As a culture, we have a tendency to refer to a lot of music as “next level,” but Brooklyn trio Archie Pelago are actually that. And to coronet their new label they’ve achieved something sublime.
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Let me be clear: this is unlike any Bass Music you’ve ever heard. Stringing together elements of jazz, avant-garde classical and the array of post-dubstep inventions, this is, without a doubt, avant garde bass music: beauty seized by sheer innovation and unbounded musical wit. And this is not a new feat for Archie Pelago. Indeed, they’ve been on a journey to perfect it since day one, releasing on the likes of Slime, Well Rounded Individuals and Tectonic (just to name a few). But with Sly Gazabo EP they’ve taken their fate into their own hands, pushing one step further towards that iconoclastic perfection you can hear them reach for in every note. But context is king.
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At the core, Archie Pelago combine saxophone, cello, midi controllers & computers running Ableton, with Hirshi manning Serato with Ableton Bridge during live performances. But the group’s capacity for composition and arrangement can and have expanded to include other instruments. Their live shows are a combination of fragmented pre-written material and a cornucopia of improv, built on the incredible mental harmony between Hirshi, Kroba, and Cosmo D. No evidence is more poignant than watching them magically create, nearly out of thin air, the song that would eventually become Avocado Roller (and released on Sly Gazabo) on WNYC’s Table Tennis nearly 2 years ago:
As the comments state, “The tracks were chosen on-the-fly by Hirshi, our DJ. The music being played by Kroba and Cosmo D has not been prepared beforehand; it is a live reaction to the tracks being selected.”
The stream of the final version can be found below and not much has changed. The power captured in the moment is persistent. At 120 bpm, Avocado Roller is incredibly DJ-friendly with it’s detuned membrane plunks syncopated over a steady, rolling house shuffle. The heavenly ahhs of Becca Stevens rise with ethereal gated pads before giving away to a free-flowing sax.
In The Room is the second DJ-friendly offering on this EP, defined by it’s warbled sub-bass, steady drums and the layered round featuring the plucked cello, the saxophone and the bowed cello. Yet half way through the song it all falls off and we find ourselves in a new section where the energy builds back up with a curious variation of the prominent motif from the first half before slyly returning to the original motif.
And then we find ourselves at the 15 and a half minute magnum opus and title track, Sly Gazabo (note: Gazabo, while an alternative spelling to gazebo, is also old slang for a man or fellow). So complex and thorough, the number of narratives one could extrapolate from this song must near infinity.
The track takes little time to get off the ground, kicking off with a layered and heavily panned interplay between several bowed cellos and before long the drums kick in and we’re in full polyrhythmic bliss. Bowed cello gives way to plucked cello and shortly after 2 minutes we find ourselves falling into darker territory as the reverb carries us deeper and the voices stretch out before returning to frantic cries for a brief moment. Nearing 4 minutes the air thins out and the story takes a twist. The 808 holds tough under the dancing sax and cello before the song gives-way to a heavy pulsing beat shortly after the 6 minute mark, where the cello and sax flutter in and out, not too unlike Pink Floyd’s visceral breakdown in Atom Heart Mother. The story pulls itself together and rips itself apart over and over from then on, building the tension, hinting at the darkness below. Pushing the 11 minute mark and the search for resolve begins, but it appears futile as the sub-bass attempts to assert dominance over the unstable melodic voices. Yet the search continues and hope arises shortly after the 12 minute mark with calmness overtaking the background and all the voices reach for their own brand of harmony, looking for a ballast. This hope decays in the last minute and a half as each voice submits to its primal form and resigns to chaos, as if Aphex Twin sought to reconfigure the eerie Atom Heart Mother breakdown mentioned earlier. This is Avant Garde as realized by our generation.
The closing track Nancy’s Library lands the trio in the 80bpm range, with a steady juke kick drum pattern and a repeating, airy saxophone line (that nearly sounds like a flute) that gives the track it’s forward momentum. The cello dances around it like a forest nymph with it’s playful melodies progressing throughout. A sly 3/4 time breakdown keeps us on our toes before the song returns to it’s pleasant & infectious summer playfulness.
It cannot be overstated: Archie Pelago are literal incarnations of desperately needed innovation in a day & age when homogenization runs rampent in the sight of unparalleled accessibility to the means to create. They signal the dawn of a new age of avant garde music, raised on the tit of genre hybridity. Thank you Archie Pelago.
Sly Gazabo EP is available NOW on 12″ vinyl and digital download by Archie Pelago Music. Purchase links below.
Archie Pelago is the trio of Hirshi, Kroba, and Cosmo D and they hail from Brooklyn, NY. Archie Pelago combines their varied backgrounds in jazz and classical music with a common love for rhythm and the wide-open possibilities of electronic music. It is this sonic exploration that has led them to their most ambitious release to date: The Sly Gazabo EP.
This next highly-anticipated release paints a complex and vibrant world that explores a variety of tempos, rhythms and atmospheres, all while maintaining the uniquely Archie Pelago sound that listeners have come to admire over the past several releases. The A Side features the melodic, DJ-friendly tunes “Avocado Roller” and “In The Room,” two happy and intelligent songs that could easily be the soundtrack to your summer drive up the California coast. On the B side we find the title song, “Sly Gazabo”, a 15 minute ‘opus magnum’ that takes the listener down an unsettling sonic journey deep into the rabbit hole. The final track on the B side is “Nancy’s Library,” a fitting palette cleanser that serves as a mysteriously emotive response to the former track, the light at the end of the tunnel. The cover art was meticulously designed by Calvin Ho, of Atomic Attack! fame and printed on Black, White, and Silver ink. The Sly Gazabo EP is Archie Pelago’s most complete release to date — an instant collector’s piece for any true fan of their work.
01. Avocado Roller
02. In The Room
03. Sly Gazabo
04. Nancy’s Library