Posted September 6, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Leo Kottke and Phish’s Mike Gordon Release First Collaboration in 15 Years

Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon photo by Jared Slomoff
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon photo by Jared Slomoff

Acoustic guitar pioneer Leo Kottke and Phish bassist Mike Gordon released Noon, their first new album together in 15 years, at all DSPs and streaming services on Aug. 28. The album’s physical release is set for Nov. 20.

Phish Dry Goods will have a limited pressing on clear vinyl with Red/Gold splatter.

The songs “Ants” and “I Am Random,” a whimsical tune a dude who doesn’t make much sense, are both available now at all DSPs and streaming services. 

The album marks Kottke’s first studio record since his previous collaboration with Gordon, 2005’s 66 STEPS, which the duo recorded in New Orleans and Vermont, with music exchanged between the two artists by file, tape-sealed boombox, sheet music, and face-to-face.

Working with longtime Gordon collaborator, producer/engineer Jared Slomoff, Kottke and Gordon have crafted a singular collection of improvisational mood music, including a stripped-back version of Gordon’s classic “Peel” and Kottke’s stark rethinking of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” The album also includes a cover of Prince’s “Alphabet St.” featuring Phish drummer Jon Fishman, who also joins Kottke and Gordon on four additional tracks. In addition, the LP includes “nearly ambient” appearances by pedal steel player Brett Lanier (the Barr Brothers) and cellist Zoë Keating (Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, Tears For Fears).

“The vibe is very different from the other two albums,” says Gordon. “I was hearing a darkness in the material Leo was bringing, and some of the material that I wanted to bring, that I thought just reflected going through 10 more years of life. There are overdubs, but it’s still more like you’re in a cafe or a living room with these two guys. And even when we had drums, we wanted to maintain that feeling.”

“I just knew there was a shape and that we were following it,” says Kottke. “We were trying to get to that place that we get to in a little room, just chasing each other. We’ve found that at soundchecks, and at my place, or his place, or some motel room. We wanted to get that late night feel. It’s a more intimate record than the others are; I think there are depths to it.”

Beginning his career on John Fahey’s Takoma label in 1969, Kottke virtually invented his own school of playing with his distinct, propulsive fingerstyle. As a co-founder of Phish and solo artist, Gordon has both created both a boundary-pushing discography and helped inspire a generation of improvisers.

The pairing of Kottke and Gordon began some two decades ago when Gordon – a devoted fan of Kottke’s music – overdubbed a bass part over the veteran Minnesota guitarist’s 1969 solo track “The Driving of the Year Nail.” Gordon hand-delivered the piece to Kottke and the two musicians became friends.

Photo by Jared Slomoff


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].