Here's the debut EP from a mysterious outfit (quite possibly comprised of locals who choose to remain anonymous), passed on to the Cream by Brian Siskind of Fognode, Good Rester and Ponychase fame. It's the latest release on his Beat Hollow Records label, named for the stellar 2001 post-rock album he reissued in January. Those Drones (no relation to Those Darlins) sounds like someone's been making origami with pages from an encyclopedia of electronic music, folding ambient soundscapes into shuddering trance tracks and propulsive house jams.
POSTED BY D. PATRICK RODGERS ON FRI, JUN 20, 2014 AT 4:26 PM
Happy Friday, chums. Before we move any further with this week’s fresh tracks, I have to note the following: If you’re still sleeping on Amerigo Gazaway’s Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two), which we shared with you yesterday, you’re really making a foolhardy move. I need you to go back and listen to that. Anyway, moving on, follow me below to hear some further freshness from the likes of Wild Cub, The Wans, D. Striker, Jawws, Good Rester and Brian Siskind. As always, see past weeks in fresh tracks here, and if you’ve got something for us, email cream[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.
And oh hey, speaking of Siskind, he and his Beat Hollow Records are also releasing his own Live at Rothko Chapel, “a guided sonic meditation, acoustically tailored and specifically crafted solely for and in reverence of the sacred space of the Rothko Chapel.” Beautiful, meditative stuff that you can stream above or purchase on vinyl right here. Dig in.
JR: I had been playing quite a bit with Brad Houser, backing a songwriter named McKinley, who Shrieve had been shepherding along, and jamming and recording a bit with Skerik, Shrieve, Dillon, Brad and Reggie down at the 700 Club in Seattle—those nights were pretty incredible, with lots of great blowing, wild-ass textural stuff, and even nutty verbal improvs between songs, with Reggie, Skerik and me turning into some kind of jazz-grunge version of Monty Python. Eventually, Shrieve seemed to want to lay some of that spirit down on tape, and I was immensely pleased to be asked to join.
JR: Well, for me it was certainly chaotic; the day before, I had lost a ring down the shower drain at my pal, drummer Dave Hill’s, house, and when I went to unscrew the drain ring, the sharp edges sliced a wide cut in my right index finger, my pick finger! I’d been in the emergency room, and so arrived at the sessions with a bandage and a splint on my finger, and a pretty decent hangover from numbing the pain with Tequila the evening previous. My playing on the album still sounds noticeably ginger to my ears, but perhaps that allows it to tuck in nicely among the other instruments.
JR: To partly answer the last question, the sessions were pretty flowing and spontaneous, and the creation of themes and grooves was easy and free. My biggest challenge tended to be physically playing the instrument, because of my injury, and keeping up harmonically with Skerik, who’ll make these awesome commitments to modal melodies and motifs, and your ear just needs to be on the money to get inside and around that.
JR: Yeah, I saw my gig as more a texture and rhythm man on this one, rather than as a featured blowing instrument, and I had been doing quite a lot of looping for that purpose with the Grassy Knoll and Jettatura at that time, so I had two key devices for that: my Line 6 DL4 Delay, the big green one, which helped me create rhythmic echo and filtered echo patterns, and the Boomerang Phrase Sampler, with which I’d capture loops on the fly and then pitch them up or down, put them in reverse, etc. I played my Warmoth custom Strat-style guitar, with one double-coil pickup, and I believe we had a Twin Reverb isolated as my one amp. If memory serves, I would have also had in line a Vox Wah, a Boss Reverb/Delay, a ProCo Rat distortion box, and a TC Electronic modulation pedal.
JR: It was a nice time to be a fusion-jazz-funk player who likes to improvise, in part because artists like Amon Tobin, Bill Laswell, and Photek—and certainly Skerik and Houser, via Critters Buggin’—were finding cool new ways to refresh what you could do with off-the-cuff playing, and how you could process, sample and tweak it in real-time or in the mix. It was also a big time for indie-rock, of course, and I do think that some of that minimalist spirit, and being more ensemble-minded rather than shredding, was also in the air. And of course, playing with Shrieve, I think, inspired us all to make thoughtful choices.
JR: Wistful! Part of me wished I’d been a bit less handicapped, and more aggressive sonically and harmonically on those sessions, but Brian was able to map these open-ended jams into very deliberate pieces, with great arrangements, and that helped to present all of our playing in a focused way, bringing out everybody’s strengths, and adding a trip-hop collage sensibility that pulled the thing even more into the modern age. Still, there’s nothing dated about those mix and remix moves—like the playing itself, there’s a lot of taste at work here.
