Over the course of various releases, the self-titled debut Death Blues (Hometapes/Taiga), Here (Rhythmplex), Non-fiction (SIGE), as well as the text only Death Blues manifesto, drummer and percussionist Jon Mueller’s Death Blues project has used sound, performance, and concept to explore ideas around presence and experience. This work culminates in the release of Ensemble, an elaborate book/LP/digital release that features seven essays about our vulnerability, the rawness of our inner lives, and how we move forward in the face of it all. The audio is an expansive orchestral soundtrack crafted by Mueller and composer/multi-instrumentalist William Ryan Fritch over the course of two years. Like the essays, the music exemplifies complex emotional and textural layers via strings, woodwinds, percussion, and wordless vocals, ranging from cinematic and dreamful to thundering and powerful over the course of its nine tracks. Late artist Lillian Rammel’s hand-made masks from the 1970s are featured throughout the package, symbolizing inward and outward perceptions. The combination of audio, text, and visual create an immersive and broad experience. This is work about people, for people.
Ensemble comes packaged as a deluxe 16pp hardback full color book with a 140 gm LP mastered by Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice at Peerless Mastering. The audio download that comes with the Ensemble book/LP also includes two exclusive tracks not available on the standard digital version. Essays by Stacy Blint, Faith Coloccia, Brent Gohde, Sally Haldorson, Chris Koelle, Tom Lecky, and David Ravel.
“Death Blues’ Ensemble feels vital as a complex experience you touch, live in, and meditate on.” – NPRmusic
“a chant of awareness, propelling – chest forward – into a life that will throw at us what it will.” - Dusted Magazine
“if you look deep enough it just might change how you view experimental music, or even life afterwards.” – The Sleeping Shaman
Music composed, arranged, and performed by William Ryan Fritch and Jon Mueller.
William Ryan Fritch: vocals, keys, bowed and plucked strings, horns, woodwinds, mallets, and additional percussion.
Jon Mueller: hammered acoustic guitar, drums, and percussion.
With Craig Feazel: pedal steel on ‘Consonance’ and ‘Loss,’ and Drew Ceccato: baritone saxophone on ‘Consonance,’ tenor saxophone on ‘Loss,’ baritone saxophone and contrabass clarinet on ‘Unseen,’ additional flutes on ‘Reentry,’ baritone saxophone on ‘Obtain,’ contrabass clarinet on ‘Onward,’ and tenor and baritone saxophone on ‘Masked.’
Recorded February 6, of 2012 through October 22nd of 2013 in Petaluma, CA, Houston, TX, and Milwaukee, WI by William Ryan Fritch, James Thompson, and Shane Hochstetler.
Mixed by William Ryan Fritch.
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA. Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice.
Writing by Stacy Blint, Faith Coloccia, Brent Gohde, Sally Haldorson, Chris Koelle, Tom Lecky, Jon Mueller, and David Ravel.
Mask sculptures by Lillian Rammel, ca. 1970s. Thanks to Hal Rammel for offering and arranging use of these images.
Package, book, and LP designed by Jon Minor.
Thanks to everyone that participated in this project, to Teresa Mueller for her continuous support, and to all who are willing to consider this project and its aim.
℗ 2014 Rhythmplex
© 2014 Warm Camera Grumpy Publishing (SESAC)
© 2014 William Ryan Fritch (ASCAP)