tossing in its bed.

I hear its fiery waves.  I taste its spray.

 

I touch your fiery cheek, I taste the red

of our lives’ rivers, singing as they go

to meet the midnight sea where they were bred:

 

Colossal tideline, generous and slow.

Our hidden love is wilder than we know

“Let

Let us welcome a new star

it may take a billion years

for her far-flung light

to reach us again

On a cloudy eve, she wanders singing

through the rain and the wind

Every night I want to let her in

 

Let us welcome a new star

drifting like a raft or a photograph

of a tesseract

Many are her worlds, I wish I knew them

where they are, what they are

Many are the worlds I wish I knew

 

May you be dressed in light

 

Let us welcome a new star

somewhere she is dying and

somewhere she lives–

in these images


The Summer Storm Journals explores personal upheaval, and the bold new freedom that can lie beyond releasing that which has become stagnant in one’s life. Listeners have said they hear a great sadness in this record, but also serenity, joy even, in surrender to What Is. This record could be something to keep in your pocket when moving through choppy waters. Whatever the weather, it’s definitely a soundtrack to dream to.
What they said:

The world… that Noe Venable creates and inhabits in her songs are wondrous… The artist uses some elements of jazz in this record, but in a mystical, even medieval kind of way. Always painting, never grooving or riffing in more normal ways. Scapes of many shapes… This is an outstanding work.

-Puremusic.com

Mystic-pop album of the year: Noe Venable, “The Summer Storm Journals.”
-SF Gate

 

Spellbinding.
-Cutting Edge Voices

Noe Venable – voices, acoustic guitars, piano, keyboards
Todd Sickafoose – basses, keyboards, programming, also piano on Prayer for Beauty, Ice Dragons, Sparrow I Will Fly, and Onion, One Day
Dean Sharp – drums, percussion
Alan Lin – violin on Lion Dreams, Sparrow I Will Fly, Flower in Time, Fangs of Discipline
Jacob Lawson – violin on Into the Wild, Ambassador
Adam Levy – electric guitar, also acoustic guitar on Lion Dreams
Payton MacDonald – marimba
Russ Johnson – trumpet
Justin Kantor – cello
Duncan Neilson – additional keyboards on Prayer For Beauty
Ken Rich – additional programming on Into the Wild, bass on Prayer For Beauty
The Crickets of Saint Dorothy’s – as themselves

Woods Part of When

you can take my body all apart
and my apple heart
it will grow again
you can take these words
in your lips two hands
you can take these words
from the woods part of when

I have worn steep heels
and a dress too tight
I have pressed my life
against sharpened things
and bled sentences
and shed innocence
like unwanted skin
in the woods part of when

I’ve wed the sun
and his golden man
just to hold some gold
in my hungry hand
but a silent bride
is a death too tight
so I left by night
for the woods part of when

like a groaning chain
I have worn beliefs
but now link by link
I have shattered them
for a soldier’s soul
is a bootless thing
since I found my feet
in the woods part of when

and now love will
take us both apart
like a wave I play
on the shores of him
into sea shell ears
I am blowing words
just a song I heard
in the woods part of when

“you can take my body all apart
and my apple heart
it will grow again
you can take these words
in your lips two handsv you can taste these words…”

Prayer For Beauty

say a prayer for beauty
they keep coming to take her apart
so many ways I’ve tried to say it
oh my life oh my gods oh my heart

say a prayer for beauty
like a ghost at the edge of the world
she runs out in her stockings
as invisible cities they burn

say a prayer for beauty
that she’s holding your hand
even when you can’t see her
I think mercy waits to take your hand
at least til you can
admit that you need her
well I need her

and in my hour of darkness
when I need you and find you so far away
and it all seems without purpose
anything you could dream or could say

just say a prayer for beauty
that she’s holding your hand
even when you can’t see her
cause I think mercy waits to take your hand
at least til you can admit that you need her
well I need her

ooo, the edge
she’s out on the edge
she’s out on the edge of the water
say a prayer for beauty
she’s out on the edge
she’s out on the edge, forgive her
say a prayer for beauty

Sea of Possibility

I woke up inside a dream
where rivers all were running red
thought everything I loved was dead
I thought last night that I had reached the end

thought that I had reached the end
the window open, you came in
to light the temple in my head
to light the temple in my head

with you I want to taste this freedom
with you remember life’s divinity
but without you this love I take with me
into the sea of possibility

