Back in the Audience

Like many others, I’m thankful to finally be part of audiences again. Even though I had (outdoor) gigs all the while, albeit far fewer than originally planned, I went ~18+ months without attending a show as an audience member. Of course, I’m not the only one. (I can’t dwell on it without getting too upset, but I must again note my extreme disappointment over not seeing Chicago’s latest Ring Cycle come to fruition.) While the “return” was notable in and of itself, I’m fortunate that I happened to end the drought with the biggest of bangs. My first four post-pandemic concerts were:

King Crimson @ The Egg in Albany, NY (08.22.21)
Sun Ra Arkestra @ Asbury Hall in Buffalo, NY (09.02.21)
Dave Matthews Band @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY (09.17.21)
Dave Matthews Band @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY (09.18.21)

Some random notes on each.

King Crimson @ The Egg in Albany, NY (08.22.21)
Oh. My. Goodness. (Honestly, this show is the primary reason for this post, just to lightly memorialize it if nothing else.) Two things to note right up front. First, I went into this show completely blind. I’ve long been aware of King Crimson, and I have a couple of Robert Fripp‘s ambient records with reedman Theo Travis, but I didn’t know any of KC’s work well enough to really recognize or discuss it to any extent. (Being such a big Tool fan, I of course had at least a general familiarity with KC.) Second, I walked out a complete convert. At intermission I was blown away, and by the show’s end I considered it probably one of the ten best shows I’ve ever seen. (With a little distance, and a little less recency bias, I maintain that opinion. It was astounding.) To top it off, what a great venue.

This was an invite-only Friends & Family show, and I happened to be the +1 of my friend Dave, who suggested I go and said I’d love it. (Thank again, Dave!) I had also been told as much by one of my very best friends who’s seen King Crimson a couple times (and, like me, I think he went in mostly blind at first). I’m so glad I accepted the invite and made the drive. Given the Friends & Family atmosphere, it was an intimate audience of ~200 superfans, and the band performed two full sets (with intermission) plus an encore, longer than a typical show with an opening act. Additionally, I’m sure it was also the first concert in a long while for many in the audience.

From the first note to the last, I was fully engaged. I truly didn’t know what to expect, especially considering the saxes and flutes I saw on stage before the show began. (I tend to get leery when I see such because saxophones in a rock, even progressive rock, context can be hit or miss. I’m often sensitive about that for obvious reasons.) But everything fit, and the whole was definitely greater than the sum of its formidable parts. I was regularly at a loss as to what was composed and arranged versus what was improvised, and I mean that as a compliment. The current lineup—and I assume its predecessors too—is a tight, cohesive unit, which is saying something for a septet that includes three drummers. To me, the music was a perfect blend of many styles and approaches to music I hold dear: the power of rock, the improvisatory elements of jazz (“Neurotica” sounded like something out of 1980s-flavored electric post-bop, and I wanted to inject it directly into my veins), and the structural elements of classical. (Saxophonist Mel Collins’s off-the-cuff quotation of “Take The A Train” during the fast section of either “Starless” or “21st Century Schizoid Man” was a nice touch.) Were it not for the applause of the surrounding acolytes, I wouldn’t have known where most pieces ended or began. And, to top it all off, Tony Levin‘s virtuosity made me, for the first time in my life, appreciate the Chapman stick as an instrument.

I still grin whenever I think of this concert, which is often. I’ve spent the last couple months digging into the King Crimson discography and history, and I’ve already pre-ordered the official live bootleg of this North American tour which includes some selections from the Albany performance. I can safely say that I’m now and forever will be in the court of the Crimson King

Go here for a little writeup on the show by David Singleton.

(That evening’s set list, which I’ve used as a starting point for my KC excursions, is here.)

Sun Ra Arkestra @ Asbury Hall in Buffalo, NY (09.02.21)
Similar to King Crimson, Sun Ra‘s music has long been one of my blind spots. I’ve heard some tunes here and there and had a baseline understanding of the late bandleader and his legacy, but I never really dug into the music itself. As for the current lineup, I knew that bandleader and alto saxophonist Marshall Allen had celebrated his 97th birthday over the summer, but that was about it. For some reason I was unaware of this show until shortly before it happened, but I was fortunately able to purchase a ticket. (It looked sold out the night of the show, which was a pleasant surprise.) This particular concert, like many, had been postponed because of the pandemic. To top it off, the concert was at Babeville’s Asbury Hall, the venue in which I was married. (Between this concert at 2019’s Jenny Lewis show, I have a good streak of happy memories at the venue.)

