A new generation of artists have begun to redefine - or even invent - an art form with modern movements in acoustic music. Instrumental duo Small Town Therapy thrives on spontaneous creative moments, where artists' ingenuity aligns and inspired music results. In their work,Dreams and Circumstances, due out from Organic Records on May 17, the duo shows its avant-garde style with compelling compositions and virtuosic improvisation.
Featuring Leif Karlstrom and Adam Roszkiewicz, two members of the award-winning progressive roots band Front Country, Small Town Therapy creates genre-bending music that's a blend of cerebral acoustic jazz and classical-influenced original compositions.
"We often combine through-composed bits with structured or free improvisation, and that's definitely happening in this recording," saysKarlstrom. "There is a musical arc and story but also the chance for something unexpected to happen - a chance for spontaneous musical moments, which pretty well sums up what Small Town Therapy is about."
Largely focused on the two's principle instruments - Karlstrom on violin andRoszkiewicz on mandolin and guitar - the duo is joined on select tracks by fellow accomplished musicians: the Jon Stickley Trio's Lyndsay Pruett and accomplished multi-instrumentalist John Mailander on violin; noted west coast recording artist Eli West on guitar and octave mandolin; and sought-after ensemble player Ethan Jodziewicz on prepared bass.
Dreams and Circumstances is a 13-track journey of emotion and spontaneity that begins with "Three Legged Cat," a tune written and arranged in Huddersfield, England while on tour. Roszkiewicz and Karlstrom were in the middle of an impromptu session when a three-legged cat walked by and inspired the title.
"Circumstances," the following track that helped inspire the album's title, finds the duo joined by violinist Lyndsay Pruett. "A big focus of the collaborations on this album was the idea of creating moments in the studio. This tune was arranged withLyndsay in the studio very spontaneously, and we think the name reflects that process," says Karlstrom.
Based off two melodic parts by Karlstrom, "Dreams On A Pillow Bed" became an exercise in collective improvisation, as the musicians experimented between melodic statements. Here, violinist John Mailander contributes emotive and instinctive playing.
With guitar and octave mandolin player Eli West in mind, Roszkiewicz wrote "Tune For Eli," to capture elements of West's guitar playing. Recorded in a pastoral setting outside of Eugene, OR, this tune planted the idea of Roszkiewicz and Karlstromcollaborating with other musicians on this album.
"Tune For Paul" was written with another person in mind: Paul Binkley, a member of the Modern Mandolin Quartet, who sadly passed away several years ago.Karlstrom dedicates this song to "him and all the beauty and wisdom he shared with so many people around the world." Similar to other tracks on this album, "Tune For Paul" involves collective improvisation and composition on the spot while in the studio.
Dreams and Circumstances also includes a three-track, multi-movement work for mandolin and violin. It begins with Small Town Therapy's initial single release, "Cimarrón," followed by "The Square and Compass" and concluding with "You Can't Blame the Eighties ." Meant to be listened to in sequence, these selections journey through a dynamic atmosphere that is both visceral and cerebral. The duo's ability to unfold and evolve mood in this way is at the heart of their work. Dreams and Circumstances creates emotion that springs from the performances and is communicated to its listener.
Karlstrom says, "There are several musical and structural elements that they all have in common, but the main goal is that they be emotionally relatable and not too cerebral. In Spanish, Cimarrón means wild and untamed and is often used to refer to a fugitive or runaway. El Cimarrón is also the name given to Marcos Xiorro who orchestrated a slave revolt in Puerto Rico in 1821. Adam was trying to reflect some of that energy and thinking about how a person's life and identity can be transformed by their circumstances and the world around them. Energy and movement."
The album concludes with an interesting experiment of blending music with an unexpected natural sound. Karlstrom, also an Earth Scientist at the University of Oregon explains, "'Hotel Kilauea' is a free improvisation based around volcanic data - specifically ground deformation from GPS sensors and tilt meters as well as SO2 gas emissions collected at Kilauea volcano by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory - that was 'sonified' (i.e., turned into sound) by our friend Ben Holtzman and Columbia University. Ben took the data and applied different sonification algorithms to each data stream, resulting in three voices that can be heard in the mix of the track. Adam and I, joined by John Mailander on violin andEthan Jodziewicz on upright bass, all gathered in a bedroom in Nashville around a stereo pair of microphones. We all listened to the track simultaneously and improvised based on each others' playing and the sped-up sonified data. Both Adam and Ethan employed a 'prepared' technique, by stuffing erasers or crumpled paper or paper clips to their strings to produce weird noises." Truly a new musical landscape.
Pre-order Dreams And Circumstances HERE.
About Small Town Therapy
Small Town Therapy is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalists Adam Roszkiewicz and Leif Karlstrom. The duo plays instrumental string music that emphasizes compelling, thoughtful compositions and virtuosic improvisation. Small Town Therapy is inspired by the New Acoustic Music made popular in California by Mike Marshall, Darol Anger and groups like Montreux. Adam and Leif are also members of Front Country, the Grammy nominated Modern Mandolin Quartet, and the Ger Mandolin Orchestra led by Mike Marshall. Adam and Leif are both highly accomplished musicians and educators and have performed at festivals around the world including: Merlefest, Grey Fox, Bristol Rhythm and Roots, Rockygrass, Telluride, the La Roche Bluegrass Festival in France, Didmarton Bluegrass Festival in England, the Blue Highways festival in Utrecht, Holland, the Singer Festival in Warsaw, Poland and the Hardly-Strictly-Bluegrass festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.