05/20/09 The Players Theatre NY
06/18/09 Brown Rice Chicago, IL
06/25/09 Langdon St Cafe Montpelier, VT
06/27/09 Gulu-Gulu Cafe Salem, MA
07/11/09 119 Gallery Lowell, MA
These have been my thoughts reflecting on Zodiac Dust, an album by Loop 2.4.3, set to be released June 16th on the Music Starts From Silence label. I would be content to simply write, "I cannot say much more; hear for yourself;" but fortunately, I do have an artist biography and other online articles to help me frame my perspective about this album, to describe what went into it, and give some background on this artist.
On my first listen, I found that the album is experimental, with a broad representation of percussive instruments. The instruments used are listed in the liner notes, and reading them I found also the cello and violin, played by guest artists Ari-Lin Bardin and Michelle Lee Elliot, respectively. Most of the instruments are various percussion instruments I remember from my high school and college years (few, if any, that I actually played, as I was playing tuba most of those years), but there were two that I did not recognize: the eLog and Rose Echo. I had to look them up. Orange Alert's interview last week of Thomas Kozumplik and Lorne Watson, who comprise Loop 2.4.3, had the answers. Watson explained that both are custom electro-acoustic instruments created specifically for Zodiac Dust, the eLog being a sort of log drum run through a Fender Twin amp, and the Rose Echo as an "acoustic wood" instrument passed through a guitar effects unit. He did not describe it further than that, but I am guessing that the "Rose" in Rose Echo might refer to it being made of rosewood, which is used by guitar luthiers to make classical guitars as well as being used sometimes for percussion instruments, such as the bars on a grand marimba. Rosewood has a very characteristic sound that is warm and mellow, and if I can imagine a "guitar effects unit" being anything like the famous Moogerfooger effect units made by Moog Music (yes, the same folks that produced the venerable Moog synthesizer), well, than I can appreciate it being a well-crafted sound.
As I was saying, some music must be experienced. Loop 2.4.3 was once a purely live act, and their first album, Batterie, was recorded as a one-take, one-hour session with no editing for Sonarchy Radio in Seattle, WA. With Zodiac Dust, they simply added a few more sonic effects in the studio than they would normally be able to do live.
Taking more from the OA interview, this is Kozumplik's explanation on how they came up with their name:
The name refers to a group, (loop) of friends and a room where we all used to create great music. It was when we were involved with The Robert Hohner Percussion Ensemble in Michigan. It was a great time, and we are still close to all the past members. It is a great support group, and filled with great musicians.
I try not to sound elitist writing this, but some of the press quotes were just a bit amusing to me. NPR's Fresh Aire says the group "reinvents percussion" and, describing Batterie as "like part of a well-thought-out tradition, only the tradition has never existed until now." The Lansing State Journal says "that only two guys beating on things could sound so orchestral will be a revelation to some listeners… “ Really, this was not all that unusual to me, because, compositionally speaking, I was familiar with percussion solo and ensemble works in my music studies. I could not find the LSJ article, but a closer look at NPR's review by Milo Miles was fairly revealing:
I had to admit Miles was right. Thinking back, most percussion-only performances I can recall were not always very accessible. To be more blunt, my teenaged mind thought "weird" or "bizarre". He also said "About the only constant in the last 50 years of popular music is that it's become more and more aggressive with rhythms," and yet, I also remembered reading dismissive consensus of such music as "just music to dance to" by the music snobs I crossed paths with in cyberspace over the past 15 years. So I think "dramatic narrative" is probably spot on. I have yet to listen to Batterie as of this writing, but Zodiac Dust could also be described as telling a story as well. Please, have a listen. This is very different than probably most anything you've heard.
Loop 2.4.3 is Thomas Kozumplik and Lorne Watson, and while the two have worked together as a unit only since 2001, they have an extensive background with numerous ensembles, notably Kozumplik's quartet, Clogs. But what jumped out at me is that Loop 2.4.3 is in residence this fall at the Harry Partch Institute. Partch was an outsider classical composer who invented his own instruments, most of them exotic percussion tools. He also wrote incidental music for plays.
Not coincidentally, Kozumplik has worked for film and theater. And that's as close as I can come to describing Loop 2.4.3's style — if Partch had been warmer, more linear and had a better sense of dramatic narrative, he might have made music like this.
(Oh, and by the way, Music Starts With Silence also is offering a manuscript of a solo version of Underground, the third track of the album, for marimba at their store, which I am listening to right now. Never seen something like this, either. Definitely a good thing.)