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Published: 2002/07/14
by Cory Ferber

Sound Tribe Sector 9, High Sierra Music Festival, 7/4

Sound Tribe Sector Nine is a pioneering 5-piece jazz
dance band the seamlessly blends subgenres of jazz,
new age, and rock into thought provoking musical
journeys with unpredictable improvisation and group
interplay. They mix the earthy grooves of soul jazz
with elements of free jazz, fusion, and even big
band/swing. Their songs are set in the sounds of
dance and experimental art rock, with thematic
overtones of ambient, techno tribal, and progressive

Sector Nine closed out the first night of the High
Sierra Music Festival and within the limits of a one set show,
the band delivered a well-balanced look into their current
musical world. This was the perfect journey for those
vaguely familiar or unacquainted with the band's
music. For those familiar with the songs, it was a
brilliantly constructed set list that had us on the
edge of our seats.

The main stage performance was a treat because it was
an opportunity to see them outside in the middle of a
fresh pine forest under a star-filled sky. There was
plenty of room for everyone to gather with their
friends and dance. It was a vibrant feeling to see the
music ripple out from the stage through the audience into nature and beyond, without the usual walls that
contain us inside a club or bar.

The announcer asked for us to take a moment of silence
in light of everything that had happened in the world
since last year's performance. It was a moment to
reflect, meditate, and listen to the natural world
around us. This refreshing moment seemed to linger on
until she spoke once more, "Brothers and sisters,
Sound Tribe Sector Nine." The understatement of the
band's introduction was grand.

The band opened with the experimental dance number
"Moon Sockets," one of the best known songs from their
debut album. This version began with weird
science fiction effects that led to the usual
fluttering cricket sounds. The stage was radiating
and you could see the excitement in the band. When
drummer Zach Velmer kicked in with the rolling dance
beat the place exploded. The introduction was
delivered with extreme confidence, and found the band
skipping back and forth between the dance beat and
the funky groove of the bass.

After the songs introduction, it is an open-ended song
made up of endless cycles through a similar jam, which
starts with the theme delivered by guitarist Hunter
Brown. This song has this interesting quality where
Hunter subtlety moves the band from the theme to the
jam, yet it all happens on a dime. While he took a
free jazz solo on the songs theme, Keyboardist David
Phipps played swirling ambient soundscapes around him. The short composed chorus section that divides the
cycles of the jam then helped to build the songs

As we moved into a second jam that reversed the
musical conversation, Phipps laid down a solo with a
funky Seventies tone while Hunter wrapped flying
rhythm chords around him. This jam got much further
away from the theme. A second roaring run through the
chorus led to an ambient conclusion with luscious
jazzy piano and the returning cricket sounds. This
was classic Nine!

The band slowed things down with ."And Some Are Angels,"
a composed instrumental from the band's second studio
album. It's a song that could be played scaled down
acoustic on piano and percussion in a jazz nightclub
setting. The happy melodies and accompanying
harmonies and bring a smile to my face.

During the most improvised section of the song, Hunter
played fluttering free jazz guitar while Zach showered
him with a full range of rhythm chords from the
drum-kit. Bassist David Murphy held it all together
while Jeffree Lerner, who plays percussion and
elementals, through sonic bombs over top of him. As
the jam peaked and slowly broke down, Phipps came in
over top of all it with jazzy free form piano.

Jeffree eventually solely accompanied him on hand
percussion. It was beautiful to see the two of them
distorting the theme in quite way. There was great
anticipation, as one sensed in the music we were
building towards the next section. As Jeffree
continued on hand percussion, Zach took over with a
short solo where he proceeded to deconstruct and shred
the theme.

This led way to a second jam, where Hunter's solo
continued where the first one left off. As he
wandered and fluttered like a butterfly through the
sky, the rest of the band listened closely. They were
locked in around him, and moved like a raging storm
with thunder and lighting. As Hunter reached his
destination, the jam peaked into a heavenly extended
moment. The pursuing ambient white noise left me
feeling like the sun had finally broke through the

After a long pause, Hunter played a sample from his
computer that began with someone saying, "I wanna be
your side kick." Making eye contact with Phipps, he
then delivered the theme of the song from the
computer, as Phipps played along lightly on piano.
Zach then kicked in with a splattered drum effect, as
the theme grew stronger on the piano.

It all came together when Murphy and Hunter began
trading two distinct harmony lines. The first was a
short phrased noodling sound. The second was a longer
phrased soulful and uplifting sound. Zach was playing
whole beats while also creating spirals of sixteenth
notes placed erratically. He was constantly playing
off of the multitude of textures being developed by
Phipps and Jeffree, including the sounds of wind

This song revealed a tranquil feeling, like soundtrack
music for time elapsed photography flying over High
Sierra. We had never heard this song and later
learned it is tentatively titled "Today2." Similar to
other songs, this one moved through repeated cycles of
the theme/jam/chorus combination. During the last
cycle, Hunter began playing more free jazz guitar took
over a rolling psychedelic keyboard from Phipps.