I woke up inside a dream
where dirty things were coming clean
and I chose life and you chose me
I thought last night that I could finally see
I stayed up into the dawn
the window open, moon shines on
the door was open you were gone
the door was open you were gone from me

with you I want to taste this freedom
with you remember life’s divinity
but without you this love I take with me
into the sea of possibility

waves as far as I can see
a thousand horses rise in me
I’m tapping out the rhythm of your poetry
a thousand horses rising up
the ocean comes to fill my cup
today is the beginning of the death of me
oh with you I want to taste this freedom
with you remember life’s divinity
but without you this love I take with me
into the sea of possibility

Ice Dragons

time keeps rushing
whirling dervishing by
can you feel the white furry hooves of time?
catch me, catch me
rocketing ever closer
closer to the bright white eye
when I dream I see the world turning
oh, do you remember

how we used to breathe and watch it
oh and feel such power
and feel such joy
to be ice dragons and to be so free
(awake you lie awake you lie)
to be a dragon and to be so free
(awake you lie awake you lie awake)

who were we back then?
someone got left
in the wet black dream pool–
shining tragic in the rhythm of the blackness
as again and again I reach for euphoria
potent enough to distract
somethings howling
like it’s trying to drown me
once we were moving too fast to hear it
do you remember

how we used to breathe and watch it
oh and feel such power
and feel such joy
to be ice dragons and to be so free
(awake you lie awake you lie)
to be a dragon and to be so free
(awake you lie awake you lie awake)

ice dragons, ice dragons
who fly like arrows
into the unknown
just show me where to go
steamy mouthed, steamy mouthed
ice dragons, wind tossed
hoping for a good gust
hoping, but love I’m wingsoiled, heart sore
wingsoiled heartsore
’til I remember

how we used to breathe and watch it
oh and feel such power
and feel such joy
to be ice dragons and to be so free
(awake you lie awake you lie)
to be a dragon and to be so free
(awake you lie awake you lie awake)

Into the Wild

I have your love
and I’m taking it with me
into the wild, into the wild
I have an anchor that
drops from inside me
into the wild, into the wild that
always was hidden for you
for you to find
always was hidden for you
for you to find

I have an instinct
that’s going to lead me
into the wild, into the wild
call out his name
and my father goes with me
into the wild, into the wild that
always was hidden for you
for you to find
always was hidden for you
for you to find

I have a charm
that my best friend made for me
into the wild, into the wild
the genius-est magic is
that which is spun by the
small movements of lady fingers
into the wild, into the wild

always was hidden for you to find
always was hidden for you to find

I have your love
and I’m taking it with me
into the wild, into the wild
into the wild

Onion, One Day

emily, do you think
your luck has deserted
and so has your chance?

emily, can it be
you spent it on nothing
and paid in advance?

emily, do you think
that dreams are just layers
that get peeled away?

onion, one day
you’ll be completely naked
with the roses in your head
and your beaches racked with glass
and your shadows as they pass…

emily, there’s a stream
where wishes grow wild
and boats twinkle by

emily, sleep now
and I will sing you
a lullaby

Swim With Me

babe, I can only follow you so far
babe, I can only imagine where you are
but nothing’s quite the same
bottom of the sea
nothing’s quite the same
since I asked him to swim with me

and your secrets can seem so sacred and so sane
until one day you find you’d give them all away
to never be the same
at the bottom of a dream
never be the same
since I asked him to swim with me

who I was, covered up in leaves
I’m so frightened I might never be the same
never be the same
since I asked him to swim with me

Flower in Time

i am the prisoner
of sweetness, of sweetness
i am the prisoner
of sweetness, of sweetness
i am a flower in time
like the sun, he opens me
i am a flower in time

isn’t it funny?
isn’t it strange
how a door can open to eternity
through hours galloping by
I will keep you safe inside of me

you are a flower in time
floating down love’s river
you are a flower in time
and I am your prisoner

to enfold and to awake
he lies sleeping, i am
the prisoner of sweetness
over him I climb like vines
makes me want him
makes me wait
he lies sleeping
–complete this!
–complete this!
bite my lip and bide my time

in order to transform the beast
you first must make it beautiful
in order to conquer the beast
you first must make it beautiful

Sparrow I Will Fly

sparrow, where did you go?
I’m in the window
look at the rain–
bad news, bad words
to be kept like a clipped bird
whistling away

I’m still waiting
in the cyclone’s eye
for the day when like the
sparrow I will fly

higher, higher
my mind’s on fire
who’ll bring the rain in this
wide and reeling
bright and revealing
sky in my mind

