With the album Where (we) Live, a distillation of an evening-length show that So Percussion premiered and toured in the fall 2012, the group continues to push the conventions of what a percussion ensemble sounds like, or even what it is. A collaboration between So Percussion and singer and guitarist Grey McMurray, it is conceived of as an ongoing project in which local artists are invited to contribute to, and therefore significantly alter, the substance of each performance. (Initial ideas have included collaborating with a fabric artist playing a sewing machine or a blacksmith at a forge.) A video artist, choreographer, and writer/director are also involved in the live performances, adding to the spontaneity, unpredictability, and variety of each show. All the music is related in one way or another to the idea of home. Whether recalling bittersweet memories of homes of origin or reflecting on current homes, the intent is clearly one of inclusion, inviting other artists and listeners to come in.
Where (we) Live might more likely be classified as indie-pop than anything even under the very broad umbrella of contemporary classical music. There are only a couple of tracks that a listener coming to the album cold would be likely to identify as the work of a percussion ensemble, and even then, usually for only a small portion of the track. Few of the tracks develop a single idea, but include a fragmented collage of diverse elements combined intriguingly and unpredictably. Electronics are prominent, used in a variety of traditional and creatively unconventional ways, including woozy atmospheric sound collages that can morph into heavy rock-driven grooves. Most tracks include guitars, keyboards, and vocals either sung or spoken, and occasionally the sound of a percussion ensemble is recognizable. Room and Board, which has at its center a long spoken narrative, makes an especially strong impact. After the listener is acclimated to a state of disorientation, the album further subverts expectations by closing with a folk/pop ballad of disarming simplicity and sweetness.
Artists like So Percussion and Grey McMurray are at the cutting edge of new music composition and performance, and Where (we) Live continues their push even further into uncharted territory. The album should be of strong interest to fans of boundary-stretching music.