The Calendar of Unlucky Days

After a pair of releases for the Hefty label, Chicago’s EUPHONE arrive at Jade Tree with a versatile album so rhythmically heady and intricate, we had a hard time believing they were only a duo. As the rhythm section for Heroic Doses, drummer Ryan Rapsys and bassist Nick Macri provide a solid backbone for the guitar aerobics of Five Style’s Bill Dolan. As EUPHONE, however, the twosome prove themselves as more than just an atypical drums-n-bass unit, but as talented multi-instrumentalists who are as comfortable rocking a nightclub as they are an after-hours party.

1. Bought Then Sold
2. Fallout
3. Broken Gourd
4. SU 10 #1
5. Apostolic
6. As Close to Cold
7. Needle and Crate
8. Cindy You Hate To Eat
9. Wickedness
10. Playboy

Ryan Rapsys: Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Steel Drum, Timpani Drums, Simmons Drum Pads, Marimba, Guitars, Keyboards, Melodica, Yamaha SU-10 Sampler, DR-5 Drum Machine, Glockenspiel, Pots & Pans
Nick Macri: Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Saxophones, Wineglasses

Recorded December 1998
Released April 1999

Rhythm tracks recorded at Pogo Studios, IL
Engineered by Rick Valentin & Mark Rubel
Overdubs recorded at Studio Tedium, IL by Rick Valentin
Mixed by Resigned at Studio Tedium, IL
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side, NJ
Layout by Jason Gnewikow
Art Direction by Euphone & Jason
Photography by Andy Mueller

Hashin’ It Out

There’s still only two of them, but this time, EUPHONE bring in a slew of talented guests to augment their unpredictable combination of dub, jazz, rock, electro, and fusion. Count in Chicago friends like Jeremy Jacobsen (The Lonesome Organist, Five Style), Tim Kinsella (Joan Of Arc), and Dan Bitney (Isotope 217, Tortoise) for some spice, but leave it to primary members Ryan Rapsys and Nick Macri to execute the recipe. From horns to synths to Ryan’s first-ever vocal, there’s hardly a musical hurdle these guys are unwilling to leap.

Ryan Rapsys: Vocals, Samples, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Percussion, Sleigh Bells,
Keyboards, Synthesizers, Handclaps, Clavinet, Piano
Nick Macri: Bass, Bass IV, Alto Saxophone, Handclaps
Jeremy Jacobsen: Lead Guitar, Organ, Vibes, Farfisa, Piano

Additional Musicians:

LeRoy Bach: Baritone Saxophone
Dan Bitney: Conga
Dan Fliegel: Talking Drum
Kurt Niesman: Percussion, Farfisa

Recorded June & July 2000
Released October 2000

Basic Tracks Recorded at Hi-Tom Studios, IL
Engineered by Elliot Dicks, Kurt Niesman, & Euphone
Overdubs Recorded at Hi-Tom Studios by Kurt & Euphone
Classics Tonstudios by Casey Rice & Studio TDM by Rick Valentin
Mixed by Casey Rice at Classics Tonstudios
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side, NJ
Cloud Drawing by Kurt
Layout by Andy Mueller
Photography by D.B. Griffith

1. Gyrations
2. Press On
3. Where’s the B?
4. Newscast
5. Bad Ascending
6. Do You Up
7. Oh You Ache
8. Weekend
9. Shut It
10. Nick Is Ryan
11. Honey, I’ll Be Home By Suppertime
12. My Ladies Can’t Remember the Eighties
13. Confirmation of Suspicions

The Calendar of Unlucky Days

After a pair of releases for the Hefty label, Chicago’s EUPHONE arrive at Jade Tree with a versatile album so rhythmically heady and intricate, we had a hard time believing they were only a duo. As the rhythm section for Heroic Doses, drummer Ryan Rapsys and bassist Nick Macri provide a solid backbone for the guitar aerobics of Five Style’s Bill Dolan. As EUPHONE, however, the twosome prove themselves as more than just an atypical drums-n-bass unit, but as talented multi-instrumentalists who are as comfortable rocking a nightclub as they are an after-hours party.