Again, I didn’t really know what to expect other than for the music to be a bit out. I was completely unprepared in the best way, and I was hooked from the first few bars. The evening’s music was an intriguing blend of swinging blues, shout-chorus horn arrangements, unbridled joy, and uncompromising free playing. And, much to my pleasant surprise, Marshall Allen stood and played his heart out all through both sets. I’m so glad I was fortunate to see this incarnation of the group while some of the older members are still performing.

Dave Matthews Band @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY (09.17.21 & 09.18.21)
And of course, a return to concert attendance wouldn’t be complete without a DMB show or two, and it was nice to return to SPAC. (Night two was my 75th show.) What a great weekend all around, as a best friend and I got a rental and made quite the time of it—it definitely felt like a return to some semblance of “normal.” The shows themselves were excellent, and the band sounded particularly tight both nights. I enjoyed what seemed to be quite the rib: keyboardist Buddy Strong was playing violin synth patches in parts he hadn’t been his first couple years with the band, and Dave had a little grin most times he did it. I’d like to think it was the band’s way of replying to former member and violinist Boyd Tinsley’s then-recent odd (and slightly unhinged) Twitter activity, but of course I can’t prove it. (For example, since Tinsley’s departure from the band, the violin part during the introduction of “Pig” has been played by trumpeter Rashawn Ross, whereas that night Buddy Strong played a synthesized violin on keys. It was the best the fiddle ever sounded on “Pig” during a live show.) I hope it’s not a permanent change/reversion, but I was entertained by it throughout the weekend.

Though the band itself was on fire both nights, I thought Friday’s set list was one of the odder ones I’ve seen. It was almost as if someone pulled up the DMB discography and hit “shuffle” while also throwing in a few covers. (For reference, the set list is here.) My friend and I remarked to one another multiple times throughout the night the set was odd—not bad, just sort of the off the wall. Saturday’s set list, however, was one for the history books, featuring arguably one of the best main sets I’ve seen the band play. (Perhaps one more song in the encore could’ve really pushed it over the top, but that’s me being greedy.) Save one new song (“Ocean and the Butterfly”), everything else was from 2008 or before. (Bassist Stefan Lessard’s hat that read “Old Style” wasn’t kidding.)

On top of it all, Saturday’s audience was one of the hottest crowds I’ve been a part of for a DMB show. SPAC is generally a hardcore audience anyway, but throw in a forced year off and a noteworthy opening run of songs, and it was like a spark in dry grass. One powerful moment for me was during “Grey Street” on Saturday night. We knew that the third verse returned this year, but the crowd’s explosion at the start of that verse was almost overwhelming. Such an indelible imprint. The audience took the reins in other spots also, eliciting the infrequent “Louie Louie” interpolation from Dave during “Warehouse,” among other things. I can safely place the Saturday show in my top 10 DMB shows, possibly higher. It was certainly the best one I’ve seen in several years.

Tool’s ‘Lateralus’ at 20

Tool‘s Lateralus turned 20 on 05/15/21.

This is a big one. I’ve missed some other milestone albums on/around their big anniversaries, but, to reference the album’s opening’s minutes, I clutch this one like the cornerstone that it is. If I were to put together the fabled desert island list, this album would be one of the first listed. Lateralus is easily my favorite album by one of my all-time favorite bands.

Lateralus occupies an interesting space in the Tool discography. Some, including yours truly, consider it the band’s best album. Others, including some friends of mine, see it as the “beginning of the end” of the band’s original sound. While its predecessors Opiate (1992), Undertow (1993), and Ænima (1996) include some more progressive elements (mixed meter, exploratory instrumental sections, lengthy arrangements), the albums were generally leaner and featured shorter rockers in the aggregate, particularly the first two releases. Aside form the music, Alex Grey’s art and visual palette became closely associated with the band upon Lateralus‘s release, and has remained a fixture since. In short, the band became “artier” with Lateralus, and 2006’s 10,000 Days and 2019’s Fear Inoculum followed suit, culminating in the latter.

