Or­gone plays Sky­light

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Loren Bien­venu For The New Mex­i­can

The Aus­trian psy­cho­an­a­lyst Wil­helm Re­ich was so con­vinced of the cu­ra­tive prop­er­ties of or­gone (a “cos­mic-en­ergy” life force he “dis­cov­ered” and named), that he de­vel­oped a de­vice known as the or­gone ac­cu­mu­la­tor. It con­sists of an en­closed rec­tan­gu­lar cham­ber with a chair in­side that a pa­tient sits on, in dark soli­tude, to re­gain his or her or­gone equi­lib­rium. If Re­ich had sur­vived be­yond 1957, he might have adapted the ac­cu­mu­la­tor by in­stalling speak­ers in it so the pa­tient could si­mul­ta­ne­ously soak up an­other form of soon-to-be-dis­cov­ered cos­mic en­ergy: funk mu­sic. He might even have done away with the cham­ber al­to­gether in fa­vor of larger gath­er­ing places, like Santa Fe mu­sic venue Sky­light, where the masses can ex­pe­ri­ence the power of the bands that play this mu­sic, like the aptly named Or­gone (in town Satur­day, April 4).

Or­gone is an eight-per­son group of mu­si­cians from Los An­ge­les who play funk and soul with so much pre­ci­sion they’ve been hired to back big-name R & B and hip-hop artists like Ali­cia Keys and CeeLo Green in the stu­dio. Since its form­ing in the late 1990s, var­i­ous mem­bers of the band have come and gone, but the core group has steadily de­vel­oped a hard-driv­ing funk feel that pays homage to the pi­o­neers of the genre. The syn­co­pa­tion and un­der­stated melo­di­ous­ness of early New Or­leans funk quar­tet The Me­ters are on dis­play in Or­gone’s new­est al­bum, Be­yond the Sun , as is the propul­sive ex­per­i­men­tal­ism of the Ge­orge Clin­ton band Funkadelic. But, as part of the on­go­ing neosoul move­ment, the group is not re­viv­ing a past mu­sic tra­di­tion as much as re­an­i­mat­ing it with new en­ergy and ideas. The song “Down Down Down,” which pro­vides just one ex­am­ple of this rein­vig­o­ra­tion, fea­tures an­themic horn ar­range­ments and the lilt­ing vo­cals (that are some­how re­laxed in their ur­gency) of Adryon de León.

De León is a rel­a­tively new ad­di­tion to the band — de­spite be­ing the front­woman. She told Pasatiempo she has only been work­ing with Or­gone since Septem­ber 2013. While look­ing for a full-time vo­cal­ist, key­boardist Dan Hastie came across her per­for­mance videos on­line and was im­pressed enough that he reached out to ask her to au­di­tion, live. As the singer ex­plained it, “They had me come out ba­si­cally sight un­seen. Dan sent me links to seven vo­cal tunes. I learned them all, flew out to In­di­ana, and did a show with them the next night. I had never sung with them be­fore. The first time they heard me was dur­ing sound check. From then on it was full steam ahead.”

The match is a good one. De León ar­rived with mu­si­cal in­flu­ences sim­i­lar to those of the band and an ex­ten­sive back­ground of her own. She grew up singing in her fam­ily’s Bap­tist church and par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­mu­nity theater. Then she launched her pro­fes­sional ca­reer, tour­ing with a non­profit per­for­mance or­ga­ni­za­tion and teach­ing choral mu­sic. Her in­flu­ences begin with jazz leg­ends Sarah Vaughan and Bil­lie Hol­i­day and go on to in­clude soul and funk icons like Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan, as well as more con­tem­po­rary in­no­va­tors. “If I could pick one artist right now who I would re­ally love to em­u­late, it would be Jill Scott. I love her sound. I think she’s a word­smith as well.” De León also voiced her ad­mi­ra­tion for Sharon Jones, who is at the fore­front of the neo-soul move­ment, and with whom Or­gone has shared the stage.

The funk octet de­cided to cap­i­tal­ize on the ad­di­tion of de León by putting to­gether an al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial fea­tur­ing her sound. The col­lab­o­ra­tive song­writ­ing process com­bined ideas from the past with newer in­sights. “A band that has played to­gether as long as they have has an ar­chive of jam ses­sions that they’ve recorded,” the singer said. “I came in with a jour­nal full of words, ex­pres­sions, phrases.” From there the band ap­proached the cre­ative process a few dif­fer­ent ways: “One be­ing the or­ganic sit-and-jam sce­nario, where we come up with maybe a beat or a gui­tar lick or a chord pro­gres­sion. So some of what you’re hear­ing was made from scratch. Then there are a few songs where we worked with awe­some pro­duc­ers.”

De­spite the rel­a­tively quick turn­around be­tween adding a new singer and re­leas­ing a new al­bum ( Be­yond the Sun comes out at the end of this month), the in­terim pe­riod in­volv­ing re­hears­ing, writ­ing, ar­rang­ing, record­ing, mix­ing, mas­ter­ing, and pro­mo­tions was not overly pres­sured. As de León re­mem­bered it, “There was only a time crunch at the end, be­cause we had dead­lines as soon as we signed with our la­bel [Shanachie Records]. But we al­ways had the pres­ence of mind to know we had to cap­i­tal­ize on me be­ing a new singer so we could get the ma­te­rial out in time to mar­ket our­selves for fes­ti­val sea­son and tour­ing and all that. So, for the most part, it wasn’t re­ally a time crunch.”

Or­gone also had the op­por­tu­nity to con­sol­i­date its new sound through fairly con­stant tour­ing dur­ing that same pe­riod. Some­what mirac­u­lously, the en­tire band and the equip­ment travel in one van, a Mercedes Sprinter. “It’s ac­tu­ally re­ally nice. You can stand up in it — that’s a plus!” Asked if ev­ery­one gets along in tight quar­ters dur­ing ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, de León said there were no fun­da­men­tal con­flicts. “Th­ese guys have known each other for lit­er­ally decades.” Trav­el­ing the coun­try in­side their own sort of mo­bile or­gone ac­cu­mu­la­tor, “ev­ery­one has their own way to stay sane,” in­clud­ing self-iso­la­tion with head­phones. This tech­nique al­lows the band mem­bers to con­cen­trate cos­mic en­er­gies within so they can later share them with the crowds that come for an equi­lib­rium ad­just­ment at ev­ery nightly stop.

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