19 Mar, 2013

Pitchfork: R.I.P. Jason Molina

This article originally posted at Pitchfork by Laura Snapes. 

Jason Molina, of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., has died, as Chunklet notes.

Molina died on Saturday, March 16 from organ failure due to alcohol consumption, according to Chunklet. His last release was 2012′s solo Autumn Bird Songs.

Molina’s lifelong label Secretly Canadian has issued a statement on Molina’s passing. They point out that he was 39 years old, and discuss how fundamental he was to the very existence of the label:

“This is especially hard for us to share. Jason is the cornerstone of Secretly Canadian. Without him there would be no us — plain and simple. His singular, stirring body of work is the foundation upon which all else has been constructed. After hearing and falling in love with the mysterious voice on his debut single “Soul” in early 1996, we approached him about releasing a single on our newly formed label. For some reason he said yes. We drove from Indiana to New York to meet him in person and he handed us what would become the first of many JMo master tapes. And with the Songs: Ohia One Pronunciation of Glory 7” we were given a voice as a label.”

Molina’s problems with alcohol were brought to public awareness in late 2011, when the Molina family posted a plea for contributions to Jason’s medical fund on the Magnolia Electric Co. website. They wrote that over the last two years, he had been in and out of rehab. He did not have medical insurance, and had been in convalescence working on a farm in West Virginia.

Molina began releasing music as Songs: Ohia in 1996, with a single release on Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s Palace Records. He was essentially Songs: Ohia, and was joined by a rotating cast of musicians over the course of that band’s many albums, which culminated with 2003′s Magnolia Electric Co., produced by Steve Albini. Although the transition between recording names was disputed, Molina clarified that he thought of 2002′s Didn’t It Rain as the final Songs: Ohia release.

Three studio albums were officially issued as the work of the Magnolia Electric Co.: 2005′s What Comes After the Blues, 2006′s Fading Trails, and 2009′s Josephine, as well as the Sojourner box set in 2007. In November 2009, he released the collaborative album Molina and Johnson with Centro-matic’s Will Johnson. Like the majority of Molina’s output, the record was released through Secretly Canadian. The pair planned to tour the record that winter; the dates were eventually canceled as a result of Molina’s health problems.

The last official message from Molina came in a post to Magnolia Electric Co.’s website in May 2012, where he talked about working on new music, and how the support of his fans had helped his recovery. He wrote:

“Treatment is good, getting to deal with a lot of things that even the music didn’t want to. I have not given up because you, my friends have not given up on me. I do still need your support however that takes shape, good vibes are worth more than you might think.”

Watch Molina and his band perform “Farewell Transmission” from 2003′s The Magnolia Electric Co. live in Atlanta in 2002.

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