Clip: Mike Tamburo's New American Folk Hero label
- Mike's lurked on this list in the past and has made some of the best
experimental music to come out of Pittsburgh in the last decade.
Here's wishing the best for his label.
Mike Tamburo's International Label Roster
BY MANNY THEINER
There's a new record label in town: New American Folk Hero. Yet the
label's already released over a dozen CDs in only two years, with a
post-rock aesthetic similar to indie imprints Table of the Elements,
Constellation, Revenant and Jim O'Rourke's Moikai.
Heading up Folk Hero is New Kensington-based Mike Tamburo, already
known in Pittsburgh for his solo guitar drones and previous post-rock
bands Meisha and Arco Flute Foundation. "Most of my music is about how
strings can be manipulated," Tamburo explains, "and that's a theme of
my label as well." A recent mini-CD features him playing the Boyinger,
a 24-foot-long mandolin that took up much of an art gallery in
The label began in 2005 when Meisha recordings, Tamburo's budding solo
work, and the Nüx project by Arco pal Matt McDowell began piling up
with no one to release them. Tamburo was also talking to Louisville,
Ky. avant-guitarist Keenan Lawler, who didn't have any bites either.
Toss in a CD by Ken Camden of Meisha, and the label was born.
Since then, musicians have signed on from across the globe. Dave
Krejcki from Minneapolis debuts a contraption called the Cleophone
(the innards of a piano and a Rhodes electric, played with hammers,
bows, ball bearings and brushes), while San Francisco's Robert Horton
has created his own disorienting, ramshackle language from Just
Intonation influences and self-built instruments. Talented Detroit
fingerpicker Nick Schillace joined after touring with Tamburo, and
there's Hong Kong's Fathmount (a.k.a. Wilson Lee), who creates
spacious, Keith Rowe-ish guitar noise and has remixed some of
Tamburo's Boyinger tapes.
Tamburo roped in the locals, too: young folk-droner Tusk Lord (a.k.a.
Mike Kasunic) and Bradam Streiple (Adam Strohm and Brad Streiple's
noise duo). The latest release, Ghosts of Marumbey, produced with
friends in six cities under the umbrella moniker Mike Tamburo
Orchestra, also sports Tamburo's unique paintings (he's also a visual
artist). It's possibly Folk Hero's finest release yet, sure to
interest those into Do Make Say Think or Godspeed You Black Emperor.
Yet with all this activity, Tamburo still doesn't have serious
distribution. Instead, he sells CDs online, and to the audiences who
have seen him play well over 200 shows across the U.S. in the past two
years. He unloads just enough to press the next batch, while giving
the label's artists complete artistic freedom.
"I back anyone's vision once they're in a circle of trust," he
explains. "I try to help them discover something about themselves
through making music and putting out records." For more info, visit