Photos by Antonia Basler
Ephemera, the sophomore release from Sumner James (solo project of Bombadil drummer James Phillips), delivers an electronic meditation on memory, time, and the miscellany of life. Recorded at Eyrst Studio in Portland, OR and produced by longtime friend Justin Longerbeam, the record is an exploration of the jagged truths and glimmering fictions we tell that blur into our own existence. Ephemera takes its title from the William Butler Yeats poem of the same name, and dwells on Yeats’ formulation, “Before us lies eternity; our souls/Are love, and a continual farewell.” With Ephemera, Sumner James moves into the future while being haunted by the continual leave-taking of the past. Awash in the flotsam of time, James armed himself with heartaches and hopes to produce the album. The voices of friends—Cristina Cano, Karl Kling and Ripley Snell—give body to the ghosts that populate James’s disappearing world. The album reminds us that while our bodies may be in the world, we live in our minds; our physical being is fixed in the present, but our brains send us hurtling again and again into the subjunctive. Working through this paradox, Sumner James wonders at a future spent devoted to a spurned old flame, worries over a life spent pursuing a dream instead of a family, begs a lackluster lover to remember dancing the night away. Adrift in the anxiety of the past, Sumner James reaches with Ephemera for hope in the future, for something a little brighter, a little better, a self a little more stable.
Sumner James McGraw Phillips was born in the caul in Baltimore, Maryland, and has been searching for something ever since. He makes his home in Durham, North Carolina. Sumner James, his electronic project, takes him in new directions and allows him to dig into his love of Caribou, William Onyeabor, and found sounds.
Ephemera is out April 9 on EYRST Interactive. The first single, “Never Love Again,” is streaming now at sumnerjames.bandcamp.com.