Lateralus sort of began the now-common tradition, at least among the rock community, of impatiently awaiting a new Tool album. Ænima was a smash hit, but it took another five years for Lateralus to surface. It then took another five years for 10,000 DAYS to be released, and then another thirteen years for Fear Inoculum. Personally, I went deep down the rabbit hole in 1997 starting with my first Tool concert, seeing the band again the following year, an excellent show that opened with “Flood,” featured Keenan in his Rev. Maynard attire, and included a rare performance of Tool’s cover of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” (featuring Buzz Osborne of The Melvins, no less). I spent many mental and emotional calories during the subsequent high school years devouring what I could: music, lyrics, endless tributaries on both Toolshed.down.net as well as the band’s “newsletters” on the official site. All that waiting and devotion, and I felt like I really accomplished something when news of Lateralus broke along with the release of “Schism,” the band’s first new single in years.

Anticipation for the new album was greatly compounded when Tool announced a mini “preview” tour scheduled for the week of the album’s release before a full North American tour that fall after a summer abroad. Theater dates (intimate for an arena-filling act) with an intermission and no opening act in four cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New York. Though the Detroit show sold out in under two minutes, I was fortunate to snag a pair to attend with my cousin. The album would come out Tuesday 05/15, and on Friday 05/18 we’d see them at Detroit’s State Theater. I was ready for my head to explode come mid-May. I remember the countdown consuming many of my waking hours that spring.

My loitering at the local Meijer on Monday night 05/14 paid off, as I bought a copy once the album hit the shelf at midnight. And then I heard “The Grudge” for the first time, culminating in that epic scream toward the end. It hit like a ton of bricks in the best way possible.

Unlike Ænima, Lateralus has only a couple of of small, connective tracks (acting much like Einstein on the Beach‘s knee plays), and none including the more humorous aspects of those on Ænima (which was also dedicated to comedian Bill Hicks). Of course, there is the trademark entertaining hidden track, this time a chaotic emergency call from Area 51, but there’s nothing on the level of “Message to Harry Manback” or “Die Eier von Satan.” Whereas Ænima ends by opening the “Third Eye,” Lateralus spends much of its 79 minutes exploring the ramifications of such an awakening. Instead of the aforementioned knee plays, a number of the tracks on Lateralus flow come in pairs (“Eon Blue Apocalypse” into “The Patient” and “Parabol” into “Parabola”) or groups (the album’s exploratory final ~third of “Disposition” into “Reflection” into “Triad”). What’s more, the whole album flows pretty seamlessly from beginning to end almost as one large work. Even now, 20 years and countless listens later, I generally think of Lateralus more at the album level—or at least the “section” or “movement” level—than the individual songs.

[This isn’t technically an album review, so I won’t get bogged down in the minutiae. I’ll go ahead and note Tool’s trademark usage of mixed meter, as it’s often a focus of such articles. It’s true, and it’s compelling, but it’s also organic—it doesn’t sound forced. For example, Tool’s one of the few acts that can release “Schism” as the lead single—later a bonafide hit—which spends much of the time alternating between 5/8 and 7/8.]

Looking at the more micro level, though, the individual songs and sections are formidable. “The Grudge” sets the stage for the rest of the album by previewing many of its different facets: roiling mixed meter; contemplative nuance; loud rhythmic, lyrical, and sometimes guttural assaults; and straight-ahead driving rock. It served as an effective opener in concert for many years after its release. “The Patient” scratches me where I itch every time. It’s a type of slow burn at which the band is particularly adept, much like Ænima‘s “Pushit,” another favorite. (When I wrote briefly about Fear Inoculum a while back, I used “The Patient” as a reference point.) “Parabola” is the album’s lone straight-ahead rocker, the sole banger in 4/4, and it serves as a great release after the slow build that is “Parabol.” “Ticks & Leeches” is a sonic assault and almost serves as a reset for the rest of the album.

“Lateralus” is not only the album’s namesake but this fan’s favorite Tool song (and one of my favorite songs, period). It was after the first time I heard it, and my appreciation has only grown throughout the years. (Yes, again, mixed meter and Fibonacci and all that jazz…) The music is great, and, as someone lost in their own thoughts much of the time, the lyrics and message only get better with age. I could go on and on (and perhaps I will at some point down the line), but suffice it to say it’s the album’s crown jewel for me. The rest of the album features some psychedelic exploration via the triptych of “Disposition,” “Reflection,” and “Triad” (followed by the Area 51 exploits of “Faaip De Oaid”). I think for some the album really ends with “Lateralus,” but it’s noteworthy that “Disposition” and “Reflection” (and sometimes “Triad”) were fixtures of the live show for years—so, the material was clearly more than studio experimentation to the band.

