The Telling formed in the late 80's as an avant rock band, performing in clubs and art galleries with dreamy, abstract multi-media. Looking to have more freedom to experiment with orchestral, electronic pop, the band eventually evolved into a duo, bringing in additional players as needed.
Listening to everything from Prokofiev to Pink Floyd, Don and Sheri Swanson combined layers of ambient electronics with evocative vocals, conjuring a cinematic experience unlike other L.A.bands at the time. Inspired by 4 AD and Eno produced collaborations, the two partnered with electronic composer, Richard Burmer to engineer their first album. Audio ideas the three came up with, ended up in sound effects libraries.
The Telling's first E.P., "The Telling", was released on their own label, In Praesenti, in 1986. College radio embraced this ethereal record that sparkled with sampled koto, shakuhachi flute, shamisen, a simulated Balinese Ramayana Monkey chant, and other unique sound gems. It was hailed as both "exquisite" and "exciting" by The Music Connection, and "quite an intriguing treat" by CMJ Magazine.
For their second album, the two focused on creating genuine songs to anchor the ambient atmospherics. They continued experimenting with samples – such as using kitchen knives on dulcimer strings, rattling shells in an empty hallway, or recording wind in the Angeles Crest Mountains. The duo's dedication to pioneering new sounds had them hauling equipment everywhere, from industrial parks, to the doctor's office to sample their child's fetal heartbeats. They also hired classical musicians to add trumpet, flugelhorn, viola, oboe, cello, and French horn.
At this point, major labels had scouted The Telling, but they chose the S.F. based indie label, Music West, because of their fierce enthusiasm and promise to push boundaries. They signed in 1989, and the brilliant Blue Solitaire was released in 1990, after re-recording in a state of the art studio, co-produced with Frosty Horton. Frosty's friend, and well-known pianist, George Winston made a rare guest appearance on the closing track, "A Mile Of Broken Stone".
The Telling now received commercial airplay, and were declared one of the best albums of the year by Pulse Magazine. "This is music with intelligence, the kind of album you listen to over and over because you're addicted to the sound and delighted by the poetic imagery." Soon after making their first video however, Music West suddenly went under. In a brief, moment on the shelves, The Telling still managed to sell an impressive 40,000 units, and were distributed world wide.
The third time they went back to the studio, Sheri wanted to return to her folk roots, and combine American and European traditions with their trademark atmospherics. Heart wrenching vocals wrapped in an ambient electro-acoustic sheen, comprise the compelling "Glimmer Field” released in 1998 on their own label, In Praesenti. A trail of tears, contemporary and historic, personal and global, glides through a complex contrast of clouds brightened with silver linings.
"Glimmer Field" begins with a whisper on the slowly building "Flying Solo" - an adaptation of Edvard Grieg's "Norwegian Rustic March". Classical orchestration continues on "As the Years Go Passing By", creating a new blues hybrid. A Paiute Indian chant introduces the epic eight minute, "The Arrow Cries", and poetry graces the silky "Sheltering Sky". In keeping with folk traditions, politics make a subtle appearance in "Day of Doves" (aftermath of "Shock and Awe") and "A Rising Tide" (reflections on the L.A. civil disturbances of 1992). After years in the making, the meticulous recording ends to strains of a plaintive melodica, and a hint of laughter on the perfectly summed up, "A Comedy Of Errors".