The local duo Saxsyndrum is willing to adapt to any situation. They sometimes go acoustic, adding violin and upright bass. At other shows they’ll be belting out late-night future funk as their core two-piece.
"Saxsyndrum's thing is doing something different every time. It’s kind of tied together by having saxophone, having drums and being weird," says Dave Switchenko, the sax half of Saxsyndrum.
“We change our stuff up enough that people kind of expect it."
The band’s new record SXD_EP comes out November 4 through Art Not Love, a local label run by Charlie Twitch from ¡FLIST!, and true to form it’s like nothing they’ve put out before. Most of the EP is more suited for an ambient set, coming from recording samples Dave and Nick Schofield wrote separately. The first three tracks by Dave use only saxophone, the last three by Nick only percussion.
"A year-and-a-half ago Dave was setting up his studio and working more at recording sounds, hitting the saxophone, getting pops and squeaks out of it in a home setting,” says Nick. “The EP was born out of that kind of experimentation."
The two had been listening to a lot of beautifully arranged, carefully scrutinized music by producers like Four Tet, Pantha du Prince and Jon Hopkins at the time. When Dave came up with the album-opener "Maceonectar", they applied for a FACTOR grant with a demo version. When the funding came through, they were able to pursue the idea.
They recorded most of the sounds heard on the EP in a 12-hour session at Hotel2Tango with Radwan Moumneh, who does audio-visual performances under the name Jerusalem in My Heart.
"It ended up being a really good match. He had a ton of really great ideas about saxophone micing, and just general sound treatment for the drums and the sax,” says Nick.
Using 12 microphones to record the drums gave them a huge range of blending options for the EP. The sounds that didn’t make it will most likely show up on future releases.
"[Radwan] brought ideas that ended up influencing the sound of the EP,” says Nick. “Like putting a microphone in an ISO booth across the way, it has this Phil Collins-esque reverb that we never would have thought to go for because we don't have the means to do it."
The process taught them about mixing together abstract sounds, and presented an opportunity to make more minimal music.
"If you have a guitar trio, or classic bass drum sound, a lot of those will sit nicely together. But if you're using a lot of really weird crazy samples from a saxophone, they're going to be competing with each other,” says Dave. “For me it was a big learning experience giving them a place in the mix.”
"It allowed us to be more selective since we were in such a controlled environment," adds Nick. "It makes you realize what you want the listener to be paying attention to."
While they may cover a whole spectrum of sounds in the band’s many forms, Nick says there is a specific feeling they’re going for. An amalgamation of everything they’ve been working on is set to appear as a new full-length in 2015.
"When I was studying electro-acoustics one of my profs always said 'don't fall in love with your sounds' and that really stuck with me," says Nick.
"Don't make something and just fall in love with it because it sounds nice and pretty. Does it really say something, does it make you feel something? Does it represent the people who made it?"