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[ABOUT THE BAND]
ARP of the Covenant is a maniacal improvisation trio utilizing acoustic and electronic instruments, along with other miscellaneous gadgets. We don't subscribe to categorizations, but some people have described us as "Electro-Funk" and "Avant Jazz". On this page, you will find some articles of praise for our group, some nice pictures, and three full-length MP3s from our first album. Here's our official bio:
Containing three members this group uses a variety of electronic
and acoustic gizmos to create sounds with. Almost cult-like in their
approach to making music, Arp of the Covenant insists that once they sit
down at their instruments, they have no control over what they will play.
They, in fact, become instruments for a mystical synthesizer that they
found in a crudely fashioned tomb in the magical forests of northern
Wisconsin.... The ARP. When asked to identify themselves in the presence
of the ARP they respond only with a slack jawed blank stare. Once the ARP
is engaged it takes mere seconds for it to take control of their motor
functions and command them what to do.
[REVIEWS AND ACCOLADES]
Judging by this self-titled debut slab from Arp Of The Covenant on the
Rock IS Dead label; it [rock] really is [dead], but somehow jazz
fusion isn't. This trio, consisting of layers upon layers of
keyboards, sound effects, laptop, drums and electric bass isn't
interested in being hip, they have something else to offer. What that
is exactly, is difficult to pin down, but it floats along some line
between Klaus Schulze, Weather Report Circa Mysterious Traveler or
Black Market, and an electronic rock trio. Elements of jazz fusion
juxtapose against strange-o electronics and elegant keyboards that
sometimes ape a guitar in their melodic frameworks-check the ballad
"Jennifer." Other places are far more intense with modes and time
signatures shapeshifting themselves along some groove heard only by
the trio themselves. While the centerpiece of this band is obviously
keyboardist Mark Siegenthaler, it's actually drummer Nick Zielinski
who makes the thing groove. His small flourishes and un-cluttered
approach make the music here dance, hover, float and flit about.
Bassist Brad Townsend is a pedal heavy, effects laden cat, who
understands how important it is to keep his basslines front and center
for the other players to groove off. Townsend sets the pace
often-check "Mister Li Poses With His American Birthday Cake." As the
tune builds around him, Zielinski double times and begins his small
battery of kit sounds and plays around inside the beat, while
Siegenthaler takes it to the margin of space with a catchy little
melody that repeats-in the same way Joe Zawinul does, while changing
the modulations slightly. This is space age music from another present
era. It pays no attention to the culture outside, only to the inner
dimensions it seeks. And as such there are many slippery moments here
where the thing actually takes off ("Blow BY") and settles the
listener into a place outside their continuum, seemingly-particularly
through headphones. You may have heard music like this before, but you
haven't heard this music. Recommended.
PROG, Arp of the Covenant @ High Noon Saloon - Up the Downstair
Monday night at the High Noon Saloon fans of progressive rock and more adventurous music generally got a real treat. In addition to the great set of progressive rock covers by Madison's prog cover band, PROG, a trio still fairly new to Madison opened - Arp of the Convenant. AotC feature Mark Siegenthaler on keys (ARP and Fender Rhodes), Brad Townsend on bass, and Nick Zielinski on percussion. (He also had a laptop next to him.)
The band played a set which showcased many styles. It seemed to meander from jazz to fusion to Krautrock to space rock and then back and forth all over the map. And, if the format brings ELP to your mind, then know that AotC have little in common with the prog stalwarts. A bit here or there may remind one of "Rondo" live but there's no Hammond organ to be stabbed. Purely an instrumental endeavor, each member shone brightly. Siegenthaler eschews modern keys in favor of old analog synths. At times he played a melodic lead while at others he was culling unearthly sounds from his ARP that sounded as if they were heralding the arrival of Cthulu himself. Townsend had his bass running through an array of effects pedals which allowed him to alternately be half of the rhythm section and play melodic lines. Taking a page from the John Entwhistle book of stage performance, he barely moved the entire time. Oddly enough, it was left to Zielinski to banter with the audience between songs as the old synthesizers were readied for the next song. His droll sense of humor was quite the contrast to his energetic playing. Whether he was running away on the hi-hat or all over the modest kit, his playing propelled the music forward but he also knew when not to play and wasn't ostentatious.
They opened with a medley of "Bad Alternator" and "Turbo Christians" and played most of their eponymous album including "Jennifer", "Triple Tree", and "Arp Theme Song" which is my favorite tune of theirs at the moment. I like it so much, that I'm going to give you a clip of them playing it. The photo is an active link for the .mov file.
In addition, they also did Hammerhead's "Blow By". I was duly impressed by AotC and look
forward to seeing them again. Their album is on my to-buy list.