I mentioned having tickets to see Tool days after the album’s release for what was to be my third time seeing the band. Suffice it to say it was the best concert of any type I’d seen at that point. And now, 20 years later, I easily put that in the top five or even top three shows of any type I’ve ever attended. (There are others I’d have to think about, but that one’s an automatic “yes.”) It was a great concert, but it also was one of those experiences in which the event matched the moment. It exceeded the immense hype. And, given how quickly it sold out, the entire audience was deeply invested in the band, the new album, and the evening as a whole. (Also there were the added touches, such as going with my cousin, a fellow die-hard fan, and running into an old friend with whom I had previously lost touch.) Maybe someday I’ll gush over that show at length. (I did on fan forum days after the show…I wrote one of the site’s longer concert reviews, at least at the time…not going to link to my adolescent adrenaline-fueled ranting though.)

For the record, the 05/18/01 (20 years ago today) setlist included:

“The Grudge”
“Stinkfist”
“Forty Six & 2”
“Prison Sex”
“Schism”
“Pushit”
“Disposition”
“Reflection”

(intermission)

“Sober”
“Parabol”
“Parabola”
“Aenema”
“Opiate”
“Lateralus”

Beyond the excitement that was release week, I saw Tool a number of times on afterward for album support tours the next couple years. Notably my next show was on 09/13 in Grand Rapids, which was actually postponed from two days before on 09/11/01, then a few days later in Detroit (including “Undertow”!). Fall of 2002 had quite a run of shows within weeks of one another: Detroit, Moline (IL), Kalamazoo (including “Cold & Ugly,” “H.,” and “Third Eye”!), East Lansing (my future home for a decade, unbeknownst to me at the time). Of course, my interest and passion has continued through to the present. I won’t go through a thorough accounting of each show—those listed above and those not—but there’s something notable I can recall about each one.

Lateralus‘s successors are cut from a similar cloth. Both 10,000 Days and Fear Inoculum share the overall sonic and visual (i.e., Alex Grey) aesthetic, making Lateralus a definite turning point for the band. While there are detractors, I consider it just another step (arguably a giant leap) in the band’s gradual evolution.

Anniversaries of other album releases haven’t struck me in way that makes me “feel old,” but this one does to a small degree. Possibly because it was coupled with a great concert-going experience that made an indelible mental time-stamp, making it more of a “life event” than my running to the store for a new CD (of which I have many fond memories also). Who knows.


Other notable album anniversaries:
Dave Matthews Band’s Everyday
Dave Matthews Band’s Crash
Tool’s Ænima
Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

[NOTE: The original post was lost in a site error. This is a reconstruction/re-posting.]

Dave Matthews Band’s ‘Everyday’ at 20

Personally, I think about this Dave Matthews Band album’s release every February. I recall various other release dates from time to time, but Everyday made a particular temporal impact on me for whatever reason. I distinctly remember driving to a local Meijer at ~11:00 p.m. on Monday 02/26/01 and then loitering around waiting for the employees to stock the newly released CDs at midnight. There were several others doing the same, but I believe I bought the first copy from that particular location. A real historic achievement.

davematthewsband_everyday

Memories and personal minutiae aside, there was also a lot of commercial hype surrounding the album’s release. Atop the usual fare of interviews and guest appearances, there were also larger items such as an episode-length feature on The Charlie Rose Show. Aside from DMB being a commercial juggernaut generally, Everyday garnered particular interest because it ended up “replacing” an entirely separate fourth album that was mostly recorded in 2000 and on its way to completion. Tapes of that “lost” album eventually made their way online and became known as The Lillywhite Session (named for producer Steve Lillywhite, who produced that as well as the band’s first three studio albums). Adding to this fiasco, many songs from The Lillywhite Session were regularly played during the 2000 tour (and since then)—leading many fans to consider the 2000 summer tour a kind of album support tour for an album that was never released.