I’m still waiting
in the cyclone’s eye
for the day when like the
sparrow I will fly

ah, sparrow, I will fly

Fangs of Discipline

Heart is so much bigger than you might dream, than you might dream. Heart is so much bigger than you might dream, than you might dream. Enveloping, encompassing, sweet and wide and wild, the largest pink blossom could just enfold one in the midst of howling darkness, in the midst of howling darkness… Heart is a little older than when it was young when it was young. Heart is one tin soldier beating its drum beating its drum. Life abounding, ocean pounding, green and garden wild, the strongest rhythm beats on to lead and draw one through the midst of howling darkness, through the midst of howling darkness “some have tried to use their will but our way will be gentler, gentler still than the fANgs of diSCiPLine!” take this thought and keep it with you like some windy morning when you see the sky through the trees, like the dust of diamonds carried on a wing, on some breeze…

Ambassador

I know a country
wild canyons and seas
red roots wave in the fissures
so wild the space between
my love and me
running in my midnight feet
river through every gateway
where you runs into me

I’m going hunting
my heart like a battle rings
to you out in the country
where true birds find their wings

where we might
tear the veil from beauty
and see her dancing down the street
where I might cry that I was drowning
and you might laugh and drink the sea

out in the jungles,
what if you should be the beast?
sometimes love is a toothache
to heal in a howl
out along the warring sea
breathing breaths of bravery
as love roars into me

’til we might
tear the veil from beauty
and see her dancing down the street
til I might cry that I was drowning
and you might laugh and drink the sea
and I might cry that I was dying
and you might whisper, “wait for me”

Army of Nows

Army of Nows
tonight I am so free
that my feet are in flower
I could sow a garden for you
but tonight you are so far away
and I don’t know what to do
facing down this army of nows
tonight I am so restless
and the moon is coming down
in a gown of eyelets of blue
she says “worry not about the future
you have plenty here to do, lucky you!
with an army of nows”

come to carry you with them
safely, safely through the night
carry you with them
safely, safely through the night
warm, over towns, fields and roads
you’ll be warm
under mongolian coats

and don’t you weep
and don’t you fear the approach
of an army of nows
don’t you weep
they’re almost here
the approach of an army of nows

come to carry you with them
safely, safely through the night
carry you with them
safely, safely through the night
warm over towns, fields and roads
you’ll be warm
under mongolian coats

can you hear the drums?
can you hear the bells?

Lion Dreams

sleep, my child
lion dreams
someone changed the world
while I was sleeping
turned the sky
into the ground
I took off my armor
and I laid it down

in lion dreams
lion dreams
shelter me in lion dreaming

sleep my child
it’s nothing much
close your eyes and rest a while
and I’ll keep watch
no need to fear
or to fight
only to be patient
and to be kind

in lion dreams
lion dreams
shelter me in lions dreaming

The World is Bound By Secret Knots


The World is Bound by Secret Knots-- Photo by Patrick Roddie

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The World is Bound by Secret Knots is haunted. What are its ghosts? A lion, a queen, a girl in a tree. The Black Madonna, “Goddess of strays.” A child turned wild. Throughout runs the theme of incantation– calling on forces stronger than one’s self to help one meet the challenge of the moment, hovering between daring and regret.

The sonic landscape of this album was masterminded by Todd Sickafoose, and features the guitar wizardry of Nels Cline (Wilco), among others.

This album includes many of the songs Noe played while out on the road during her second tour opening for Ani DiFranco.



What they said:

As I keep trying to tell people, San Francisco’s award-winning singer-songwriter Noe Venable has a ton of talent packed into her tiny frame. That’s likely why Ani DiFranco keeps inviting her out on tour … that, and, like DiFranco, she’s got a wonderfully wacky sense of humor. Venable’s latest album is also her most ambitious, seductive and engaging. With just an electric piano backing her up… on the opening “riverWide,” (Venable) is just playing a trick, starting off with an odd little distraction so that when she unleashes her powers and allure, aiming them at that special spot between your throat and heart, they’ll hit with maximum impact. Swirling and smoky, “Juniper” meticulously melts the mind and haunts the heart. Like most of Venable’s songs, it sounds like it comes from another time and place, a spot in the past that held more beauty and magic than we can presently imagine. With whispered word-speak singing, Venable casts a creepy and curious little spell of a story-song during “Black Madonna,’ throwing in harp swipes as if to remind us that she’s playing a bit. That voice gets smooth and put into a house of mirrors for the following “garden,” and then introspective and subdued on the gentle and soothing “midsummer night’s dream.” Venable has a knack for singing phases so that they immediately and permanently stick to the brain and on “feral,” when she gently shouts, “I got a sister and I got a little brother, and I don’t ever wanna be like them either,” well, I can’t help but repeat the line aloud over and over. In fact, a great amount of The World is Bound by Secret Knots has taken up a comfortable, lasting residence in my mind and this album deserves many more happy homes. Noe Venable may be small, but she should be huge.

