Ken Leighton 6 p.m., Oct. 18
Sound description: Experimental, minimalist art rock.
RIYL: Marcelo Radulovich, Christopher Adler, Hans Fiellestad, Marcos Fernandes, Donkey, the Trummerflora Collective
- "Gunther's Grass Serving Up Vintage Stash on New Full-Length" · March 3, 2013
- Website · July 18, 2007
Inception: San Diego, 2005
Ex-Band Members: Charles Curtis, Cello
Current Status: Playing occasional shows.
Influences: Borborygmus, Lisle Ellis, Donkey, Cosmologic, Marcelo Radulovich, Hans Fiellestad, Marcos Fernandes, Bill Horist, Peter Brotzmann, Cross Border Trio, 2 Foot Yard, the Assholes, Thomas Dimuzio
Gunther's Grass began in 2005 as a collaboration between Marcelo Radulovich and Christopher Adler to bring together two ancient drone-based instruments from across the world: the medieval European hurdy-gurdy and the Lao/Northeast Thai mouth organ khaen. Chilean-born Radulovich is an audiovisual artist.
Acknowledged internationally as a performer of new and experimental music, cellist Charles Curtis has been closely associated for over 15 years with the legendary avant-garde composer La Monte Young. As director of Young's Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble, Curtis has participated in more performances and premieres of Young's works than any other interpreter. For a number of years, he has maintained an interest and a presence in the downtown New York free music scene, performing in clubs like Tonic, the Knitting Factory, the Cooler, ABC No Rio, CBGB, and Acme Underground.
Curtis collaborated over a period of years with poetry-rock pioneers King Missile, John S. Hall, Dogbowl, and Kramer, and has been a guest of artists and groups such as Alan Licht, Michael J. Schumacher Donald Miller, Dean Roberts, Elliott Sharp, David First, Ben Neill Bongwater, Borbetomagus, Circle X, and with individual members of the bands Television, Pere Ubu, and Public Image Limited.
As an outgrowth of his intensive work with La Monte Young and his presence in the New York avant-garde rock scene, Curtis has evolved into a creative artist straddling the boundaries between art rock, sound art, and minimalist composition. Since 2000 Curtis has been a professor of contemporary music performance at the University of California, San Diego, where he had previously been guest lecturer and performer.
Gunther's Grass has also featured bassist and pianist Scott Walton, who rose to local notice as a member of the Trummerflora Collective and with the band Cosmologic. His CD release Venice Suite features Gilbert Isbin and Jeff Gauthier, and other recording projects include Harris Eisenstadt's The All Seeing Eye + Octets tribute, the Tracy McMullen Quartet, and a trio with Nathan Hubbard and Erik Griswold.
A collection of unrleased tracks called Never in the Future that Dawned Earlier On was released in early 2013 on Radulovich's Titicacaman label. “The stuff was recorded in 2005 and 2006 at my studio and has been sitting around in my hard drives, so time to get it out there,” says Radulovich. “It's really cool and original music, droney and all instrumental, totally exotic and psychedelic in the best possible way.” One of the tracks features Marcos Fernandes on tamboura box, a drone generator from India.
In 2017, the trio of Radulovich, Adler, and Walton recorded and released their second Gunther's Grass album, Bastille Day & Other Lullabies, which Radulovich describes as "all instrumental, drony and very unique. In this new album we also have guests on trombone, cello and Nathan Hubbard on vibes. The recording process was a long distance type of affair, started with me recording a few hurdy gurdy drones, then Chris came over to add his khaen, then we sent those mixes to Scott Walton who lives up in northern California so he recorded his parts up there and sent me the files. Nate recorded on his own as well and Chris recorded the other guests at his place, all pieced together sounds like a band playing at the same time."
It's an unusual approach that few band manage to pull off without the seams showing. "Kronos Quartet comes to mind, but Gunther's Grass is more exotic. The sound of Thailand that Chris brings blends so well with the ancient drone of the hurdy gurdy, and Scott gives it just the right type of low end. His upright bass is very old, made in Germany, beautiful woodwork, and this fucking thing has a low end that growls, deep and resonant."