Dear ACB readers, I am pleased to announce my first solo album in seven years, Isosceles. This one is an eighty minute long departure from my usual esoteric experiments. Instead it is full of unapologetically funky and tonal instrumental synth tracks. Many of these were shared as works-in-progress here on ACB.
Years in the making, this collection of tracks was carefully picked from dozens of compositions. Vintage and contemporary electronic instruments and processors were used alongside each other to create a unique yet familiar sound. The album is full of thick analog arpeggios, punchy bass lines, earthy beats, and ballistic leads. The anthology is interspersed with contemplative moments reminiscent of the promise of space exploration and discovery. It is a journey through light years of exploratory sound design, future thought, and galactic musical manifestations.
The gorgeous artwork is by Benjamin Montag and the impeccable mastering was handled by Tom Garneau. The album was released on Unearthed Music and is available on Bandcamp as well as the usual suspect (iTunes, et al). Tonight I’ll be performing at Acadia in Minneapolis to celebrate the release.
Composed and performed by John C. S. Keston
Ablum art by Benjamin Montag
Mastered by Tom Garneau of Audioactive
Bloodline, a trio featuring Cody McKinney, Peter Hennig, and John Keston (myself), has been quietly performing at a handful of obscure venues in the Twin Cities for about a year and a half. On Monday, October 3rd we’ll poke out heads out of the shadows for a set during JT’s Jazz Implosion residency at the Icehouse in Minneapolis.
JT’s Jazz Implosion at Icehouse is one of the hottest jazz scenes in the cities. Featuring bands that study strong jazz composition, the performances consist of a variety of modern jazz songs with an improvisational flair. The bands that perform are emblems of originality in the modern jazz scene, oftentimes receiving national attention for their jazz genre knowledge and assimilation of multiple influences. The series appeals to a variety of listeners, providing multilayered compositions for every jazz fan.
For a taste of what Bloodline is all about, please have a listen to a few excerpts from one of our recent performances at Jazz Central Studios:
Graham O’Brien is an exceptional and inventive drummer, composer, and producer. It has been my privilege to play with him at dozens shows and on at least five separate projects over the last eight years. His latest solo endeavor is a series of five videos titled Drum Controller. Graham had discussed his goals for the project with me, but when I saw/heard the videos I was immediately impressed. I wanted to know more about how he was able to trigger these beautiful and complex electro-acoustic arrangements without touching anything other than his minimal kit of kick, two snares, high hats, and a ride.
On June 13, 2015 I collaborated with a team of nine students and nine musicians on a project I directed for Northern Spark, an annual, all-night, art festival In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. We titled the project, Instant Composer: Mad-libbed Music and the intent was to engage the audience into instantly writing musical compositions for an ensemble of improvising musicians.
I discussed the concept here in-depth and also announced the project last June. I had no idea what to expect, but was thrilled with the outcome. Around 115 crowdsourced scores were entered into a database via our mobile application. During the nine hour performance we interpreted nearly 70 of those pieces for the audience.
This video should give you a sense of what went on that night, but no media can fully represent an event like this. I can say that it wouldn’t have happened without the student collaborators, our collective of excellent musicians, the Northern Spark organizers, Art Institutes Minnesota, and the hundreds of people in our audience willing to engage in the process. Please see the video for the full project credits.
Chris LeBlanc is a video artist who I have been collaborating with frequently for the last year and a half. The body of work that he has produced in this short period is remarkable. His improvised visuals for musical performances include mash-ups from rare VHS tapes of bizarre B-movies; usually of the sci-fi, horror, or fighting genres. He augments these mix tapes with circuit-bent Nintendos and a vast collection of other analog video devices to produce uncanny, audio-responsive, visual experiences that enhance musical performances and draw in listeners. Recently he added a modular video synthesis system to his rig and salvaged a nine-by-nine CRT video wall for display.
On Thursday, October 22nd Chris produced visuals for a solo performance of mine at a club with a projector and fifty-one flat screen monitors dispersed throughout the venue. Chris managed to display his video art on the projector and all of the flat screens during my performance. This lasted for about half the set until an irate bar manager found him and made him put the hockey game back on a few of the flatscreens. In addition to his performances he creates music videos and stills using the same equipment and similar techniques. After our most recent show I thought it would be great to share a discussion with Chris here on ACB. I interviewed him on what drives his decisions as an artist and how he makes his analog imagery so engaging while using content and technology from a bygone era.
Read on for the interview with Chris LeBlanc plus more videos and still photo examples of his work. Continue reading →