Today we’re premiering an exclusive track, “Ancient Alien,” from Earth Analog, the forthcoming second album by instrumental jazz-prog trio Now Vs. Now. The group is led by keyboardist Jason Lindner, and features bassist Panagiotis Andreou and drummer Mark Guiliana. In addition to NowVsNow, Lindner leads the 11-piece art ensemble Breeding Ground and performs with Guiliana’s Beat Music, drummer Dafnis Prieto‘s Proverb Trio, saxophonist Donny McCaslin‘s electric band and reeds player Anat Cohen‘s jazz quartet. Andreou is Lindner’s bandmate in the New York Gypsy All Stars, while Guiliana and Lindner have a scattered history as sidemen with bassists Avishai Cohen and Meshell Ndegeocello (who produced the first NowVsNow album in 2009).
Earth Analog will be available everywhere November 12. Stream “Ancient Alien” below.
Below, a Q&A with Jason Lindner.
How did this band come together? How long have you known these guys?
I used to play with the bassist Avishai Cohen, who at one time was in a rock band with mark called Gadu. That’s when I first heard and met Mark. His intention on the drums became burned into memory. Avishai hired Mark and me for a trio gig at the Montreal Jazz Fest some time after that. I had been hearing about Panagiotis from colleagues who thought we would vibe well musically. We eventually met at a world music festival in New York and immediately bonded. His playing totally blew me away. I played my music with Panagiotis with different drummers until we connected with Mark and it felt right. Originally Now Vs. Now also included trumpet player Avishai Cohen and beatbox/MC Baba Israel, but it quickly became impractical with so many leaders in one band, so I stripped it down to only the trio. It was more exposed without the two frontmen, and we morphed into a collectively balanced unit using the arrangements—as opposed to virtuosity—as the main focus, in the interest of better serving the songs, and the listeners.
The music feels very coherent and structured—it’s more like progressive rock and funk than jazz. What was the writing process like? What did the other guys bring to your music?
I wrote about serving the song. There’s that. Music should tell a story. Tension and release is important, so are drama and surprise. We are a team, working very much together, no one shining more than the other, but rather serving the music together. In this way we are all of the same mind. With instrumental music, it’s more difficult to hold the audience’s attention and keep it interesting. Most of the material on Earth Analog began as my own musical ideas fleshed out and developed in Logic (music software) which I then taught to the band without written music, so that we could well internalize it and find the best way to perform it live, which was worked out pretty much collectively in rehearsal and in concert. Both Panagiotis and Mark bring the highest levels of sincerity, fire, expertise and teamwork to the band. Panagiotis does it with pure openness and heart, Mark with minimalism and precision. These two are opposites in many ways and I often function as a hinge between them.
What kind of keyboards were you using on this album, and was it recorded live in the studio or in a more piece-by-piece, layered manner?
Each track on Earth Analog was performed together in real time in the studio. We had been performing most of the material live for months already so it was a pretty natural process. I overdubbed a bit with the intention of keeping it minimal, though on “Ancient Alien,” for example, I allowed myself to use a bit more post-production. Meshell Ndegeocello, during her production of our first album, imparted to me that the studio is different from the stage and should be treated as such. With this in mind, I wished on this album to “color” in the studio more than create too many parts we wouldn’t be able to play live with only the three of us. My main instrument on Earth Analog is the Wurlitzer electronic piano (its original name). I played Fender Rhodes on “Drift.” I also used two different Minimoogs and a Subphatty, Dave Smith Instruments’ Prophet 08 and Mopho x4, and a Casio CS01, I believe. And last but not least, my first love, the piano!
This track, “Ancient Alien,” starts out with a lot of digital noise and disruption to it, while retaining an overall feel that’s like ’70s prog or space rock, but then at the 3 1/2 minute mark it becomes a totally different thing. Can you explain what you were going for with this piece?
“Ancient Alien” is one of the newer pieces on the album. We had never actually played it live before recording it. I had produced a pretty gnarly electro version in Logic and wanted to recreate some of that with the band and then get into our own thing. The whole song is meant to uncomfortably simmer and build pressure, which finally releases at that 3.5 min mark. And of course the last bit is the actual “Ancient Alien”—Panagiotis communicating in South Indian Konnakol, in another dimension.