“Capturing the ambisonic effect on stereo would seem to be impossible, but there are hints of this in these recordings depending on how the recordings are edited and the playback system.”
Stewart Dempster, who plays a gaggle of instruments as part of Deep Listening Band on Needle Drop Jungle, pens the above quote for the back jacket of the 2xLP after describing the “spherical” sensation of hearing eight loudspeakers and four subwoofers pounding away on an audience situated dead-center. DLB’s residency at Town Hall Seattle already has produced two full-length releases on Important Records, and there’s no sign of rot amid Needle Drop, a sound exploration containing none of the stodginess that can set in when time seems infinite and there are no limits or laws.
Conversely, the trio grows to the size of their Cage and blow all sorts of flutters, drones, blots, and gurgles into the void by way of nontraditional means, such as conch, duck calls, Laos cowbell, V accordion, trombone mouthpiece whistle, and deep bells, not to mention the more recognizable piano, flute, trombone, and didjeridu. As there’s no substitute for the real thing, hearing the contents of Needle Drop Jungle on two speakers is a surprisingly lively experience, founder Pauline Oliveros’ well-documented prowess bouncing well off the innovative percussionary processions of David Gamper and Dempster’s utility-man ability to play whatever suits the piece. Side A’s “Landgrove” resurrects “O Superman” long enough to plunge its vocals into a tangled composition that, if you listen to it while living, lends an odd soundtrack-y feel to your day. Seriously, try it.
Other sections get more down and dirty. “Friday Mighty” is an authoritative eagle-swoop replete with percussion piano and “little instruments” (okay!?) that render prog and Tubular Bells toothless in comparison. So much girth and tension is lent to this track, like chasing the Wicked Witch of the East through the jungle rain as a spirit-band curses you with evil audio. It sounds like strings are turning sour, but brother, these ain’t strings. I don’t know what the hell they are. Until you hear this racket, you have no idea what these three are capable of. If you come in expecting a minimalist, Editions RZ acoustic-electro think-piece, prepare to get bashed in the head as if you were some sweaty dude’s gong (though that’s the one instrument absent here). BASHHHHHHHH-ZIP-ZUMMMMMMM-RIIIIPPPPP-BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM, you fuckers! Don’t even get me started on the inevitable comedown; it’s just as rich, if not as intrinsically enthralling.
Not sure what else I would say even if it soothed my druthers to continue. Deep Listening Band is a moniker you’ve heard whispered a lot over the last half-decade or so, not to mention that of beyond-revered veteran Oliveros, but until you experience the breadth of their recordings — which, if you haven’t, you should set to immediately — it’s all hype and experimental-scene whiplash. Needle Drop Jungle, as are the Deep Listening Band documents that precede it, is the real deal, more fun than you ever thought “academic music” could be.