The super-trio with a Tuesday night residency at Listening Room in February was featured by Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted music by The Accidentals, FINKEL, Luke Winslow-King and more.
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Think modern jazz with “a variety of colors and sounds.”
Or “ambient textures” that reflect outer space, space travel and the exploration of the farthest reaches of the universe.
Or a “lo-fi beat aesthetic” driving instrumental music that’s warm and comfortable “but still has a little bit of ear candy for people who are listening more actively.”
In essence, that’s the Grand Rapids trio Normal Mode, an intoxicating side project featuring respected musicians who’ve made their mark in other bands but who revel gleefully in creating this singular, “lo-fi space travel music.”
“We delight in the electro-acoustic nature of the group, paired with the joy in exploration that comes inherently from studying the vast subject of outer space,” said keyboardist Dutcher Snedeker, who first joined bassist Ian Thompson and drummer Nathan Coles as a gigging jazz trio about four years ago.
They formalized their approach as part of Thompson’s “Research in Development” album released in 2019, then recorded under the moniker Normal Mode for the trio’s official debut album, released in December. “Downlink” was recorded at Greg Baxter’s Second Story Sound, with Third Coast Recording’s Kevin Kozel mixing the project and Ian Gorman of La Luna Recording and Sound handling the mastering.
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Normal Mode spotlighted two tracks from that album – “Phobos” and “Mountain Top.” Scroll down to listen to the songs and the full radio show podcast.
PLAYING LISTENING ROOM WITH SPECIAL GUESTS IN FEBRUARY
Normal Mode is set to unfurl their blend of contemporary jazz, electronic music, math rock and lo-fi beat music in a live setting throughout February: The band will play every Tuesday night at Listening Room in downtown Grand Rapids as part of a month-long residency that will feature special guests at each show. This comes after the band played a series of dinner shows at Listening Room in early 2021.
“Each one (show) will bring a different flavor, additional songs and a unique artistic sound to the group’s planned material,” said Snedeker, noting that Normal Mode also recently played a visually enhanced show at Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Roger Chaffee Planetarium.
“The final date will feature the artists we worked with at the planetarium, adding the same live visuals in a reprise of that experience.”
Guests scheduled for the residency are guitarist Adam Marth (Feb. 1), guitarist Steve Leaf (Feb. 8) and cellist Jordan Hamilton (Feb. 15), with visuals by Nate Eizenga at the Feb. 22 performance. Get more details about these free 7:30 p.m. shows at listeningroomgr.com.
Snedeker stressed that Normal Mode represents “a fun side venture” for this trio of musicians, who all are involved in other projects: Snedeker is a member of the bands Earth Radio and Blushing Monk and does session work at Third Coast Recording; Thompson performs with singer-songwriter Cameron Blake; Coles works at Black Swamp Percussion and does session work with The Vagabonds. Coles and Thompson also play in Leaf’s live band, and all three have performed with Mark Lavengood and The Bluewater Kings.
Nevertheless, the band aims to flesh out new material for its next release, with plans for continuing to perform occasionally across the region and replicating its planetarium show at other locations.
“Luckily with this group, we understood from the get-go the things that are our main focus, so scheduling shows in the nooks and crannies of our schedules presents a fun challenge for the band while also opening up the door for other types of events we could do,” said Snedeker, adding that Earth Radio is currently putting the “final touches” on a new album slated for release later this year.
Earth Radio plays Otus Supply in Ferndale on Feb. 10 and at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion on Feb. 11, representing the band’s first shows on the east side of the state in nearly two years.
Snedeker noted that all three musicians in Normal Mode are “experienced with the work that needs to go into keeping a group performing and growing,” so they remain committed to this outer space-inspired venture.
It’s a trio with an “improvisational spirit,” he said, pushing the boundaries of modern jazz with an eclectic mélange of musical influences “filled in by the personalities of the band.”
In addition to showcasing the music of Normal Mode, this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE – which focuses on local and regional music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — spotlighted new music from Luke Winslow-King, FINKEL, Morgan Haner, Emma A. Ward, Prior Noon, Daniel Terry, The Accidentals (with Peter Mulvey), Three Spoke Wheel, Robert Baird, Jack White and Stratos (this week’s musician’s pick by Snedeker). Listen to the radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (1/28/22)
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