STS9: Sound Track For The Future
"This music is new and it hits me like an electric shock. . . Electric music is the music of this culture and in the breaking away (not breaking down) from previously assumed forms a new kind of music is emerging. The whole society is like that. The old forms are inadequate. Not the old eternal verities but the old structures. And new music isn’t new in that sense either, it is still creation which is life itself and it is only done in a new way with new materials.
So we have to reach out to the new world with new ideas and new forms and in music this has meant leaving the traditional forms of bars and scales, keys and chords and playing something else altogether which maybe you can’t classify yet but which you recognize when you hear it and which when it makes it, really makes it, it is the true artistic turn on.
It’s not more beautiful. Just different. A new beauty. This is new and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when you go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever been before.
Listen to this. This music will change the world like the cool and walkin’ did and now that communication is faster and more complete it may change it more deeply and more quickly. It’s not just the horn. It’s a concept. It’s a life support system for a whole world.
Music is the greatest of the arts for me because it cuts through everything, needs no aids. It is. It simply is." (Ralph J. Gleason, from the Liner notes of Miles Davis’ "Bitches Brew.)
This is where we sit today, at the brink of a new music. I realize that comparisons to Miles Davis are futile, but when I am watching and listening to Sound Tribe Sector 9 visions of Miles’ late sixties and early seventies collaborations flash uncontrollably through my mind. Of course the Sound Tribe is not doing the same thing that Miles was, and they are not even trying to do so. But what they are doing is leaving the traditional, assumed styles of music behind. When reading this quotation it sounds as if Mr. Gleason could easily be talking about Sector 9, and the analogies are impossible to deny. Just as Miles was "breaking away (not breaking down) form previously assumed forms" so is the Sound Tribe. They have created a completely unique sound. They incorporate aspects of the more traditional jamb and music with futuristic electronic sounds and explosive break beat almost techno drumming. The sound is flawlessly meshed together creating something entirely new, but like Miles, "the new music isn’t new in that sense either it is still creation which is life itself and it is only done in a new way with new materials." You simply could not describe Sector 9 better. With their futuristic space travel sound you can hear a fresh new music, yet it is clearly routed in a primitive, archaic land, drawing their connections to the Mayan calendar, and a peaceful, enlightened view of our world.
Sector 9 is unlike the music that precedes them. The classic tension-release mechanisms have been left behind. They have created a selfless music, one that consciously denies the egotistical lead into a guitar solo. I have never heard Hunter (guitarist for STS9) take a ripping solo. Instead he subtly sits back, complementing, allowing one complete sound to envelop the audience. Hunter is just an example of the entire bands mind set. They do not want to be rock stars up on stage; they want to heal the world. And the vibes that surround their shows emulate this. I have met the most wonderful people while seeing Sector 9. The people are not their as part of some scene they are there for the music. For the energy. For the hope of a better day. This is "the new world with new ideas and new forms of music." This is a music that I can’t even classify. What do you call this? Its not rock, its not jazz, its not techno or trance, I don’t know what it is. My friend Bradley calls it the Ancient Future.’ And I suppose it is. Take for instance a track off their latest album "water song." The sound is set in the future with electronic bouncing blasts and hypnotic offbeat drumming, yet clearly connected to the oldest form on earth, which is of course water, with the melodic keyboard work from David Phipps. The Sound Tribe floats through a futuristic space warp while holding onto the roots of life on earth.
I feel that while talking about Sector 9 one has to comment on Zack Velmer. Zack is the drummer, and in my opinion leader of this new sound. In my humble opinion Zack is one of the most amazing musicians I have ever seen. He has essentially created an entirely new style of drumming. He bangs away on a floating snare drum that creates a truly unique sound. He hits so many beats in the course of a night I can’t even fathom how he makes it through a show. He is the only one who truly solos, and explodes into the spot light. But it is not done in a "hey look at me way." It is part of the entire plan; it’s his drumming that becomes the fuel for the space ship know as Sector 9. Although Zack is clearly capable of blowing the roof of any venue he too refuses to be "the star." When you look at the way percussionist Jeffree Lerner lightly colors Zack’s drum exhibition you once again see that this is a family unit on stage, and they are completely dedicated to creating one sound. One amazing therapeutic sound.
The five musical visionaries that make up Sound Tribe Sector 9 are dedicated not only to their music, but also to a better life. To spreading the joy of their music, and bringing a taste of peaceful enlightenment to their audience. STS9 "is the music of this culture. . .and the whole society is like that. The old forms are inadequate." Could you hit the nail more firmly on the head? We live in a society that is inadequate. We choose to hate instead of love. We choose violence over peace, and show no sign of bonding together as a race. Sector 9 refuses the urge to separate life from art, art from music. They are dedicated to the incorporation of life, art, music, and love. As Gleason said in talking about Miles, "it’s not just a horn. It’s a concept. It’s a life support system for a whole world." Ahhhhh! This IS Sector 9. It’s not just music, it’s art, and art is life. They have left the traditional forms of society behind. They do not live in accordance with the 12-month calendar that finds its history in the Vatican. They have taken to the ancient Mayan 13 month calendar that is routed in the cycles of the world. Instead of random dates and nonsensical time frames they follow the patterns of the moon, tides and the cycles which weather we realize it or not surround us daily. Perhaps it is possible that if we allowed our bodies to become more in tune with nature, by coinciding with these cycles instead of constantly denying them, maybe, just maybe we could evolve as a race. Could it be possible that if our minds and bodies were to find their true groove the pain and sorrow of our world could dissipate?
It may sound far-fetched, but I think it’s a possibility. Hear me out. When I am at a show, lets just talk about Sector 9 for now. So when I am at a Sector 9 show and they find their groove, I literally feel better. I feel the joy and sense of well being radiating through my body. And I have seen the crowd react in the same way. I have seen my friends become overwhelmed with joy as we embrace and dance to the driving sound, taking us both forward in space and back in time. I have also seen it on the faces of the band. While at the Fillmore in the first weekend of February my friends and I where front row, leaning on the stage, dancing, grooving, spinning in a state of euphoria. At one point I looked up on stage and made eye contact with David Murphy the bass player and the look in his eyes solidified this notion for me. He was as overwhelmed as we were. You could see the true unadulterated joy on his face. This is his purpose on earth, and he knew it. He saw the vibe he was helping to create, and I felt the vibe that the entire crowd was also participating in. The union between band and audience was electric. The positive energy was growing infinitely. They are "life support system for a whole world."
Sector 9 is leading a revolution in music. They are taking us beyond a simple evening of music and elevating us to a new way of living. Take the concept of life as art.’ While at the Fillmore they had artists set up next to them, feeding of the energy, creating a new art form of painting in the wake of Sector 9’s musical journey. They are so in tune with each other and the cyclical flow of the universe that they are able to actually heal the audience. Their music is so amazing that it could take over the world. But in light of their peaceful enlightened coexistent natural bio-rhythmic view of the world they wouldn’t even want to conquer. They would be much happier to spread the lessons of peace, love and harmony. I believe they would prefer to slip into the background and allow a new vision of our purpose on earth to emerge. They could be the catalyst of change. They could save the world if we would only let them. I realize this is a bit much for a relatively unknown band that just moved to Santa Cruz from Atlanta, but they are for real.
Sector 9 is new, "and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever been before." They are the sound track for the future. A future that now shows signs of intelligence. A future that could possibly see us moving forward. It is out there waiting for us; they have offered schematics suggesting peace. It’s simply a question of if in this time and place we are capable of accepting it.