by Phil Freeman
Syrinx Effect are a duo from Seattle, whose album A Sky You Could Strike a Match On will be released February 9. We’re premiering a track, “Bottomfeeders,” today.
Syrinx Effect‘s members are Kate Olson (soprano saxophone and laptop) and Naomi Siegel (trombone played through guitar pedals). They’ve previously released two EPs, 2013’s Gnarly & Sweet and 2014’s Snail Songs.
Olson says of “Bottomfeeders”:
I wrote this song in homage to denizens of the deep—creatures that inhabit our ocean, lake, and stream floors, who subsist on the gooey muck that falls down to the bottom. I find it fascinating that at most restaurants, lobster is is one of the most expensive meals on the menu, but lobsters essentially eat trash and other refuse that the rest of the ocean doesn’t want. The feeling of the song is supposed to evoke an image similar to those from nature documentaries like Planet Earth or Blue Planet—the camera is fixed on cloudy water with air bubbles escaping to the surface, until we catch a glimpse of an alien, whiskered catfish, or a creepy crustacean. I love documentaries about the natural world, and I’m also very keen on seafood, so I was inspired to think about the bigger picture—where do these animals come from? What is it like down in the depths of a muddy river?
The melody has three parts, which I think of as an introduction, and main melodic line, and a coda. These are played over an ascending trombone background, that I think sounds like bubbles floating to the surface. After these three parts, Naomi plays a recurring bass line that she loops. While rehearsing the song, I improvised some hand claps to punctuate that bass line, and our producer, Eric Eagle, had us recreate those in the studio. The three of us stood around a microphone layering clapping sounds for what felt like the better part of an afternoon, and that sound is what you now hear on the record, and what we sample when we do a live performance of this song. Once the melody is stated, we layer our dual improvisations over the bass line, getting a muddier and muddier sound as our polyrhythms meld into one mass of audio. These layered improvisations then drop out, and the melodic sections are restated, this time slower and in a different time signature over our solo section bass line. In my mind, “Bottomfeeders” has the basic structure of a jazz standard (head, solo, head), but with my own artistic flair thrown in. This allows us to develop a deep groove in only one key, but have three pretty different but interlocking sections to the tune.