Sci-fi fans may recall the concept of “Ashtar Command” that emerged in the 1950’s – an intergalactic U.N. with the mission of assisting the human race in a time of crisis. Think evolution by enlightenment, which makes the name a fitting metaphor for the band and what they’re trying to accomplish.
American Sunshine, Ashtar Command’s debut album, evolved organically, a labor of love from veteran musicians Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang, American Sunshine is an expansive and coherent album that defies being reduced to a single genre. Nick Drake could come to mind, as well as the Chemical Brothers. Spiritualized could be seen in there as well as The Beach Boys. There are songs of exquisite beauty and ones that unabashedly rock.
The project features a remarkable group of guest artists. Working in identical studios in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively, the duo sent songs back and forth thereby growing fleeting ideas into full-fledged songs. The group enlisted musicians that seemed to suit the individual songs – people they had worked with or been friends with for years.
They were joined by guest vocalists Joshua Radin (whose debut album was produced by Holmes) on “Mark IV,” Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (“Save Me”), Har Mar Superstar (“That’s How It Is”) and Rachel Yamagata (“Blister of the Spotlight”). The dreamy “Rosa,” already in heavy rotation at Los Angeles’ KCRW, is one of two tracks featuring Priscilla Ahn, while Z Berg’s crystal clear vocals provide a stunning counterpoint to the throbbing groove on “Gravity.”
Other guest artists include: Matt Walker (Filter, The Smashing Pumpkins) on drums, Solomon Walker (Morrissey) on bass, Mike Garson (David Bowie) playing piano, drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.), Oliver Kraus (Beth Orton) on cello, Stewart Cole (Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros) on horns.
The two met while attending the University of Chicago, where Chris hosted a UFO-themed radio show that fell somewhere between Art Bell’s ‘Coast to Coast AM’ meets Ira Glass’ ‘This American Life.’ It was a platform for an exchange of ideas between interesting people who had a story to tell. Guests ranged from Bigfoot hunters to members of Heaven’s Gate to Communion author Whitley Strieber. Like the radio show that inspired it, Ashtar Command doesn’t simplify, justify or explain, preferring to revel in the process of open-minded exploration.
On Chris Holmes: released his major label debut Dan Loves Patti under his Yum Yum moniker, an album that Rolling Stone said “more than holds it own in comparison with influences as the Beatles, and Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds.” He has since toured and recorded with The Smashing Pumpkins and Felix Da Housecat, co-produced tracks for P. Diddy, worked on Billy Corgan’s solo album and written with Rachael Yamagata and Mandy Moore. Also an established DJ, Holmes appeared on URB’s “Next 100” list and was handpicked by Sir Paul McCartney to open for him at 2009’s Coachella Fest and to tour the world with him in 2011. In addition Chris has toured with Radiohead, Atoms for Peace, and Daft Punk.
On Brian Liesegang: began in Nine Inch Nails, working on the multi-Platinum, GRAMMY®-winning albums Broken and The Downward Spiral. He subsequently co-founded the two-man band Filter0 that had hit singles like “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and “Jurrassitol,” and sold millions of albums, toured with The Smashing Pumpkins, Ozzie Osbourne, and others. He was recruited by Billy Corgan for his Future Embrace album and world tour. He has devoted the better part of the last decade to crafting “American Sunshine”.
Edited by KeithJones on 1 Nov 2012, 21:11
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