MORGAN GEIST with JEREMY P. CAULFIELD , BARBI , GERALD MATRIX and DERRICK RAMIREZ at 99 Sudbury, Friday (December 9). www.addevents.com.
On the surface, it doesn't look like Morgan Geist has been up to much in the past year.
He had been promising a solo album and possibly a new Metro Area album, but between moving his studio and then dealing with air quality issues and a backed-up sewer, there hasn't been much opportunity to turn his now smelly gear on.
Don't call it a complete washout, though. During the whole studio reconstruction effort, he managed to plow through the mixdown and polishing of the recently released debut album by the Kelley Polar Quartet, a mind-blowing collection of classical-infused outsider disco that expands the mandate of Geist's Environ label beyond the cult underground dance music status it's enjoyed for the past 10 years.
Polar was an eccentric classical music prodigy who was kicked out of Juilliard when he used his final solo recital to perform the tripped-out bubble-gum synth disco songs he'd been recording for Environ. He'd originally come on board as the string player and arranger on some of the early Metro Area singles, but his naive classical approach to dance music demanded its own platform.
Polar, who recorded most of the album on a farm in rural New Hampshire, plays viola with the Apple Hill Chamber Players, a group of musicians who usually perform in conflict areas like the Middle East and Northern Ireland.
He spends his life playing live and touring, but putting together a tour to support this album has turned out to be harder than you'd think.
"This music is simpler to perform than the classical he usually does, but it's terrifying on a whole different level," explains Geist from his New Jersey home. "He's used to playing embassy halls or for children in schools, so this will be totally new.
"Putting together a live tour with Kelley involves the same problems we ran into doing Metro Area tours: small clubs want it, but they often don't have the technical capabilities for a big band, and when they see the budget they tend to back out. Even if none of the musicians gets paid, the airfare alone puts it out of their reach.
"We're going to start off doing some shows in New York that will hopefully be so good that people will want to bring them on tour. At least then it's only costing us $2 for the subway fare."
Now that Geist has settled into the new studio, he's pledging to come up with a new solo album. Releasing the Kelley Polar album has widened the definition of the Environ sound, which Geist intends to use to move even further away from his techno roots. He's even found a vocalist to work with.
"I love pop as an ideal. Not necessarily Britney -- more just the concept of a good pop song. I'm hoping to make a sort of weird pop album, although writing lyrics for it is so embarrassing.
"I always loved going into a record store and finding Metro Area in four different categories, which I hope is what will happen with this album."