STS9 released their 6th studio album, The Universe Inside, on their homegrown label 1320 Mission Control on September 2, 2016, and it represents their first such release since Ad Explorata was released in 2009. This would also be the first release for “STS9 2.0” with Alana Rocklin since her taking over the staggering bass responsibilities for STS9 following David “Murph” Murphy’s departure in 2014. Murph’s departure was sudden to its fan base and given his popularity, there was concern about what the future direction of the band would entail. In response STS9 added Rocklin and went right back to the road warriors they had always been, playing hundreds of festivals and shows, all while expanding their sound and new musical influences. The rest of the Santa Cruz/Atlanta band consists of founding members Hunter Brown (guitar/sequences), Jeffree Lerner (percussion), David Phipps(keyboards/synths) and Zach Velmer (drums).
The Universe Inside is certainly a deviation from albums past, where live instrumentation served as the background and forefront to jam-centric livetronica. Alternatively, this LP is rich with samples and vocals, as well as heavy disco, soul, soft rock, and prog-pop connotations. The album feels much more aligned with Daft Punk: Random Access Memories than it does prior albums like Peaceblaster or Artifacts. The album starts off on an astral plane with “Supercluster”, with actual radio transmissions from Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-9 space mission in 1983 accompanied by some spatial instrumentation that fades away and opens the door for the first full track, the pop-vocal-heavy “Out of this World”. The single released for this album, “Get Loud”, as well as “Worry No More” continue the prog-pop feeling from the second track but with more of an intergalactic-disco groove to it. “Light Years”, “Elsewhere”, and “Common Descent” provide segue tracks, lending strength to the overall album construction but not really offering a standalone listen. “Totem”, along with “New Dawn, New Day”, have a more traditional STS9 feel with Velmer’s drums laying the foundation for Brown’s guitar and Phipp’s synths in layered jams. “World Go Round” offers Rocklin a chance to shine on this funky-disco track, as her involvement with the band since joining has been widely met with praise and appreciation for her abilities and influences. The title track “The Universe Inside”, which is also the closing track, may represent the furthest departure from STS9’s style with a gospel, soul, almost work-song type of tune.
While the album does represent a divergence from prior albums and efforts, STS9 should be commended for taking themselves out of their comfort zone to release their most recent studio album. The album is seamlessly constructed, making it a more enjoyable experience for this listener to hear in its entirety rather than in bits and pieces; which is a rarity in today’s digital age and need for instant access and immediate gratification. While the album is constructed to be listened in its entirety, tracks like “World Go Round” and “Totem” have already become mainstays in STS9’s live repertoire. Be sure to catch them as they tour the country on their fall tour, including festival stops at Swuannee Hulaween and Voodoo Music and Arts Experience before they head off to the Dominican Republic for their annual Dominican Holidaze bash with fellow jamband veterans Umphrey’s McGee and The Disco Biscuits.
10/20/16 Skyway Theatre Minneapolis, MN Tickets Travel RSVP
10/21/16 Orpheum Theater Madison, WI Tickets Travel RSVP
10/22/16 The Fillmore Detroit, MI
10/23/16 Express Live! Columbus, OH
10/26/16 Mercury Ballroom Louisville, KY
10/27/16 New Daisy Theatre Memphis, TN
10/28/16 Oak Mountain Amphitheatre Birmingham, AL
10/29/16 Suwannee Hulaween Live Oak, FL
10/30/16 Voodoo Music Festival New Orleans, LA
10/31/16 Georgia Theatre Athens, GA
11/03/16 War Memorial Auditorium Nashville, TN
11/04/16 Tennessee Theatre Knoxville, TN
11/05/16 Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Asheville, NC
11/06/16 Jefferson Theater Charlottesville, VA
11/09/16 The NorVa Norfolk, VA
11/10/16 The Fillmore Silver Spring, MD
11/11/16 The Fillmore Philadelphia, PA
11/12/16 Terminal 5 New York, NY
11/19/16 The Masonic San Francisco, CA
11/20/16 The Fillmore San Francisco, CA
12/01/16 - 12/05/16 Dominican Holidaze Punta Cana, DR