ARP of the Covenant
I'd heard whispers about this new band, ARP of the Covenant, and when I got the press release from Wendy Schneider about a fundraiser for her documentary that had the band on the bill, I immediately linked to their site. Their brief bio states it best: Almost cult-like in their approach to making music, ARP of the Covenant insists that once they sit down at their instruments, they have no control over what they will play. They, in fact, become instruments for a mystical synthesizer that they found in a crudely fashioned tomb in the magical forests of northern Wisconsin... The ARP. When asked to identify themselves in the presence of the ARP they respond only with a slack-jawed, blank stare. Once the ARP is engaged it takes mere seconds for it to take control of their motor functions and command them what to do. Okay, now this was a must-see.
ARP of the Covenant is simply one of the best bands I've seen in town for some time (this was their first Madison performance). All three have degrees in music; two of them master's. The band consists of Mark Siegenthaler on keys and ARP (for the record, an ARP is an analog synthesizer that was popular in the seventies), Brad Townsend on bass and Nick Zielinski on drums and rhythm programming. This trio's level of musicianship is through the roof. They received an enthusiastic response from the small crowd and just as I was feeling they might launch into ELP's Tarkus, a woman requested their Karn Evil 9. Although they are probably fully capable of pulling this off musically, they possess neither the pomposity nor the requisite bombast for such an undertaking. Instead they displayed a humble, almost surprised demeanor at the crowd's reaction. Completely instrumental, their music was far from uncontrolled. The band moved seamlessly from melodic passages of beauty to jazzy improvs to manic, all-out space rock. They played several cover songs including the Eurythmics Jennifer, Stripped by Depeche Mode, and the set-closer a spot-on cover of Sigur Ros' Untitled 1 track from their untitled album Between songs Zielinski entertained the audience with his hilarious banter, delivered in a deadpan, almost stoner fashion, as if his mind were weary from being so damn intelligent and creative. They played much, if not all, of the selections from their new, self-titled CD as well. Set opener Bad Alternator was fantastic, with Siegenthaler flailing wildly at his Fender Rhodes. Triple Tree was also stellar, with Townsend repeating an impossibly fast and complex phrase on bass. Zielinski excelled on the drums, at times using brushes and mallets, at times filling wildly.
The incomparable Stephanie Rearick opened the show with a
solo set using Siegenthaler's keyboards, and it was fun to watch her try
her tunes on the ARP and the Rhodes. She brought along her
trumpet, too, and played my two favorites: Baker Street and Small
Hairs. Her use of the looping effect on her voice is mesmerizing to
watch and hear. Rearick remains one of our fair city's purest and
most notable artists.
ARP of the Covenant - Dubuque 365 Ink
Rock Is Dead band ARP of the Covenant finally get around to celebrating the "official" release of its self-titled "debut" CD Saturday, July 22, at Isabella's. The quotes are not intended to up the snarky quotient. It's just that Isabella's owner Chad Witthoeft is also one of the founders of the Rock Is Dead label, so we hangers-on have been lucky enough to hear advance copies of the CD, as well as other collected recordings, sort of blurring the lines around "official" and "debut."
This in no way diminishes the greatness of the recording. In fact, hearing the demos and live recordings of the so-called "electro-funk / avant-jazz" trio only whetted the appetite to see the band live - an appetite which was sated by a handful of excellent shows at both Isabella's and the Busted Lift over the last year or so. The experience of the live show, in turn, aroused a deep and inexplicable longing for a recording with the production values to highlight the band at its best - for our own listening enjoyment as well as a handy tool for blowing the minds of our friends.
This CD is that recording. If you have been lucky enough to witness an ARP of the Covenant live show, and if you were amazed at the awe-inspiring musicianship of the performance (as opposed to thinking "Like, what is this weird instrumental music? I totally don't get it."), you need this CD. However, as the previous sentence alludes, this music is not for everyone. And that is OK.
As an occasional music writer, it is sometimes my job to try to do the near-impossible: Use words to describe music. As a musician and songwriter, I understand why others of my ilk bristle at this exercise, which is still preferable to the categorization of one's creative output. Still, it seems it must be done or we might never learn about new music, not taking the time to actually listen, allowing the work to speak for itself. The latter is my suggestion. See the ARP of the Covenant live. Listen. Then, if you like it, buy the CD.
For those who might still be wondering, "Will I like it?" I offer these weak attempts at describing what the ARP of the Covenant does. The territory between "electro-funk" and "avant-jazz" is vast, and drummer Nick Zielinski, electric bassist Brad Townsend and vintage ARP synthesizer wrangler Mark Siegenthaler explore that vast territory in many directions.
Sometimes they move alongside each other in parallel directions. Sometimes one seems to be walking leisurely and one running frantically, yet they still move along at the same speed. Sometimes their paths criss-cross this area in a seemingly erratic fashion, only to create webs of sound that eventually fall apart under their own weight. Delicate, insect-like creatures twitch and scamper about before being crushed by monolithic slabs of sound. Perfectly placed "accidental" notes tumble downhill kicking up plumes of vibrating lines setting off droning sirens who decide they would rather play a melody than just a single note.
