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Until the Ocean

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Album Review

Unabashedly cinematic, experimental, and oblivious to the musical trends that have so violently pumped through pop culture's veins since the Ithaca-based group's 1981 inception as a straight-up traditional folk outfit, upstate New York's resident "old-timey/post-folk/art rock" ensemble the Horse Flies' last non-soundtrack studio album was 1991's Gravity Dance, a typically eclectic set of Northern oddities that straddled the line between new wave and new weird America. Where the latter fell upon the slippery sword of the era's penchant for slick over-produced commercial knob-twiddling, the band's first proper album in nearly 17 years fulfills the promise made on 1987's electrifying and dystopian bluegrass collection Human Fly. Until the Ocean draws on all of the band's strengths, allowing all the players enough space to carve out their own days in a week filled with overcast skies, brisk spring mornings, and brake lights on black ice. Each of the 11 cuts, with the exception of Richie Stearns' gripping rendition of the late-19th century temperance movement ballad "Drunkard's Child," is anchored by Jeff Claus' hypnotic banjo-ukulele and Judy Hyman's heavily delayed violin, both of which have been the backbone of the Horse Flies' sound since the mid-'80s. Claus offers up four originals, all of which echo the atmospheric minor-key musings found on Human Fly, as well as his 2004 album with Flies offshoot Boy with a Fish; Stearns provides two wildly different signature pieces; Hyman tosses in a pair of devilish instrumentals; and the band lays to waste any preconceived notion of the word "traditional" on the three remaining tracks, two of which (the old-timey standard "Oh Death" and backwoods dance piece "Cluck Old Hen") are as good as anything they've released in the past. It's a rarity to hear a band return with this much confidence after such a lengthy hiatus, especially after losing a key member (original bass player John Hayward passed away in 1997). The Horse Flies will always be a niche band (too dark and weird for "folkies" and too "folky" for rockers), but Until the Ocean makes for an awfully sturdy bridge between the two, and is without a doubt the greatest "Yankee gothic/northern Appalachian/neo-traditional/college folk-rock" album of 2008.

Customer Reviews

This is the essence of MUSIC!

This is THE best abum of 2008 for me. I can't believe that this band hasn't gotten the recognition that they should be. The music industry isn't what it used to be, with terrible bands and singers becoming millionaires with songs written by ghost-writers and all of the best music forced into the underground. Actually... i think the music industry has always been like that. Anyways, anyone with a respect for amazing music should buy this album... there are so many different styles of music from all over the world being blended together so perfectly on this one disc that I think my head will explode every time I listen to it (thats a good thing.)


This album is definitely not to be missed. It is amazing how well this band blends so many different styles of music into something that sounds so good! You have to listen to every single song on the album, but my favorites have to be "Carnival Lips", "Build a House and Burn it Down", and "Oh Death." I hope that this amazing band gets the recognition that they have deserved for so long with this new release, which, in case you didn't know, is the bands first in over a decade.

It's a beautiful day!

Thank You kcrw for the song of the day download. Every once in a while you find a jewel in a crown of thorns.


Formed: 1979

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '80s

The old-timey tradition is brought to modern standards by the Horse Flies. While their sound retains elements of turn of the century string band music, the Horse Flies have taken things much further by adding Caribbean rhythms, avant-garde jazz improvisation, classical minimalism, and punk rock dissonance to create what they've dubbed "neo-primitive bug music." Fiddler Judy Hyman and banjo ukulele/guitar player Jeff Claus launched the Horse Flies shortly after moving from Bloomington, IN, to Ithaca,...
Full Bio
Until the Ocean, The Horse Flies
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Customer Ratings