Emil Amos’ Drifter’s Sympathy: The Dawn & Renaissance Of Home Recording

In addition to his music projects (Holy Sons, Om, Grails, Lilacs & Champagne), the tireless Emil Amos has been cranking out one of the most captivating podcasts of the past few years. With Drifter’s Sympathy, Amos tells “disturbing and often humiliating stories about growing up in a small town in the ‘90s,” while outlining the “birth and trials of the ‘outsider,’ the classic loner archetype in all cultures and literature.”

A fascinating meditation on drugs, gurus, and teenage malaise, narrative episodes of the show alternate with an exploration of lesser-known music, such as “American Trailblazers,” “Plastic Flower People,” “Sleazy Listening,” and “Library Music.” Recently returning for its fourth season, Drifter’s Sympathy has upped the ante dramatically.

In the two most recent music-focused episodes, Amos chronicles the rise of home-recording, from the “father of the four-track” Les Paul up through Ariel Pink, the “misfit spat out of the lava and capable of mocking consumer culture.” An exhaustive and entertaining linear trip through the decades and the “hybridizers and innovators” of varying shades of notoriety and tragedy. Amos tells the tale of the freaks taking over the technology Les Paul gave to Ampex—Joe Meek fighting against the British recording industry and hitting the charts from his bedroom, Rodd Keith (the “Mozart of the song poem composers”) going above and beyond when setting other loners’ words to music, and Cramps-favorite Hasil Adkins, who just assumed solo performers played all the instruments on their recordings. R. Stevie Moore, the legendary figure Amos deems “much more important than the world seemed to allow him to be at the time,” bridges the shift from the Dawn to the Renaissance, where Daniel Johnston, Guided By Voices, Sebadoh, and eventually Ariel Pink would assume the mantle—a palace of dreams where the burgeoning underground could turn loners to heroes.

All in all, two episodes of essential listening for the heads, especially the ones who have ever spent time alone trying to reach out to the world at large. words/k evans

Tune in: The Dawn/ The Renaissance