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Dave Storrs' Sound Shack: Part 1

Dan McClenaghan By

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At one time it was a place to park a car. A detached garage in Corvallis, Oregon, surrounded by trees. Percussionist Dave Storrs transformed it into a recording studio around about 1992. And Louie Records was born.

If Louie Records can be said to have enjoyed a heyday as a proper record company (whatever that might mean), it would have been the early 2000s, with releases like Storrs' Waxing The Slide (2002), Techno Lodge's Party With Techno (2003), Cycle Two from the House Band Of The Universe, the Rich Halley Quartet's Blue Rims (2003), and Swinged by House Band (2005). All of these sets explored a freer end of the musical spectrum.

But times have changed. Dave Storrs' outlook has, too. He is at the point, as 2020's summer turns to fall, where—in terms of running anything approaching a conventional record company..." I just don't give a shit these days, and I mean that in a good way. There is freedom in obscurity and being in a room like this [the converted garage, now referred to as the Sound Shack] as I have for nearly thirty years. And I can hear it in the edges that get created here because all of the components of this dinky little place keep the unnecessary parts out of the mix. The room, in its current iteration, is just one big instrument. You can hear all the possibilities because they are all in front of you."

The Sound Shack houses hundreds of instruments, the majority of them of the percussive persuasion. But not all. In addition to forty-plus hung-from-the-ceiling gongs and wind chimes, the congas and the djembes and the trombone, the room is home to a tuba, an upright piano, a couple (or more) electronic keyboards, a cello. Didgeridoos lean against a wall in the corner, awaiting the call. And of course, there is Storrs' drum kit.

Music making of the highest order continues. Here is a small sample of the sonic creations nurtured in the womb of Dave Storrs' Corvallis Sound Shack.

Sila Shaman/Dave Storrs
Brief West Coast Tour
Louie Records
2020

After a Brief West Coast Tour, pianist Sila Shaman joined tour mate Storrs in the Sound Shack, where the pair crafted perhaps the finest recording in Louie Records' discography.

The music is meandering, spacious, searching, unfailingly beautiful. "No Over" is a drum kit/piano duet that shifts from one dimension to the next. Telepathic interaction is the plan of the day. Storrs and Shaman traverse alluring reveries and prickly agitations over the course of its thirteen-plus minutes. "I Felt Itchy" travels similar terrain in a deep exploration of the possiblities of piano/drum set poetics. There are also sounds created by using the width and depth of the room—the Sound Shack. All this spontaneity feels like something created in nature—wind in the trees, crystalline water bubbling over Gabriel Garcia Marquez' dinosaur egg rocks in the river on "Resolution." And distant thunder. And echoes off the ice in an extraterrestrial atmosphere on a distant globe, Titan or Ganymede ("Same As Nine"). Or the march of an invasion of insectile robots ("Meeting Adjourned").

Storrs includes a pair of "salvaged via overdub" pieces that feel like a marriage of the soundscaping of Jon Hassell merged with the percussive joy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Henry Threadgill's unpredictable odd instrumentation extrapolations.

All of these sonic disparities deftly sequenced to create a cohesive mood from the mind of Dave Storrs.

Dave Storrs
Seated
Louie Records
2020

Seated featuring Storrs shamanistic machinations on all of the Sound Shacks ground-bound "work stations," as well as the menagerie hanging from the ceiling above. It's one man stirring up a percolating stew of sounds, an "Overdubbers Anonymous" guy having the time of his life closed off the distractions of the outside world making his idiosyncratic music. And if the initial impression of the vibrations hints at the adjective "otherworldly"—the track "Big B6" sounds like a folk song from Kurt Vonnegutt's planet Tralfamadore—deeper listenings of the set say that, for most of the music, the opposite is true. These are the most Earthly sounds.

Dave Storrs
Over You Head
Louie Records
2020

Over Your Head features Storrs, again, playing the room as one big instrument, concentrating on things that hang from the ceiling, from an overhead bin with various-sized djembes, a big hanging drum, digeridoos and lots of gongs, string instruments. Many of these musical instrument treasures come thanks to Storr's daughter, Arun, things she brought back from Nepal, including The Gong, discovered in ..."some shop in Katmandu, down a street, through an alley, take a left, or was it a right..."

And Storrs doesn't completely confine himself to his sonic temple/garage/studio. At one point during the recording sessions a train came by, as Carolyn, Storrs' wife, was watering the garden. A microphone in the doorway captured these sounds for posterity, mixed in with the in-studio sonic pentimento, resulting in "Watering The Garden." Another track, "Colon Dues Blues" saw its genesis in a night before the colonoscopy session, under the influence of that "wonderful liquid that will clean you out." And "Down Street Thru Alley" celebrates that Arun-ian gong, while "Junior Bowse" nods to Skippy, a beloved and now departed dog, on a set that, on one hand, glows with a spiritual serenity, and on the other embraces right here, right now of life.

Tracks and Personnel

Brief West Coast Tour

Tracks: Games Begin; Beyer's Market; Resolution; No Over; Funky Too; Same As Nine; I Felt Itchy; Used Anyway; Meeting Is Adjourned.

Personnel: Sila Shaman: piano, percussion, The Room (aka, The Sound Shack); Dave Storrs: drums, The Sound Shack.

Seated

Tracks: Baritone Windchimes; Campfire Gong; Amber Alert; B & B; Third Shelf Left; Empty The Shelf; Congas y Jars; Drum Desk; West Window; Horn Wall; Big G6; Such A Deal; Joining; Sweep; In 5 Shekeres; 2nd Shelf Right; Overhead Bins; Let's Leave That On.

Personnel: Dave Storrs: drums, percussion, The Sound Shack.

Over Your Head

Tracks: Why (not); 66th Birthday; Over Your Head; Hands High; Low And Slow; Junior Baos; B-24 Flew Over; 3 Small gongs; Colon Dues Blues; Overhead Bin; Watering the Garden; Rolls; Polarity; Shipwreck; Down The Street Thru The Alley; "Cause 7 Ate 9; Chimes; Over And Under; That's Good.

Personnel: Dave Storrs: percussion, The Sound Shack.

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