-In Music We Trust

The World Is Bound by Secret Knots is Noe Venable’s most accessible and compelling album to date… The new collection of songs sounds as if it could have been inspired by a fever dream… Venable says this record is her most personal collection of songs to date, but her work isn’t that of your typical confessional folksinger. For one thing, it’s not really folk music. Though she does often play open chords strummed on acoustic guitar, it’s where the words and ideas take the songs that makes them distinctive. Venable’s unique point of view emerges in lyrics that can sometimes come across more like allegories than first-person stories. Even when she’s tackling personal or familial issues, as in “Juniper” and “In the Dark,” the metaphors she chooses and the way she twists language remove the subject matter a few steps from personal experience. In addition, the eerie guitar effects and hypnotic loops that haunt the corners of songs such as “Feral” distance Venable even further from the conventional singer-songwriter genre, giving her more in common with Tom Waits and Radiohead than with Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan.

-Acoustic Guitar Magazine


Noe Venable – voices, guitars, mandolin, wurlitzer
Todd Sickafoose – piano, keyboards, basses, guitars, programming
Alan Lin – violin & effects
Dan Morris – percussion
Nels Cline – electric guitars
Justin Morrell – additional acoustic guitar on Midsummer Night’s Dream

riverWide

the mirror must be broken
or else how do you explain the scattered light?
the mirror must be broken
and the day dissolving into night
they think I am sleeping
but I woke up on the edge of the river wide
of all the broken pieces
of all the pieces I can find
of all the diamond splinters
there is one keeps sticking in my mind?
hurry past the border
everyone is waiting for you on the other side of
where you hide, love,
by the riverWide

Juniper

mama oh mama I don’t wanna come down
not if it’s all like it was on the ground
hiding my feet ‘cause I’m too shy to dance
hiding my face behind both of my hands

mama oh mama don’t make me come down
‘cause I don’t know what will come out of my mouth
people will hear they won’t know who I am
people will hear and they won’t understand

mama I’ve seen them the others like me
once I could see it was all I could see
the silent procession that crosses the snow
in which skeleton ladies like skeletons go

mama oh mama up here where I’m free
I have seen beauty you wouldn’t believe
Juniper’s ledges and Juniper’s birds
where Juniper’s edges and mine become blurred

mama oh mama if you only heard
the reasons for living the freedom of words
the blooming balloon of a thought being born
safe in the branches of Juniper’s arms

mama oh mama I’m not like you think
some harrowing walker down narrowing streets
if I had my way I would bring the whole world
every sleepwalker and each hungry girl

mama oh mama and old uncle tom
my father the thinker my daughter the song
tell every bell to just wake up and ring
tell this whole choir to just shut up and sing

mama oh mama I’m holding your hand
in these glorious dreams in which you understand
mama oh mama we’re spinning around
mama oh mama don’t make me come down

tower

there is an ocean
I have been holding in my hands
there is an ocean
I have been holding back for years
where I was standing
now I am rocking to and fro
will you still love me
after you see this tower come down?

we used to play at
light as a feather stiff as a board
we used to play at
listening in to the darker world
oh how strangely
applicable those games seem now
will you still know me
after you see this tower come down?

girl I’ve forgotten
how to be brave could you show me how?
girl I’d forgotten,
where did you go? I’m lonely now?
that’s when it struck me
and I rang out just like a bell
she’ll be there laughing
in the place where the tower fell

bricks and mortar
raining down on the little ones heads
bricks and mortar
raining down on the little ones little ones

you will awaken
your sensuality
you will awaken
it’s an eventuality
here comes an ocean
I’ve been holding in my hands
here comes and ocean
I’ve been holding back for years

Black Madonna

Black Madonna will come down for you
with open arms and a veil to hide her face
and Black Madonna will come down for you
and there is no sickness and there is no suffering
and there is no anguish and no anger that she cannot erase

you might see Black Madonna walking between the sheets of an angry day
or you might see her smile a strange-sad smile as she steps out of your way
or you might not see her at all
but she might be coming down for you
with her arms spread wide and her head on fire
’cause she sees you been down so long

>> there isn’t a sin that you could make that she will not forgive

but oh, Black Madonna, I did not believe her beauty
I thought I did not need her mercy
I thought I did not need
traded my belongings and my body
my memory and my mind
my center of gravity and my sense of direction
’til I woke up half an hour from the city
and realized I had lost all sense of the passage of time
so I don’t know if it’s been a day or a week or a year
all I know is I’m still here
and I always thought you’d lift me up
and you never did
what the fuck?

