Simple Machines

by On a Clear day

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Simple Machines is the newest album by sound artist and storyteller On a Clear Day. Using her voice, a loop pedal, and an accordion, she layers sounds upon sound to create new landscapes for your ear: songscapes.

Simple Machines explores the intersections of hard science and intangible emotion; that there is an explanation for everything, whether based in scientific method or the stories we create. This album embraces the value of both science and storytelling, presenting the false binary that has been artificially constructed to keep these seemingly opposing ideologies separate. Because science does not have an explanation for everything just yet, and sometimes the supernatural can actually have a scientific foundation.


released January 8, 2016

All songs, music, and lyrics
by Stefanie Brendler except:

Keep breaking your heart until it opens
by Rumi

What is the metronome if it is not our heart?
uttered by Gary Luke during rehearsal
with the Bucharest Drinking Team

“Oh Quilcene,” “With the Whales,”
and “So we Start Again”
re-recorded for this album
previously recorded in 2010 for
the album Mountains and Valleys

Cover art by Stefanie Brendler
Scanning/editing by EJ Landsman

Computer/web by Hannah Holtgeerts

Recorded and mixed
by Andrew Wheatley
in The Aviary during the second half of 2015

Additional thanks to
Marc, Opal, Johnny, & Coach




On a Clear day Seattle, Washington

On a Clear Day performs live-looping, electro-acoustic songscapes and storytelling, micro-ballads and poetic pleas for accordion and voice. On a Clear Day sings the intimacy of deep secrets and brings fading memories to life.

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Track Name: Watch Out, Tide's Out
We were in North Carolina, ain't no tellin' just for how long
But the road we wore upon our backs and the horizon.
I never knew of Bloomington, ain't never seen it for myself
but the kids, they tell me stories of traveling to new lands.
With this pen in my hands, I'm traveling to new lands.
Well, I don't know if I believe in God,
but I do believe that we're all worthy
but my dear Albuquerque, it's as though I don't exist.
Had better luck further north,
charmed by a bookstore in Santa Fe
it's these things our songs our made of,
it's the story in my hands.
With this story in my hands, I'm traveling to new lands.
With this song in my head, I'm traveling to new lands.
One day, a ways ago, you settled down, you settled down.
Watch out, tide's out.
Track Name: Oh Quilcene
I've got huckleberries to my east
and salmon berries to my west
I've got salmon berries to my west
and huckleberries to my east
Oh Quilcene, you hardly know me.
Meet me at the lighthouse and the cottage by the sea.
You said, “I'll meet you at the lighthouse
and the cottage by the sea.”
Oh Quilcene
Track Name: Kinesthetic
Everything is waking up/sensitive to vibration...
She said I'm kinesthetic, it's how I keep myself alive.
She said I'm kinesthetic, when the earth breathes, I breathe.
He said it's only physics:
it's sound waves, it's plucked strings, it's vibration
it's only physics;
it's ancient civilizations discovering the same thing
Tell me a story of astrology and the harmonic overtone series
Don't push it – don't push myself too hard
There was an earthquake a ways away
Track Name: Dear Math
Dear Math, dear science, I can see the way you treat my heart you're trying not to fall apart, too.
And to the best scientist, oh please read between the lines, I've tried all that I can try but my heart is not an equation.
I'll let you try to crack the code,
to decipher what I do not know – and so it goes.
To my dear astronaut, tell me more about this gravity
– you see, I can't keep my feet tethered
for one day I may fly away, I'll drift until I find my way
– I need some help keeping both feet on the ground.
But if you give me your calloused hand,
I'll give you my tender heart.
And so it goes.
My heart is but a simple machine,
it keeps the pulse, it keeps the beat.
This song is but a simple machine,
it keeps the pulse, it keeps the beat of my heart.
Track Name: Flight
That moment of hovering, when the branches break
and gravity no longer exists...
When, suspended in air, weightless, anything is possible.
Before gravity returns,
before physics and laws of nature, before...
That moment before gravity is flight

In this machine, I'm on autopilot,
I am going going going and when I say ready,
it means we count down to zero, and then we bolt.
'Cause when you say “ready ready ready” and I say “lista,”
and you say “jump” and I say “how high?”
And I'm flying flying flying, flying through the air,
I'm flying down the hill, I'm on my bike –
and nothing can stop me now, I'm adrenaline,
no fight, just flight.
I am Robin Williams, I am Peter Pan –
no stars in sight, just flight.