JR: Although he was mainly involved with Maktub and his other gigs then, I suppose Reggie has never been “strictly” a musician—even at those seat-of-our-pants 700 Club gigs, he was always on the mic, both singing/scatting/speaking in the most original ways, or holding forth with crazy accents and faux theoretical rants between songs. Actually, his vocal stuff is relatively understated within Trilon, more about suggesting a mood than being in your face with language. I hope people will see that there’s even more to this amazing cat that they already knew.
JR: They are all such singular voices, and personalities, for starters: Dillon, Houser, Shrieve, Skerik, Watts, Siskind: each guy is a renegade and maverick on their instruments, and so canny, funny and wise as an individual. That we all came together for this session is one of those sweet couldn’t-have-scripted-this moments that you feel lucky to have been a part of.
JR: Given all the edgier, more frenetic projects we’ve all been involved in—for me Mr. Bungle—I think Trilon is a relatively meditative, elegant piece, even with those moments of industrial intrigue and harder groove, and I hope that even very non-muso listeners will experience it as you might an exquisite dream-state or a trip on some Peruvian hallucinogen. In fact, I don’t think it’s so much a music-for-musicians record at all—not enough showing off! And clearly, lots of respect for space, time, and a real balance of energies. Anyone can dig that.
What was the impetus for TRILON project, and where does the name come from?
MS: The name came from the saxophone player Skerik. He just came up with it, and I never considered anything else. You know…”OK, that’ll do.” We used to play a weekly at a small club in downtown Seattle called the 500 club or something like that. Sounds like that Christian TV show. I remember the floor would move when the people would dance, and I was always always worried that the place was going to cave in.
When/where were the session(s), and what can you tell us about them? Were you bandleading or was it more about putting ingredients together with no pretense?
MS: We recorded the music at Pearl Jam guitar player Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle with popular local recording engineer Mell Dettmer. It was just a loose idea I had to put these particular people together and just record to see what happens. I brought some loops that I had put together on my Roland 808 sampler and I played on a drum kit that Drum Workshop made for me that is all snare drums. I knew Skerik, Mike Dillon, and Brad Houser from Critter’s Buggin’, their group with drummer Matt Chamberlain, and Reggie Watts I knew from around town and his group Maktub. Guitar player Roto (James Rotundi) I knew from my friend drummer Dave Hill and he and I had worked on another project before. It was really all very casual, with no rehearsals in advance and everything completely improvised in the studio.
What were the biggest challenges making this record? and what happened most naturally?
MS: The biggest challenge was getting this fucker done!! It went on forever! I just had a hard time making it into what I considered to be a record. I had Brad and Reggie back in to record a bit more in an attempt to give a little more shape to some of the pieces. There was some
You had a unique drumkit setup for TRILON with multiple snare drums. Was that something you were already working on or was it an experiment for just those sessions?
MS: There are no toms in the kit. Where the toms usually go are two mounted 61/2 X 10 inch snare drums and what looks like a 14” floor tome is a snare as well.
What can you tell us about the spirit of that time, and what of that do you feel has been captured in the recordings?
MS: It was just a very casual and loose situation, where I booked a studio, called the guys, brought the loops and just went for it.
Some of the record is clearly reminiscent of Miles Davis’ electric era from the early 70’s. Was that intentional or just the way music came together?
MS: If it has that feel it’s just because of the vibe we set up in the room. If the record sounds that way it’s because of the work Brian Siskind did to it post-recording where he more or less did a Teo Macero on the music and re-shaped it, re-mixed it, edited it and added keyboard sounds as well.
This record has gone through several phases of production. Was that the idea from the start? Or was it more open ended and just a matter of working with the material you recorded in the best way you saw fit, as it evolved?
MS: Yes, all along I was just looking for the record that was in there somewhere, It was so loose that it didn’t seem quite complete, which is why I tried to give it some shape by bringing Brad on bass and Reggie on keys back in to record some more and also do some editing to help with shape of the material.
You brought co-producer/artist Brian Siskind in to further interpret and craft the record through mixing and remixing elements, chopping it up, reconstructing it. What led you to include Brian
MS: Brian made the the thing a record. I was at a loss even after doing the things I already mentioned. I needed someone to come in and consider the thing with fresh ears and a fresh vision. Someone I trusted that would have the integrity of the music in mind but also be fearless to rip it apart and make something fresh out of it. And he certainly did that. And I feel that the integrity of the original improvisation and performances are kept, despite the editing, dubbing, and remix process?
Will TRILON ever perform live, and/or make another record? Or was this a one off type of project?
MS: I’ll never say never, but it’s probably a one off. We’ll see!