Known for its virtuosity and wide-ranging stylistic flexibility, the post-genre band 9 Horses today announced the release of its double album Omegah
(Adhyâropa Records). Featuring three of today’s leading instrumentalists, Joe Brent
(mandolin), Sara Caswell
(violin), and Andrew Ryan
(bass), the band’s performance on this album gives listeners the opportunity to experience its organic evolution from its acoustic original duo to today’s revered acoustic/electric ensemble.
What began as a remarkable jazz-meets-new music experiment has blossomed as, along the way, the band shuffled its lineup, grown its musical palette exponentially, and performed in a wide range of configurations including small chamber ensembles, avant-garde synth configurations, and even symphony orchestras. According to Sara Caswell, Omegah
reflects 9 Horses’s natural progression. “This record is the culmination of years of experimenting with band members, musical timbres, colors and styles. In a way, it portrays our group’s entire odyssey.”
Six years in the making, Omegah
is the group’s second full-length album. The first was the all-acoustic Perfectest Herald (Sunnyside Records) released in 2015. The centerpiece of that album was a four-movement suite for the acoustic trio alone. All About Jazz wrote that the music, is just bursting with emotion and its immediacy is partly what makes it so attractive and inviting. This highly emotive music touches and communicates the essence of what it means to be an alive, feeling human being." The more digitally enhanced follow-up EP Blood From A Stone (Sunnyside Records) was released in 2019. This third and by far largest album is a continuation of the two previous ones: acoustic and electric textures ever-present, blending seamlessly with one another throughout. A musical representation of the breadth of the band members’ influences and experiences, from classical to jazz and laced with folk and pop sensibilities, and largely improvised from Brent’s compositions.
The album was substantially recorded during the pandemic in Brent’s home studio and remotely from the home studios of 9 Horses’s collaborators. While the onset of COVID lockdowns initially created a challenge to complete the then-half-finished record, it eventually gave the trio an opportunity to be even more meticulous and expansive in its palette. As Brent noted: “Without the constraint of a prescribed amount of studio time, I got a chance to focus on really tinkering with the inner workings of the tunes. Entire sections were ripped out and re-composed, or re-recorded without the pressure of watching a clock. Each piece had time to grow and breathe naturally in our ears and imaginations rather than in the mixing engineer’s DAW. It was a unique opportunity for us, and wound up much more organic in feel than a stitched-together representation of just whatever studio time we had to work with.”
Listeners are encouraged to enjoy this exquisite, cinematic soundscape from beginning to end to try to catch the many recurring musical motifs sprinkled throughout the album. For example, the theme and chord progression which kicks off the title track returns at several instances in other songs, hidden like an Easter egg but always heralded by the granular, glitchy digital percussion texture created by 9 Horses’s close collaborator, electronic sound design specialist Justin Goldner.
After the final statement of this theme in Caswell’s epic improvisation which closes the final track, let’s just make it me and you," the album reverses on itself and closes with a restatement of the leitmotif from the first album, creating a kind of bookend to the musical and life journey the band has been on together over the past few years.
The album continues to showcase the amazing artistry of 9 Horses’s musicians and collaborators. Hailed as “one of the truly exceptional musicians of his generation,” (The Bluegrass Special), mandolinist Joe Brent, formerly of Regina Spektor’s band and multiple classical ensembles and orchestras, has forged a career with unparalleled fluency across multiple genres. Sara Caswell, the first woman ever nominated for a GRAMMY award in the category of ‘Best Improvised Solo’, is leading the vanguard of creative violin playing and is also a highly sought collaborative partner with the likes of Roseanna Vitro
and Esperanza Spalding
. Bassist Andrew Ryan is an exceptional technician and improviser, as well as a regular member of folk musician Kaia Kater’s band. 9 Horses welcomed many of today’s top contemporary musicians to collaborate with them on Omegah, including pianist Glenn Zaleski
, trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis
, and cellist and producer/composer Emily Hope Price, to name a few.