Kennebec is the musical outlet of Eric Phillips, a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist currently living in Portland, Oregon by way of Boston MA. He draws from an eclectic array of influences including left field ambient electronic music, folk, hip-hop, indie rock and soundtracks to create his own unique style of cinematic music.
Although he was born and raised on the US East coast (grew up in Boston; schooled in New York), his current domicile, Portland, with its untamed and rugged Oregonian terrain, seems so much more in tune with these gently contemplative songs.. “If the first album was like the Olympic Peninsula, where there’s a bunch of temperate rainforests, this album was more like the redwoods in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Still staying in this region, but a little less wet, dense and chaotic, but very lush and beautiful.”
The revelation on this latest set are Eric’c collaborations, which include Sudan Archives, British trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, fellow Portlander Kalaido and, especially, Samuel T. Herring, who lends vocals to three tracks (one under his alter ego, Hemlock Ernst). Arguably, Herring’s voice sounds more at home in Phillips’ leafy arcadia than on Future Islands. “Sam and I had both recently been through tumultuous times in our personal lives when we first met, and I think our styles just resonated well with one another. He was just coming out of a relationship when he was penning ‘Canyons’, so it was particularly charged in that moment. We sent some ideas back and forth and then he flew out to Portland and we recorded all the vocals in three days together. It was so fun and inspiring and really deepened my appreciation for his artistry.”
The Kennebec sound palette draws from far and wide, like Japanese composers Joe Hisaishi, Koji Kondo and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Brazilian guitar legends Luiz Bonfá and Baden Powell, roots players like Leo Kottke and John Fahey, as well as avowed modernists Bibio, Jon Hopkins and Alfa Mist (who remixed a track from Departure). Although Phillips regards himself as primarily a guitarist, he plays most of the instruments on Without Star Or Compass, including ngoni (a stringed instrument that is smaller, but similar to the kora), classical guitar, piano, synthesizers, drum programming and percussion, aided by the gifted violinist (who plays with Joanna Newsom) Mirabai Peart, cellist Dylan Rieck, Mitch Limori on wind instruments and Ross Garlow’s upright bass, all recorded in Eric’s basement studio in Portland.