Photo © Kate Previte 2016
As widely renowned for his unerring, intuitive grooves behind the kit as he is for his eclecticism as a composer and bandleader, Bobby Previte stretches into some totally new musical terrain on Mass, his RareNoise debut as a leader and followup to 2014’s cooperative trio project The New Standard with bassist Steve Swallow and keyboardist Jamie Saft.
A modernist re-imagining of the choral epic Missa Sancti Jacobi by 15th century composer Guillaume Dufay, Previte’s Mass prominently features the imposing sound of cathedral pipe organ along with an acclaimed early music chamber vocal group, the 11-voice Rose Ensemble conducted by Jordan Sramek, and a slamming core group consisting of Previte on drums, Marco Benevento on pipe organ and Rheem organ, Don McGreevy, Stephen O’Malley, Mike Gamble and Jamie Saft on electric guitars and Reed Mathis on electric bass.
A kind of heavy metal requiem mass, full of thrashing feedback guitars and grinding power chords, hellacious fuzz bass, thunderous beats and the glorious sound of a Renaissance vocal choir, Mass is unlike anything Previte has done before.
Previte first encountered early music composer Guillaume Dufay in his Early Music class in college. “You have to remember, when Dufay wrote his music it was performed at a time in which there were no loud man-made sounds -- no amplifiers, airplanes, bombs, etc. I wanted to match the effect the music of that time had on the listener, performed in a hard-walled stone church, the sound racing around the walls and bouncing off the ceiling. It was designed to be overwhelming to the people experiencing it. This is powerful, soul-shaking, transportive, otherworldly music. And I needed to match that power, so I had to go with heavy metal -- a reviled music that still keeps coming.”
The players involved in Mass are old cohorts of Previte. Organist Benevento and bassist Reed played in his The Coalition of the Willing. Saft played in Previte’s Latin for Travelers band and is also a key member of 2014‘s The New Standard on RareNoise. Guitarist Gamble has been a longstanding collaborator and is also a member of Previte’s current working quartet, Bobby Previte and the Visitors. Guitarists O'Malley and McGreevy are members of the Seattle-based drone and doom metal bands Sunn O))) and Earth, respectively.
“Each of the three pillars of the piece -- choir, metal trio, and pipe organ -- are operating within their own algorithms, their own keys, time and tempo. And the piece is written for them to be on parallel tracks but making a different fourth thing, dovetailing together on the cadences.
Eventually we all began to be able to hear how it all worked, what notes the choir should be singing when you, as the guitarist, were on your third beat of bar number 15, a 4/4 bar, at quarter note = 60, as they were in their 33rd bar of 6/8 in a completely different tempo. It sounds crazy. Well, it IS crazy! But the design worked eventually, which is a testament to the musicians and their resilience.”
Previte adds about his latest opus, “It has probably the greatest cover art I have ever had on any of my records. Astonishing work by and all respect to the artist, Hadi Nasiri.”