Inside In, a curated collection of live recordings made over the last twenty years in “the Tank” – a unique space, a living breathing metal structure that has a lot to say if you listen.
It’s an empty railroad water tank, 60 ft tall and 30ft wide, sitting on a hill outside Rangely Colorado. Thanks to Bruce Odland, Michael Stanwood and others, I first experienced the place years ago. In those days we had to squirm through a port in the side to get in and experience the sound. I have never been much of a “solo” artist, but I fell in love with playing alone there, just the Tank and me.
I traveled five hours to the Tank several times with Michael Stanwood for various projects, and the common thread to these pilgrimages was the moments/hours I could spend in there by myself – late night, early morning, heat of the day, whenever there was some downtime from the collaboration at hand. And I kept going back, playing more.
Musicians revel in reverberant spaces. Cathedrals, stairwells, parking garages, Grand Canyons – we all sing better in the shower.
Quite unconsciously, I titled this album in tribute to Paul Horn and his albums recorded in the Taj Mahal. I was young when they came out, and the impression has never faded. He was playing, not for an audience, but to a space.
Over twenty years time, the Tank has made more and more friends and blossomed into a one-of-a-kind destination recording and performance space. Now there is a steady rotation – an eclectic and inspired collection of sound makers from far and wide, a swirling dance of artists with one thing in common (well maybe two) – ears. Go to tanksounds.org
So-called musical instruments are just the trigger – you are really playing the Tank. Some rightly say “the Tank plays me”. What happens in there is much more than “playing music”. Time becomes a maliable dimension. Rhythm, melody and form seem to expand. The Tank hears a note and says, "Well... how about THIS." Expansive sensory overload. The Tank sweeps you away.
Over the years I tried taking tunes in there, even composing with the Tank in mind (ask me about that later, maybe another album). What has emerged here is something quite different. As the pandemic locked down live music, especially for wind players, a little voice said, “Tank time, Dexter!” I cracked open the vault and began to review years of Tank expeditions. Very quickly I was attracted to the stories the Tank told me in the moment – technically, they are solo “improvisations” (no overdubs, no second takes) – but these are really duets – the Tank and me.
The Tank has it’s tone, just like any instrument or singer. Ploughing through hours of recordings was at first daunting – “It all sounds the same”. But I had time, and slowly the stories emerged. Themes, hidden gems and conversations. Once this album started to coalesce, I timidly shared with a few friends. One mirrored my experience, saying “once I stopped listening for something I started enjoying.”
It's rare to hang out with others who live in the lonely sounds. The Tank is not a place to hang out, and chit-chat. So I was extremely grateful when other friends, Elaine DiFalco and Janet Feder, turned me on to Pauline Oliveros, specifically her album "Deep Listening" made in an underground cistern in OR. Gave rise to the wonderful feeling: "I might be weird, but I'm not the only one!"
So what has evolved? Not really meditation. A trail of breadcrumbs tracing a personal journey through the sonic forest? Very likely, if you follow the trail, you'l be rewarded with your own personal journey/vision. The titles are signposts to my path of re-discovery, nothing more. The original recordings were made with no titles, no agenda. Maybe it's just elevator music for really tall buildings, with slow elevators?
Sound healing is a popular topic. I find it fascinating myself - though I have never trained or gone to school, I have no doubt that sound and yes, even, music heals us. I know nothing of the one note the earth sings or the specific tone that opens or closes this or that chakra, binaural brain waves or ancient Egyptian sound healing. I do know a tiny bit about natural intervals, just intonation and scales that predate modern, equal-tempered music. While I cannot make grand assertions, I think this elevator can access some levels of the building worth visiting.
A few have previewed this new album and everyone has their favorite tracks, but “At the Well” is a favorite for many. When I rediscovered this piece, it brought me to a well… a legendary not-so-random meeting at a public well, from ancient Christian mythology. You will find your own story …
I certainly recommend hi res download and play on the best equipment available. But if you are just buzzing and rattling your mobile, rest assured - that's pretty much what it does in the tank!
Thanks again for your interest. Any and all feedback is most welcome.