The fourth studio album was finally released in February 2001: Everyday, featuring (mostly) completely new songs written after The Lillywhite Session. (New songs for the abandoned album would largely fill out 2002’s Busted Stuff.) Everyday‘s writing process was a marked contrast from what came before. Less of a collaborative group effort, Dave Matthews wrote much of Everyday with producer Glen Ballard, with the band fleshing them out in the studio. This writing process, together with the album’s overall sound as well as hardcore fan base’s familiarity with songs from The Lillywhite Session (the full “album” would be leaked online shortly after Everyday‘s release), has, in my opinion, totally eclipsed the actual songs on the album. The 2001 summer tour featured songs from both Everyday and The Lillywhite Session along with the usual fare. (Yes, The Lovely Ladies were included, but they had also been performing with the band since 1998.)

Though controversial among fans upon its release–and arguably still so–it’s long been my contention that it’s far less anomalous substantively than it may have sounded at first. I’ve discussed this a bit more in depth elsewhere. But to quickly summarize: Yes, Everyday features shorter songs with tighter arrangements, a prominent electric guitar (but not a lead guitar, per se), and a mix featuring that prominent pop sheen. However, many of the songs are still built upon that trademark DMB architecture: a prominent and/or repetitive guitar riff alongside melodies, countermelodies, and solos played by saxophone and violin. (This structure really started to deteriorate with the release of 2009’s Big Whiskey and the Groo-Grux King, where DMB is more of a traditional electrified rock band with a horn section. Oddly enough, 2012’s Away from the World, produced by the mythically returned Steve Lillywhite, continues further into the rock-band-and-horn-line territory instead of returning the band to its original sound, which a number of fans foolishly hoped for.)

All that context aside, it’s worth address addressing Everyday on its own terms. About 1/3 of the album remains in regular rotation at live shows: “Everyday,” “The Space Between,” “When The World Ends,” “So Right.” (Pandemic notwithstanding, as there are no tours by anyone in the U.S. at present.) Others such as “What You Are,” If I Had It All,” “Fool To Think,” and “Sleep To Dream Her,” pop up now and again, occasionally in spurts. “Angel” was played a lot for the first few years, but not since 2003. “Dreams Of Our Fathers” was given a few live chances in 2001, and “Mother Father” has yet to see the light of day. “Everyday,” which continues to be a live staple, was in 2001 a “new” song built upon the same guitar part as another of the band’s live staples, “#36.” Since Everyday‘s release, each performance of the title track now includes an interpolations of its predecessor at the beginning (by the fans) and end (by the band), a symbolic nod to the joining of pre- and post-Everyday legacies, whether intentional or not.

A noteworthy aspect of Everyday is how few additional personnel are included: producer Glenn Ballard on keys, Carlos Santana and percussions Karl Perraza guest on “Mother Father,” and Vusi Mahlasela sings on the title track. Compare that to Before These Crowded Streets, which featured enough guest musicians to crowd a small street: Kronos Quartet, Alanis Morissette, Bela Fleck, John D’earth, Tim Reynolds, Butch Taylor, Greg Howard, and The Lovely Ladies (Tawatha Agee, Cindy Myzell, Brenda White-King). It makes for an interesting juxtaposition when fans say they want an album that sounds “more like the band” (BTCS, which was rife with guests) when referencing an album that supposedly doesn’t sound like the “real” band (Everyday).

Yes, I admit that a definite distinction can be made between an album’s spirit or ethos and its technical content, and there are certainly arguments to be made as to how Everyday fits within DMB’s oeuvre. That said, the album isn’t quite the nadir it’s portrayed to be.

Admittedly, Everyday wasn’t what I initially expected, but not negatively so. I listened to the album continuously for months, and a couple of the songs, “Fool To Think” and “So Right,” immediately became all-time favorites. The latter has especially evolved over the years, with an extended outro jam included in live performances. It’s not played nearly enough, in my opinion. (Perhaps I’m in the minority.) But when it is, it’s glorious. Regarding the studio recordings of both of those songs, especially “So Right,” Roi places some excellent phrases in such a short space.

As mentioned, there aren’t nearly as many solos or extended instrumental sections on Everyday. There are a few instrumental solos (saxophone on “So Right,” “Angel,” and “Fool To Think”; Santana on guitar on “Mother Father”; some violin effects in the outro of “Everyday”), but not many. Something I often wonder is what would’ve happened had everything remained the same except for more solos throughout. Would the fan base’s negative reaction have been nearly as aggressive? For example, if Boyd Tinsley’s vocal part were removed from “I Did It” and replaced with a saxophone or violin solo that lasted 2-3 times as long, how would that have been received? Given the overall structure of the song, it’d possibly be considered more like some electrified cousin of “What Would You Say” than an aberration.

