THE LIGHT AT 99TH
THE LIGHT AT 99TH
THE LIGHT AT 99TH featuring Freedom Bremner
A new collaboration from SIERRA CLASSIC SOUND and HOUSOEFREEDOM
Release Date 05.19.19
Will Kreth, Yusuke Yamamoto, and I met for the first time in 2011, in a tiny, gritty, control room at BPM Studios in Williamsburg Brooklyn. it was one of the most economical uses of space I had ever seen. There was gear wedged in every crevice and the vocal booth was a tight squeeze too. I think there may have been some drums stored in there, while I was singing, but man did that room it have a vibe. It was the beginning of an exciting collaboration, SIERRA CLASSIC SOUND, that produced three songs The Light at 99th is the first release with more music to come. On "The Light at 99th", we tell a story of a commuter's journey from New York City to Connecticut, starting underground from Grand Central station, traveling beneath the upper East Side, then appearing above ground in Harlem, and continuing up through the Hudson River Valley. It's a beautiful train ride that can be both stimulating and meditative at the same time. I've taken it more times than I can count going to gigs upstate. It's a song about that quiet space in the daily commute where we reflect on the daily grind, what does it all mean.... is this enough, what comes next? The title refers to an actual street light in Harlem, the street light at 99th Street is one of the first things you can see just as you're coming out of the darkness of the tunnel that begins at Grand Central Station. On an overcast day in the fall, it takes on an even more mystical quality.
Sierra Classic Sound was born in Brooklyn but the video is also a collaboration and a South American production. The drawings were created by storyboard artist Kaio Casarini from Sao Paolo, and the animation was created by "Lady Mariana" aka Mariana Lopez, from Montevideo, Uruguay. I'm really excited about this video because I looooove animation. This is the first time I've been sketched, storyboarded and animated... and psyched about it!
Coyote featuring Freedom Bremner
A collaboration with the amazing Mexican band, Troker, from their album "Imperfecto".
Release Date 11.16.18
So, I live for these moments when I’m introduced to an artist or group that has their own special sauce. There’s a lot of “instant music - just add water” out there these days. We all know it. So I don’t have that “wow” feeling as as much as I wish it did, but that’s okay, because when it comes, I really feel it.
In 2014, however, I came across a band called Troker at the Vive Latino Festival in Mexico City. It was also there that I discovered the amazing Colombian metal band Kraken and their lead singer, one of the greatest I've ever heard, the late Elkin Ramirez. That's a story for another day...back to Troker... Their music tasted like psychedelic jazz funk hip hop mariachi gumbo to me, and I was hungry. Someone wrote “if Salvador Dali ever made a heist movie, then Mexico’s Troker would have been the soundtrack music.” Totally! It’s funky it’s adventurous, it’s got horns, DJ break beats, it grooves, it’s musical and highly thematic. I dig it.
So you can imagine my general “psyched-ness” when my friend, bassist, producer and journalist Alonso Arreala, wrote to me from Mexico City to tell me that he was producing the next album by Troker and that they would like to collaborate with me on a song. YES! They had already written the music for a piece called Coyote, and wanted me to contribute to it. Troker, their manager Ana, and I, ended up meeting up for brunch in Jersey City, New Jersey soon after that email exchange , and we talked about the concept. We sat around the table with the laptop, passed the headphones and did a little show and tell. My former band Screaming Headless Torsos had just finished the live video of “Running Black Water featuring Hiromi “ and I showed them the final edit of the video and they shared this new music with me. I asked them about the name “Troker” which was clearly Spanglish to me, I believe it was Samo who said, that “Troker” is Mexican for “trucker”, and that their vision was that if truck drivers listened to progressive jazz radio, while on the road, doing their long hauls, this would be the music they would hear.
So, Coyote, was a haunting dramatic piece with different movements and themes. It created instant emotion and imagery for me. They gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted. They only direction was that the song needed to be about the journey that many Mexicans and Latin Americans make across the border to the U.S. with the “Coyotes”, the smugglers who are paid to guide and smuggle them. These immigrants are desperate and they sell everything they own in order to pay the coyotes for this journey. There are no guarantees and there is every kind of danger along the way , and once they arrive in the states, if they even make it to the U.S. They said I could be as broad or as specific as I wanted, so long as it dealt with this journey in some way. I could sing, rap, rhyme, scat, preach, speak. anything. That was it. It was not a typical song by any stretch, it was challenging. I had my own feelings about the political issues surrounding it as well as the humanity of it. As you might guess, I am not impressed by President’s Trump’s characterization of Mexicans writ large or his handling of the border security immigration issues, so this was also an opportunity for me to address that. At the same time, I was keenly aware that my perspective is informed largely by American media. So, I did some research as part of my process and talked to my friends in Mexico about some of the politics. They pointed me in interesting directions, I did more research and then when I was done with that, I activated “set it and forget it” mode, left the homework behind and started to create. I think I’m most pleased with my decision to sample the last 4 american presidents , and the current president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Obrador, ( who was not president at the time of the speech) from different speeches they’ve all made on the subject of immigration. That was a first for me. The whole process was challenging and sooo fulfilling, and I’m really happy with what we did.
I’m going to do something counter-intuitive, when it comes to self-promotion. Of course, I would love for you to listen to the whole album, but for now, I want you to listen to another song from Troker’s Imperfecto first, before mine. I think it will be a good palette cleanser before you hear our collaboration on “Coyote”. You can even skim through these too and come back them later.
Here’s my suggested order
Listen to track 3 “Nahual”,
Listen to track 2 “ One Thousand Million Eyes” ,
Then Track 9 “Coyote”.
Then, when the time is right, listen to the whole album.
There ’s a reason Coyote comes close to the end of the record, there’s a build to it. By the way the song “One Thousand Million Eyes”, features the other guest artist on Imperfecto, vocalist Renee Moi of “Moi”. She is killin’ it. Love her. The link to the full album on Bandcamp is below. Enjoy.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE ALBUM IMPERFECTO by TROKER
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO "COYOTE" featuring Freedom Bremner
Some good stuff coming up on the calendar before Christmas. For the nostalgic, I'll be riding again with the Glen Burtnik's Summer of Love Experience celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. For lovers of music new, bodacious, and beyond, Screaming Headless Torsos heads to Boston at Brighton Music Hall on December 7th as special guests of our friends Consider The Source .
Tickets are available here for all shows.
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