It’s been more than three years since the stars aligned and singer-songwriter Kyle Hamlett and pedal-steel ace Luke Schneider were able to get together and record with engineer Jake Davis over a couple of cold winter days. You’ll know Hamlett and Schneider from their work together in Lylas, as well as contributions they’ve made to albums by artists as varied as Wooden Wand and Margo Price, and their individual recordings.
As Lylas evolved over time, the folk underpinnings that marked most of the band’s earlier work never really went away. But they became more of a foundational element with post-punk and art-rock built on top for 2017’s Warm Harm, which for now marks Lylas’ denouement. As Kyle Hamlett Duo, the pair brings the folk back to the fore in ways that don’t necessarily suit other ensembles that Hamlett has put together, like the Kyle Hamlett Uno (that’s Hamlett flying solo, naturally), Trio, Quatro or Cinco.
Next Friday, Aug. 26, the Duo’s debut album Tape Diamonds will finally see the light of day via Arrowhawk Records. They’ll play together at Vinyl Tap on Aug. 25 to celebrate. Poet-songsmith Anne Malin will join, and Chris Davis — musician, WXNA DJ and tireless supporter of music through arts nonprofit FMRL — will man the wheels of steel.
The record is full of curious and contemplative settings — mostly for acoustic guitar and Schneider’s Emmons pedal steel with effects — of impressionistic stories about mystery, wonder, kindness and being haunted. It’s composed of nine originals, one song (“Years and Years”) revisited from the Lylas catalog, and one cover you might not expect: “Death of a Disco Dancer,” written and recorded by The Smiths for their 1987 swan song Strangeways, Here We Come.
The original begins languid and nonchalant by design, as singer Morrissey — in a position seemingly antithetical to the racist political perspective he likes to tout these days — subtly satirizes people who don’t care about the violence being done to others around them. Eventually, the calm atmosphere breaks down into some inspired studio chaos; let this attitude dominate for long enough, and the mask of sanity slips, you might say.
That’s where Hamlett and Schneider pick up in their version. They reimagine the song as an eerie Piedmont blues, bubbling uneasily as sparks of steel melody shoot out like Schneider is embodying tinfoil in a microwave. We’re very pleased to premiere director John Warren’s video for the song, in which the duo appears and disappears as a dancer (Kelly Diehl) wheels in circles around herself. Check it out above, and click through the Bandcamp embed below to preorder the record — a bundle with a cassette, a poster and some of Schneider’s Forestdale Incense is available, too.