Yeah, you might be better off just listening. If you like Mingus, the Bad Plus, ELP, James Brown, and sci-fi films of the '50s, but are OK with original music that sounds like none of the above and a few choice covers that somehow belong, you might want to check out ARP of the Covenant. If the previous paragraph kinda freaked you out, that's OK too.
For more info on the ARP of the Covenant, check out the band's Web site at www.arpofthecovenant.com or
www.rockisdeadrecords.com. For more info about the CD release show, call Isabella's at 563-585-2049.
From the October 2005 issue of Jazziz Magazine
NICK ZIELINSKI, MARK SIEGENTHALER & BRAD TOWNSEND form ARP of the Covenant, a
graduate trio from the University of Michigan's Department of Jazz and Contemporary
Improvisation. During its live shows, the multimedia group uses a combination of prepared
video loops and abstract computer-generated images to create an audio-visual concert
experience. But keyboardist Siegenthaler, bassist Townsend, and drummer Zielinski prove
they don't need the added visual element on "Mr. Li Poses With His American Birthday
Cake." The ethereal composition shifts in both tempo and volume throughout, as
Siegenthaler uses a variety of electronic keyboards to blend the 1970s influence of
Herbie Hancock with modern trio Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Local rockers find solace with ARP -
To understand the greatness of the band ARP of the Covenant, you have to try and wrap your head around what exactly the ARP itself is. The problem with that is, the ARP is an undefinable entity. Sure, it looks like a keyboard, but it's so much more than that. The men controlled by this keyboard-like instrument christened the ARP (after the company that manufactures them) are almost as mysterious as the instrument itself. All that's really known about them are their names and some vague background history. Nicolai Zielinski (percussion), Brad Townsend (bass) and Mark Siegenthaler (keyboards, ARP), met as graduate students in the University's Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Department. Finding that they had a few friends in common, they began playing as a jazz piano trio in Brad's basement in October of 2003. Humble beginnings for sure, but what happened next would change their lives. One fateful weekend, the group decided to go camping in Wisconsin. "We were hiking along an old abandoned railroad and came upon what looked like some sort of tomb. Inside the tomb was a crude altar, and atop the altar, a small keyboard instrument. Since that day, our lives have never been the same," explained Zielinski.
So what exactly is the ARP? Well, what isn't the ARP might be a better question. "The ARP is a spiritual guide. A sensei. A master. A teacher. A provider. A mystic. The ARP is the lone synthesizer of the apocalypse. Think of it when you look to the night sky," Zielinski preached. The thing about the ARP is that you can't play it, it plays you. When asked to describe the process of making music with the ARP, the band replied with the 5,000-yard stare. First-hand accounts of ARP of the Covenant's live shows confirm their servitude to this magical instrument. Only seconds after being flicked on by Siegenthaler, the group's motor functions are seized, putting them at the mercy of the all-powerful instrument.
Siegenthaler, known among his peers for his Mensa-worthy intelligence as well as his ability to piss off Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac fame), is the man who gets to sit behind the ARP. Well acquainted with technology, Siegenthaler has been working with a program called Milkdrop that uses the sounds the band makes to manipulate images on a screen behind them. This cutting-edge technology will be on display Sunday, April 24 at 2 p.m. in the video studio of the Duderstadt Center. As well as a set with Milkdrop, the band will play a set as an acoustic piano trio, a format that'll give Siegenthaler's considerable keyboard chops a chance to shine. Providing the low harmonies for the group is Iowa's finest, Brad Townsend. Townsend has many skills, among them not caring about his parents making him get a job at McDonald's when his was 16, and bass playing. Townsend also purports to have "toured with many, many bands playing all styles of music - styles you didn't even know existed." When not waiting for the drummer in AC/DC to die so he can carry out his seven-step plot to take over the world, Zielinski mans the drum kit in ARP of the Covenant. A Minnesota native, Zielinski is not only jovial but boasts that his dad was Prince's mom's boss. An experienced drummer, Zielinski has been in dozens of bands, most notably Gay Cop Mustache, Mario Speedwagon, The Number F, The I in Team, Hard Core-tet and Skul Raydr. Indeed, all of those influences are fused with countless more to create the ARP of the Covenant's highly stylized brand of electro-funk.
Some of their professed musical
inspirations include Warp Records, Cecil Taylor and the
Depeche Mode. Alongside rip-rocking and raving originals
such as personal favorites "Turbo Christians" and "Mr Li
Poses With His American Birthday Cake" the group has been
known to bust out covers as diverse as Kraftwerk, The
Eurythmics and Sigur Ros. The ARP of the Covenant has future
plans to spread their unique combination of space funk and
soul-jazz throughout the Midwest in May after their
aforementioned Duderstadt Center gig. Recently signed to
independent label Rock is Dead Records, the group has plans
to release a CD and DVD sometime this summer. For more
information on the band as well as some mp3s, check out
their website: www.arpofthecovenant.com. You will do this,
and you will bask in the gloriousness; the ARP commands