>>there isn’t a sin that you could make
that she will not forgive
no there isn’t a sin that you could make
in the ways that a stray must live

so what I wanna know is this
if you believe in everything fitting into a kind of place
if you believe that everything and everybody has a certain space they fit into
babies entering into a welcoming world in jubilant curls of star gazing wonder
and the sick yes even the sick just a shuffling into sleep’s dark brother
and the sleepers in the sleet
the heaps in the street
nestled under trestles for to get a little heat
and if the trestles watch over the sleepers
and if life ushers her lucky winners
through fleshy gates to four star dinners
and if sleep ushers his population
to plug into the dream life radio station
and if thin souls whose bodies haven’t wrecked them
walk smoky streets that know and expect them
then what I want to know is this
what of strays who have turned their backs on the god of strays?

>>what of strays who’ve turned their backs
on the god of strays, yeah, what of them?

oh Black Madonna I was thinking about the days that I spent with you
’cause now I doze and daze and drown
and cling to the wreckage of a sinking town
and I walk your dire streets in search of anything that?s still pure
’cause I once thought you watched over me
but now I’m not so sure

garden

I lay my head upon your chest
bones of iron bones of lead
and death is rattling the cage
like a bird that would escape
but there’s no room for thoughts like these
in the garden where we sleep

and I am on a burning ship
clothes all flying in the wind
but I am beautiful like this
when you hold me in your hands
but there?s no room for thoughts like these
in the garden where we sleep

always searching for those breasts
pumping morphine
always searching for–
don’t you fly to them
don’t you fly to them
you can fly to me

I’ll take the moment in my hands
pull it open ’til it sings
before the motion of this place
where nothing stops to have a name
will leave us hanging like a tear?

is the spirit here?

you’re tuning out like a snowy television
you’re turning into something you don’t understand
caught amongst the hungry ghosts
fluttering in windows
caught amongst the hungry ghosts that take you by the hand
you used to dream that you would meet a stranger
you used to dream that one day
you would catch a whale
but now you walk alone
it is not a walk through pansies
where did it go?
is the spirit here?
No

broken bottles broken bones
she had a man who used to beat her
don’t let anybody know
heavy hands, hair of cedar
and they come and use you up
and then leave you where they found you
’til you sigh and let it go
is the spirit here?

definitely no

swollen bellies hungry souls
swollen cities hungry nation
their opinions are a crutch
for a dead imagination
empty eyes and broken homes
and I wonder, have I joined them?
well at least I’m not alone
is the spirit here?

definitely no

like a flatline, without pain
like a doctor who keeps talking
catch a bottle full of rain
like a robot I went walking
then the roof came flying off
like a border open wide
like a flower where you died
like a sinister banister slide
into the minds
of the houses you’ve abandoned
through a sea of shattered lives
like a swan without my pride
like a monster in a dress
near forgotten left a mess
like the only one you can’t impress
is the spirit here?

YES

midsummer night's dream

Aslan and the Silver Queen
couldn’t stop time
although they tried
now just look at me
seventeen and seventy
turn it around
follow me down
midsummer night’s dream

the bite of wind the taste of rain
getting called names
comets of pain
and other bright things
my favorite things and favorite places
covered in kisses
when all of this is memories
what kind of creature shall I be?

>> hOw’d yOU get in hERe?
— shh! it’s a secRet
>> tell me!
— on flYing hEEls and wAGon wHEels? (rest is unintelligible)

so I run out but not away
shooting off sparks into the dark
out in the street
’cause one day I am going to bloom
patient and proud
with fish in my mouth
and eyes in my wings
what kind of creature shall I be?

Aslan and the Silver Queen
turn it around
follow me down
midsummer night’s dream

feral

I wanna run ’til my feet start bleeding
I wanna make it all the way to the ocean
I wanna live for life and no other
cause I don’t ever wanna be like my mother
I wanna learn to walk on the water
cause I don’t wanna be like my father
I have a sister and I got a little brother
and I don’t ever wanna be like them either

uh uH Uh
feral

I had a place I’d go in the garden
where I’d pretend that nobody made me,
watch the sun going down on the day like a
gentleman going down on a lady
and I had friends who would come and meet me
and we would stay ’til early evening
singing, “we’re not gonna die away so easy
we’re not gonna die away die away, no?”

uH uh UH!

