A cast of old and new faces, The First Letter offers a new perspective on UTV.chamber’s music.
With 11 tracks and some of the coolest CD packaging ever seen, UTV.chamber’s freshman release, The First Letter, is an exciting new way to experience the band. The record contains fresh sounds even to the spoiled listeners of Richmond, Virginia, its music equally as progressive and original as its industrial cardboard case.
The band stands apart before it plays a note with unique instrumentation; Marcus Tenney (tenor saxophone), David Hood (alto saxophone) and Mary Lawrence Hicks (flugelhorn) stand on the front line with Reginald Chapman (bass trombone) and Paul Willson (guitar) adding to the drums of Devonne Harris and percussion of Stuart Jackson. Chelsea Temple adds vocals on eight of the tracks, but listen carefully as sometimes her voice is only used to add to the already complex textures of unison lines.
Leader Reginald Chapman calls himself a “collage artist.” His passive vision enables the eight unique voices of the band to combine into an even more unique collective voice. While Chapman is the creative leader behind many of the compositions, he says they really come from working together, free improvisations, and just spending time together playing music.
The personnel in UTV.chamber came together through friendship as opposed to some intricate plan. The band boasts jazz, classical, and rock musicians and all of those experiences have led to a diverse album with every track bringing something entirely new to the table. Self labeled as avant-pop, the album blends instrumental pop hooks that will stick in your head, with sections of freer improvisation that enable voices as different as Tenney and Willson to explore their ideas.
Listen to “Penultimate Knob”:[audio:http://media.rvanews.com/04%20Penultimate%20Knob.mp3|titles=Penultimate Knob|artists=UTV.Chamber]
“Follow Your Bliss” is ready for mainstream radio play complete with a catchy chorus, incredible Marcus Tenney solo, and simple chord progression.
“Lessons in Unrequited Love” gives off a much more classical chamber ensemble vibe. John Cage comes to mind as the bass trombone loosely ties together prepared piano, a drum set ostinato and Willson playing percussive guitar. Not a second later, Tenney begins repeating a smooth theme. The drums cue in a through-composed fanfare with a loose canon feel.
The joy abruptly ends as the bass trombone covered in a heavy effect lays down a thumping bass line. Bouncing back and forth between the fanfare and the far more aggressive section, the journey finally descends into a loose chaos. Every percussion instrument imaginable plays off of Chapman and Willson until an abbreviated fanfare finally leaves the listener comfortable.
“Black Belly Dove” is a throw back to the band’s origins. Chapman leaves character and plays more like a horn player; the lack of a bass voice leaves extra freedom for exploration and Harris’ drumming pushes all of the horn players to new creative heights.
The First Letter does a great job of capturing the band. Recorded almost entirely in complete takes over two days at Lance Koehler’s relaxed and homey Minimum Wage Recording, every member of the band sounds at ease. It has a live feeling but with the clarity of professional recording and mixing.
It is an entirely different listening experience than the band’s regular home at the Black Hand Coffee Company. Koehler masterfully captures the subtle complexities of the horn players that are often missed in the venues of Richmond. Additionally, mutli-tracked vocals, vocal effects and other techniques used on the horns add an entirely new dimension to the sound of the band.
While this album only scratches the surface of all the things that UTV.chamber has and will explore, it offers a fresh way to hear them play. With their potential as individuals and as a unit it will be exciting to see what the future holds for them.
Track Listing: Calculation Theme; Zoe; Black Belly Dove; Penultimate Knob; Lamplighter; Follow Your Bliss; The First Letter; Lessons in Unrequited Love; Homegrin; Earth; Old Man Theme
Personnel: Reginald Chapman, bass trombone; Chelsea Temple, vocals; David Hood, alto saxophone; Marcus Tenney, tenor saxophone; Mary Lawrence Hicks, flugelhorn; Paul Willson, guitar; Devonne Harris, drums; Stuart Jackson, percussion.