Anyway, those are some thoughts on the twentieth anniversary. As I’ve done throughout the week, I’ll give a listen or two this weekend, and hopefully by 2022 I can hear one or more of the songs in person again.


Other notable album anniversaries:
Dave Matthews Band’s Crash
Tool’s Ænima
Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

[NOTE: The original post was lost in a site error. This is a reconstruction/re-posting.]

Tuning Out

What a time to be alive. I’m absolutely exhausted.

The reasons are myriad and obvious, and I know I’m not the only one. The endless parade of news headlines reads like something from a slightly absurdist movie. Nearly everyone on social media is engaged in an endless, all-consuming culture war on all fronts. (Of course, that’s not to say that it’s not for righteous reasons. But, at the end of the day, if all you’ve done is pushed out some snarky comments and tweets, what do you have to show for it? What have you done?) Many lives are turned upside down for a litany of reasons.

I’ve tried quite hard over the last decade or so to keep this blog music-focused rather than an all-encompassing personal diary. That said, I’m veering off that some here. Mostly because it’s on my mind. Also, in my “day job” I work remotely from a home office and have done so for a number of years. Between that and being the primary caregiver for our son, I’ve been living a version of “pandemic life” for years before it was the new normal. (Of course, at-home kindergarten wasn’t in the plan years or months ago, which has been the biggest complication for me personally, but here we are.) So, below are a couple cents’ worth of notions if things are all turned around and you’re drowning in the mania.

With everything going on, it’s hard for me to focus or care enough about a music topic to attempt to write at length. I’ve attempted to start dozens of posts for this site, only to abandon or trash them. I’ve even found it difficult to properly publicize and plug my most recent album with Matt Borghi. (Read about it here!) Gigs have dried up, of course, as they have for everyone else. Dozens were canceled for me this summer, though we managed to keep a small handful in the end, and I doubt there’ll be another until the spring. It’s just been a lot of time practicing punctuated by a little recording here and there for a nascent endeavor. I dove deep into the classical literature for a few months during the strictest parts of quarantine, which was refreshing, and I’ve also explored a number of new-for-me jazz standards. But ultimately it’s not worth discussing too deeply at present.

[One exception on music topics is my most recent contrarian hot take. I’ve long been a firm believer in separating the art from the artist (or, if possible, the person from the artist), so the constant arguments over whom to cancel don’t interest me much. That said, if I were to partake, given the relatively arbitrary nature of where people decide “the line” may be, my vote would be to cancel J.S. Bach on account of seemingly being a bad parent. Let’s face it: between his work obligations, his extra-curricular musical pursuits, and voluminous progenitorial endeavors, I have a hard time believing he could’ve been an engaged, attentive parent at the individual level. And yet: great contrapuntal technique nonetheless!]

Ultimately, it helps to just tune out, unplug, and focus on the micro. Though everyone has their own method, the following combination works for me (and admittedly I’m not as good at them as I’d like to be), in no particular order:

  • Limiting my social media consumption and engagement.
  • Reading my (paid for!) newspaper articles straight from the source instead of dealing with scores of comments.
  • Keeping at the horn, learning and exploring new material.
  • Exercising in the fresh air.
  • Saying no.
  • Getting involved in my local community.
  • Connecting.

“Limiting my social media consumption and engagement.”
This helps. Greatly. If you can—and you certainly are able to!—keep these things off your phone or tablet, or at least strictly limit when they’re allowed to be on there. There are seemingly no areas of the internet that aren’t infected with some level of infighting or riling up. Even my supposedly music- or arts-only feeds are littered with bile-spewing all around. Ultimately you’re just doom-scrolling, raising your blood pressure, and likely regretful when you see how much time has passed.

“Reading my (paid for!) newspaper articles straight from the source instead of dealing with scores of comments.”
If nothing else, start with your local paper. That national horse races and scandals-of-the-hour are sexy, but they often have little to do tangibly with what’s going in your backyard. If you can get multiple news sources outside of social media, then you’re ahead of the game.
— A related note: don’t make socio-political leanings the end-all of humanity. I have deep convictions on a broad array of topics, but as the years pass I tend to not really care to casually discuss them with most people. I’m perfectly fine engaging on far less visceral topics. As an example, in the cover band I belong to, I’m the odd one out politically, but we still get along nicely and play a tight rendition of Chicago’s “Make Me Smile.”
— Another related note: I’ve made a point to read more books over this year and last. Again, it takes time—sometimes only 20 minutes per day—but it’s a nice distraction that helps me unwind.

