Boxhead EnsembleDutch Harbor: Where The Sea Breaks Its Back

Label:Atavistic – ALP85CD
CD, Album
Genre:Stage & Screen
Style:Soundtrack, Avantgarde, Free Improvisation


2Unalaska Island
GuitarCharles Kim
3For The Glory Of The Wind And The Water4:03
4Ship Supply
ReedsKen Vandermark
Tape [Tapes]Braden King
ViolinCharles Kim
5Telegraph Hill4:12
6The Ravens8:08
7Mother Gromoff
VoiceMother Gromoff
8Captain's Bay Road
GuitarJim O'Rourke
9At Sea
GuitarDavid Grubbs
Guitar [Intro]Charles Kim
10The Valley
Guitar, ViolinCharles Kim
PianoDavid Grubbs
11Ebb's Folly
Guitar, Electronics, Recorded ByJim O'Rourke
Written-By, Guitar, Vocals, Recorded ByWill Oldham
12In Closing3:20

Companies, etc.



Ensemble recorded July 10, 1996 at Truckstop Audio Recording Co.
"Ebb's Folly" recorded at Steamroom - October 1996

© NO CHOICE Filmproduction

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode: 7 35286 19852 2

Other Versions (1)

View All
Title (Format)LabelCat#CountryYear
New Submission
Dutch Harbor: Where The Sea Breaks Its Back (CD, Album)AtavisticALP85CDUS1997


  • HighwireDays's avatar
    I had fate on my side when I bought this on a whim in 1997, not long after it came out, after seeing a description of it in a Touch & Go Records mailorder catalog. I was obsessed with The Sea And Cake & Tortoise, and mistakenly thought Doug McCombs played in both; plus I dug the name of the film / album and their cover art. (25 years later, I still haven’t seen the film.) Anyway, this soundtrack is a masterclass in subtle tension-building via utilizing spaces between notes. The opening few tracks, especially “Ship Supply,” set the Arctic tone, giving feelings of dread as one imagines heading out to the unforgiving sea. “Telegraph Hill,” one of the bleakest things ever laid to tape, is a solo piano piece by Michael Krassner, with wind serving as a sort of percussion. The truly incredible “Ebb’s Folly” got me into both Will Oldham and Jim O’Rourke, causing me to quickly buy Palace’s great Arise Therefore album. I doubt Oldham will ever top this dramatic song in any of his many performing guises. The aptly-named closing track finally releases the tension and lets beams of sunlight stream down. I like to think that it inspired the final track on Tortoise’s TNT album the following year.

    Why is this essential album not available on vinyl?
    • notec's avatar
      WHETHER THIS IS a soundtrack for a fictional film or not - I can't say for sure. THE BOXHEAD ENSEMBLE are real however and they are the combined talents of Joe Ferguson - David Grubbs - Charles Kim - Michael Krassner - Doug McCombs - Jim O'Rourke - David Pavkovic - Rick Rizzo and Ken Vandermark with a special appearance by Will Oldham who wrote "Ebb's Folly" and performed it with O'Rourke (who adds his special touch of electronics at the end). The main theme is the Ocean surrounding the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea this "Dutch Harbor" was once the last place to go where man had left no footprints; "Where The Sea Breaks Its Back" may well be the perfect bookend to the Rachel's "The Sea and the Bells" - inviting and alluring, formless and uncivilized. A stark and indigenous sound, orchestrated by today's most prolific avant-garde interpreters and soundsmiths - this is a visual trip with added narratives from several people explaining the situation and setting up the stage ("For The Glory Of The Wind and the Water" "Mother Gromoff" and "In Closing"). Most of these 12 songs have ghostly effects with a few recordings of just a solo artist like "Captain's Bay Road" O'Rourke's Fahey inspired guitar track which uses as its jumpoff point the ambience from inside a pickup truck driving down the road.



      21 For Sale from $2.99


      • Have:288
      • Want:68
      • Avg Rating:3.84 / 5
      • Ratings:32
      • Last Sold:
      • Lowest:$2.08
      • Median:$5.20
      • Highest:$10.31

      Videos (12)