In this machine, which might be an earthship,
which might be a whale, or thunder and lightning,
I am running running running into your arms –
into your song is a place where I can go
where we play make-believe, where we can feel the feels,
where you can build me a dream or write me a song
and your warmth plays harmonies, the last of your sunbeams,
the contours of this earth and my body that holds me up.
And it rained so hard, and we played 'til dawn,
and I measure your loss because you're gone gone gone.
And even though you're gone, even though you're gone,
though you're gone there will always be a need for song.
Track Name: From Another Dimension
She asked, “what are you so excited about
and how do you play that squeeze-box so well?”
Sometimes it's time to put the pen down, so I said:
You could call it a break-up that winter I ran away
You could call it a break-up:
four months doing time in my own mind.
I wrote you a letter, postage-paid
Transported through the desert and extreme heat.
I sent you a letter, my words were set ablaze;
I sent you a letter from another dimension.
Been torn apart my whole life.
I have not trusted my heart and often failed to open it
So keep breaking your heart until it opens.
Maybe I don't believe in astrology,
but I believe in you and me
I like how we play make-believe.
You could call it a break-up that winter I ran away
You could call it a break-up:
four months doing time in my own mind.
Track Name: On this Day
On this day, your eyes a quick glance my way
On this day, “hold my hand,” you say
“Missing you,” he says, I blush and turn away
On this day, “hold my hand,” you say
Track Name: With the Whales
Can I make you love me in 20 seconds?
I could be swimming naked with the whales,
my feet below the arctic edge, no time to stop breathing,
but it's time to stop breathing
This is no slow and steady courtship
I could be swimming naked with the whales,
your soft flesh against my edge, your breath in my ear
You said you like it glacial
If it's gray just one more day...
I can't make you love me
I wish you well.
Track Name: Darling Nightshade
Darling nightshade, where do you grow?
In the garden, in the back row.
Gently, sweetly, sing to me
as darkness falls upon your leaves.
Track Name: Summer Camp
I remember in the back seat of the van at summer camp
crammed against each other, bodies intertwined,
I remember night time in July.
On the A.T. in the Pennsylvania mountains,
how could I know it would be so cold?
I'd sneak over to the boys, we'd sleep in a big pile
I wonder if they knew the whole time
what took me years to identify
that when we woke up in the morning to the sun,
to the mountains, to whatever we'd find
between the hours of dark and light,
between sleep and life, it would be all right.

My best friend, he had a crush on me – I couldn't see.
When I wake up, will you still be lying next to me?
It's been years and years, I'm not sure you care
but I can still read your face, you may never understand
that sometimes still, I want to cry in your arms
when I think of you, how I really loved you.
I'll always have a place in my heart for you, after dark,
when we're not sleeping anyways.
Track Name: Hyberdating
Your postcard condones what I recommend:
that we keep in touch because I am your friend
and the telephone rings once in a while,
I can't help but smile when I hear your voice sing to me
of all the things we haven't said yet,
we've been waiting for just this time to breathe –
together, your voice and mine
holding hands on the telephone line.

Short visits from you, few and further between;
I call, you don't answer: you're always so busy.
And where's the line between being a good friend
and never wanting to see you again?
'Cause when we do talk I can tell you're not always listening.

And I should have known you don't play by the rules,
'cause otherwise I'd have tried to shoot the moon.
So just 'cause you've got a new sweetie, don't forget about me.
Track Name: Family Tree
She offered to buy me a sun dress.
No thanks, i'll wear a tie instead.

I'll admit, I talk shit
i'm your grandkid
don't forget

I am (and i'm not) a beautiful and unique snowflake
what's mine is hers and hers is mine
this gender, it was assigned
just like our mother's
but you'd wished for another.

So granddad, please, tell me this:
have you always been a misogynist?
Were you a jerk before the war?
Can you tell me what you were fighting for?

Was it for the boys?
The boys, the boys,
it was – for the boys.

And Grandma says
she cooks and she cleans
and she smiles when you're mean
and this is how to make 60 years last.
She said it without a flinch:
this is how to make 60 years last.

So, to my elders, aunts and uncles,
my sister and cousins:
this iron that runs in our veins
toxicity in the branches of this tree
this iron inside of you and me
it does not have to stop our hearts
to remind us that we bleed.

Iron in my veins, where do you think you are going?
Track Name: Nigun
I said to the cantor, “I can't hold a tune,
I won't sing for you. Stop asking, don't make me
this choice wasn't mine.”
yai dai dai dai dai...
From a song it all started
a wordless melody
older than language
older than time
I breathe through the length of this horn, it's true
through my bellows I sing this song for you
how many languages have a word for “nigun”?
yai dai dai dai dai...
You fought me before
and you fought me today
you said, “We can't pay you
but please come play.”
The way we see is not eye-to-eye,
but it's in your blood
and it's also in mine
and it's no surprise that
musicians need paychecks, too.
yai dai dai dai dai...
I breathe through my horn, it's true
and play these songs for you
and so I sing you a nigun.
Track Name: So we Start Again
I have a story to tell
of Mima & Pipa
of inherited debt
of the business

he said, “on a scale of 1-10, a one won't land you in jail”
I asked, was it illegal, or was it mismanagement?

The year daddy didn't take a cut at payroll time
he said, “this is when you learn who your real friends are”

I have a story to tell
of bankruptcy
but we get to keep the house

So, we start again.