Celebrating local artists at album launch
Allie Tollaksen | Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I had the pleasure of hearing an early version of South Bend musician and Notre Dame alumnus Peter Hochstedler’s newest album, “Necrobisect,” this spring during a performance at The Pool. It wasn’t the first time I had seen or heard Peter — he has performed in and around South Bend for many years, released an impressive seven solo records and produced albums for many local musicians, including the debut record of current Notre Dame student Jon Schommer and his band, The Cute Townies.
But the artist I’ve followed for years brought something new to the live performance of Hochstedler’s “Necrobisect.” He began the show by handing out pamphlets to the entire audience, a packet of printed lyrics and images of, as Peter put it, “dead Michiganders” to supplement the performance. We listened to and read along with Hochstedler’s newest album in its entirety. Poring over the words and pictures during Hochstedler’s solid solo performance, the anticipation for the release of “Necrobisect” began. Now, the wait is over.
“Necrobisect,” which Hochstedler says is about “death, separation and the American wet dream,” is not only a record, but also an experiment in sound, style and medium. Titled after a word he created, “Necrobisect” explores themes of “theft, disparity, hiddenness and illusion.” The album originally was recorded, reel-to-reel, on tape for its vinyl version. Performed as I heard it in the spring, with guitar and vocals, the record is intimate and, at times, wonderfully raw, amplified by the inestimable experience of a freshly pressed LP.
Paralleling the theme of “bisection,” Hochstedler has released a separate, digital version of “Necrobisect,” which mixes in instrumentals and incorporates digital samples of what Hochstedler describes as “found sounds” to create a layered and textured take on the original tape recording.
The result is a compelling blend of genres, sounds and themes distinct from anything Hochstedler has made before. His singer-songwriter, anti-folk sound meets blues and electronica on the digital version to produce a musically rich album that pairs Hochstedler’s unique and booming voice with everything from wailing trumpet to pulsing synthesizers.
“Necrobisect” is just as rich and complex lyrically as it is sonically, exploring themes of death, dissonance, spirituality and sexuality. Hochstedler’s lyrics are, at times, confrontational, despondent, violent and disturbing, but also cheeky, clever and captivating. As a result, “Necrobisect” is corporeal, political and profound.
The album opens with “Party Line,” the track most emblematic of the record as a whole. Hochstedler combines themes of war and capitalism with language of the body and soul, delivering them in entendres that somehow seem to do more than double duty (In fact, I think of Hochstedler like I think of artists like Joanna Newsom or The Decemberists — writing atop a stack of dictionaries and encyclopedias. Listening to him makes you want to read). There is no doubt that Hochstedler is just as much a philosopher and writer as he is a musician.
Another standout track is “Devil Got His Eye On Me,” a song I enjoyed when I heard it live because of its brash vocals and folk-blues guitar. But it is also one of the most successful tracks at occupying both its analog and digital forms. The digital version of the song boasts crashing symbols and throbbing electronic samples that create, somehow, both musical depth and dissonance. And while some tracks stand out more in one form of “Necrobisect” than the other, the disparity between the two versions speaks to its content in interesting ways.
Hochstedler will be debuting “Necrobisect” on Oct. 18 at the Birdsell Mansion. The event is both an album launch for Hochstedler as well as a celebration for a Notre Dame alumna, Sade Murphy, whose book of poetry, “Dream Machine,” will be released later this year.
The Birdsell Mansion in downtown South Bend has been underutilized, but is now in the process of featuring site-specific art installations for local artists. The mansion will host the album launch show and book release celebration in the third floor ballroom, a unique space for two talented artists.