The Epicureans, Howie Stelzer, KBD (Toledo) – Washington Street Arts Center, Somerville – July 24

Ryan McGuire

The Epicureans


The Epucureans have come back, minus a drummer. Ricardo Donoso has gone off to enjoy the fruits of the electronic circuit, leaving alto saxist Dave Gross and upright bassist Ryan McGuire to create a more inviting music. The lion sleeps tonight… The Epicureans were always a string trio, with Gross using the sax as the string substitute that Adolphe Sax meant it for, and McGuire with a deep wood tone. These two get the most out of extended technique, but they are always civilized, however savage the sound effects. The tension is invisible. Great shifts of approach occur within the switch of a second, but the whole stays organic, with changes transpiring like corn slowly maturing in a summer field. Soon, the stalks are sky high and you’re in a different place, a different altitude in a different state.

 Dave Gross Wash Arts

Their technical prowess is great. McGuire does amazing things with his bow, and Gross has his own bag of tricks, as often as not turning his axe into a kazoo or jaw harp. Yes, there is humor in this work, but it is the earthy seams in a fine silk cloth.

 Howie Stelzer

Howie Stelzer


Where many of the younger electronic artists just throw slabs of intensity at you, Howie Stelzer creates a slowly unfolding, undulating landscape. With cassette tapes that have been damaged or manipulated as his base, his “noise” has a sonorous quality. It is an ethereal atmosphere that expands, with rogue currents, and soft undertows. He has not lost anything over the past few years, when he performed out more regularly. He has matured, with more spirit, and more sway.




KBD, from Toledo, Ohio, is a trio that mixes electronic and acoustic, with drums, a table guitar, and some kind of pocket trumpet to complement the circuit boards. The sound rides an even keel, billowing and rippling with flutter and flow. It is peaceful music, with a slow burn tension that rises but never boils over. A film of a stationary, gutted building in suffused pink light is behind the musicians, and this reflects the tone of the music, it’s empty, echoing quality where nuance and innuendo are everything. With electronic bell sounds, there is a touch of the exotic, with the feel of a river into which many streams flow. You get the sense that the influence is going to change the course radically, but it’s the same river flowing, growing with storms and such, but with a strong primal sense of being, a river that has been there for ages and will keep its shape as the vegetation and life around it give into the accidents of nature.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s