Joshua Stamper - guitarist / composer / arranger and all-around musical genius - adds vocals and thoughtful, poetic lyrics into the mix, filling in the blanks with artistic integrity on Interstitials....
In terms of the arts, an interstitial work can be defined as 'any work of art whose basic nature falls between, rather than within, the familiar boundaries of accepted genres or media.' Certainly, this helps to define Interstitials - the new project by the ever genre-defying Joshua Stamper. Last Year, Stamper gave us the wonderfully eclectic instrumental project, Wend. This year, the multitalented composer / arranger / instrumentalist goes a step (or two) further: adding not only sophisticated, poetic lyrics into the mix but his own vocal talents to deliver them, as well.
The compositions are performed by Stamper (on guitar) and Paul Arbogast: low brass, Michael Cemprola: woodwinds, and Jon Rees: woodwinds and celeste.
The musical style of Interstitials can best be described as modern chamber music played by guitar and a small (mostly) woodwind ensemble – classical mixed with modern jazz with perhaps a subtle hint of new-age and pop. With enough fluttering flutes to perk up the ears of any Sufjan Stevens fan, and enough interlaced melodies and harmonies to recall early 'serious' Zappa (think: the small, 'low-budget' orchestra passages on Lumpy Gravy), Interstitials is music for listeners willing to invest some good, reflective listening time – it will be time well spent.
There are eight vocal tracks on Interstitials and one haunting instrumental ("Away My Sin"). Stamper's singing is well integrated into the overall musical texture of each song, contributing not just random vocalese but structurally important melody and harmony. The texture is soft, the vocal timbre warm and inviting. Usually recorded relatively un-filtered, but occasionally processed or double-tracked, Stamper's voice falls somewhere in between Jobim and Kenny Rankin - but don't think that all is mellow and soft here. The playfulness, and intricate vocal arrangement on "Incredible People," where Stamper sings lines like, "I play the right notes, I smile a just-so I cut a fine figure or dance on the hedge-row, My words aptly smart? My freshly flossed chops? My rhythm's like rivers, I pull out the stops," show the singer is as capable of falsetto harmonies and unusual timings as he is of more expected, conventional techniques.
The songs on Interstitials lyrically cover everything from a fatherly lullaby ("Honeychild") to the stately, watchman-like presence of trees ("Arbor"), to the very question of where God dwells, as explored in the title track: "The space between two grains of sand, the space between the fingers on my hand, the blade and the ice, the drunk and his vice, the 'if' and the 'then', the nine and the ten, You're the space between...." Stamper's words read like a book of poetry and could no-doubt hold their own even without the stunning music. Looking at the realities of every day life, Stamper creates a romantic pool of words to bring to the foreground what we recognize subconsciously in a momentary glance – from "Arbor": "The smoothness of my palms is no match for the the things your skin has seen ...How much fickleness of wind? How much moodiness of sun? How many soft-footed moons have rubbed their light on your chapped skin? .... You, with your thousand arms skyward stand. You, with your thousand arms skyward stand. You, after having done all stand. You, in such silent adoration stand. You, with your thousand arms skyward..." The subtle allusion to Ephesians 6:13, while certainly not lost on the Biblically savvy listener, is no less effective to anyone with an ear and a heart for words.
An interstitial space, or interstice, is an empty space or gap between spaces full of structure or matter.
This is music that fills spaces that need to be filled – Fill your own space with Interstitials.