STS9 drop first album in three years and include vocals for the first time

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:: STS9::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre ::
:: September 5 and 6 ::

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By Lisa Oshlo

Organic electronica pioneers STS9 have come a long way from their roots. What initially began as mostly experimental music has taken on more structure and form in their latest release, Peaceblaster.

Beginning in Georgia and now residing on the West Coast, STS9 returns to Red Rocks for the third consecutive year in support of this highly-anticipated new album.

Coming nearly three years since their last release, 2005’s Artifact and Artifact: Perspectives, Peaceblaster demonstrates clearly the way the band has developed.

The Marquee recently sat down with STS9 bassist David Murphy (Murph) to talk about this growth.

“I think the music has changed a lot. I think the core of what we have always done will always be evident in our music, with the way the five of us play together, but the sound has definitely changed a lot over the years,” said Murphy.

For the first half of the band’s ten-year existence, the focus was largely on improvisation and the collective sound. But in the past few years, the band has tried to hone their songwriting abilities and spend less time experimenting. “I think it just comes with maturity as a musician,” said Murphy.
Peaceblaster has been deemed by many their most accessible album to date. This could be due to the vocal element which has not been present on previous albums, or it could be due to the more structured songwriting. With this release, the quintet moves into its second decade with a group mind and vision handcrafted by a strong band of individuals. Whereas past efforts included vast sonic explorations which pushed and challenged the listener, their latest release is a far closer approximation of the union between their exhilarating live performances and the art of songcraft. Indeed, the 15-song album is a consistently engaging work which pulls the listener into its swirling web of intrigue without ever losing sight of what initially made the group so unique when they hit the music scene in the late 1990s — energetic and exciting music for heads, tweakers, dancers, ravers, and rockers alike.

“It’s just more accessible listening music,” said Murphy. “We’ve figured out how to write in a more classical sense. I think that’s just maturity and not something we intentionally set out to do, to make a more mainstream record. It’s just better crafted. Although what’s most unique about it is that there ended up being sort of a formula, but it only revealed itself afterward. The songs all made sense together and there was a theme there, but with us it’s never premeditated.”

Despite this, there is still plenty of room for freedom and openness in the music, which is something that the fans certainly count on from STS9. The live show still allows for experimentation, even though there may be more of a foundation there. “The emphasis has always been on letting each song have a life of its own,” said Murphy.

In addition to their music, STS9 is well-known for taking the good vibes generated from their live shows and putting them back into the community that has so whole-heartedly supported them over the years. Long partnered with various non-profits, including Conscious Alliance, STS9 takes one dollar from each ticket sold and at the end of the tour, divides the pot between three or four non-profits with anywhere from $20,000-$60,000 going to various charities.

“Most people would like to do more, but it’s hard to find the time or the energy to put into things like that,” said Murphy. “I think we just really wanted to support organizations that were trying to make a change and bring some happiness into someone’s life. We realized that we had a platform and an obligation to use it.”

STS9 supports their musical community as well, signing unknown and independent artists to their 1320 Records label. Owned and operated by the band, 1320 Records is an online digital forum that supports younger, up-and-coming talent often ignored by the mainstream media. 1320’s current roster includes Pnuma Trio, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Count Bass D, to name a few.

Murphy said that the label sees a new day coming in the music industry. “I can’t really foresee they’ll be making CDs much longer,” he said. So the goal of 1320 Records is to encourage these artists to take some of the power back into their own hands.

The two shows at Red Rocks will feature some powerhouse opening acts, with Talib Kweli and Flying Lotus opening on Friday, Sept. 5, and Ghostland Observatory and Bassnecter opening on Saturday, Sept. 6.

:: STS9::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre ::
:: September 5 and 6 ::

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