Ryan Rapsys: Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Steel Drum, Timpani Drums, Simmons Drum Pads, Marimba, Guitars, Keyboards, Melodica, Yamaha SU-10 Sampler, DR-5 Drum Machine, Glockenspiel, Pots & Pans
Nick Macri: Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Saxophones, Wineglasses

Recorded December 1998
Released April 1999

Rhythm tracks recorded at Pogo Studios, IL
Engineered by Rick Valentin & Mark Rubel
Overdubs recorded at Studio Tedium, IL by Rick Valentin
Mixed by Resigned at Studio Tedium, IL
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side, NJ
Layout by Jason Gnewikow
Art Direction by Euphone & Jason
Photography by Andy Mueller

1. Bought Then Sold
2. Fallout
3. Broken Gourd
4. SU 10 #1
5. Apostolic
6. As Close to Cold
7. Needle and Crate
8. Cindy You Hate To Eat
9. Wickedness
10. Playboy

Euphone [I]Hashin’ It Out[/I] Review: "Authoritatively rocking"

Had to write this review after seeing one of the previous reviews…yes, this album is more energetic and eclectic then their other releases, but it works for me. Okay, I can hear the influence of Heroic Doses and 5style, but it seems that they take the best elements of those bands and combine it with their previous somber and moody style. Jacobsen’s tube-saturated, imaginative guitar lines, Rapsys’s aggresive, uninhibited drumming and Macri’s melodic, in-the-pocket basslines combine for a cool cocktail that goes down like a Mint Julep on a hot day. Whether it’s a latin, funk, post-rock or dub groove, these boys succesfully avoid cliches and labels.
Now if they would only tour the east coast more often….

EUPHONE WEST COAST DATES ANNOUNCED

Chicago’s EUPHONE have just finalized plans to bring their midnight love jams out to the wild west. This marks the band’s first trip to the west coast, and their second tour in support of their latest album, "Hashin’ It Out". They will be joined on tour by the Lonesome Organist (Jeremy Jacobson), who has been playing guitar and keyboards with the band since late 2000. There’s sure to be some spontaneous make out sessions as Euphone heats up the room, so come prepared!

Euphone [I]Hashin’ It Out[/I] Review: "Great Instrumental music"

This album is a diverse array of soundscapes and textures. It kicks off with the psychedelic ‘Gyrations’ and pounds out thick and funky pieces throughout the whole album. Jeremy Jacobsen’s guitar style is unmistakable and in peak form on tracks like ‘Press On’ and ‘Bad Ascending’. It also gets around to laid back tracks like ‘Do You Up’ (featuring Dan Bitney and Dan Fliegel). All in all, a great album brimming with energy.

Euphone [I]Hashin’ It Out[/I] Review

Ah, Chicago. A tear of joy swells up in my one good eye when I think of the years of musical pleasure you’ve brought me. This Euphone CD has not flawed your stellar track record. Blurring the line between the younger scene (Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Braid, etc.) and the more established in the city (Touch and Go/distributed labels), Euphone could be placed into Chicago’s "new" jazz genre that groups like Chicago Underground Orchestra and Isotope 217 have made known. Yet there is a kind of playfulness, and dare I say, accessibility here that you couldn’t get from bands like Isotope or Tortoise. Upbeat guitars keep up with Ryan Rapsys’ fantastic jazz drumming and sample work. Rapsys, who founded Euphone, started the group solo, playing the drums and changing programmed samples and chords at the same time. He could definitely hold his own with that set-up, but the addition of different instruments, unobtrusive samples, and great players have compounded the beauty of its foundation.

Euphone [I]Hashin’ It Out[/I] Review

The name Euphone has a pleasant connotation. While not technically a word, at least by dictionary standards, it’s closely linked to the word "euphony." For the "differently literate" among you, "euphony" means a sound or collection of sounds crafted to please the ear. It implies pure, unfettered joy through music, an uncommon melodic experience that rises above many others. Euphone, then, would appear to resemble an instrument or mechanism responsible for creating this type of euphony. That being said, Euphone still don’t quite live up to their namesake, but they’re getting closer.

Chicago’s Ryan Rapsys and Nick Macri are both multi-instrumentalists, but at their hearts, they’re simply drums and bass, both part of the former Heroic Doses rhythm section, and masterful at their craft. Unfortunately, 1999′s The Calendar of Unlucky Days was a fairly drab record with minimal instrumentation and little jazz-inflected post-rock variety. Luckily, with the 13 new tracks on Hashin’ It Out, Rapsys and Macri attempt to bring more diversity to their sound, as well as more guest musicians than ever to flesh it out. And it works; why, without the brilliant, all-star conga work by Dan Bitney of Isotope 217 and Tortoise on "Do You Up," the record would have surely failed!

Okay, I’ll cut the sarcasm. In reality, the new formula does work to Euphone’s advantage. Hashin’ It Out isn’t a terribly cohesive record, and it does drop in quality near the end, but its pleasures are substantial, common, and fun enough to be commendable. When acting alone, there are more hits than misses this time out, such as the laid-back opener, "Gyrations," featuring electronically manipulated vocals and dreamy, effect-laden guitar and bass. Despite their multi-instrumental capabilities, though, Euphone had the good taste to give their guests some creative input, and it works strongly in the album’s favor.

