Having an epiphany
Realization Orchestra and the alchemy of the sonic
By David Cotner 03/29/2012
You’re forgiven if you think that the men in purple jumpsuits in front of you at Billy O’s are workmen, laborers, technicians. But the men in those jumpsuits cranking out that bizarre tornado of sound and fury for your entertainment are musicians. They are, for your delectation, absolute professionals. The stock-in-trade of the Realization Orchestra is free improvisation — but with all the sounds that they wield and weld in unusual and exciting combinations, you may also discover that they deal in teleportation as well. They will play, and they will take you places.
The sextet from the L.A. suburb of Val Verde launches its extensive 20-date West Coast tour this month in Sacramento, having solidified its roster over only two years since its initial start at CalArts to become the fighting beast of a noisemaker that it currently is. The stop at Billy O’s, on Saturday, March 31— its third performance so far in Ventura — is part of a tour arranged especially to showcase the premier A Way In, the Weasel Walter-produced record that resulted from a nine-part suite meditating on the nature of time and being. The one-sided 12-inch titled REALIZATION (decorated with an etching of a photograph of cacti in negative) is available from Bandcamp, and the band’s lineup — guitarist Eliot Eidelman, drummer Evan Backer, bassist Mikal Cronin, guitarist / organist Jon Olmstead, saxophonist Matty Harris, and guitarist George Pritzker — pulls together some of the best new minds from L.A.-area bands such as WITT, Ty Segall and Weatherbox, straddling the disparate worlds of all-ages clubs and modern art.
One of the hallmarks of its music is the energy level required to keep the dynamic together. Eidelman, who also serves as director of the Orchestra, spoke recently about that from inside the band’s van on the way to the next live action.
“We have a collective, creative mindset, so we’re able to go through this highly structured music but also have a lot of spontaneity and almost telepathically communicate this energy.” And just how free is the free improvisation? “It’s fairly structured. We have moments when we developed the material enough to where we have the launch pad from which we set improvisation up. There’s a lot of composed material that we’re dipping into that inspires improvisation.” It follows that that comes from an almost intimate knowledge of the music involved.
What each musician does, as Realization Orchestra puts it, is to “. . . individually navigate the structural obstacle course of the triptych suite with his own time-sound acrobatics, resulting in a group effect of constant merging and dispersal.” What that translates to, musically speaking, is that the sound speeds up without warning, slows without excuse, coming off like a player piano giving itself an autopsy in an operating theater filled with sax, trumpet, guitars and drums.
Experienced live, they bear out their $10 words with shouted choruses diving headfirst into a hurricane of possibilities, horns screaming and drums pounding mercilessly away in the background. At points, it is as if the final orchestral cacophony of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” has come to life and plunked itself down before you, dissolving with brute force into the blessed oasis of silence that appears from time to time throughout the work. How much of the Realization Orchestra’s music is free and how much of it is controlled? Eidelman pauses. “Overall, it’s very controlled, but within a controlled structure, there’s a lot of freedom.” It’s not the sort of sound you generally expect to hear in a dive bar in Ventura — but you don’t expect epiphanies or great realizations to pop up when they hit you, either.
Realization Orchestra will perform at Billy O’s in Ventura on Saturday, March 31, 9 p.m., with Invisible Circle, Adams & Eves, Hurricanes of Love and Danger Friends USA. The show is free.