Free As Birds Takes A Musical Polaroid

Clenn Planets starts off along, but it doesn’t take long for the bass and drums to fall in. “You don’t belong to anyone,” he sings, though in the first verse it’s about a dog. Rudeyna dips into a tropicalia vibe, and falls into lush harmonies with herself. Mooncha hits the club floor while Stefanie Clark Harris gets swoony.

Waiting on a Sunrise Vol. 2 by Free as Birds Records

The continuing parade of New Haven-based musicians is part of Waiting on a Sunrise, Vol. 2, from fellow musician Alex Burnet’s new digital-only label, Free as Birds. Like the first volume, it listens almost like a snapshot of how New Haven’s musicians are doing during the Covid-19 pandemic — and how they’re getting ready for whatever’s next.

To Burnet, volume 2 is “definitely different” than volume 1, which preceded it by a month. In some sense it’s not surprising. Given the conditions of the pandemic and the shutdown, “March and April are two different years,” Burnet said. But as before, he said, “there was no design. This is just where people’s collective consciousnesses were at.” As with volume 1, Burnet asked area musicians to contribute songs to a compilation, the only rule being that the song had to be new. The first batch of songs were made in late March. The second were made in April. Burnet had all the songs for volume 2 in hand by the time volume 1 came out on May 1. But while volume 1 could be heard as a response to isolation, in the songs on volume 2, “I could hear people branching out more to other people,” Burnet said. Already, it seemed, people were opening up.

Waiting on a Sunrise Vol. 2 by Free as Birds Records

It also represents a few firsts in the New Haven music scene. Tom Connelly, who plays drums in Witch Hair, has a solo recording on the album. So does Stefanie Clark Harris, who usually appears with Roses Wild. Katherine Von Anchen is “a new face,” Burnet said. He had reached out to all of them on the strength of seeing them perform live.

Other tracks on the album are a comforting visit. “Dan Greene’s song sounds like such a great Dan Greene song,” Burnet said; Greene, the songwriter for Mountain Movers, may not have his band around him, but the prolific songwriter has no trouble coming up with a polished track. Mooncha — “a delight to work with,” said Burnet — sends in a song that bursts with the same energy that explodes from the MC’s live shows. The track from Spring Migrant is a full-band project. Old Self collaborated with the same team that he worked with to produce his 2018 album, Word Art Gallery. And “having The Huntress and Holder of Hands was fantastic,” Burnet said. MorganEve Swain, who founded the band, is a “dear old friend”; Swain’s previous music project, Brown Bird, split bills with the Proud Flesh. “She’s a Thing in the Spring alumni as well. She just said, ‘it has to be new? Okay!’”

 

Waiting on a Sunrise Vol. 2 by Free as Birds Records

That musicians are connecting with each other even as the danger of Covid-19 hasn’t passed, to Burnet, is a signal of things to come. “I think people are having an easier time reaching one another,” he said. “They’re figuring out a new way to network, to collaborate…. You cannot go back to the old way. We’re figuring out new ways. We all know that meeting can absolutely be an email.”

And as with volume 1, Burnet already has the songs in hand that he needs for volume 3, which he’ll release on July 1. He thinks that will be the last in the series. “After July I think we’ll be past the event horizon” regarding “the cultural impact of Covid-19,” Burnet said. By that he meant the initial reaction to the pandemic — not its consequences, which are, of course, sure to linger for a long time. Burnet has participated in both of the large protests in New Haven for the past two weekends.

Burnet found working on volume 2 “even more fun because I can relax my shoulders a little bit more, knowing that the first one worked. I have no reason to believe the second one won’t do as well or exceed it. So I can enjoy it a little more.”

As he looks forward to volume 3 — and to what the future holds for New Haven’s music scene as it puts itself back together — he feels a sense of mission. “Musicians are very hardy. They’ll always find a way to exist,” he said, even “without a venue” to play in. He likened the wave of creativity in the past couple months to the new growth after a forest fire.

“Make new things,” he said. “We’re going into a new world. We need new songs.”

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