I’m not scared to walk like a lady
and I’m not scared to cry like a baby
I’m not scared I’m not scared I’m not
I’m not scared I’m not?

simple song

a traveler stops at the old inn yard
it has been so many miles and it’s been so hard
I’ve grown silver as a widow since then
and now a traveler’s come to see me again

he has the mouth of a river the face of a child
but don’t forget what he’s hiding underneath his smile
and that old silver splinter that he left inside of me
oh don’t forget, hmmm

I could not walk it off

then he began and slow, slowly
I could feel his web beginning to undo me
slow rivers awoke in my shoulders and my legs
slow rivers awoke I was floating away
and beauty is tired of playing dead
and beauty is tired of hiding her head
I go over to the window
I go over to the window

I could feel the droplets hanging on the edges of my leaves
I could feel the tears coming and I couldn’t believe
I go over to the window
I go over to the window
and beauty is tired of playing dead
and beauty is tired of hiding her head
yeah beauty is tired of playing dead
oh beauty is tired so tired

so I gave up and sang along
and rode off on the wings of a simple song?

wings again

I have wings again
can you see them?
I can’t but I know they’re there
my wings again
now you’re gone there’s
nothing left to keep me here

and you can tell my friends
they won’t believe
when I broke down like a plastic heart
that I had them then
but for some reason
I would rather fall apart
than notice them

nights I spent puzzling over where they went
caught like an act on your high wire
plummeting like a bird on fire
tumbling over
believe it or not I nearly forgot
the stumps where my wings were cut off oh
cut off oh

you’re standing on the ledge
you watch the empty sky fade out
and there’s no one
to pull you back from the edge
I raise my arms above my head
and I close my eyes
and I hold my breath
I wonder why would you rather fall apart than notice them?
nights I spent puzzling over where they went
nights I spent puzzling over where where where where they went
puzzling over the stumps where my wings were cut off oh
cut off oh

lilies

I lay me down like a truth amongst the dares
I lay me down and someone cut my hair
I lay me down I cannot remember where

I think about it less than you’d think
the thing that happened when I was asleep
I think about it more than you’d know
the things that waking I myself chose

I dreamed a woman where the night sky met my eyes
I dreamed a woman she had lilies in her eyes
I feel that something inside me wants to rise

I think about it less than you’d think
the thing that happened when I was asleep
sometimes it weighs heavy on me
the things I did when I was awake
sometimes it weighs heavy on me

doll comes to life

canopy of light and sound
moving freely
rising up from falling down
can you see me?

find yourself another doll
to pin your dreams upon
find yourself another doll
cause this one’s leaving

in the dark

ask this girl
you for me
in the dark
what did you see?

first I stopped listening ’til I couldn’t hear
then I stopped living out of books and mirrors
then I stopped looking ’til I couldn’t see
when I say darkness this is what I mean

ask this girl
eye to mind
in the dark
what did you find?

and in the dark I touch with all my toes
and in the dark I taste with all my teeth
and in the dark I kiss and dance and scream
I’m not afraid of being anything

and I remember when I was a kid
feeling about unicorns the way I did
first I poked through to it like a stitch in time
now I am reuniting horn and mind

I will buck up against the city lights
when it goes blurry and I am afraid
’til I can feel you uncompromised
’til I can feel you

Boots


Boots-- Photo by Kirstie Laird

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What they said:

Only a couple of records lately have pulled me from song to song to the end; one was Van Morrison’s Down the Road and the other was Noe Venable’s Boots… You’d never guess that Boots was “recorded in various living rooms”, the sound, the multi-instrumental arrangements and the musicianship are brilliant, and guitarist Venable’s mysterious, melodious vignettes resonate with unforced poetry and a viewpoint that’s all her own– “Julia” is just the ballad of a friendship, but somebody must’ve left the window open, because you’re shivering. No surprise that young genii like drummer Scott Amendola and everything-player Todd Sickafoose are involved… Venable’s been cruising the Bay Area for Several Years, recently touring in support of ani DiFranco, and she hasn’t peaked.

-L.A. Weekly Pick of the Week

Once you hear the name Noe Venable, you won’t easily forget it. Once you hear Noe Venable, you’ll never forget her. Venable is a San Francisco-based singer-songwriter who has a ton of talent packed into her tiny frame. So much so in fact, that the high priestess of female folk, Ani DiFranco, selected Venable to fill the opening slot on the most recent leg of her never-ending tour. Boots is Venable’s third outing, and it’s her best… Venable’s ability to blend folk, pop, county and jazz elements is sharper and more compelling than ever, the mix of guitar, bass, piano and strings is richer, and her pixie-like voice has never been more flowing and beguiling. Maybe this is what Sheryl Crow would have sounded like if she had chased art over commerce, or maybe it’s like Suzanne Vega streaking through the woods on opium. The title track kicks off the dozen delightful ditties. It’s a low-key, smoky and slithering ode to self reliance, and when Venable sings the line, “I have my boots to carry me,” well, you’ve likely never heard the word “boots” sung quite so harmingly. “Julia” reveals herself to be delicate and gorgeous, “Tinkerbell” is mysterious and haunting and enable’s “Happiness” is sprightly and earnest with just a touch of the blues. The word chanteuse has been used and abused as of late, but in Venable’s case, it fits like a pair of comfy, trusted boots.

