Jherek Bischoff – “Cistern” (Stereogum Premiere)

When we’ve covered LA-based composer Jherek Bischoff in the past, his name has tended to appear on the back side of an ampersand. He’s assisted David Byrne, Sondre Lerche, and Amanda Palmer plus Pixies and the Roots, but his own solo work is well worth hearing too. Bischoff will release a new album called Cistern this summer, and its title track is a triumphantly building orchestral piece with a truly fascinating backstory. As Bischoff explains, the original idea emerged when he was exploring a cistern at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington:

Underground in pitch black, without the ability to see, the sound of the space is even more exaggerated. What is revealed instantly is a reverberation unlike anything you have ever experienced. The vast emptiness of the cistern generates a reverb decay that lasts 45 seconds. That means, if you snap your fingers, the sound lasts 45 seconds. That amount of reverberation is an absolutely wild environment to try to create music in. Since there is no electricity in the cistern, I hooked my computer up to a car battery and setup a couple of microphones around the room. You have to adapt, walking and talking very quietly and being very patient, because every sound you make lasts 45 seconds. I would press the space bar to record, and I would have to wait 45 seconds before even beginning to make music. If I shuffled my feet or cleared my throat, I’d have to wait another 45 seconds. It was a bit maddening at times. When going into the cistern to improvise, I had no intention of making an ambient record, and had no idea I would be inspired by the space as much as I was. But as soon as I began to make music in that space, I knew that I had just embarked on a journey. The very first improvisation became the title track of Cistern. It started out simply as a piece with acoustic guitar and singing. It was unlike any music I had created before, and lead to my exploring new territory as a composer.

Bischoff eventually developed the music for a chamber ensemble, and the result is an incredibly majestic piece of work. Listen below, where you can also find album details and tour dates.

Cistern tracklist:

01 “Automatism”
02 “Closer To Closure”
03 “Cas (s) iopeia”
04 “Headless”
05 “Lemon”
06 “Attuna”
07 “The Wolf”
08 “Cistern”
09 “The Sea’s Son”

Tour dates:

05/05 Brooklyn, NY @ BRIC House Ballroom
05/06 Baltimore, MD @ Creative Alliance
05/07 Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
05/08 Jersey City, NJ @ Monty Hall
05/09 Portland, ME @ SPACE Gallery
05/10 Kingston, NY @ BSP Kingston
05/12 Boston, MA @ Cafe 939
05/13 Burlington, VT @ Arts Riot
05/14 Providence, RI @ Columbus Theatre
05/28 Toronto, OT @ Koerner Hall (21C Music Festival; Jherek w/ a 10-person chamber ensemble)^
06/06 Seattle, WA @ The Neptune Theatre
06/07 Portland, OR @ The Old Church
06/08 Eugene, OR @ WOW Hall
06/09 San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall
06/10 Visalia, CA @ The Cellar Door
06/11 Los Angeles, CA @ The Bootleg Theater
07/29 London, UK @ Royal Albert Hall (BBC David Bowie Prom)

Cistern is out 7/15 on Leaf. Pre-order it here.