Last CenturySGL 1582-2
Steve Raegele, based in Montreal, ex-lead guitarist with psych rock band The Besnard Lakes, member of Thom Gossage’s Other Voices. Got the mixes in the mail, never heard of the guy, pop the CD into the player, stretch out with the headphones — hmm, something interesting going on here. Brilliant playing, strange atmosphere…not rock, not jazz (or both)…keeps putting me to sleep, some kind of musical narcotic…All sounds the same somehow, but not like other guitar trios. Keep coming back to it, finally starting to get some of the subtleties. What does his press kit say? “…A collection of Raegele-penned compositions that explore rhythm, texture, sonics, and harmony in a manner that alludes to jazz, 20th century classical music, free improv and groove. His power trio has played together since 2005 as the core of Thom Gossage’s Other Voices band, in which the three players developed a language that incorporates gesture, rhythmic opposition, and abstract melodicism as well as a dedication to creating music that is at once composed, spontaneous, considered and visceral. Raegele draws from a well of experience in disparate styles (disco/RnB, indie rock, jazz, chamber music) and influences (Wayne Krantz, Ben Monder, Ralph Towner).”
Other people have different takes – here’s Toronto guitarist Justin Haynes (who Steve studied with many years ago, when he was 15 and Justin was all of 17):
“The phenomenon of perceiving faces in clouds or hearing hidden messages whilst listening to records backwards is referred to by the doctors as pareidolia – one of Steve’s song titles. On Last Century we hear messages and see faces. And we hear code. Lots of code. It is beautiful and soulful music but it is not warm. Nor is it lyrical. Nor does it overtly groove much. It’s paranoid and hopeful at the same time, like Steve. And like Sisyphus (the title of another one of Steve’s tunes), Steve has his own rock to push. Steve’s rock is jazz. The music on this disc, it seems to me, exists chiefly to facilitate a kind of terse, textural, and conceptual improvising very unique to this trio…The music is complex and layered and unsettling and sometimes caustic and mean and almost totally homoerotic. The swells, static, vibrations, trash talk, code and other dirty details sifting through this record are its gold.”
Well, okay – so what does Steve have to say, for example, about that code Justin keeps harping on?
“This idea [pareidolia] relates back to my fascination with harmonic synonyms (and melodic, as they are one and the same, really…) and how one can extrapolate musical signifiers so that they no longer resemble the original icon. It comes back to jazz, in a way, in that jazz players learn the ‘changes’ then learn ‘substitutions’ for those changes, and ways of navigating those chords and tropes. If we keep extrapolating, and the icon becomes more and more remote, are we still playing the same song? Does it even matter? Or is it just a leap of faith, like modern fiat currency? If we all agree that D now equals A, is D not now A? In this respect, it is like a code…. At the end of the day, I’m trying to create different reference points for me and my musicians in order to imply structure, and elicit creative improvising. I’m interested in creating boundaries for the players and seeing how they subvert them and twist them to their particular abilities.” Steve also talks about placing the guitar trio “into a space inhabited by sonics, composition, and opulent resonance.” Something like a sonic hall of mirrors, maybe?
Just the facts: Born in Ottawa, studied with Rod Ellias, Justin Haynes and Bill Coon, has also taken master classes with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Wayne Krantz, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano and Tony Malaby. Has appeared on recordings by Thom Gossage’s Other Voices (5, Effendi Records 2006 and Impulsi, independent 2008), the Isaiah Ceccarelli Ensemble (lieux-dits, Ambiances Magnetiques 2006), The Besnard Lakes (The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse, Jagjaguwar 2007) and Nicole Lizée (This Will Not Be Televised, Centrediscs 2008). As a member of Ensemble KORE he has performed the music of Nicole Lizée, Lawrence Crane, and Scott Godin.