No-No Boy's new album "Empire Electric" out today on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

No-No Boy’s new album “Empire Electric” out today on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings


September 29, 2023 — Empire Electric, the new album from No-No Boy — the acclaimed musical project of Dr. JulianSaporiti — is out today via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Already receiving critical attention, the album was recently highlighted in Bandcamp Daily’s “Best Folk of September” roundup praising, “salt-of-the-earth songwriting…with a soundscape as thick as the descriptions of the ethnomusicologists of yore, Empire Electric warrants careful and generous listening.” 

Produced by Saporiti alongside his wife, Emilia, and Seth BoggessEmpire Electric was inspired by Saporiti’s time at Blue Cliff monastery in upstate New York. A period of raw reflection and healing, the visit allowed Saporiti to open himself up, both mentally and musically, leading him to experiment with the American folk sounds, Asian instruments, electronics and field recordings that became Empire Electric. Across these 10 tracks, Saporiti explores his own identity as a Vietnamese-American, while also examining the complex topics of spirituality, intergenerational trauma and imperialism—creating stories based on his own research as well as archives, oral histories and site visits. 

In celebration of the project, Saporiti will perform select shows this fall including stops at Portland’s McMenamins Mission Theater, Boston’s Pao Arts Center, New York’s Caveat, Washington DC’s Rhizome DC and Seattle’s The Rabbit Box among others. See below for complete itinerary. Ticket details can be found at

Empire Electric is a wandering; a letting go. A search party. For sounds, for history, and for self. It is a coming back,” Saporiti shares. “If you find this music to your liking, I invite you to settle in with good headphones or a stereo and listen closely to all the sounds present, to unravel them, to take time, to breathe, and hopefully to listen beyond even the music, to yourself, to the world around you, to history, to your community, to nature.”

1. The Onion Kings of Ontario!
2. Nashville
3. Mekong Baby
4. Western Empress of the Orient Sawmill
5. Jakarta
6. Nothing Left but You
7. Little Monk
8. Sayonara
9. Minidoka
10. 1603
October 4—Portland, OR—McMenamins Mission Theater
November 4—Boston, MA—Pao Arts Center
November 7—New York, NY—Caveat
November 8—Washington DC—Rhizome DC
November 18—Seattle, WA—The Rabbit Box
February 1—Blacksburg, VA—Moss Arts Center

In addition to Julian Saporiti (lead vocals, instruments, programming) and Emilia Halvorsen Saporiti (lap steel, harmony vocals), the record also features P.T. Banks (harmony vocals), Hamilton Berry (cello), Diego Javier Luis (spoken word on “1603”) and Kristin Weber (violin, vocals).

Julian Saporiti (Photo credit: Loma Smith)
Julian Saporiti (Photo credit: Loma Smith)
Raised in Nashville and now based in Oregon, Saporiti has spent his career bridging the gap between art and scholarship, creating projects that evoke difficult conversations about culture and identity. Empire Electric is his third release as No-No Boy, following 2021’s acclaimed album, 1975—a central component of Saporiti’s Ph.D dissertation at Brown University. Of the record, NPR praised, “one of the most insurgent pieces of music you’ll ever hear…an act of revisionist subversion,” while American Songwriter called it “insanely listenable and gorgeous” and Folk Alley declared, “a remarkably powerful and moving album.”
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. The label’s mission is to document music, spoken word, instruction and sounds from around the world, continuing the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948. The Smithsonian acquired Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987 and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the Folkways tradition by supporting the work of traditional artists and expressing a commitment to cultural diversity, education and increased understanding among peoples through the production, documentation, preservation and dissemination of sound.
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