Cortége Premiere “The Relentless Sun” From Under the Endless Sky EP Out May 10

cortege under the endless sky

Based in Austin but generally found rambling through one open-highway tour or another, Cortége encapsulate a particular vista with their latest EP, Under the Endless Sky. Out May 10 as a self-release from the avant heavy post-Americana outfit — who in 2021 had two offerings on Desert Records in featured in the Legends of the Desert: Vol. 2 (review here) split with The Penitent Man and the prior short release Chasing Daylight (review here) — it resides very much in the band’s sphere of sounds that resonate traditionalism in their cinematic Westernism while also serving as the studio introduction for multi-instrumentalist April Schupmann, whose trumpet is a standout high-end complement to founder Mike Swarbrick‘s low frequency bass VI and the cymbal wash from drummer Adrian Voorhies as “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 2” sweeps in following the two-minute sounds-of-outside-plus-synth opener “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 1” in a near-immediate showcase of the dynamic that’s manifest in the band’s sound since Schupmann joined in 2021.

Those first notes resonating from “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 2” are presented with a starkness that calls to mind Angelo Badalamenti‘s work on the tv show Twin Peaks, which is also in the wheelhouse of alt-universe Americana, so fair enough. Eight years on from their debut EP, Cortége for sure have a defined modus they’re working from, but Under the Endless Sky emphasizes what the true appeal of the band has become, which is their evolution toward that ideal. The process of becoming. “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 1” is barely there at the start, with some rustling and wind chimes on a neighbor’s porch, layers of drone, a rattle, a vague threat looming before piano emerges to clear the air, soon joined by keyboard in the transition to the second part. One might wonder why Cortége would bother including an intro at all to an 18-minute release, but the easy answer is because it matters, especially when mood is so much of the point.

The tubular bells in “The Relentless Sun” — premiering below, and the only one of the included pieces not titled as part of the “Under the Endless Sky” procession, which I’d call a ‘cycle’ were it not so god damned pretentious to do so — will be familiar to those who’ve encountered Cortége throughout their tenure, but what emerges from that churchy beginning, bolstered by melodica from Schupmann as well as the drums and surrounding percussion, is a klezmer-esque bounce. With a bassline you could liken to Fugazi more than Morricone (gotta change it up, right?), what sound like handchimes for melodic flourish and choral keyboard, “The Relentless Sun” is only a little over three minutes long, but it brings new ideas to Cortége and finds a playful moment as it passes through its middle en route to the sharp turn at 2:24 when the bass returns. Tone and crash echo in the stops, and the drum fills between are tense, but Cortége have bigger fish to fry, aesthetically speaking, than just a volume-burst payoff.

Waiting on the other end of the final crash and wash of “The Relentless Sun,” an image of which you’ll recognize if you’ve ever driven across the Great Plains surrounded by the titular ‘endless sky’ itself that seems to touch the ground on all sides of you, deep blue with maybe some high clouds mercifully breaking up a monotone in which one just might drown — ironic since the ocean’s promise of escape is so far away — is “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 3,” which embarks on a lumbering roll in the drums and bass. Punctuated by tolling bells, synth and a melody that’s there in layers of keys and maybe-piano, it is most evocative for being somewhat vague and unknowable, and made huge by virtue of the bass, drums and its depth of mix.

cortege (Photo by Bryan Haile)

That Cortége could construct such a feeling of place isn’t a surprise given what they’ve done over the course of their two albums and various other offerings — I think they’ve discovered the EP format suits them, and it does, but there’s nothing to say a third full-length couldn’t or wouldn’t happen — but the mature grace with which they execute the eight-minute focal-point of the release isn’t to be understated, and neither is the breadth of the arrangement as horns and keys harness grandiosity with the rumble of bass still beneath like gravity stopping it all from floating away. As “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 3” rolls into its second half, some flourish of keyboard circa 4:30 steps out as more X-Files than Gunsmoke — not a complaint; I want to believe… in an expanded sonic palette — and over the course of the next minute, shift toward a droning stretch with the bells and thud/crash/wash of drums holding out. It becomes increasingly obvious they’re not coming back.

