Exquisite Corpse: Cadavre Exquis, a "sonic experiment" featuring 47 musicians across the Polyvinyl label, past and present, 180G Red Vinyl LP
This unique “Various Artists” compilation includes 11 tracks and album artwork created in the spirit of the 'Exquisite Corpse' game.
What is an 'Exquisite Corpse'? Polyvinyl provides the following definitions for us: A game in which each participant takes turns writing or drawing on a sheet of paper, folding it to conceal their contribution, and then passing it to the next player for a further contribution. A collaborative compilation release from Polyvinyl Record Co.
Two dollars from every physical and digital album sale of Exquisite Corpse will be donated to MusiCares, a non-profit organization that has provided more than $60 million in health, financial, and rehabilitation resources to musicians in their time of need. In honor of this, actor/director (and contributing Polyvinyl alum) Mark Duplass, has also pledged a $5000 donation.
The Tracklisting for this collaboration is:
01. Yer Brothers
Written by David Bazan (Pedro The Lion), Phil Dickey (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin), Nate Kinsella (American Football/Birthmark), Nick Wilkerson (White Reaper)
02. Somebody Else
Written by Erik Czaja (Pet Symmetry), Gus Lobban (Kero Kero Bonito), Christie Simpson (Yumi Zouma), Shugo Tokumaru (Shugo Tokumaru)
03. Slow Drive
Written by Shaun Fleming (Diane Coffee), Will Knauer (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin), Cale Parks (Aloha/Cale Parks), Charlie Ryder (Yumi Zouma)
04. To The Beach
Written by Mark Duplass (Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!), Kaia Fischer (Rainer Maria), Ellen Kempner (Palehound), Jeff Rosenstock (Jeff Rosenstock/Antarctigo Vespucci)
05. Whole Life Holy Death
Written by Chris Broach (Braid), Vice Cooler (xbxrx), Rocky Tinder (Wampire), Ary Warnaar (Anamanaguchi)
06. Do U Remember
Written by Robert Pope (The Get Up Kids), Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), Fred Thomas (Fred Thomas/Saturday Looks Good To Me), Ella Williams (Squirrel Flower)
07. Perfect Vision
Written by Keil Corcoran (STRFKR), Katy Goodman (Vivian Girls/La Sera), Chris Hansen (Matt Pond PA), Mike Kinsella (Owen/American Football), Matt Pond (Matt Pond PA)
08. So Much To See
Written by Jess Abbott (Tancred), James Alex (Beach Slang/Quiet Slang), Bob Nanna (Braid), Luke Silas (Anamanaguchi)
09. Some Storms
Written by Peter Berkman (Anamanaguchi), Erin Fein (Psychic Twin/Headlights), TJ Lipple (Aloha), Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids), Nick Thorburn (Mister Heavenly)
Written by Pip Brown (Ladyhawke), Josh Burgess (Yumi Zouma), Chris Farren (Chris Farren/Antarctigo Vespucci), Marcus Nuccio (Pet Symmetry), Cameron Spies (Radiation City)
11. Nude Looks
Written by Brian Borcherdt (Dusted), Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria), Ryan Pope (The Get Up Kids), Post Animal (Post Animal
Fred Thomas provides the following essay explaining the process of creating the project:
2020 has been an intense year by any standard, with the first weeks of the global pandemic giving most of us feelings unlike anything we’d experienced before. Quarantine lockdowns and hovering dread shifted the fabric of time in a way that’s ongoing, but was at its most vivid in those early days when a new reality was sinking in. This rare universal upheaval meant abrupt changes in plans for many musicians who were preparing for tours, album releases, or now-cancelled gigs and recording sessions. Everything was on hold indefinitely, time lost meaning, every day felt unreal.
During the first days of lockdown, Rainer Maria’s Kaia Fischer came up with the concept that would grow into Exquisite Corpse by meditating on their perspective of the newly unfolding weirdness they and so many of their creative friends were going through. Obviously a deadly pandemic was wrought with negatives, and those in particular to independent music scenes were especially devastating. But could there be another side to what felt so all-consumingly terrible? “We know what the pandemic isn’t good for,” said Fischer, “but let’s find out what it is good for.”
Searching for silver linings in the earliest days of lockdown wasn’t easy, but one idea led to another. It began with the realization that every Polyvinyl artist now had a completely clear schedule at the same time. They were also mostly sitting around waiting for the storm to pass, in different states of boredom, restlessness, worry and malaise. Logistically speaking, there might not be another time when pretty much everyone was available for a collaborative project and needed something to occupy their frazzled minds. A round of emails went out explaining the project and inviting members of the Polyvinyl roster to participate. Eleven teams of four or five musicians were assembled more or less at random, bringing together artists that had in many cases never met, much less worked on music together. Remotely, each team worked from scratch to create an original song, a reworked sonic adaptation of the game where each player adds to a collaborative drawing.
The scope of Exquisite Corpse alone is exciting. In total, 47 participants made up the various teams, bringing together members from all ends of the Polyvinyl family tree. Contributors included longtime label signees like Xiu Xiu, Braid, American Football, and Mark Duplass of Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! as well more recent roster additions such as Palehound, Kero Kero Bonito, Jeff Rosenstock, Yumi Zouma, and Anamanaguchi. Chicago based Alexa Viscius, Minneapolis based Bradley Hale, and Seattle based Jesse LeDoux – all of whom have created artwork or photography for Polyvinyl over the years – also came together remotely to collaborate on the album artwork in the style of the game the project takes its name from. On the music creation side of things, singers in Tokyo sent files to someone putting down drum tracks in Nova Scotia or working on a guitar part in New Zealand. Input came from all corners of the globe and pooled a range of personal and artistic perspectives more panoramic than any other project in the label’s history.
Musically, the results are every bit as exciting and unpredictable as the concept envisioned. New creative chemistries between the different artists and a complete absence of expectations or precedent sounds made for fearless choices in production, genre experimentation and stylistic curveballs. Artists known for sparkling pop worked with more ragged rockers or folks from acoustic-leaning emo bands, and the end results almost always defied the expected sum of their parts. Even though Exquisite Corpse is timestamped with traces of the overwhelming uncertainty that colored the pandemic’s onset, the music is by-and-large joyful, daring and fun. More than reflecting the hanging gloom of the non-stop news cycle and spiking graphs, artists tapped into expressions of hope and exploration.
Most indie labels share some degree of familial connection, but Polyvinyl is built on that feeling of family. The label was born in the late ‘90s out of the closely knit regional diy scenes of the Midwest, and every aspect of growth since has been informed by the earnest connectivity of those early days. Polyvinyl bands go on tour together, collaborate regularly and exist within a framework facilitated by the label that values friendship and the sharing of ideas above all else. Exquisite Corpse zooms in on that spirit of kinship and community. It’s a real-time experiment with some incredible outcomes, creating a space for Polyvinyl’s wide-ranging talents to come together and make something beautiful out of a dark time.