Cheval Sombre releases a new EP, Althea, available on a limited edition 10” clear vinyl pressing by the Knoxville, Tennessee-based label Fat Elvis Records on November 5, 2021. The vinyl will be available exclusively from FatElvisRecords.com, Norman Records, and Cheval Sombre’s Bandcamp.
The three-track EP caps the most productive year yet for Cheval Sombre – aka upstate New Yorker, Chris Porpora. He released the acclaimed twin albums Time Waits for No One and Days Go By in March and May respectively, with both becoming firm favorites among his cult following, and also in the wider world thanks to the exposure of two Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties.
The EP features two cover versions sandwiching a crystalline reworking of ‘Are You Ready’ (from Days Go By) by Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember. The former Spacemen 3 man also produced the title track, which is an incredible, ornate reworking of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Althea’, from their 1980 album, Go to Heaven.
“I’ve always loved the Dead,” says Chris. “A cousin of mine showed me how to play ‘Friend of the Devil’ on two guitar strings when I was real small, and I was mystified. Luckily, I got to see them a few times before Jerry Garcia passed away. I always found his voice to contain all the very best things about music – tenderness, toughness, knowing, humanity, sweetness, experience, weariness, innocence. I had never heard ‘Althea’, but a few years ago my father fell ill, and I heard it on the radio en route to the hospital – my jaw dropped. It seemed at once to be a song about everything – about all that is crucial.”
The other cover is a spare and naked (musically and emotionally) version of Dire Straits’ ‘So Far Away’, which with its rough and ready production, complete with insect noises and a passing police car, is even further away from the slick original on Brothers in Arms.
“Just as my punk rock friends despised the Dead, so too would Dire Straits have been considered a joke,” reveals Chris of the surprising cover. “But I always found beauty in ‘So Far Away’. Recent experience with isolation brought it back from nostalgia to the fore.
“When I recorded it, I had hustled out of town amidst some heartbreaking circumstances – just a bag and a guitar on the way out the door. That old song came to me, sitting in a room by the sea – it was a late-August evening, about dusk. All I had on hand was a laptop perched on a wooden table; I leaned into it and recorded the first take. That’s what this version is. It was just right. When I sent it to Pete he remarked on the cicadas and cop car blowing by. The windows were wide open, and everything came in.”
The EP is rounded out by Sonic Boom’s elegant and minimal, almost ambient, remix of ‘Are You Ready’, which is called the AM Mix because of its resemblance to the clean lines of a classic car.
“Round the time Pete sent me that version, I was listening to it on headphones while walking, and I saw this beautiful car,” explains Chris. “I blinked three times. I don’t think I’d ever seen an Aston Martin before. I wrote Pete and told him: ‘Your mix sounds like this car looks. I want to call it the Sonic Boom AM Mix’.”
From classic rock to classic cars, with the Althea EP, Cheval Sombre looks set to end his biggest year with a surprising, but stylish flourish.
- Are You Ready (Sonic Boom AM Mix)
- So Far Away