Alison Mosshart debuts ‘Car Ma’ and ‘Sound Wheel’ in words, images and sound

Alison Mosshart (Photo by David James Swanson)

Polymath painter, photographer and poet Alison Mosshart (The Kills, Dead Weather) builds from the karma of the Beats in a year where “pandemic lockdown” just seems to mean push the gas pedal harder in creating and releasing her own art.

In the spring, the alt-rock songstress released her debut solo singles “Rise” and “It Ain’t Water” via Domino Records. Last week saw the release of her multimedia works released in companion book and sound formats, “Car Ma” and “Sound Wheel,” out via Dead Weather bandmate Jack White’s Third Man Records.

On page one of the visual tome, Mosshart begins (in verse), “Car MA is a book about Cars, Art, Romance, Music, Attraction / Carnage, Asphalt, Rage, Madness, Allies,” before dedicating it to “those I love who give me hell.”

Within the over 100 pages following are a cornucopia of abstract and collage art, photography, words in verse, script, stream-of-consciousness and narrative prose about people observed and her own experiences and impressions of L.A., Louisiana, Mexico, Miami, Paris and parts between. There is an unsettled, moving variety to it all, like “The Man Who Fell to Earth” observing life on the planet through a wall of television screens with various scenes. But Mosshart isn’t just sitting back absorbing it all. She’s an active participant documenting life, and living it, through all its wreckage and strangeness.

While writing and assembling the book, she began to record herself reading parts aloud to work them out. That begat a new creation, “… This tool I was using to help me, started feeling like this whole other angle or art form,” said the singer-songwriter. “And I started thinking it would be interesting to perform/record the whole book, not in a straight up spoken word way, but more like a sound sculpture of characters and voices and miscellaneous cut ups, no rules. After a full month of being obsessed with making the book, I then spent the next month obsessed with recording it… ’Sound Wheel’ is the sonic version of the book, but it’s its own animal really. It’s not music but there are songs on it, it’s not spoken word, but I talk a lot. Of course, after all that writing and then all that recording, I thought, hmmm, well it sure would be fun to make little films for all these sound pieces… and so I started doing that. ‘Car Ma’ continues to be, for me, exploding out in all directions.”

Not only did Mosshart write and record all 47 tracks of “Sound Wheel,” she also directed, edited and produced the videos for both “Rise” and “It Ain’t Water” and nine of the tracks on the companion recording.

“Been a long time coming and I’m beyond thankful to Third Man Records for having the faith and the energy to release the bizarro innards of my brains and heart,” she penned in a note on social media. “I love TMR madly and all of you who’ve been a part in the making of and the supporting of this project. Too many of you to name but you know who you are. Thank you truly from the bottom of my heart.”

Armchair travelers can continue following Mosshart ‘on the road’ on Instagram.

||| Watch: “Rise” and “It Ain’t Water”

||| Also: From “Sound Wheel,” watch the videos for “The Excerpt Reel,” “Returning the Screw,” “Eastern Standards in the Wild West” and “LA”

||| Previously: Mini Mansions: “Hey Lover,” / Gang of Four: “Broken Talk,” / Dead Weather: Live at the Regent Theater / The Kills: “Doing It to Death,” “Black Balloon,” Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the Regent Theater, the Fox Theater, the Mayan, the El Rey, the Music Box, Coachella.