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Albums Of The Week: Unpinnable Butterflies | Radio Ocean

Gabriel Judet-Weinshel soars between styles on a richly rewarding sophomore set.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Unpinnable Butterflies is the overarching project name for songwriter and film composer Gabriel Judet-Weinshel. When Grammy-nominated producer and composer Scott Healy (Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Phoebe Snow) first heard a collection of Gabriel’s demos and agreed to produce the songwriter’s first record, Gabriel found himself again surrounded by musical luminaries, as Healy assembled an all-star cast of some of New York City’s greatest session players and special guests.

Gabriel’s upcoming record and second collaboration with Healy, Radio Ocean is a sprawling and raucous affair, over a decade in the making. The record expands the sound of Gabriel’s sometimes intimate first record into a wider, free-wheeling and eclectic stew, channeling everything from country, to west African guitar riffs, to classic rock.

Healy and Judet-Weinshel have outdone themselves in assembling a who’s-who of A-list talent once again. The 13-tune album features a returning Shawn Pelton and Curt Bisquera (Mick Jagger, Tom Petty) on drums, the totemic Lee Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King) on bass, Jason Orme (Alanis Morissette) on guitar, a full horn session comprised of Conan O’Brien’s Basic Cable Band veterans; as well as featured guest appearances by Americana darlings Birds of Chicago (JT Nero and Allison Russell), the saxophone prodigy Grace Kelly (Jon Batiste, Lee Konitz), chanteuse Jessica Childress (Aloe Blacc, Portugal. The Man), indie maverick Kate Tucker and Perla Batalla (Leonard Cohen). As perhaps a sly nod to his filmmaking identity, Gabriel’s colleague, the esteemed rock photographer and director Danny Clinch, plays harmonica on Good Kings, a kitchen sink-type of tune, a febrile cross-section of the 20th and 21st centuries, a POV angle hurtling through the beauty and the wreckage.

Photo by Jessie English.

Amid all of this outstanding musical talent is Gabriel’s songwriting. His words and stories are baroque and literary, with invocations of Samuel Beckett (Burden Down), Thomas Pynchon (Radio Ocean), Arundhati Roy (Radio Ocean), and even a song about David Foster Wallace with quoted fragments from Infinite Jest (Sell Me the Morning).

Also a filmmaker under that original moniker, it was through this parallel career that Gabriel first brushed shoulders with some of his musical heroes: photographing a long list of luminaries including U2, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Judy Collins, Sheryl Crow, Lil’ Wayne, Ani DiFranco, Lyle Lovett, Counting Crows, James Taylor, The Black Keys, Nicki Minaj and Elton John, and directing videos for Ben Harper (Don’t Let Me Disappear and All Hands on Deck, a benefit video for The Movement for Black Lives), Braison Cyrus (Heart Is Gold) and Joseph Arthur (I Come Down). Never one to stop moving, Gabriel has since scored two feature films — the 2018 cult film 7 Splinters in Time, which he wrote and directed, and the Netflix documentary From Baghdad to Brooklyn — along with numerous television and web commercials. His songs have played nationally on Fuse’s Live From Bonnaroo, on the TV series In Between Men, and in the independent film Where Hope Grows. He led the house jazz trio for many years at New York’s Soho House, and he is hard at work on a cinema-musical. Each thread informs the next.

At once maximalist and personal, mythological and emotional, the stories told in Radio Ocean capture a modern world’s sundry moments of collapse and crisis. Woven throughout is a personal narrative about the vicissitudes of love, heartache, and the quest for meaning and connection in a fragmented time.”

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