Friday Five: Ben Miller and The Sensorium Saxophone Orchestra, cv313, Benoît Pioulard, Joanna Sterling, Seaholm
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features experimental sounds by Ben Miller and The Sensorium Saxophone Orchestra, ambient dub by cv313, shoegaze by Benoît Pioulard, indie-folk by Joanna Sterling, and pop-punk by Seaholm.
Ben Miller / degeneration, Layer
The Sensorium Saxophone Orchestra plays "In C" 2023 excerpt and 2010 performance
If you don't know about Benjamin Miller's deep history with Washtenaw County's creative scene, read the December 2022 Pulp article that covers some of the recent releases by him and his brothers, Laurence and Roger. We'll be here when you get back.
Ben Miller / degeneration's Layer is a 2005 release now available on streaming that finds him interpreting Roger's frottage drawings as music. Miller performs these eight graphic scores—each under two minutes—using a prepared guitar and effects pedals, creating terse textures and sometimes menacing soundscapes.
Miller has also recently reactivated one of his many past projects, The Sensorium Saxophone Orchestra. He started the group when he lived in New York City, and in 2010, that version of the project performed Terry Riley's minimalist classic "In C." Now that he's back in Michigan, Miller has recruited a new collection of saxophonists, and he released a teaser for their version of "In C." The current edition of the band includes numerous Washtenaw County musicians. In the video you see, from left to right, Johnny Evans (tenor sax), Elvin Sharp (tenor sax), Piotr Michalowski (soprano and sopranino sax), Mike List (drums), Andy Peck (bass), Kenji Lee (tenor sax), Peter Formanek (alto sax), and Miller (alto sax).
I'm not sure if The Sensorium Saxophone Orchestra is also the group that recorded Miller's first symphony for saxophone, "Symphony of Suspicious Activity"—scheduled to come out in 2024—but you can't go wrong with this collection of musicians.
cv313, "suspended in a moment [someplace else]"
Ann Arbor's Stephen Hitchell makes some of the best ambient dub this side of Berlin, Germany. The hour-long "suspended in a moment [someplace else]" and its equally long variant version are aquatic, hissy, billowing clouds of beauty. I would like to devote an entire room of my house to playing this album on a loop—kinda like a budget Midwest version of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's Dream House.
Benoît Pioulard, Eidetic
Former Ann Arbor-ite Thomas Meluch—aka Benoît Pioulard—usually makes immersive and gorgeous instrumental ambient music, but Eidetic also highlights his shoegazing pop side, too. His breathy voice sits perfectly in the mix, becoming part of the overall sound without being buried under layers of haze. I like quite literally everything Benoît Pioulard has ever released, but Eidetic was a wonderful variation on his usual theme. Excellent.
Joanna Sterling, "Deep End"
It's been four years since Joanna and the Jaywalkers released their terrific The Open Sea Before Me album. Bandleader and songwriter Joanna Sterling is finally back with a new single, leaving the Jaywalkers moniker in the past and fully embracing centerstage. What hasn't changed is Sterling's sound: She still makes beautiful, dark, cello-colored folk music propelled by her strong, passionate voice.
Seaholm, Live From Eureka Records
Ann Arbor pop-punk trio Seaholm is back with a new four-song live EP featuring songs from last year's It's Raining Outside album. You can read our interview with the band and listen to that LP here.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.