“Keeping at the horn, learning and exploring new material.”
For me, it’s music-making. Whatever your interest is (professional or amateur or hobby or otherwise), focus on it and shut everything else out as consistently as you can, even if for short windows of time. It doesn’t have to be Productive, but if it’s far removed from the constant daily noise, that’s best.

“Exercising in the fresh air.”
Go for a walk. Get outside. (The gyms are likely closed or at reduced capacity anyway.) Whatever it is you’re partial to or tolerate. For me, I’ve always been a walker, but I’ve been running quite faithfully the last ~16 months. It took a couple months for me to make it an iron-clad routine, but now it’s a reliable part of my week. Listen to something if that helps. (I’m in that minority of folks who don’t listen to anything while doing so. Partially due to aural health, and also because I prefer the quiet and to be lost in my thoughts.)

“Saying no.”
This is the biggie. I’ve always been a “yes person” by default—always wanting to participate and not miss out, or feeling like I don’t want to disappoint. Now, though, between family and work and my own well-being, I only have so much time. “No” is still challenging to say sometimes, but I’m quicker with it than I used to be. It’s helped far more than it’s hurt, even when I’ve turned down something I wanted to do.

“Getting involved in my local community.”
This is a big one, particularly in the age of online activism. Sharing articles with your peers (like-minded or not) is fine, but, again, what are you actually doing? I’ve long had a strong interest in municipal politics, so I guess it’s easy for me to recommend this. But, even if you’re not that interested, the village/town/city, county, and state actions and decisions are the ones that most often affect you directly, whether you’re aware of it or not. A lot can happen at your local school board or town board or city council meeting, especially when almost no one from the public attends or cares. Volunteering time or money or both is great if you can too. If you don’t care at all about this sort of thing, then all right. But if you find yourself endlessly awaiting the next !BREAKING NEWS! alert on your device, check out what’s happening at town hall.

“Connecting.”
Stay connected to those whom you’re close with, including yourself. The former by making time, and the latter via some of the above.

Time to log off.

[NOTE: The original post was lost in a site error. This is a reconstruction/re-posting.]

Matt Borghi & Michael Teager’s ‘Subterranean Bearings’ and “Vanishing Point”

Some news on the ambient front.

Subterranean Bearings, the new Matt Borghi & Michael Teager album, is out now. Years in the making, it’s our first LP since 2014’s Shades of Bending Light. While reminiscent of our ambient recordings from 2013-2014, Subterranean Bearings explores new sonic terrain for us.

The material was recorded gradually from 2017 to 2018. Unlike our previous recordings, which were all live free improvisations, the guitar and saxophone parts were recorded separately in our respective home studios in East Lansing, MI and West Seneca, NY over many months. Borghi’s trademark sonic beds are often ornamented here by more active, overtly melodic gestures. Additionally, my contributions include multiple simultaneous horn lines. We tried to keep spontaneity at the core of our new collaborative process. As such, for each piece on the album, each saxophone track was recorded in a single isolated take, without regard for the other saxophonic textures. The horn lines at times complement and agitate one another in intriguing ways. These more actively polyphonic textures combine to offer a new take on the traditional Borghi | Teager aesthetic.

This release will be digital only and is now available for purchase from Bandcamp. It will be available for streaming via Spotify, Apple Music, and other outlets in the coming weeks.

borghiteager_subterraneanbearings
Subterranean Bearings

To coincide with this release, we recently recorded a long-form piece in the vein of our previous work. The piece, “Vanishing Point,” will be released Tuesday 06/30 via the Ambient Soundbath podcast.

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“Vanishing Point” via the Ambient Soundbath

We’re happy with the new album as well as its accompanying podcast appetizer. We hope you give a listen.

Find Subterranean Bearings on Bandcamp here.
More information on where to listen to “Vanishing Point” and the Ambient Soundbath here (https://ambientsoundbath.com).
More information on Matt Borghi & Michael Teager here.

(The photographs for the album art were taken by me in Austria’s Bregenzerwald [2016] and at Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon, MI [2019], respectively.)

[NOTE: The original post was lost in a site error. This is a reconstruction/re-posting.]