Thing of the Day 

In memory of Danny McClain, drummer of Grand Ulena

April 19th 2011

Grand Ulena, by Nathan KayeGrand Ulena were a band before their time. Seen their name mentioned in connection with great bands like Dazzling Killmen and Sicbay, and Chicago's Skin Graft Records, never really checked them out, just knew they were part of this mass of creativity coming out of that part of the States, one of those names that by association you'd remember to check out on a compilation or buy in a record sale.  An instrumental math rock/ avant prog trio, when such things were even rarer than they are today, Grand Ulena released an album and an EP in 2003 (and a 7" split single with Sicbay, in 2002), then went quiet.  Then, the awful news, in late March, that the remarkable drummer of Grand Ulena, Danny McClain, recently died at the distressingly early age of 31, from what appears to have been complications from pneumonia.

Grand Ulena - Neosho EPResponses from musicians in their home town of St Louis, and from all over the Stateside underground of cutting-edge rock, show the high regard Grand Ulena was held in: a lost gem of a band. They have been described as 'life-changing', and 'hugely influential'  with Ahleuchatistas guitarist Shane Perlowin describing their only album (Gateway To Dignity) as 'one of the most important rock records of the 21st century'.

As a truly fitting memorial to Danny McClain, the bassist and guitarist of Grand Ulena, Darin Gray and Chris Trull, have just made both the album and EP available to download for free.

Grand Ulena - Gateway To Dignity LP   "Grand Ulena released the amazing and bewildering debut LP Gateway to Dignity in 2003 and the Neosho EP followed the same year. Danny’s style and personality were mind blowing, brutal at times, delicately nuanced at others, and comical.

“We are devastated by the loss of our friend and band mate Danny McClain. He was a uniquely talented musician, and dear friend. He was immensely proud of the music we made together. To honor his memory, we’d like to share it with you.”
— Darin Gray and Chris Trull, Grand Ulena

 To download high quality MP3s of the Gateway to Dignity LP and Neosho EP go to www.family-vineyard.com/grandulena.

Within about a minute of the first track on Gateway To Dignity, you know why there have been tributes from Time Of Orchids, Extra Life, Jim O'Rourke, Ahleuchatistas, Sicbay, Wolf Eyes... and here is the youTube testament to what we have lost.

Grand Ulena were part of a truly underground aesthetic, making their music because they had to, by all accounts having a tough time but still creating work of this lasting power. Many people, myself included, will wish they had come across their music years ago.

  A page of fine tributes and Grand Ulena history can be found here: blogs.riverfronttimes.com/danny_mcclain

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