Written by Ranchsauce:
For those of our readers who downloaded LostinSound’s 5k Likes Compilation, you got your first taste of the Boston/New York based trio lespecial with their current single, “Sweet Pea.” Drummer Rory Dolan, guitarist/keyboardist Jonathan Grusauskas, and bassist Luke Bemand all hail from the northwest corner (“NWC”) of Connecticut and devote their lives to creating and teaching others about music. The trio studied music composition and application at Berklee College of Music and Bennington College. Each member teaches music to youth at The Music Cellar, a space owned and operated by Grusauskas in Millerton, NY. As productive and innovative as lespecial is, you know they are these kids’ “cool” teachers.
Like many others, when I think of lespecial I visualize the band playing a rowdy set rife with improv and taut technique. All in their mid-twenties, lespecial has developed as each member’s style of play has assimilated new ideas from influences ranging from Primus to Fela Kuti to Flying Lotus to The Mars Volta. Not an easy group to peg, and that’s what I like most about them. The band will playfully toss around words like “death-funk” and “glitch-hop” to describe their sound, maybe to avoid pigeonholing themselves. I would describe what they are doing as nu-world music as it is exploring the musical intersection of far off exotic cultures and our own exotic culture.
The band’s sophomore EP release, Ceremony, keeps you on your tippiest of toes, as they showcase a number of differing sounds in a very long twenty minutes. The song titles display the band’s rhetoric: “Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy” and “Spirit Antenna (Second Antler)” suggest a merging of ritualistic traditionalism with biomechanics. Here’s a track by track recap from yours ranchly:
“First Antler” initiates the Ceremony EP with some neo-tribal stylings made by the combination of a Seven Samurai-style Japanese shakuhachi flute, rattling timpani, and booming ceremonial floor toms. Bemand lays out some popping bass grooves paired with a synth counterpart. Enter my favorite component, the slow echoing guitar riffage of Grusauskas. Dolan flies around his set and keeps the track lunging forward with double kick drums.
The first time I heard “Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy,” I wasn’t surprised by the afro-beat style or the funky synth played through a Leslie cabinet. However, about a minute in, I had to double check my iTunes. “Money man don’t come knocking on my door,” Grusauskas sings, emphasizing the vowels, with Bemand and Dolan providing the “eyaeyaeya” response. I thought I had accidentally turned on a Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova track (which happens to be one of my favorite styles of music ever). But alas, it is another fresh one from the lespecial boys. Conga instruments and wooden frog both get touched on with feeling here. There is a dope sample where they glitch and warp the robot speak to make it sound like a droid just got the best oil bath of his life. Grusauskas’ guitar part in the middle of the song sounds like it could be Hunter Brown from STS9. They spend a few minutes showcasing their ability to produce that jam sound you’d hear at a live show. It all falls away and the group sings the vocal part again but with a truncated tempo.
Utilizing a kalimba, shekere, and literally a box of leaves and sticks, lespecial conjures up a hypnotic lull in “Spirit Antenna (Second Antler).” Another round of ceremonious percussion sets in. Intriguing sounds that create an almost Kalya Scintilla or Bluetech sound but done instrumentally. Studio Metronome production really shines here. My head hasn’t stopped moving in a trance like nod. I can totally see this “second antler” the title speaks of, magical and technological, transmitting information into our ears and into the cosmos.
“Dangus Khan” kicks off with some zaps and 8-bit sounds which segue into eerie Goosebumps-esque piano play. Makes me want to slink around the dancefloor like a spider in a suit and top hat. This is lespecial’s vaudeville creep stache party track for sure. “Ahhh, yesss. But of course.” Rory drums on the off beats, strange time signatures happening. Dissonance all around. Haunting stuttering fade out.
I watched about forty people on the second floor of the building across from the bus stop on treadmills and ellipticals moving in rhythm to the sounds of “Sweet Pea.” The drums are what really stand out to me. Love that small snare and high hat, like having my brain whisked around. A resounding cymbal crash to break the subtle build ups. Reminiscent of The Malah‘s sound and that live drum n’ bass jump that gets my ankles and knees greased up. And yet, this cut is still as dreamy as Bemand’s hairstyle. Synth and guitar sounds trickle and tinkle in from all sides until all three members hit that pocket where “lean” and “smooth” are understatements. Repeating vocal samples stutter and arpeggiate into a bonkers end to the EP.
I watched as lespecial terraformed at basement parties four or five years ago, experimenting and jamming with the likes of Wobblesauce and Supersillyus. After time spent in classrooms and on the music festival circuit, the band has officially leveled up with Ceremony. I believe that lespecial has the ability and vision to reach people all over the world with their music and be at the head of the pack as we manifest in 2013 and into the new age.
Donate to lespecial’s Indiegogo campaign, help them raise money for their upcoming tour and get limited edition gifts in return!
Written by Jennifer Zalkin:
It’s cool when you find a group of serious musicians who are in touch with what was, what is, and what can be. The addition of other worldly, futuristic elements prove something primitive can be evolved skillfully into something that will undeniably make you move and groove. When lespecial jams, they capture you, lead you down a road that is both dark and bright: profound on multiple levels. All the more reason why music lovers should not miss their 10 stop ‘Ceremony’ tour of the Northeast, which will commemorate the creation of their sophomore album. They’ll be hitting venues in Massachusetts, Vermont, Philly, Connecticut, and most notably will be playing an extra special show with Supersillyus Life Band at the Paper Box in Brooklyn, NY on February 22nd (stay tuned to Lost in Sound this week for a ticket giveaway contest to this show!). I can say from personal experience that anything lespecial is involved with is guaranteed to spread a smile, strong and wide onto your face. You will dance. You might even giggle simultaneously, which is most ideal for any experience. To catch the band with Supersillyus, one would be a part of an epic culmination of musicianship and friendship that is on another level. For those of you who caught the Life Band at lespecial’s autumnal festival “lespectacle,” you know exactly what I mean.