The record’s finest tracks were created with the help of Jeremy Jacobsen, a member of 5ive Style and otherwise known as the Lonesome Organist. On "Press On" and "Bad Ascending," easily two of the record’s highlights, Rapsys and Macri act as the skilled rhythm section, adding occasional keyboard accompaniment while Jacobsen contributes complex guitar parts. It all comes off effortlessly, and stands as the closest thing to euphony these guys have created yet. The other two songs featuring Jacobsen don’t quite match the others, but they do succeed. "Where’s the B?" is just over two minutes of pure funk with Jacobsen’s occasional angular guitar.

Without Jacobsen, Euphone seem to meander a bit more. The record’s oddball is "Newscast," a minute-long foray into the world of composing theme music for your local TV news program. But tracks like "Nick is Ryan" seem to create the result of effective spontaneity that many of the others on Hashin’ It Out strive for. And while the rest achieve varying degrees of success– excepting "Confirmation of Suspicions," the aimlessly rambling five-minute closer– there’s rarely another memorable melody or structure to be found.

Euphone have finally discovered that collaboration is the key to their success, and Hashin’ It Out is the proof. That’s not to say that they aren’t talented on their own, but if Jeremy Jacobsen joined Euphone to create a full-time trio, perhaps we could expect more cohesive results on their next effort. Far be it from me to offer a band career advice, of course, but it never hurts to mention it, right?

Euphone [I]Hashin’ It Out[/I] Review

Jade Treee

Euphone are a study in exquisite complication, amassing sets of disparate moods and intentions into one wholesome and intriguing package. Heavily rhythymic, and heavily textural, the band often recalls the next-generation space jazz of Isotope 217 (whose Dan Bitney guests on congas on a track). Tom rumbles underscore gentle vibraphone runs which quickly swell into a skipping run through a flowered meadow on "Shut It," while "Press On" has an energetic samba beat propelling a whiz-bang liquid guitar style reminiscent of Heroic Doses (another band with past association with Euphone). "Bad Ascending" has more of that delectable riffing. "Nick is Ryan" is dazzling in its multiple personalities, as a quietly Latin number with a plucked guitar which unexpectedly transitions into haunting chimes and a savage and unpredictable beat.

Euphone [I]The Calendar of Unlucky Days[/I] Review

Having drummed for punk, funk and art rock outfits, Ryan Rapsys finds his most rewarding work evolve on the solo tip. Under the moniker of Euphone, Rapsys has developed a beat-oriented project that now has a full-time collaborator. For the third Euphone release (the first album and EP being found on John Hughes III’s Hefty label), Rapsys is joined by bassist Nick Macri, a collaboration that is also represented in the band Heroic Doses. Macri complements Euphone’s soft groove vignettes by taking the heavy influence of jazz and funk on a more melodic turn. We discover hooky bass lines with the occasional catchy guitar lick augmenting the deep locked rhythms and warm keyboard vibes. The album’s sequencing has a charming flow as the wordless story seamlessly unfolds. Produced by Poster Children’s Rick Valentin and mixed by studio maven Casey Rice, the overall effect of Calendar?°¦ is an enthrallingly calm groove.

Euphone [I]The Calendar of Unlucky Days[/I] Review

Euphone is drum’n'bass — literally. Originally the invention of multi-instrumentalist and Gauge drummer, Ryan Rapsys, Euphone’s sound is now augmented by the addition of Heroic Doses bandmate and bassist Nick Macri. Sharing a love of free jazz and dub, Rapsys and Macri create instrumental, electronic soundscapes rounded out by acoustic instruments and an improvisational interplay of guitar, bass, and drums that borrows from jazz. "Broken Gourd" tosses in a bit of John Coltrane-style saxophone that duels with a church organ-sounding synthesizer and tantalizing, syncopated beats.

The bass-driven dub goes full-throttle on "Needle and Crate" and morphs into the sprightly bleeps and keyboard chord washes of "Cindy You Hate To Eat." This eases gently into the almost-’80s, retro synth opening of the upbeat "Wickedness." Clocking in at a mere 35 minutes, The Calendar of Unlucky Days is wisely free of any fat and repetition and shows the discipline of two fine musicians, who possess not a trace of self-indulgence — a rarity in all-instrumental rock. Euphone’s second long-player is a keeper with inventive compositions you will want to return to again and again.

RATING: 8.5