The Living Earth Show, the explosive Bay Area new-music duo of electric guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson, is set to unleash its sophomore full-length album, Dance Music, via New Amsterdam Records on Oct. 28, and will pop the cork with a record-release preview concert – beg pardon, “XXXtreme Microtonal Shredfest” – at National Sawdust on Oct. 21. The new album includes bespoke compositions by Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, Nicole Lizée, Jonathan Pfeffer, and Anna Meredith.
And to get you in the mood to celebrate, we’re going to let you hear the whole thing ahead of time, exclusively. Like that old song said: right here, right now!
Now, we could describe these five new pieces to you ourselves. But instead, we’ll get out of the way and let the Living Earth Showmen do the honors:
Like Terry Riley snorting Pixy Stix in a video game adaptation of Saturday Night Fever,Anna Meredith’s “Tassel”blends disco, punk, and minimalism to craft a whirling dervish of a chamber music composition. Synths, soaring guitars, and rapidly frantic drums gradually build into a dizzying coalescence of intensity, energy, and distorted hyperactivity.
Like an uncomfortably long and potent acid trip in an F.A.O. Schwartz in 1983, Nicole Lizée’s “Family Sing-A-Long And Game Night” utilizes virtuosic instrumental writing in the service of absurdity, nostalgia, and the world of possibility and constant malfunctions of the electronic devices of yesteryear. With double-kick bass drum patterns and glockenspiel lines that sound Terry Bozzio in a Christmas musical and dementedly unsettling incantations of traditional camp sing-a-longs (enthusiastically sung by the duo), the piece merges the intimately familiar and the positively absurd.
Like Metal Machine Music-era Lou Reed drunkenly copulating with a washing machine at a Radio Shack liquidation sale, Jonathan Pfeffer’s “The Bell, The Ball, The Bowtie, and The Boot” presents a journey through an auditory landscape of decontextualized, arresting sonic objects. Pfeffer uses the ensemble’s instruments (and the extended techniques of which they are capable) and a vast array of manipulated field recordings of malfunctioning and obsolete electronic equipment to craft a musical narrative that, as the composer puts it, encapsulates “our natural obstinacy toward forces in constant states of flux and the mechanisms we use to cope with our impotence when we pit ourselves against these forces.” Pfeffer’s work luxuriates in the sounds of the instruments themselves that are usually considered “extra-musical” — the sympathetic resonance of the snare drum, the scratching of the guitar strings, insectoid volume swells, etc — to create an immersive, engrossing auditory experience.
Like that one The Postal Service album imagined as a bipolar adolescent with OCD, Christopher Cerrone’s “Double Happiness” is a study in obsession, simple repetition, and the (surprisingly blurry) line separating somber melancholy and ecstatic joy. The piece is built on resonance — both the auditory resonance capable in the electric guitar and metallic percussion and the emotional resonance inherent in the repetition of haunting, simple, and beautiful melodic and harmonic movement. Composed in three large movements separated by two shorter interludes, “Double Happiness” provides a musical illustration of a gradual yet uncontrollable crescendo of intimate human emotion.
Like a Thanksgiving turkey made entirely of Soylent™ or Auld Lang Syne as remixed by The Weeknd, Jacob Cooper’s “Pasturing II” presents a compelling, beautiful, and and haunting synthesis of tradition and technological innovation. “Pasturing II” combines the lieder tradition with the modern vernacular “instruments” of laptop-generated musical material, processed electric guitar, and live drumset breakbeats. With text written for the composition by poet Zach Savich and performed by Isaiah Robinson, “Pasturing II” dialogues with the tradition of breakbeat, ballet, the classical tradition, and modern electronic music to create a work that achieves profound emotional resonance.”
Now, according to our friends at New Amsterdam Dance Music is “steeped in the Living Earth Show’s deep-seated roots in dance, and their dedication to creating musical experiences that engage both their collaborators and their audience.” The project is a result of three years spent working with San Francisco experimental ballet troupe Post:Ballet, founded and directed by Robert Dekkers.
The video for Tassel, composed by Anna Meredith, offers a strong sense of the wild, freaky energy and exuberance generated by these idiosyncratic adventurers. Dekkers choregraphed the performance; Christian Squires handled costumes and scenic design; and the video was directed by the great John Sanborn.
You can preorder your own copy of Dance Music using the link in the Bandcamp player, or make yourself a note to pick it up at your favorite retailer on Oct. 28.