DISAPPEARING COIN (LP)
In 2019, Stephen Steinbrink discovered a short YouTube video of a street magician who approaches a highschooler walking home in Barstow, California. "Here, let me show you my idea," he says, as he places a quarter on the kid's hand. The magician performs some relaxed flourishes, and the coin vanishes. In silence, the kid stares at his hand at the nothing where there once, indisputably, was something, until his wonder finds a single word: "Cool." The title of Disappearing Coin, the new album from Oakland songwriter Stephen Steinbrink, comes from this short clip. "When I look at it now," he says, "I relate to the kid, who's obviously uneasy in his body, and going through the experience of being a teenager in the early 2000s growing up in a bleak desert town like I did. I also relate to the coin, an inanimate disc of possibility. And I relate to the magician, an absurd facilitator of sending what is tactile and concrete into the wispy conceptual realm." "I've watched it probably a hundred times," he says. "It cracked me up but also blew my mind open_ the feeling of wonder I experienced watching this video became a guide as I navigated new ways of staying in the realm of what's both real and magical." Following the 2018 release of Utopia Teased, Steinbrink completed an apprenticeship in the nearly-lost art of Stained Glass, becoming a glazier at a studio that over three years, fully restored the enormous 90-year-old windows in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral. He committed to his Buddhist study, beginning lay monastic training before the process was thwarted by the pandemic. He dove deeper into music production for other artists, engineering two albums by Boy Scouts released on Anti- Records in 2018 and 2021. Steinbrink delighted in the way these pursuits pulled at the thread of ego's tapestry and decentralized him from his craft, allowing him to embody a new role as a creative caretaker engaging in practices that felt communal and restorative. "As I slowly began writing for myself again, I tried to imbue my new songs with this sense of playfulness and wonder I felt while exploring these other interests." he says. Feeling unlocked from the pressures of perfection that he often felt in his earlier work, creating Disappearing Coin felt buoyant and healing. "The album feels like an integration of all of my past musical selves zeroing in on the present," Steinbrink explains, "I felt free to explore new ways of writing, through different perspectives, experimenting with fictional songwriting, visual archetypal language, and total collaboration." This "total collaboration" was a joyous new venture after years of solo performing and recording. The album can be seen as a 42 minute session of show and tell, the manifestation of Steinbrink repeating the mantra of "Here, let me show you my idea" to himself over and over. Disappearing Coin is at once a welcome return for the veteran Steinbrink and the debut of a totally new artist, one who has found a new path to himself with new goals of openness, curiosity, and self-acceptance.