-Jonezin’ Music : 02.13.03

Here we have a homegrown, full blown young musical visionary, and a window into a part of the new San Francisco sound. This train is headed somewhere.

-puremusic.com

Enviably literate and awesomely disciplined, Venable amplifies her power through a riveting soprano voice that stuns and enraptures so thoroughly that multiple listenings are required to begin unraveling her mysteries of music and meaning.

-S.F. Bay Guardian

Noe Venable— voices, acoustic guitars, mandolin
Todd Sickafoose— Bass, B-3 Organ, piano and other keyboards, guitar, loops, and programming
Alan Lin— Violin
Scott Amendola— drums
Morris Acevedo— guitar
Adam Levy— electric guitar
Rob Burger— chamberlain, pump organ, solovox, indian banjo
Etienne De Rocher— harmonica
Michael Witcher— dobro

Boots

I go to the corner where it all goes down
and I do things I’ll regret but not right now
they say “angel, you been here before”
yeah, I had my boots to carry me

just like Pandora with her box
I let everything out and spin around
and when they come to me, it’s like a river to cross
but I have my boots to ferry me

and I remember how it feels
I always stop and remember but I do it again
and I jump up and slap my heels
cause I have my boots on
I’d like to see my eyes in someone else’s face
I’d like to see my face on a magazine
the things I want, the life I need
my boots keep me between

I passed out on a subway train
and a woman she came and took my hand
but I’m alright I’m okay I can fall like rain
long as I have my boots to help me stand

and the streets they empty hour by hour
til they were finally drained and I was all alone
and just like Pandora, I was sorry now
but I had my boots to carry me home

the sky is wild and full of holes
the wind is wild and it’s full of coughs
sometimes I think I’d float away
if I took my boots off
I’d like to see my eyes in someone else’s face
I’d like to see my face on a magazine
the things I want, the life I need
my boots keep me between

Prettiness

I have never been one for prettiness prettiness
thinking of lace ’bout makes me puke
but the thing I just bought has a little bit little bit
I’m putting it on and I’m thinking of you

when I was a child I followed some holy men
going into woods to do their work
I had an overcoat on just to cover me cover me
listening for anything I might learn

and there were stars up in the heavens
and if they caught me, what could they do?
they did not know I was a woman
at least I didn’t think they knew

I think about it when I look at him look at him
everybody hides from what they are
take me, I used to think I was as empty as an emperor
that’s what I thought but I’ve come so far

his turkish drums and two way mirrors
the way he moves, slow motion slow
he does not know I am a woman
but I think I might want him to know

My Insomnia

I went down to the dock
I turned off all my clocks
but there is nothing left to dream

get in bed and try to fall
lay starin’ at the wall
and like a prayer I say your name

my insomnia my insomnia

tried to ask if it’s alright
if we take off a night
but I couldn’t find your head
drowning in a sea of love
in the expanses of my bed

my insomnia my insomnia my insomnia

you exhaust me

Climb

can you hear me?
I don’t love anybody else
keep you near me
just like I try to keep myself near

all the givers
and all the rivers in the world
cannot quench it
the arid desert that you
bring to everyone you know

I see you counting lovers in the street
I see you kissing anybody’s feet
you are a kitten caught up in a tree
I see you climb away

tiny birdling
scrambling for any scraggy tree
I am thinking
you make your nest where none can be
in the summer
the streets are waving in the heat
I am thinking about the water that you keep
in the corners of your mouth

climb away

I see you counting lovers in the street
I see you licking anybody’s feet
you are a kitten caught up in a tree
you are unreachable by me
I see you climb away

Happiness

we were sitting in a T-bird
it has not consented to run since 1970
brothers bent on the destruction of innocent T-birds
crowbarred everything but the
radio, windshield, driver’s side mirror
love is alone with the radio on
and love is a newly blind
fumbling fumbling
tell me what to do with all this
happiness

lobsters nesting in a dead man
waiting at the bottom of the lonely ocean
neighbors swimming in their fishbowls
television blue glow if you go I won’t know anyone
taking a bath in the deadly sunshine
time is a car with the radio on and
time is a broken boat
ruddering ruddering
tell me what to do with all this
happiness

busted and broken didn’t get very far
busted and broken sittin right where you are
[let it last another summer]
but I’m a feather flying, I’m a leaf on the wind
there’s no school like driving with the wind on your skin
[let it last another summer]

love is a newly blind
time is a broken boat
taking a bath in the deadly sunshine
time is a car with the radio on
and time is a broken boat
ruddering ruddering
tell me what to do with all this
happiness

