Songwriter and violist Dina Maccabee’s latest album, The Sharpening Machine (PRE-ORDER), is a milestone entry in the New York-based musician’s creative continuum. Her path has taken her from formal music studies to individual explorations of folk and electronic sounds, on a quest to unite people through music that is both ambitious and vulnerable.
Dina’s aesthetic is rooted in almost-paradoxical duality: the songs and arrangements are pop-accessible but invariably feature bold, unexpected twists. In spirit, this orientation recalls the restless creativity of Beck and the anti-folk/freak folk scene. She shares with these artists a desire to craft music within a populistic platform while avoiding nostalgia, intentionally pushing back on assumptions about authenticity and genre. Though her own string-playing style and emphasis on acoustic instruments reflects a fascination with traditional sounds, “I’m not trying to glorify the past or pretend I live on a farm,” she says with a laugh.
The Sharpening Machine nearly became a lost album. When she accidentally re-discovered a cache of almost-finished material on an old hard drive, Dina decided to bring the languishing tunes to life with the help of Los Angeles recording engineer Evan Collins Conway. She parlayed her track record as a well-respected member of a vibrant, A-list community of working musicians into contributions from members of bands like Ex Eye, Beats Antique, Iron and Wine, Julia Holter, and Xiu Xiu.
Luckily, the album ended up getting made and today Glide is excited to offer an early listen ahead of its release. With the multi-talented Maccabee at the helm, we’re given an eclectic listening journey that showcases an array of instruments, lush arrangements, and progressive, truly original folk-pop. Dina isn’t afraid to push the boundaries as she showcases beautiful and exciting singing styles and harmonies, genre experimentation ranging from Americana to Flaming Lips-esque psychedelic pop, and an almost revelatory spirit. Upon first listen it’s easy to be enchanted by the musical offerings, but her vast musical talent and creative vision is really savored on repeated listens as you absorb how much effort went into recording each song.
Listen to the album in its entirety and read Dina’s own reflection on this impressive collection of songs below…
I am indebted to a big community of musicians for making “The Sharpening Machine” the special document it became. I’ve played in bands for a long time, touching on a lot of different kinds of music. What makes being a full-time musician rewarding, and really creates a sense of shared purpose and mutual support, is when people have an attitude of genuine curiosity and commitment to bringing their craft to each other’s musical experiments. I have plenty of self-doubt, especially when I wonder whether I should have focused more on becoming expert in a single genre. But my reward for being curious about a lot of kinds of expression is an unbelievably deep bench of colleagues with distinctive voices, who are interested in my vision.
Friends and colleagues like that, who share my curiosity, were eager to come participate in the creative recording process with me, and it really shows on the album. Some highlights that stand out to me from the recording process were Elizabeth Goodfellow offering the perfect brushes-and-snare part for “Hey You”; Caitlin Moss playing the parts of two hocketing drummers on “Little Bite”; Evan Collins Conway coming up with the ultimate bass part on “Little Bite”; Sylvain Carton letting out his secret smooth saxophone side on “Tall Trees”; and Corey Fogel throwing loud objects down the recording studio stairway – among many other inspired, creative, collaborative moments.
So even though it can feel like there’s less incentive as time goes by to go to the trouble, when creative projects don’t always result in a lot of economic compensation – and making an album and playing shows really takes a lot of hard work – the incentive comes from getting to create something new with the input of superb, experienced, unique music makers who have stayed curious about my ideas over the years. Thanks to recording engineer and co-producer Evan Collins Conway who supported this project with his studio and expertise and time, I was really lucky to have the space to give these songs a royal treatment – an embarrassment of riches as far as contributing performers – and figure out what the songs and arrangements wanted to become. I hope people who hear this record will read the credits on the back and look up the players and see what each one is up to. I guarantee they will be amazed!