A man wakes up one morning to find his partner has disappeared, leaving only a mysterious note: "Sorry. Leaving Earth." Distraught but determined, he borrows a spaceship from Saturn-born avant-jazz musician Sun Ra, and sets a course for Jupiter, figuring that's where his estranged lover is headed.
This hapless spaceman's story, titled "Transmission for Jehn," is relayed by Houston artist Tierney Malone on LateNightTales, a cross-cultural mix of vibey music from around the globe, curated by acclaimed Houston groove ambassadors Khruangbin. Comprised of guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee Ochoa and drummer Donald "DJ" Johnson, the psych-rock group released its third album Mordechai in June to critical acclaim. And as Khruangbin's star continues to rise, the trio is redirecting the spotlight to shine on Houston's creative community, tapping several local multidisciplinary artists as contributors on the new compilation album.
On LateNightTales, Malone delivers "Transmission for Jehn," accompanied by Erik Satie's haunting Gnossienne No. 1, played on banjo by Geoffrey Muller. His poem references several classic, space-themed songs, including Heatwave's "Star of the Story" and Sun Ra's "Love in Outer Space."
"My wife Jehnifer is a huge fan of the planet Jupiter," explains Malone. "So much so that one of our dogs is named after its moon Io." He recorded the poem in a studio located by a train track, listening and reacting to Muller's performance on headphones. "Luckily, no trains passed by while we were working," Malone laughs.
"The Little Girl in the Lion's Den" by Tierney Malone
As a visual artist, Malone explores the intersections of music, American history and activism. His latest work, titled "The Little Girl in the Lion's Den" and currently on-view in the windows of Lawndale Art Center through Jan. 16, depicts a young Ruby Bridges surrounded by flames and two roaring lions. It's the first in a series of works curated by Malone for his multi-year Sankofa project, which will explore the history of racial oppression of Black Americans. "My interest in this project is to use art as a means to investigate aspects of this history," says Malone. "We really can't deal with the issues that we are struggling with now if we don't understand how we got here." Houston artists Robert Hodge and Rabéa Ballin will also contribute to the project.
In this moment in human history, the multi-talented Malone continues to engage and enlighten audiences across space and time and speak to a potential new age of tolerance, racial justice, and creativity without borders.
LateNightTales, which also features Houston-based guitarist Kelly Doyle and vocalist David Marez, drops Dec. 4 in vinyl, CD and streaming formats.