If I ever had a new aria to learn I would listen to Gedda first in order to make sure I was “doing it right.”
Garrett Harris 4 p.m., Feb. 27
RIYL: Astra, Kraftwerk, Comus, Magma, Synergy, Tomita, Kitaro, David Hurley, Paul Hardcastle, Miles Davis
Inception: Escondido, 2006
Influences: Astra, Comus, Kraftwerk, PFM, Giorgio Moroder, Tangerine Dream, Black Devil Disco Club, Kitaro, Lime, Orion, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Tonto's Expanding Head Band, Magma, Passport, Synergy, Larry Fast, Blue Cheer, Baka Forest People, Gamelan, Captain Beyond, the Bubble Puppy, Yes, King Crimson, Mulatu Astatke, Ash Ra Temple, Can
Long before Brian Ellis began playhing lead guitar and Moog synthesizer for the progressive rock band Astra, he was somewhat of a child star. Briefly, anyway. “I was on the Disney Channel show Inside Out with George Foreman when I was 11 years old,” he says. “YouTube it!”
After being signed to Rise Above Records (Witchcraft, Sleep, Electric Wizard), Astra’s debut album The Weirding was released in March 2009, as a two-album vinyl set and on CD, with cover artwork by Arik Roper.
Two solo experimental albums, Free Way and The Silver Creature, were released by Ellis in 2007 on Benbecula Records (home of ex-Boards of Canada member Christ). Ellis played guitar, bass, drums, sitar, kalimba, sax, trumpet, keyboards, xylophone, and mandolin, as well as handling electronic programming.
“My music has no boundaries,” says Ellis, whose solo albums cover all the musical bases, from free jazz to psychedelic, world, and experimental electronic music.
“I use computer programming and multitrack recording to create the impression of a much larger live band jamming. As for the music, one could draw comparisons to Miles Davis, Squarepusher, Tortoise, Sun Ra, or the Mahavishnu Orchestra.”
Ellis also produces electronic dance music as Brian E, with his debut LP Yellow Light District released in February 2009, on San Francisco's Record Label Records. “That music is all about paying homage to electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Black Devil Disco Club, Lime, and Yellow Magic Orchestra. I even cover the Magma masterpiece ‘De Futura,’ for which I had approval by the actual band.”
As Brian E, Ellis won a 2009 remix contest for the band Restiform Bodies, who are signed to Anticon Records, to have his remix featured on an Anticon 12-inch.
There’s also Ellis’ work with electro/rap legend the Egyptian Lover. “I am helping him produce his new album,” said Ellis in early ’09, “as well as teaming up with him on remixes for labels like Stones Throw, and some other big names...we also plan to release the first full-length Brian E album on Egyptian Lover’s own Egyptian Empire Records label.”
In 2009, Ellis signed with jazz label Porter Records in Florida, who arranged a recording collaboration with legendary sax player Byrd Lancaster (of John Coltrane and the Sun Ra Arkestra). Recording at the Habitat studio in Golden Hill, local drummer David Hurley and his percussion group joined Ellis in the rhythm section, as well as fellow locals Preston Swirnoff (Habitat Sound System), Rasaan Davis (Cattle Decapitation), and Zach Hogan (PEA, Lights and Sirens).
His 2015 album Escondido Sessions, a Brian Ellis Group project featuring Trevor Mast (bass), Patrick Shiroishi (sax), and Michael Hams (drums).