Dresden Doll/solo artist Amanda “Fucking” Palmer and multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff have teamed up with British guitar virtuoso/brooding vocalist Anna Calvi, Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘s John Cameron Mitchell, and novelist/husband Neil Gaiman for a “flash Bowie tribute” EP — so flash, in fact, that it began immediately following Bowie’s death, and is available to stream.
The musician known for donning “Brechtian cabaret punk” garb, pounding a piano while vacillating between staccato pronunciations and mournful wails, and controversially earning $1.2 million from crowd-funding using Kickstarter to continue these artistic efforts has likewise used funds from another crowd to make this EP. Recently, she started asking fans to pledge anywhere from $1 to $100 when she released music, via Patreon. With the funding from 7,000 fans she made there, she created this new EP. It’s being sold on Bandcamp for $1, and proceeds will go both to Bowie’s publishers, and everything that doesn’t go to them will be donated to the Tufts Medical Center cancer research wing. Check out the track list (which very boldly features the just-released “Blackstar” as its first track) here:
1. Blackstar feat. Anna Calvi 2. Space Oddity feat. Neil Gaiman 3. Ashes to Ashes 4. Heroes feat. John Cameron Mitchell 5. Helden (Single Version) feat. John Cameron Mitchell 6. Jherek Bischoff: “Life on Mars?” [Instrumental]
Each of these songs comes with an original work of art inspired by it, with Cassandra Long contributing the art for “Blackstar”, David Mack for “Ashes to Ashes”, Sarah Beetson for “Space Oddity,” as well as the cover of the EP, Félix Marqués for “Life on Mars?”, HA-HA for “Helden”, and Bill Sienkiewicz for “Heroes.”
Pitchfork published a massive statement from Palmer about her response to Bowie’s death, as well as the decision to make the EP so hastily:
We found out he’d died – by text from Neil’s daughter – at 3 a.m. in Santa Fe. We were visiting family, to introduce them to the newborn lying in bed beside us. A tiny fleshy reminder that Bowie, like our other friends, mentors and heroes who’ve been consumed by cancer in the past few months, was just…passing through. The baby is Ash. Dust to dust. Funk to Funky… The next day I was on the phone to Jherek, discussing another project (and I was feeling a bit trapped in the non-productive new-mother cave, so we joked that we should do a flash Bowie tribute. And suddenly, we weren’t joking. I had funding from my 7,000 fans on Patreon to “make stuff.” What better “stuff”? We started that night, giving ourselves a deadline of two weeks to release it as a surprise. I emailed a bunch of visual artist friends that night.
Speaking of the reason the project felt so “fitting,” she writes (with fingers that hopefully now aren’t quite as sad as the fingers she describes in her writing):
Bowie worked on music up to the end to give us a parting gift. So this is how we, as musicians, mourn: keeping Bowie constantly in our ears and brains…We were immersing ourselves in Bowieland, living in the songs, super-glueing up some fresh wounds. Not just “knowing” the songs, but feeling the physical chords under our sad fingers, excavating the deeper architecture of the songwriting (especially with a tune as bizarre as “Blackstar,” which we realized was constructed like a sonic Russian nesting doll). Jherek worked like a madman: one day arranging each song, recording the strings in under four hours, and mixing in antoher two. He says recording the strings quartet for “Blackstar” in particular “was like therapy for the loss of such an incredible artist, and there was a palpable silence after every take as we sat in awe of the genius of The Thin White Duke.”
Listen to the album, via Bandcamp: