Zero Mile Presents
Mikaela Davis, Partials
Wed · April 10, 2019
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:45 pm
$15.00 - $17.00
This event is 18 and overhttp://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1805105/
Co-produced by Kalmia and Alex, Sun Machine documents the pain of ending their romantic relationship, yet emerges as an unbridled and often-euphoric celebration of their lasting connection. While the breakup inspired much of the album, Sun Machine is deeply informed by several other life-changing occurrences in recent years: Kalmia’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2013 (followed by a round of surgeries and chemo treatments), Alex’s decision to get sober after a long struggle with alcoholism, and the couple’s three-year-long attempt at maintaining an open relationship. The result is a strange and beautiful paradox: a party album rooted in radical mindfulness, a breakup record imbued with each partner’s palpable love for the other.
With its airy melodies and lavish textures, dream-logic sensibilities and dancey rhythms, Sun Machine radiates the bright and joyful energy encapsulated in its title. “It’s a reference to the sun as this abundant natural resource we all have available to us—but it’s also about the inner sun, the magma in our hearts,” says Kalmia. “When you can access that, you’re able to get through really hard moments, and evolve and develop creatively. I think that’s the best way to explain how I was able to work through the process of the two of us transforming our relationship in a positive way.”
As Rubblebucket’s most fully realized album yet, Sun Machine finds Kalmia and Alex tapping into their creative instincts more freely and directly than ever before. “Kal and I are both jazz musicians, and jazz is very much driven by improvisation—it’s about getting in touch with that inner spontaneity, where you’re channeling ideas rather than thinking them up,” says Alex. “There’s a lot of moments on this album that happened from us being in a trance-like zone, and coming up with weird sounds in the middle of the recording, sometimes by accident.”
The hypnotic opening track to Sun Machine, “What Life Is” unfolds in lyrics that arrived through pure stream-of-consciousness. “I had recently gotten sober, and the only music I could listen to was drone music,” Alex recalls. “I’d put it on and pace around my little studio apartment, and those words just started coming out of me.” With Kalmia delivering a wild sax solo later on in the song, “What Life Is” centers its refrain on a gently unshakable question: How many hours a day are you a broken tape? “We have so many distractions now, with all the crazy things happening in the world and all the devices we get to observe those things through,” says Kalmia in reflecting on “What Life Is.” “There’s so many different and confusing directions for us to get drawn in every day.”
Throughout Sun Machine, Rubblebucket adorn their exploration of love and sexuality and grief and healing with bursts of collage-like experimentation. “Annihilation Song” is woven with ambient tones constructed from a sample of Alex whistling, while the wistful but breezy “Fruity” was built from a beat supplied by Kalmia’s cousin, Ben Swardlick (a member of San Francisco-based electronic duo M Machine). And though it was written in the throes of their breakup, “Lemonade” captures a carefree romanticism (“We used to ride around on rollerblades/You kissed me on the mouth and my pupils dilated”), then magnifies that playful mood by layering in fragments of improvised conversation at the bridge. “Kal and I just hit record and pretended we were in a music venue during the trumpet solo,” Alex explains. “We talked about Kafka and chakras and existential philosophy, and at one point we talked shit about the trumpet player—which is actually me.”
From song to song, Rubblebucket infuse Sun Machine with a sweetness and generosity that speak to the devotion behind their conscious uncoupling, a process Kalmia defines as “signaling to the world that you’re doing everything you can to preserve the relationship.” With Alex describing their breakup as “the single-most significant life event beyond me being born,” both band members hope that Sun Machine encourages others to see the possibility for transformation in painful experiences of all kinds. “When I got cancer and Alex quit drinking, that was the beginning of a huge journey for both of us,” says Kalmia. “So much of that journey has been about giving myself the freedom to exist on my own terms, believing in my ideas instead of self-editing. I think this album represents both of us allowing ourselves that freedom in a totally new way, and hopefully it’ll give people inspiration to be creative in their own lives, and to just soften up a bit too.”
“JUST LET MY SONGS RESONATE WITH YOU SOMEHOW. THAT WOULD MAKE ME SO HAPPY.”
The six musicians in the band - Dane Walsh, keys; guitarist Jeff Porter; singer, percussionist Adriana Thomas; sax player and guitarist Ian Edwards; drummer Alex Eversbusch and Bailey - have wide ranging tastes. They’ve played funk, soul and Afrobeat, before landing on a flavor of psychedelic dance music that aims to continue the tradition of Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, without sounding derivative. “We reference the music that influenced the artists we love. We seek what they sought, then take it in our own direction,” Bailey says.
The sounds on the album were assembled with the help of producer and audio engineer Drew Vandenberg. “We recorded demo tracks at our home studio, thinking we’d layer up the tracks one at a time, using them as a reference,” Bailey explains. “It was an eye-opening experience to try and recapture the feeling present on some of those tracks. We’d often find something special in a random demo done in our basement, so they found their way into the final recording. Drew is an expert at getting the most powerful, emotional take you have in you. The six of us are very opinionated people, so we had our fair share of debates, but Drew would always advocate for what he saw was the best way forward for the music.”
“Anemoia” refers to the memory of an experience you’ve never had. The feeling is mirrored by the ambient, wordless vocals, glistening guitar tones and atmospheric synthesizer tones that introduce the song. The simple instrumental parts build and intertwine, passing the melody back and forth, slowly melding into a single voice. Thomas and Edwards echo the articulation of the bubbling guitar and the thump of Eversbusch’s bass drum.
The playful funk of “Man Made Machine” builds slowly, each instrument coming in separately to build up a frisky, inescapable groove. Warm bass tones and minimal chattering guitar dance around Thomas’s simple six-word refrain and, as her soft, sighing vocal unwinds, the lyrics morph into phrases that lose meaning, while taking on a greater significance. It’s hypnotic glossolalia at its best, goosed along by Walsh’s synthesizer alternating between melody, noise and sound manipulation.
“Polyglot” opens with a muted polyrhythmic groove played on the drums, augmented by Thomas’s quiet vocals. On the chorus, she’s joined by a simple African rhythm line, played on Porter’s guitar and a dark, intense synthesizer pulse that blends the sounds of human and artificial glossolalia into a cacophonous crescendo. Another quiet chorus builds into a call-and-response between bass synth and looping glossolalia melodies. The lyrics describe a narrator fixated on an inability to express themselves, making an ironic contrast with the linguistic skill suggested by the title. Despite the struggle, the song offers a morsel of hope through glossolalia, a tool for connecting with the divine and expressing the inexpressible.
Glossolalia’s six tunes are catchy and crammed with grace notes and lyrical touches that unfold slowly after repeated listening. “For this EP, we wrote 22 songs in one month, narrowing it down to the six you hear on the album,” Bailey says. “It was exhausting but empowering. Every day you wake up and think of nothing but how to make it through the current song. But it’s an incredible experience - you learn so quickly from your mistakes. We make music that works both for the head and the body, songs that are interesting to listen to on headphones in your bedroom, or to dance your ass off to at a party. Our live show reflects that. We let the songs breathe and work at developing an improvisational language that helps us make sure everyone has the same expectations going into a song. We embrace weirdness and catchiness with equal enthusiasm. Walking that line is what we’re all about.”
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601