In the promo photo you see here, Willis Earl Beal is wearing a mask. It’s the same mask — or an identical, newer version of it — that he wore two years ago when I interviewed him in a random park in Manhattan. The location and attire were his choice, and though he was guarded and careful, eventually, his passion for counter-culture art spilled through his initial detachment. At that point, Beal had just adopted the self-appointed mononym “Nobody” and was planning his move to Olympia, Washington. He was also planning to split with the traditional label model, opting instead to unleash a flurry of material independently since the 2013 release of Nobody knows..
Experiments In Time, the A Place That Doesn’t Exist EP, Curious Cool, and the CD Baby collection Experiments In Time: The Golden Hour all came out within a two-year period. Each of these advanced the cause of his spacey, madcap-soul experimentalism. Each of these cemented the idea of Beal is a prolific, non-conformist genius who was giving us almost more music than we had time and space to digest.
But confines of the physical world — or the digital one for that matter — are unconcerning to Beal, and today he’s adding even more music to an already expansive discography. We’re premiering an advance stream of his latest album, Noctunes, a collection of gloomy piano- and strings-oriented songs. More than ever, the landscape of rural Washington seems to have gotten under Beal’s skin. “Say The Words” harnesses a slinky hi-hat and watercolor synths that evoke Twin Peaks on multiple levels, album closer “12 Midnight” ventures toward Phil Collins territory, sparse and spooky ’80s references combined with a ballad sensibility. Whether he’s crooning, raging, or philosophizing, Beal imbues his music with a dark majesty; he’s unafraid to howl at the cosmos but just as eager to examine a solitary flower. Listen below.
Noctunes is out 8/28 via Tender Loving Empire.