Amazing Bands Part XI: Sound Tribe Sector 9

I was 19 years old and at a point in my life when I so desperately needed something to grasp onto that I felt strongly about and could connect with in a way that would enhance my life as an individual.  The first note of STS9′s “Baraka” that I heard pumping out of my Honda Accord speaker was a saving grace for this lost soul.  After learning more about the ideals of the band and their mission as conscious humanitarians out to spread love and positive energy, my passion for the music intensified.  I remember that instantaneous feeling of “this is what I’ve been searching for my whole life” and my feelings have never changed.  Each time I see the band live (and I’ve seen them over 100 times), I am reenergized with the emotions and brought back to the initial time of hearing them, knowing that this is where I belong.  Without this band, I would be only a portion of who I am today, for I have grown through the music and their message of love and life, sharing space in the eternally beautiful universe that we are present in, here and now…and hopefully tomorrow as well.


What’s the Secret?

Each of the 5 members provides unique talent and vibration to the band.  The secret truly is their connection with one another and the harmony that they create amongst themselves and their listeners.  It’s a combination of so many different elements of music: they are a live improvisational “jam band” first and foremost, using the term jam band lightly as they fuse together elements of drum and bass, funk, electronica, jazz and ambient with influences from cultures all around the world.  Yet, distinctions between these musical styles are superficial..there need not be a classification, for the music itself is an entity of it’s own, independent of any genre.

Hunter Brown’s electric and circular guitar breakdowns bring color and life to each song.  Combined with the tribal percussion led by Jeffree Lerner and the funky basslines that David Murphy so effortlessly lays down on the low end create the foundations of the sector 9 vessel.  Zach Velmer’s speed and preciseness on the drum kit is a spectacle in and of itself with heavy hits and quick beats that send energy though your body enticing you to join the others on the dance floor in movement.  All of this topped with layers of beautiful piano pieces and synthesizers by David Phipps unfold a tsunami of sound that delights the eardrum.  Utilizing programs like Abelton Live and MIDI boards in combination with the full band, Sound Tribe Sector 9 is an eccentric sound, one of rarity and uniqueness.

Where do you start? (for those who have never listened before)

The first full length album, Interplnetary Escape Vehicle (1998), is definitely a good start as a foundation for the STS9 experience.  However, it is a skeleton of the sound that they embody today.  Absent are the electronic elements and the percussion (Jeffree Lerner joined the band years after it’s conception) that really fulfill the layered and full bodied sound that STS9 has become.  My personal favorite studio album, Artifact (2005), is also a great way to start.  Here, you will find the true essence of the glory that this quintet offers: a gorgeous tale of electronica meets soft and melodic post rock.  “Peoples” brings to the forefront the electronic, synth heavy sound that they have organically grown into, also utilizing vocal samples that enhance the depth and connect each track to one another.  Similarly, “Better Day” utilizes the vocal samples yet stays away from the electronic sound with peaceful piano that calms and serves as a channeling devise, transporting you from one song to the next in such a way that you almost don’t recognize the transition taking place.  Peaceblaster (2008) offers listeners a more evolved STS9.  New to this record is the implementation of actual singing voices from members of the band peppered throughout the 14 songs.  It’s a new take on their old sound fueled by tragic world issues with a message of hope for humanity, something that lies near and dear to (some of) our hearts today as we prepare to embrace the predictions of the Mayans.  For a new listener, it’s for sure a live show that will be the true testament of love or dislike.  I would never use the term hate as it is impossible to not at least appreciate the art and soul that lives within the music created by Sound Tribe Sector 9.
What’s Next?

A cross country tour starting in February and a new album due out the same month.  As time changes, so do the sounds of the amazing band, Sound Tribe Sector 9.


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Tags:  R.E.M, Moog, Abelton Live, Santa Cruz Hemp Allstars, Terrance Mckenna, Tzolkin, Agobi Project