Improvisational dance excursions from a Brooklyn living room.
It'd be easy to pass Archie Pelago off as a gimmicky proof-of-concept. After all, you don't find many full-time reed players fronting electronic groups, and few live rigs require a flow chart to properly wrap your head around. (You can see it in action in Real Scenes: New York.) But once the needle drops, the particulars of their process fade away as their pillowy tones, winding melodies and sumptuous atmospherics take hold. Across music for small digital labels like Slime Recordings and more recent vinyl releases on Mister Saturday Night, Well Rounded and their own Archie Pelago Music, the Brooklyn trio has developed a sound that merges jazz, improvisation and experimental excursions with the thump of contemporary dance music. Greg Heffernan, Dan Hirshorn and Zach Koeber bonded over the latter after nights spent taking in house, techno and bass at local parties like TURRBOTAX®, but you sense it's the years of formal study in music performance that binds the project together.
They've put their constellation of influences—and unique approach to stitching them together—on display on RA.370. Featuring friends like Distal and Clay Wilson, less obvious favorites like Sandwell District, and plenty of their own material, it's 90 minutes of twisted tunes presented as only these three could.
What have you been up to recently?
Sly Gazabo, the first release on our own label, came out last month. We're very happy with how it's been received and grateful for the support we've been getting for it. We have also been playing the monthly Percussion Lab party in Williamsburg, amongst other Brooklyn happenings.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded at Greg's apartment on a Saturday afternoon, live and in one take, with our standard stage setup. Zach and Greg played live cello and sax, respectively, each with their own laptop rigs synced up with Serato and two turntables, all being mixed in real-time by Dan through a Rane Sixty Eight.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
We wanted to provide the feeling of what a long-form Archie live set would sound like for the uninitiated. We basically went into the zone for 90 minutes to see what would happen, how the songs would evolve, how the tempos would shift, etc. We included raw and unreleased Archie material we've been testing out live, unreleased tracks offered to us by friends and colleagues, as well as released material from ourselves and artists that inspire us. The plan was loose, and the execution was pure improvisation.
Cello and saxophone aren't exactly traditional electronic music instruments. What inspired you to make dance tracks with them?
Greg Heffernan: Before Archie, I was establishing myself as a professional cello player and exploring cello improvisation in Ableton Live. When we started Archie, incorporating my cello explorations into our sound felt like a natural next step from what I'd been doing before.
Zach Koeber: While studying jazz performance in college, I began experimenting with the use of effects pedals to process my saxophone's sound. The desire to be involved in a project that combined my love of improvised music and electronic manipulation was realized when Archie formed in 2010.
Dan Hirshorn: We all listen to dance music and we all play instruments. The combination of both seemed almost inevitable as soon as we started making music together.
You often improvise over other people's music when you play, effectively remixing on the fly. What do you listen for in tracks that make it into your live sets?
The tracks we improvise over have certain rhythmic and melodic qualities that compel us to interact with them musically. They tend to be minimal and spacious in arrangement, allowing us to contribute our own elements to each track. We're constantly playing off of the tracks and each other.
What are you up to next?
Our debut European tour is coming together for the fall, as well as an appearance at Decibel Festival in Seattle in September. Our next EP, the Breezy Whey / Backflight single, which includes a remix by Thefft, drops on July 22. We have a follow-up EP coming out in the fall as well. In short, lots of new music and new horizons for the live show.
Distal - Docking With The Station
Brandt Brauer Frick - Bop
Archie Pelago - Memos
Archie Pelago - Madame Suede Nightshade
Dino Sabatini - Vision Quest
Nina Kraviz - Ghetto Kraviz
Archie Pelago - Clammy Customer
2nd Sun - Freeq The P
Maya Jane Coles - Little One
Sage Caswell - Buyerside
Archie Pelago - In The Room
Sandwell District - Grey Cut Out
Clay Wilson - Untitled 2
Archie Pelago – D's Diamonds
Archie Pelago - Nancy's Library
Archie Pelago - Sly Gazabo
Photek - Knitevision