Out of songs lingering ashes came the opening chimes
of STS9, and unrecorded high-energy dance song that is
less then two years old. The first half of the song
contains Phipps playing the patented crinkling tingly
sounds of early Nineties acid house. Through the
thick haze of a dance song arose an intense jam as
Hunter picked a solo using the tone of the chimes. As
he moved into a sustaining the chimes, the rest of the
band swept around him with wild percussion, keyboards,
flutes, and soundscapes.

STS9 is a song where the first jam flips and is
inverted into the second jam. The first jam is based
on the sixteenth notes of the drums and keyboards,
while the second jam is based on the relaxed down
tempo groove on the bass. There was great
anticipation in the music as Murphy began the bass
line of the second jam. Those familiar knew the first
half of the song was reaching its conclusion, while
those unfamiliar simply thought the song was over and
segued into a second song.

The band slowed things down again with "Life's Sweet
Breath," a soulful song that made its debut earlier
this year. This powerfully moving composed
instrumental was the perfect way to inhale our natural
surroundings. This song begins with the theme
introduced in a duet between guitar and bass. After
the entire band runs through the theme, Hunter plays a
bluesy riff that is filled with emotion. It's
augmented by the occasional sound effect and drum
fill. The band then returned for a final run through
the theme.

From the lingering white noise rang the huge sound of
cathedral bells. For whom the bells toll, they toll
"For My Peeps!" This hard to classify song also made its
debut earlier this year. Zach began belting out a
fast rhythmic beat that guides us through the entire
song, as other flying stereo effects soon rose and
fell, and moved from side to side across the stage.
Zach incorporates a barrage of dancing high hats and
cymbals that sounds like a hose spraying water. He
leaves holes in various places to construct the
rhythmic flow, much in the same way a hose spraying
water sounds as it is moved back and forth in a
rhythmic and chaotic fashion. This was patented Zach

Murphy played a slow and wandering bass line, while
holding down the structure of the song. After
finding their groove, the music took a short breath.
I turned to my friend and told him things were about
to get nuts. Zach had been playing with such
confidence all night and everything seemed to build up
to this moment.

Zach then turned the pressure in the hose on full
blast, leading the jam all over the place playing in
an electrifying nature. Jeffree interacted with him
along the way on hand percussion and effects. When
Hunter began to lay down free form jazz guitar, Zach
played off him like electric rhythm guitarist sitting
from his drum-kit. Phipps ambient soundscapes reach
loud volumes as the jam peaked into an intensely
blissful extended moment.

When Phipps moved to piano, the whole band followed
and locked together in breakdown jam. Murphy soon
broke off and began weaving the song's bass line back
into the mix. Slowly and seamlessly, they found they
way back to the introduction portion of the song.
When it was over, I was left breathless.

How can we top that off? "Kamuy!" This happy go lucky
jazz dance song returned us to the band's second
studio album. After a number of newer songs, you
could feel the warm welcome from the crowd. If this
song had lyrics, the entire crowd would have been
singing along. The moment seemed larger then life as
the stage was lit up like a rainbow, and the energy
flowed between musicians and the audience, all among
mystic natural settings.

Hunter's gorgeous guitar work continued on this
number. The first jam featured him playing the theme
by picking notes, while the second had him playing the
same theme on fast and frolicking rhythm guitar. A
very short first jam led to evolved into the second
where Murphy took a delicious free-form bass solo over

The next jam was somewhat chaotic, as Hunter seemed
unsure of where the band wanted to go. First he
played rhythm, then he picked notes, and then the band
went right past him. Phipps and Zach had been making
eye contact across the stage, and seemed set on moving
the song into the final dueling rhythm section. This
was interesting because this is not an original
section of the song, but something that gown and
evolved out of live versions. As Jeffree began going
off on hand percussion, Phipps soon spoke up, and the
shouting match pursued.

Once this section was done, they moved into the final
section of the song that is similar to the
introduction. Hunter got to finish off what he
appeared to want to say earlier, while Phipps added
lounge style piano for a beautiful extended
conclusion. As it appeared the reached the end, I had
stopped dancing and was ready to clap. The band
surprised me by running through the theme several more
times, while having looks on their faces that they
didn't want it to end. This was a wonderful
conclusion for the songs, and a immense way to close
out the show.

Sound Tribe came back out and encored with "Satori," a
composed song from their latest album titled
SeasonsO1. This is another song whose mellow insanity
makes its hard to classify, yet it is typical of the
maturing sound of the band. This song focuses on the
interaction of fast drumming with ambient soundscapes
and free form keyboards. It's all held together by
the theme delivered repeatedly on guitar along with a
slow grooving bass line.

The interplay between Zach, Jeffree and Phipps was
magical as the song moved through its cycles of the
theme/jam/chorus combination. In the final cycle,
Hunter broke free and Phipps incorporated the rolling
psychedelic keyboard as the drummers peaked. Hunter
soon returned to the theme to move them through its
final climatic ending. This revealed great
anticipation, as the band appeared stuck in the groove
like a broken record. For one last peak musical
sentence, Zach deconstructed the theme while being
accompanied by flying stereo effects. This peaked
into the final chorus of the song.

When it was over, David Murphy added "Blessings and
love, thank you." This was a peak performance
for the band where keen song selection took us on a
journey as the music poured from the stage. It is the
perfect show to share with others about joy of the

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