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Locals Only: : Tears In The Sum

Noctaluca's long-awaited CD captures the essence of their evolution

By Ezra Waller · August 9th, 2006 · Locals Only
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Jason Ludwig



"There was a time for each of us during the making of this album when we just wanted to give up," says Jason Ludwig of Noctaluca's full-length debut, Towering the Sum. " 'What the fuck are we doing? This is taking way too long.' "

The wait was equally frustrating for fans, but it allowed the band to chart a new course musically rather than exist as an extension of Ludwig's solo work. As the title of the album teases, the updated sound transcends the sum of its parts, and they couldn't be more excited about it.

It's easy to understand why some will see the album as a follow-up instead of a debut, since Noctaluca is comprised mainly of Ludwig's backing band from his 2003 release PeLL MeLL. Two of his childhood friends, brothers Donovan and Brandon Schlunt, played bass and drums on that disc. After helping him bring his powerful solo work to fruition, both signed on as full-timers. The trio knew that finding a second guitar player was a crucial step, as it would be the most radical alteration to their recipe.

"We decided we wanted somebody who not only had the creative, improvisational qualities," Ludwig explains, "but also had the discipline to take that craziness and put it in a jar and be able to pull it out next time."

Their choice was somewhat surprising: Jay Aronoff, a music veteran with quite a bit of Metal on his resume. While seemingly at odds with the delicacy of Ludwig's early work, his heaviness actually magnifies the intricate arrangements, which Aronoff is quick to point out is no longer a liability for rising talent.

"I love '70s Progressive Rock, but it was shunned for a long time," Aronoff laments. "It's tough to see the people you grew up admiring become unpopular, but it's all coming back now."

One person who was particularly confounded by the position being offered to Aronoff was Ludwig himself, who'd actually decided not to audition him.

"Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with some of the things on the CD he gave me," Ludwig recalls with a laugh, "but I got him mixed up with some guy from Ontario and invited him over. We played together and just clicked. Since we were already recording the album, I sent him two tracks, and literally the next day he sent them back to me and he'd recorded on both of them. I listened to the first one and was just blown away. I called the others and said, 'I think we found our guy.' "

Noctaluca was already aimed in a heavier direction when Aronoff joined, so his soaring accompaniment was able to catapult them to new realms. And once they had a taste of creating that expansive Rock sound, they weren't about to let up.

"I can pinpoint the time," Brandon says.

"It was last year, we were all right in the middle of going through some hard shit, and we all learned how to channel it."

Another catalyst for the quartet was enlisting the production might of Ashley Shepherd (who mixed PeLL MeLL). Distilling the Schlunt brothers' Jam-heavy style and making space for the layers of guitar, sound manipulations and samples was crucial to this album turning out exactly as the band hoped.

"We wanted to make a maverick record," Donovan says. "That's the term we were throwing around -- not just a good Pop record, a maverick."

Towering the Sum is a testament to their success, an unbranded stampede of arena-sized riffs, Jazz Fusion complexity and Prog Rock grandeur that demands to be experienced from beginning to end. And at the core, Ludwig's inimitable voice and songwriting are still poignant and piercing, but now also confrontational and uncensored (F-bombs, N-word and all).

Leaving behind his narrative style and adherence to the upper register of his voice, he focuses on creating meaty and menacing vocals, relating tales of evildoing and loss while maintaining enough ambiguity to give his diatribes an impressionistic quality.

"The best songs are the ones that anyone can relate to," he says. "Conservative, liberal, black, white -- anybody can listen to the song and pull something from it that touches them."



NOCTALUCA (
 
Jason Ludwig



"There was a time for each of us during the making of this album when we just wanted to give up," says Jason Ludwig of Noctaluca's full-length debut, Towering the Sum. " 'What the fuck are we doing? This is taking way too long.' "

The wait was equally frustrating for fans, but it allowed the band to chart a new course musically rather than exist as an extension of Ludwig's solo work. As the title of the album teases, the updated sound transcends the sum of its parts, and they couldn't be more excited about it.

It's easy to understand why some will see the album as a follow-up instead of a debut, since Noctaluca is comprised mainly of Ludwig's backing band from his 2003 release PeLL MeLL. Two of his childhood friends, brothers Donovan and Brandon Schlunt, played bass and drums on that disc. After helping him bring his powerful solo work to fruition, both signed on as full-timers. The trio knew that finding a second guitar player was a crucial step, as it would be the most radical alteration to their recipe.

"We decided we wanted somebody who not only had the creative, improvisational qualities," Ludwig explains, "but also had the discipline to take that craziness and put it in a jar and be able to pull it out next time."

Their choice was somewhat surprising: Jay Aronoff, a music veteran with quite a bit of Metal on his resume. While seemingly at odds with the delicacy of Ludwig's early work, his heaviness actually magnifies the intricate arrangements, which Aronoff is quick to point out is no longer a liability for rising talent.

"I love '70s Progressive Rock, but it was shunned for a long time," Aronoff laments. "It's tough to see the people you grew up admiring become unpopular, but it's all coming back now."

One person who was particularly confounded by the position being offered to Aronoff was Ludwig himself, who'd actually decided not to audition him.

"Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with some of the things on the CD he gave me," Ludwig recalls with a laugh, "but I got him mixed up with some guy from Ontario and invited him over. We played together and just clicked. Since we were already recording the album, I sent him two tracks, and literally the next day he sent them back to me and he'd recorded on both of them. I listened to the first one and was just blown away. I called the others and said, 'I think we found our guy.' "

Noctaluca was already aimed in a heavier direction when Aronoff joined, so his soaring accompaniment was able to catapult them to new realms. And once they had a taste of creating that expansive Rock sound, they weren't about to let up.

"I can pinpoint the time," Brandon says. "It was last year, we were all right in the middle of going through some hard shit, and we all learned how to channel it."

Another catalyst for the quartet was enlisting the production might of Ashley Shepherd (who mixed PeLL MeLL). Distilling the Schlunt brothers' Jam-heavy style and making space for the layers of guitar, sound manipulations and samples was crucial to this album turning out exactly as the band hoped.

"We wanted to make a maverick record," Donovan says. "That's the term we were throwing around -- not just a good Pop record, a maverick."

Towering the Sum is a testament to their success, an unbranded stampede of arena-sized riffs, Jazz Fusion complexity and Prog Rock grandeur that demands to be experienced from beginning to end. And at the core, Ludwig's inimitable voice and songwriting are still poignant and piercing, but now also confrontational and uncensored (F-bombs, N-word and all).

Leaving behind his narrative style and adherence to the upper register of his voice, he focuses on creating meaty and menacing vocals, relating tales of evildoing and loss while maintaining enough ambiguity to give his diatribes an impressionistic quality.

"The best songs are the ones that anyone can relate to," he says. "Conservative, liberal, black, white -- anybody can listen to the song and pull something from it that touches them."



NOCTALUCA (noctaluca.com) releases Towering the Sum Friday with an all-ages show at Covington's Madison Theater featuring a number of special guest performers and a set from Kim Taylor.
 
 
 
 

 

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