“Distinctly musical and oddly compelling…A new musical language”
~Barry Cleveland, Guitar Player Magazine
SHADOW MACHINE (Pogus), the debut CD of analog synth pioneer Tom Hamilton and guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil was released in March 2009. This duo thwarts expectations of its specific instrumentation. Hamilton personally designs every sound he uses through rigorous experimentation with the synthesizers oscillators, filters, envelope generators and amplifiers. As a contrast Eisenbeil’s guitar is almost acoustic in nature; using only a few effects to amplify the guitar’s natural overtones.
The band’s mission is to generate new forms, new ways of listening, new definitions of music. Equal rights for all sounds is one goal and as each musician is a maximalist, a dizzying array of sound and techniques are employed to sustain a visceral experience.
The duo strives to achieve an isomorphism of the four parameters of pitch, duration, dynamics and timbre. Contrasting sonic elements are played against one another, simultaneously and successively. The history of modern jazz and improvised music is not short on the use of analog synthesizers but this duo, with a strong desire to subvert orthodoxy, veers away from convention.
Hamilton and Eisenbeil first began to playing music together in 2007. Weekly sessions were recorded and a unique cohesion has been documented. They have performed together several times in New York City; most notably at the Hell’s Kitchen Festival and The Stone.
Critical Acclaim for Shadow Machine
“Radical” ~ Antoine PINAUD, Progressia (France)
“Impressive, fascinating, exotic and challenging” ~ Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
“Stylistic concerns are very nearly unimportant, as the pair are engaging in their own language of free improvisation.” ~ Martin Longley, All About Jazz-New York
“I could definitely see this becoming one of my long-range favorites… it’s going to merit many, many entertaining listens.” ~ DaveX, ITDE Radio
“A spiky and exciting collaboration . . . These performances really catch fire.” ~ Ed Pinsent – The Sound Projector
“Wonderfully unconventional . . . It’s music for listening to not with your ears, but with your gut…a triumph in experimental music.” ~ Pico, Something Else!
“A strong free improvisation partnership.” ~Francois Couture, All-Music Guide
“The two musicians propose a large variety of sonorities and structures” ~ Jean-Claude Gevrey; Octopusenligne.com
“You’re on your own.” ~ Alex Wernquest, Culture Now
Barry Cleveland in Guitar Player Magazine (May 2009)
“The expression “electronic music” is used quite liberally these days, encompassing even audio concoctions produced by non-musicians simply stringing together stock beats, loops, samples, and other pre-fab audio elements within rudimentary recording programs. But back in the ’60s, when synthesizers such as the Buchla (1963) and Moog (1964) modular systems were created, and on through the following decade, pure electronic music was almost exclusively the domain of those who understood synthesis well enough to program hardware synthesizers, and whose musical abilities were advanced enough to make that worthwhile.
Tom Hamilton is one of those guys. His music is rooted in the late-’60s world of analog synthesis, and since that time he has produced an impressive body of work, as well as being a longtime member of Robert Ashley’s opera ensemble, and a staple of the downtown New York music scene. On Shadow Machine, Hamilton plays a Clavia Nord Modular, a digital modeling instrument that emulates analog modular synthesizers, using it to create sound events and textures reminiscent classic electronic works by composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Morton Feldman.
Also a denizen of the New York scene, guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil (featured in the May, 2009 issue of GP) is one of the most original voices in contemporary jazz and new music—be it within the structures of his multidimensional compositions, or improvising freely. Eisenbeil transcends the perceived limitations of his instrument primarily by evolving new conceptual and technical approaches to playing it, rather than employing electronic processing (though there is some of that) or “preparing” the instrument with extraneous objects.
The nine pieces on Shadow Machine were entirely improvised live in the studio without punch-ins or overdubs. The myriad sonic events that occur throughout the album are not organized into immediately recognizable forms, yet they proceed with an undeniable authority and internal coherence that makes them distinctly musical and oddly compelling. What is more, upon repeated listening a new musical language with its own unique inflections and syntax may be discerned. And, on pieces such as “Dusting Off Dada,” the sounds emerging from Eisenbeil’s guitar are so vocal-like you half expect the instrument to literally begin talking.
While there are many great moments on this recording, my favorite occurs toward the end of “ Little Left On The Left,” when Hamilton creates an ominous drone that is overlaid with clusters of staccato notes emitted by Eisenbeil, briefly evoking shades of Bernard Hermann.
I’m not sure what else to say about Shadow Machine other than that you should get a copy and listen to it.”
TOM HAMILTON – analog synthesizers
Tom Hamilton has been composing and performing for over 40 years, and his work with electronic music originated in the late-60s era of analog synthesis. Hamilton often explores the interaction of many simultaneous layers of activity, prompting the use of “present-time listening” on the part of both performer and listener.
Hamilton was a 2005 Fellow of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and he participated in a residency at the foundation’s center in Umbria. His CD London Fix received an honorary mention in the 2004 Prix Ars Electronica. His performing and recording colleagues have included Peter Zummo, Bruce Gremo, Karlheinz Essl, Bruce Arnold, Rich O’Donnell, Jonathan Haas, Jacqueline Martelle, Steve Nelson-Raney, Hal Rammel, Rick Aaron, Thomas Buckner, David Soldier, Bruce Eisenbeil, Richard Lerman, and Lisle Ellis. He has been a collaborator with visual artists, including Fred Worden (filmmaker), Van McElwee and Morey Gers (video artists), and the late Ernst Haas (photographer).
An active participant in New York’s new music scene, Hamilton was the co-director of the 2004 Sounds Like Now festival, and he has co-produced the Cooler in the Shade/Warmer by the Stove new music series since 1993. He is a longtime member of composer Robert Ashley’s touring opera ensemble. His audio production can be found in over 50 CD releases of new and experimental music, including recordings by Muhal Richard Abrams, David Behrman, Thomas Buckner, Alvin Lucier, Roscoe Mitchell, and “Blue” Gene Tyranny.
Tom Hamilton’s sound installations have been presented in New York at Diapason, Studio Five Beekman, the 479 Gallery and Experimental Intermedia, and elsewhere at CCNOA (Brussels) The St. Louis Art Museum, CalArts (Valencia, CA), the Sound Symposium festival (St. John’s NF), Woodland Pattern Book Center (Milwaukee) and the Dorsch Gallery (Miami).
Intersections (Muse-Eek), Disklaimer (Muse-Eek), London Fix (Muse-Eek), Analogue Smoque (Pogus), Jump The Circle, Jump the Line (Mutable), Slybersonic Tromosome (Penumbra), Sebastian’s Shadow (Monroe Street Music), Off-Hour Wait State (O.O.), Act of Finding (O.O.)