Nineteen Thirteen's full-length debut is a moody, ethereal soundtrack
And then there were two.
While in the past, Milwaukee instrumental ensemble Nineteen Thirteen drew on some other talents, by the time the group set out to record its debut full-length disc, cellist Janet Schiff and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo were going it alone.
The moody, ethereal – often, but not always, brooding – "Music for Time Travel" is receiving an official release Friday, May 13 at The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, at 7 p.m. Admission is $20, $10 for museum members.
"It's the first recording that Janet and I are just at the helm, the two of us," says DeLorenzo, as he cues up the record for us to listen to together in his East Side recording studio, where most of the record was created.
"It's easier to get things done. Also, we just wanted to design a recording that wasn't locked into a certain kind of a mindset. There are even some lyrics on the album."
The 13-track record clocks in at less than 40 minutes – which in itself is refreshing in an era of over-long albums – and many of the tracks run two minutes or are even shorter. And in this case less definitely feels like more.
The songs encompass a broad mix of styles, from jazz to rock to classical to African percussion, and, more than anything, coalesce to create what sounds like a dynamic and engaging soundtrack to the best movie you'll someday see.
"I hope that the listeners will go on a journey when they listen," says Schiff. "We go from futuristic to moody durge, to joyous techno, a forlorn ballad to pop-rock serenade. We always want listeners to conjure and tell us about images or memories when they experience us."
Some of the pieces were created for a dance performance, and a cover of Gershwin's "Summertime" was recorded previously and issued as a single. But most of the songs were created specifically for – and in many cases during – these sessions.
"There were a few pieces that were composed prior, but most of it was born in the studio and during the meetings Victor and I had," Schiff recalls. "We had such fun times recording this but there were definitely sessions that were laborious. We presented ideas for each next piece, a plan of attack for how to record it, and we worked well together in new ways. Some of the pieces we recorded live in the studio, and there were several that we multi-tracked to make the different sounds that you will hear."
Surely the popiest and most traditionally "catchy" number is "Bye Bye," a tribute to David Bowie, who passed away while Nineteen Thirteen was at work on "Music for Time Travel."
"'Bye Bye' started as just an idea of maybe we could in some fashion pay homage to David Bowie," says DeLorenzo. "This was just after his passing. I think I had a drum pattern I had put down. Janet came and played a little keyboard bass on it. I was listening to it and I was going 'what would you think about if I wrote some lyrics and if the lead instrument was a voice?' She said, 'Well, you know, it's, it's, kind of out of the realm of 1913 but I think that's what we're trying to do now right?' Maybe this is one way to really broaden the spectrum in one fell swoop."
Though DeLorenzo and Schiff worked mainly as a duo, a number of guests contributed to the performances – some of which were also recorded with Steve Hamilton at Makin' Sausage Music – including bassist Rob Wasserman, percussionists Nez and Cree, singer Monia (with whom DeLorenzo has recorded an entire CD, due for release later in the year), keyboardist Matt Meixner and multi-instrumentalist Malachi DeLorenzo, Victor's son.
Also heard on the record is Schiff's grandmother, Marguerite, whose 1961 home recording of "Summertime" was the inspiration for – and is interlaced into – Nineteen Thirteen's recording of it.
"I think when you listen to the album, and it is an album. It is sequenced in an album fashion even though, as everybody likes to, they pick out whatever tracks they like nowadays," says DeLorenzo.
"I didn't want it to just sound like we put up mics and recorded the whole thing in one fell swoop and then mixed it. I wanted each individual piece of music to be a world unto itself."
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