Quentin Rice, Staff Writer
Seven albums in two years is a release schedule that would make most musicians age exponentially. But it’s a stunt the Spacebomb House Band is on track to complete this December with the release of their newest project, “Library Music.”
Spacebomb Records is home to such prominent Richmond acts as Natalie Prass, Angelica Garcia and Andy Jenkins. Richmond musician Matthew E. White, with his bandmates at the time Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston and Pinson Chanselle, founded the record label in 2011. Today, in addition to running the label, they form the Spacebomb House Band.
“We’re just building up a library of music,” Ralston said, referencing the title of the collection. “The idea is that it’s just generating material in a quick manner and trying not to be super precious about it. … It’s like creative exercise.”
Spacebomb House Band doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Each of the “Library Music” tapes clocks in at around 30 minutes, but there’s a remarkable diversity in sounds on each record.
The quartet maintains such constant and distinct releases by combining samples from all the musicians they work with. They produce records for the artists signed to the Spacebomb label with live jam sessions between the four core musicians.
“You listen to one [track] and there are all these different sounds,” Pollard said. “It may have been recorded over a dozen different sessions. Or sometimes I’ll pull samples from other records we’ve made. I’ll go ‘Oh, this is a cool piece that never got used,’ and I’ll throw it into a song.”
It’s difficult to describe succinctly the vast array of influences and sounds on each “Library Music” record. “Phlegmatic” on “II: Temple of Engine Room” is driven by ominously dissonant piano chords and frigid guitar licks, while a cool ride cymbal and what sounds like glass bottles shimmer underneath the darkness. “Speed Limit 79” on “V: Gold-Toothed & Lonesome” features a frantic drum pace and cool, echoing marimba flourishes that recall passages of Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.”
“Sometimes we’ll book days where it’s just the four of us in here playing a bunch of stuff,” Pollard said. On these days, the band will convene at the studio and jam together with different ideas from each member.
The band works closely with Spacebomb art director Travis Robertson to craft the unique artwork and title for each release.
“We’re just building up a library of music. The idea is that it’s just generating material in a quick manner and trying not to be super precious about it. … It’s like creative exercise.” — Cameron Ralston
“He works on the cover and then we see it, and it’s always awesome. It’s super fresh,” Ralston said. “Travis is cool because his art doesn’t look like anything else, but it also doesn’t look like it’s trying, you know? It’s just a cool aesthetic.”
Most of the cover artwork is a hodgepodge of vintage and retro images, such as a loaf of bread on the first record, or the bipedal turkey in a cloak on “VI.”
The titles are equally unique and seem totally arbitrary. The fourth record is called “Return to the End of Time,” and the sixth is “Connected by Birth and Employment.”
Pollard and Ralston said Robertson lets the music conjure up a phrase in his mind as he listens to the record and works on its cover art.
Spacebomb House Band plans to release their seventh album in early December and have already begun working on the eighth record. They have performed live only once, and have no solid plans for any future performances. But it’s not off the table either.
“I don’t think there’s any real active energy being put into booking the house band,” Ralston said. “But it would be great. If somebody out there wanted to book us a gig, we’ll do it.”
“Library Music” can be found on Apple Music, Spotify and Youtube. To learn more about Spacebomb, visit spacebombrecords.com