Les Yper Sound presents an all-instrumental journey through the many worlds of drums and sax. In early 2016, NY musicians Miles Arntzen and Jas Walton (both in Afrobeat band Antibalas) began experimenting with their respective instruments in Miles’s Greenwich Village basement. They composed demos of Miles’s percussion, Jas’s woodwinds, and the sounds of everyday objects.
“Usually one of us was coming from something else, from a rehearsal with so-and-so right to my basement and just jumping right in," says Miles. "There was no time to think about what might be seeping in influence-wise, but it was always related to all the other things we were doing.” The duo began working together in 2009 when they started the band EMEFE in jazz school. Between each of their sessions & shows, they steal time to get together and spin their own creations.
In March, the four of them convened in Brooklyn to record under the project name Les Yper Sound, after Pierre Henry’s 1967 musique concrète EP. This studio team of multi-instrumentalists—all producers in their own right—expanded Miles and Jas’s original basement demos and began improvising new works during sessions at Figure 8 Recording in Prospect Heights.
“It’s all about finding that starting point,” says Jas, “and everything blossoms from there.”
Miles continues, “we would just start with an improvisational sound, do that for three minutes, build a song around it, and then maybe at the end of the whole thing, you can’t even hear that first thing anymore but it’s a part of everything else that happened around it. When you play a rhythm on a cool-sounding prepared piano, you don’t know what genre you’re in. Maybe it will become a Brazilian jam or maybe it’ll become a soulful groove—and all that happened in the studio. You’re letting the sound of something dictate and inspire you.”
Money Mark, who studied with the early electronic instrument pioneers, revealed some of his recording hacks and found the musical in non-musical. Miles recalls: “We went out to lunch and Money Mark was missing somewhere, and he comes back with two TV speakers and says: ‘We could just plug these into an amp and hit them with your fingers—one’s a little broken but maybe it could be the snare,’ and that’s is exactly what happened. We come back from lunch, plug them into a bass amp, and sure enough it’s perfect.”