The Austin-based percussion trio Line Upon Line (LUL) has a new album out. It’s only their second since the group of Butler School alums formed in 2009 and it features their signature mix of new music including a piece LUL commissioned. Matt Teodori chatted with KMFA’s Chris Johnson this week over email.
1) Context is your first album since 2011. That's a while, but it's certainly not because you haven't been busy. For anyone that hasn't been paying attention, what have you been up to since this last album?
Almost everything we’ve done as a group has happened since our first album, which we recorded only about eighteen months after starting the group. Since then, we’ve commissioned nearly thirty pieces, produced five seasons of concerts in Austin and toured twenty-one states, and three foreign countries. From a documentation standpoint, we’ve actually made quite a few videos of our work in the last six years, as percussion is so visual. But as anyone who has done it will tell you, recording isn’t easy, particularly when you’re doing it all yourself, as we did this time. Adam did an unbelievable amount of work to make this record happen, from capturing all the audio, editing all the takes, to playing on the album, and more.
2) Tell me about the name of your album. What's the "context" here?
The English word "context" comes from two bits of Latin: con meaning "together" and texere meaning "to weave." So “together we weave,” which really speaks to the essentials of small ensemble music-making, but also speaks to how important the listeners are to making what we do worthwhile. "Music is meant to be shared," Cullen likes to say.
3) Let's talk just a little bit about the music. At least one of these pieces is something LUL commissioned.
Yes, there is one LUL commission and two pieces commissioned by a really wonderful Australian group called Speak Percussion. All of the works have an electronic component, from just a simple sine wave (Andrew’s) to a really endearing pre-recorded section (Thomas’) to extensive and very cleverly accompanied samples (Matthew’s). All of the works were written in the last six years, and we feel that each of the composers has an incredibly individual compositional style, which sounds horribly cliché, but we firmly believe it.
4) Can you say more about Popular Contexts?
Popular Contexts is a series of pieces that combine pre-recorded sounds with live instrumental music to investigate aspects of everyday and popular culture with the aspiration of opening up a listening experience that enhances perception of the familiar. The recordings provide contextual frames for the instrumental music and vice versa. The recordings for the first two movements of Volume 6 are "musical": the vibraphone and drum-kit are combined with recordings of saxophones in the first, and recordings of bass guitars in the second. The recordings for the final two movements consist of "everyday" sounds from the world with each movement based on a given topic: air travel in the third and crowd noise in the fourth.
Click the play button at the top of this page to hear Popular Contexts, a track from Line Upon Line perscussion's latest album release.