Breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling of the improvisational rock scene proves no easy feat for young bands. Burgeoning musicians lumped in the dare we say it, jamband realm, need to successfully marry a deep high-quality catalog of material, whimsical stage presence, diverse writing chops, virtuoso instrumentation, and a calendar containing upwards of 200 shows per year. Correction, breaking through the glass ceiling of the improvisational rock scene is damn near impossible.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and Brooklyn’s Turbine would like to submit their CV. On their first official live release, Sounds in the Hall, as they have over the course of 8 songs checked off every single one of the preceding prerequisites. Comprised of carefully hand-picked selections of both Turbine classics and newer material, Sounds in the Hall covers all the bases, but the clear differentiating factor that sets Turbine far above the masses is their amazing penchant for writing memorable and distinctive songs across a variety of sounds and genres.
Just running through the eight song track list, Turbine touches on a bonafide hit-single in waiting “Blackout Song,” the slow summer groove akin to the Grateful Dead “Eddy From the Sea,” a thick extended funk jam on “Behind These Walls” that stretches all way to cow funk-era 1997, blazing bluegrass chops on Maritime Rag, and a handful of tunes that highlight the remarkable vocals and smoking harmonica leads.
Having played a seemingly infinite number of shows over the past couple of years, the Turbine boys took a lot of time in selecting their finest renditions of the material on Sound from the Halls, as described by guitarist and harmonica player Ryan Rightmire.
“There were so many factors in selecting the songs. Being that this is our first official live album, we wanted to include songs from our two studio albums as well as feature some unreleased ones. In the end, half the album is made up of unreleased tracks. Listening back to the performances, it was hard to ignore the energy of the big shows. Bonnaroo and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival brought out some great moments, so they are well represented. As for a specific memory, at one point during “Stand Down” I played the harmonica with a balloon, and you can hear the crowd erupt mid-song. It’s those mid-song responses that always tell us things are going well.”
It bears highlighting that Turbine’s Ryan Rightmire incorporates the harmonica like it’s never been used in a rock context. Not only does he employ some trickery like playing with a balloon, but it’s not uncommon to hear him layer on some effects and turn his harp into a synth-laden rhythm instrument. Alternatively, he possesses to chops to play it clean and go toe-to-toe with John Popper and perhaps remain the last man standing. While it’s probably not wise for the bands’ publicity to start entering them into fights, these guys are pretty scrappy so keep your guard up, Popper.
Turbine is by no means any one trick pony either, guitarist Jeremy Hilliard plays law-running lead guitar and cranks out definitive melodies throughout his lead playing as well as helping shape Turbine’s wide reaching sound with his song-writing talents. Bassist Justin Kimmel and drummer Octavio Salman hold down the low post like Abdul-Jabar, as both are trained musicians with the ability to run the offense and take over the game at any moment.
Sometimes these things just feel meant to be; when Turbine showed up to perform their show at Bonnaroo, from which three of these tracks were taken, they found a bit of encouraging irony. “There was a giant wind turbine spinning next to the stage. As of matter of fact, it powered our entire show including all of the recording equipment. We made the announcement that this was the first turbine-powered Turbine concert. I kept expecting the songs to speed up every time a gust of wind made it spin faster.”
Taking the name from the lyrics of one the album’s highlight tracks, “Behind These Walls,” Sounds in the Hall evokes a sense of the live experience the overall feel for this tour, which included some big venues. We can only hope that with the help of a successfully release, that the halls will keep growing and the sounds will just keep getting better.
In support of the album, Turbine will host a record release party on May 22nd at the Mercury Lounge in New York City (with the Brew).
Listen to Turbine sing "Blackout Song"
Sounds in the Hall Tracklist:
Eddy the Sea – Telluride Bluegrass Festival, CO
War of 9161 (The Pledge) – Breckenridge, CO
Invited – Bonnaroo, TN
Behind These Walls – Boulder, CO
Doing to Me – Bonnaroo, TN
Stand Down – Bonnaroo, TN
Maritime Rag – Telluride Bluegrass Festival, CO
Blackout Song – Breckenridge, CO