cube orchestra

cube orchestra

words cannot describe the joy the cube orchestra brings me. nearly every week people bring along instruments and we play. no rules

(jump straight to the music below)

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the cube orchestra has been meeting up regularly for years now and marcus reckons he’s played with over 200 musicians in that time. i’ve been going since october 2013. the current group consists of a fairly consistent nucleus of newish members, augmented by a varying array of previous attendees, plus the possibility of a newbie or two, wide-eyed, and of course marcus. nothing would happen without marcus. he holds the key to get in

we bring whatever we fancy playing, or use whatever’s at hand. i’m a guitarist, but i’ve never taken my guitar

nothing much is said and particularly about what we might play, instead someone twangs, often just tuning up, and someone else joins in, people’s ears prick up and before you know it something’s happening and a sound is emerging. all improvised

at times chaotic, others surreal, then grooving, then jacking, then morphing into the next phrase

most of the recordings i’ve grabbed were captured on an iphone, in mono, with terrible results when the volume rises, blowing the levels into a distorted fuzz, but more recently we’ve set up the cube’s cd recorder and a couple of good condenser mics and the results have been much better. it does limit us, time-wise, but i’ll just have to remember to bring lots of blank cds

here is a sample of what we’ve created together, our session on 23 july, 2014. the perpetrators were:

gareth pitt: sax, percussion
steve watson: guitar
ramon sanchez: trumpet, percussion, vocals
christian liberati: harmonica, triangle, vocals
jean-michel maheu: guitar, percussion
keef chemistry: melodica, percussion
ollie owen: guitar
fionn ball: percussion
marcus valentine: keyboards

track 1 – bluesy tune-up

every week at some point we tune up, this time at the beginning for some reason. tuning up usually involves one of the guitarists trying to tune two strings and everybody else joining in until we’re all helping. the track was recorded in mono on an iphone. the quality is not good, but it’s how we started the evening 

track 2 – duh-nung na nuh-nung

into stereo and an insistent near ten-minute groove in two parts, essentially the sax and the melodica mark the transition, with trance-inducing guitar playing and searching drums. i throw washes of synth into the mix and you can hear gareth’s sax in the room next to the stage, coming in and out, and buzzing as steve has problems with a guitar and amp set-up. all part of the moment. fionn sets the drums up, but decides to play a hand drum to the side, easing in gently, before moving over to the drum set well into the track. someone blows their nose. jean-michel’s picking is outstanding and is complemented by ollie’s ethereal floating guitar echos. a nice balance to play melodica over the gentle extended drop out and final vocal outburst 

track 3 – dance to the rhythm of truth

not really a track, but an interruption to the proceedings. the evening was full of strange interjections and events 

track 4 – dum dum dum dum du-uum

quickly into a groove here, and great quacking from gareth’s sax. we get so far then it falters 

track 5 – dum dum

picking up from the last point, a rewind if you will. one guitar in and out, the other guitar twanging in sync, slight alteration of the bass line, grooving beat, until we’re rudely interrupted over the pa. funny as 

track 6 – da-da da da da da da da da da

no more interruptions we’re ready with another morph, picking up from the interruption, gareth’s sax is back nice and sleazy weaving around the lazy groove. it drifts off as the double bass drops out and steve’s guitar takes over with fat fuzzy overdrive, jean-michel’s guitar wonderfully restraint and ollie’s guitar circling above. waves of beats accent the bass drama. there’s a bit where the levels got knocked and i had to hard pan to maintain any stereo sound, until i noticed and tweaked it. a sterling effort 

track 7 – ka ring

a delightfully light rhythm and treatment, packed with ideas in a very short format for the orchestra. we have an inherent inclination to surge ahead in a relentless jam until we’ve exhausted a theme, but the frenetic interaction suddenly dissipates into quirky oddity and fades. perhaps the interruptions are there for a reason? 

track 8 – bu-da bu-da bu-da bu-da

to get us going jean-michel calls on his mobile phone and holds it to his pick-up. gentle rumblings, organic, breezy, it sounds like chaos but beautiful chaos, like a swarm of butterflies, massing and then taking flight, floating, calling. lovely drumming from fionn, bright and flitting, crystal guitars. it twists at the end, melting and drifting into pure consciousness. some microphone feedback adds to the blend. then it falters to an end with a rally from marcus, who has a task for us… 

we subsequently take a break from playing whatever we want and instead record a session of improvised material in a mixture of predetermined genres, still pretty much playing whatever we want. the rule is, there are no rules, even when there are rules

track 9 – rock that beat

…released from marcus’ manipulative grasp we’re allowed to break free again and i’m on drums from now on! this is a heavy stomper with very heavy bass and it soon gets a bit massive, as marcus goes gothic on the keyboards. pity we’re back in mono on my iphone as the levels are blowing, perhaps not surprisingly, with what must be one of our longest endings stopping suddenly 

track 10 – we have critical mass

as announced by marcus. this tune quickly turns upbeat and jerky, ramon’s vocals are inspired autocue and the drums and guitars listen closely to each other. christian on harmonica sounds great, you can hear his triangle ringing out on occasion. he’s always too far from the microphone. i love the way it comes together, like we’d practiced or something, with perhaps our most rounded ending 

track 11 – mari mantra

as we were preparing to take a break, ramon initiates a mantra that touches deep. hear the words, they’re heart-felt and meant for your ears 

the comments above are my own personal interpretation of the events surrounding these recordings and reveal only one viewpoint. my apologies for any inaccuracies. the incidental weirdness amongst the music is it’s narrative, a conductor and contributor. your own comments are welcome

see the links page if you’re interested in contributing

there are some videos you can watch: cube orchestra music videos

The entire Cubest collection, available to stream or download for free on the official Cube Orchestra website, with sleeve notes and everything

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