Tinkerbell

tinkerbell busts her brains
bashing into window panes
but who is gonna need a light
in the buggy buzzy neon night?

tinkerbell takes off her rags
empties out her saddle bags
and watching all the cracks in the wall rearrange
tinkerbell is open to a change

“probably time I looked into
some other things a girl can do
could sell my body
to light up someone’s t.v…”

but something comes through at last
so it doesn’t come to that
luckily a girl lost her ring in the rain
so tinkerbell is dangling down a drain

and there in the sewer she
sees a thing she’s never seen
thousands of shiny useless objects
glimmering

Stolen Thing

where in the hell is big blue eyes?
where’s your virginity?
by the side of the freeway
I lost it recently
oh it didn’t take so long
oh it didn’t take so long
oh it didn’t take so long
I am a stolen thing

I have a dream of big blue eyes
in my hand is a genie
you know he wouldn’t ever wanna surprise no one
singin’ “little girl little girl set me free”
oh I know what he means
oh I know what he means
oh I know what he means
I am a stolen thing

don’t ever cry in the pouring rain
never lie to a pirate king
he will beat you at your game
make everything everywhere scream and sing
oh you make it get so good
oh you make me get so mean
oh you make it get to good
I am a stolen thing

by the rumble of the roaring rain
by the holes that it drills in me
I was naked as a blue jay
by the side of the freeway
oh I was dancing slow
oh I was dancing free
oh I was dancing slow
and this is the dance of the stolen thing

Look, Luck

I am out of change
terrible and strange
under a fake blue sky

you’re spinning out of sight
I been up all night
but every road leads here

look, luck
do not disappear
I can almost hear you trying
but luck
do not disappear
you’re the only one that’s left to love

so much love
you can’t pay in love
talk to the big machine
please
I pawned my ring
I’ll do anything
in hope of a little

luck
do not disappear
I can almost hear you trying
but luck
do not disappear
you’re the only one that’s left to love

Julia

tell you who I miss the most
dressed in see-through like a ghost
julia julia
she pulled me in and she locked the door
gave me wine and gave me more
julia julia

if you need a place to go
you can always crib with
julia julia
if you’re sick she’ll cool you down
til you’re only sick for
julia julia

julia don’t take this wrong
it’s not to say that I’m the one
to take more than an hour or a day from

taken with pills, taken with beer
many come for love is
julia julia
what I’d give to taste again
all the dreams I left in
julia julia

funny, that last time I left
the wind was howls the sky was cleft
and summer clouds were dumping on the harbor

julia don’t take this wrong
it’s not to say that I’m the one
to take more than an hour or a day from
cause you deserve a quiet place
that doesn’t move or change its face
and everywhere I ran, I ran away from

Wild Blue & Yonder

wild blue and yonder
which way to go
wild blue and yonder
wear white in the snow
pack seven sandwiches
it’s farther than you know from here

witch in the kitchen
gin and a knife
Christmas is outta here
tinsel and fife
lover, how shall we spend this
ribbon-flannel life she spared?

there must be a way out
tossed by the side of the freeway
shackled and shamed as a blue jay
jacked up on whiskey and death
and we will find it
slip through the cracks of the evening
grinning as memory leaves me holding
nothing but my breath

wild blue and yonder
riding the fright
wild blue and yonder
you shine like a light
lover it’s been so long
tell me where you are tonight?

there must be a way out
tossed by the side of the freeway
shackled and shamed as a blue jay
jacked up on whiskey and death
and you will find it
blow in the breeze like the reeds do
grinning as memory leaves you holding
nothing but your breath

Don't Stop Crying

April morning
in ’85
you came to visit
I came alive
the things you’d speak of
the tales you’d tell
no one would guess you’d been through hell

but I was dirty
I was unplanned
and I was born to feel and understand
your falling pieces in my tiny hands

whichever way we’d go
whichever way we’d go

you’re so much older
it’s really strange
everyone grows colder
you never change
it’s like the ocean when you rush in
it’s like you’re standing here again

don’t stop crying
you’ll flood the street
we’ll take our boats out
just you and me
and we will see the things we see

whichever way we go
whichever way we go

In Memoriam

when she takes out
her trusty switchblade
Maddy can bring
enormous men to their knees

and in the night
came to my window
flushed with the running
or whatever it was

all of our days
obliterating
I will remember
swear to you that I will