Since Time is Gravity, the latest hypnotic album from Joshua Abrams' Natural Information Society, is also credited to Ari Brown, the 80-year-old tenor saxophonist and Chicago legend whose work is central to the album. He joins Abrams and the rest of NIS' players: Lisa Alvarado (harmonium), Mikel Patrick Avery (drums), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Hamid Drake (tabla, tar), Josh Berman and Ben Lamar Gay (cornets), Nick Mazzarella and Mai Sugimoto (alto saxophones & flute), and Kara Bershad (harp). You can listen to the album below.

We asked Joshua to tell us more about Since Time Is Gravity and he returned with a list of "ideas & inspirations" that includes Ari Brown, Japanese drum machines and other instruments and gear, and more. Read that below.


ideas & inspirations orbiting Natural Information Society's Since Time Is Gravity

1 Ari Brown
The tenor saxophone tradition in Chicago is a deep legacy that goes back generations. This lineage includes Gene Ammons, John Gilmore, Johnny Griffin, Von Freeman, Fred Anderson, and many many more. Filled with the breath of the right practitioner the tenor saxophone reveals itself as highly sophisticated technology for making humans feel better. Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy. Now in his 80s, Ari Brown upholds that legacy. His career has crossed a huge spectrum of music, playing with Elvin Jones Jazz Machine for decades, recording with groups including the Emotions or his own ensembles such as The Awakening or Ultimate Frontier. His sound and intelligence brings a depth to Natural Information Society's compositions whether interpreting a melody, flowing freely over the fabric of the ensemble, or creating otherworldly vocalizations through his horn. Ari's impact on this recording is major, and it is an honor to have him take part in the group.

2 Ace Tone Rhythm Ace
A Japanese drum machine from the 70s, I find it's tones & preset rhythms help facilitate writing new music. The Ace appears on more than half the record blending with Mikel Patrick Avery's drums & Hamid Drake's percussion. I came across this instrument while recording years ago with Count Bass D at the Shape Shoppe with Griffin Rodriguez engineering and Jeff Parker & Tomeka Reid in the mix.

3 Murmuration 
How can music approach the shifting density of birds at twilight?

4 Constellation
Is one of the epicenters of Chicago's creative music community & the home base for NIS over the last decade. You can hear inspiring progressive music there every week. Run by composer, drummer, & impresario Mike Reed, he continues the tradition of Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge, a musician owned venue managing to simultaneously foster experimentation and maintain living traditions. NIS has played there many times including this past NYE, the people dancing down the aisles.

5 Stain Ballads
Martin Arnold makes utterly bewitching psych chamber music. Described as a formless dance music the title cut feels like time is melting. Performed by the sublime Apartment House for the mighty Another Timbre label this album was a steady favorite over the months leading up to recording this record. One of the best composers writing today.

6 The Traditional Object
The Traditional Object is a series of free hanging paintings created by artist, NIS harmoniumist & my partner Lisa Alvarado. Since 2010 she has provided works from this series as stage settings for the band's concerts and imagery for the covers of the group's LP. The series offers an expansive approach to painting, history & utility. The cover of Since Time Is Gravity is filled with her piece Vibratory Cartography: Nepantla which was in last year's Whitney Biennial. You can see her new work at Bridget Donahue Gallery later this year.

since time is gravity

7 Echoplex
To me the sound of slapback echo on Sun Ra's early recordings, Mario Falana's live +djustments from the soundboard on Khan Jamal's Drumdance to the Motherland, & Miles Davis' 70s tape experiments w/ Teo Macero all feel kindred to Jamaican dub sensibilities. The echo becomes its own instrument. Lee Scratch Perry passed around the time i was preparing to mix this record. A rudimentary nod to a pioneer of the form, i brought my Echoplex to Greg Norman's studio to record live passes on several of the pieces on the record.

8 eremite records
Our steadfast label gets its name from Thelonious Monk's Portrait of an Ermite, & its logo from Joe Mcphee. Michael Ehlers has championed scores of musicians including records with William Parker, Fred Anderson, TEST, Peter Brötzmann, Alan Silva, on & on. In 2009 he came to a show i played in Saint Louis with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy where we opted to play the first half of the set as a disco medley. At the time he informed me that he had ceased label operations, was moving to New Mexico and handed me what appeared to be his final release (a beautiful Sunny Murry reissue). In return i gave him some nascent music for his drive. Somehow operations resumed & he became our home label ever since. In that time we have released 7 albums. In recent years he has released 2 of Jeff Parker's records as well as reissues by Khan Jamal & David Blue.

9 Sersara
On the guimbri, the sersara is the detachable rattle at the end of the headstock that resonates with each note. While the guimbri is low,earthy & percussive in tone (gut strings & skin), the sersara is metallic & bright. I like to to emphasize this aspect of the sound, it has shimmering overtones that can be brought forward w/ a mic and blends well with the timbres in the group. An instrument that is activated by the resonance of another instrument feels like a good metaphor & ideal for how our music functions.

10 Robert Barry & Ronnie Boykins
Two pioneering members of the Sun Ra Arkestra who were early influences on me. When i was getting started on the scene in Chicago i had the good fortune to play frequently with Robert Barry towards the end of his career. His massive sense of swing offered a paradigm of how to deal with being part of the rhythm section whilst his sense of humor offered a paradigm for dealing with living. Ronnie Boykins remains one of the most under-acknowledged bassists of the music, a gravitational force within the Arkestra. I've always been a fan of the open spaces that paired his bowing with Ra's early synth explorations. The piece "Stigmergy" is dedicated to both of them.

11 Hamid Drake
A dear friend & mentor, Hamid is the one who really encouraged me to practice the guimbri and get over any hesitation presenting the instrument in concert. I first recorded the instrument on his record with Fred Anderson, From The River to The Ocean. He continues to play with countless musicians quite literally around the world and is beloved wherever he goes. A long standing musical co-conspirator he is a direct link to the tradition of Don & Moki Cherry having played & lived with both of them. I have been fortunate to play in several of Hamid's groups most recently, Turiya.

12 Time
Music has the power to reconfigure our sense of time & timing. Since we organize our lives around a fixed notion of time what becomes possible when we re-understand that construct?

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