And just in case you thought they forgot or that they’d leave a plot thread unresolved in the otherwise so mindfully immersive sprawl, “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 3” caps by fading out that last crash-laced synth/bass drone and returning briefly to a reprise of the EP’s intro, going so far as to include the windchimes again, which I swear to you I’m not imagining, however much that breeze seems to keep blowing after the track has actually stopped. There’s a lot to take in for a release that’s under 20 minutes long, but Cortége are that much more able to let the listener process what they’re hearing by conveying a sense of overwhelm — as surely the state of being Under the Endless Sky will do — without actually being too much or doing more than the songs seem to call for. More textured and progressive than they’ve yet been, and maybe more patient, which is saying something, Under the Endless Sky establishes this semi-new incarnation of Cortége in the band’s oeuvre while expanding the conceptual parameters there included.

In its overarching atmosphere and in the adventurous courses of its individual pieces, it shows Cortége‘s commitment to ongoing creative growth and leaves a trail behind of hints as to where that may be headed. Hitting play again to go back through Under the Endless Sky for another round, I can only look forward to discovering where it leads.

“The Relentless Sun” premieres below, followed by more info from the PR wire including your dates Swarbrick will do with Destroyer of Light, for good measure.




Instrumental, post-western, retro-futurism innovators Cortége will release their new album titled, Under The Endless Sky, worldwide on May 10, 2024.

Cortége (pronounced kor-‘tezh) is the French word for funeral procession. The band was co-founded in 2012 by Mike Swarbrick, who holds a degree in Mortuary Science. Originally rooted in doom, Cortége expanded into the realms of drone and electronic soundscapes. Drawing from early electronic composers, progressive rock icons of the ’70s, instrumental music, film score elements and the cowboy psychedelia-drenched guitar twang of famed Lee Hazelwood discovery Duane Eddy, the band’s sound continued to evolve and draw influence from the aesthetic of the old West. A hallmark of the trio’s sound is their use of tubular bells both in the studio and live.

Austin-based drummer Adrian Voorhies (Humut Tabal, Canyon of the Skull) joined the band in the fall of 2017. By 2021 April Schupmann (Sniper 66) joined on trumpet and percussion. Cortége will appeal to fans of Bell Witch, Earth, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Spindrift and Federale.

Under The Endless Sky was recorded at Red Star Mule Barn Sound Studio in Austin, Texas, and engineered by Sam Whips Allison. “The name of the album, came from touring and driving across the plains in ‘big sky country,'” says Mike Swarbrick.

The band has shared the stage with acts such as Mdou Moctar, Rezn, Hippie Death Cult, The Well, Duel, The Schisms and Dead Register. Cortége plans to tour and perform frequently in 2024. They are confirmed to play Surf by Surf East in Austin, Texas on March 2, 2024 at Hi Sign Brewing.

Under The Endless Sky track listing:
1. Under The Endless Sky part 1
2. Under The Endless Sky part 2
3. The Relentless Sun
4. Under The Endless Sky part 3

Sam Whips Allison: Engineering
Matthew Barnhart: Mastering
John Pesina, Bryan Haile: Photography
David Paul Seymour: Logo
April Schupmann: Layout
Rosie Armstrong: Saxophone
Kurt Armstrong: Trombone

Mike Swarbrick of Cortége on tour with Destoryer of Light:
4/10 – El Paso @ Rosewood
4/11 – Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
4/12 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Usual Place
4/13 – Oceanside, CA @ The Pourhouse
4/14 – Palmdale, CA @ Transplant Brewing
4/16 – San Francisco, CA @ Knockout
4/17 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark
4/18 – Seattle, WA @ Substation
4/19 – Boise, ID @ Realms
4/20 – Salt Lake City @ Aces High
4/21 – Denver – @ Black Buzzard
4/23 – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
4/24 – Oklahoma City, OK/Wichita, KS @ TBA
4/25 – Tulsa, OK @ Whittier Bar
4/26 – Van Buren, AR @ Iron Horse Records
4/27 – Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern
4/28 – Arlington, TX @ Growl

Cortége is:
Mike Swarbrick: bass VI, synthesizers, tubular bells, piano
Adrian Voorhies: drums
April Schupmann: trumpet, melodica, percussion

Cortége on Bandcamp

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Cortége on Instagram

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