The Squid's Ear Magazine

Astroturf Noise (feat Susan Alcorn): Blazing/Freezing (577 Records)

A 2nd album of inexplicable and fascinating genre merging based around Americana roots music sliced and diced with jazz/improv, electronica, and Downtown NY forms, from the core trio of Sam Day Harmet (mandolin), Sana Nagano (violin), and Zachary Swanson (upright bass) with guests Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar, avant bluegrass guitarist Stash Wyslouch and Soundpainter Walter Thompson.

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product information:

UPC: 755491252468

Label: 577 Records
Catalog ID: CD-577R-5854
Squidco Product Code: 32475

Format: CDR
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
tracks 1, 2, 5, 8 recorded at Godelstring studios, in Brooklyn, New York, on May 5th, 2021, by Stephan LaRosa.

Tracks 3, 4 and 6 recorded at The Creamery Studio, in Brooklyn, New York, on Janurary 27th, 2022, by Quinn McCarthy.


Sam Day Harmet-mandolin, effects, op z

Sana Nagano-violin, effects

Zach Swanson-bass

Susan Alcorn-Pedal steel

Stash Wyslouch-acoustic guitar

Walter Thompson-piano

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Astroturf Noise returns with their second album for 577 Records, Blazing/Freezing. Since forming in 2017, the trio of Sam Day Harmet (mandolin/electronics), Sana Nagano (violin/effects), and Zachary Swanson (upright bass) has carved out a distinctive sonic space. Here, American roots music coexists with electronics-spiked free improv, Downtown skronk, and on the new album, manipulated samples sourced from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and their home city of Brooklyn, NY. They are also assisted with guest appearances from pedal steel master Susan Alcorn, avant-bluegrass guitarist Stash Wyslouch, and on piano, Soundpainting maestro Walter Thompson.

Written and recorded over the pandemic, Blazing/Freezing reflects the anxiety of our moment: blazing and freezing from the effects of climate change, the anger of our chaotic political environment, the fear of whatever new insanity will come next. But it also reflects an unmistakable joy and playfulness throughout, an excitement for new sounds and musical collaboration. As hyphenated Americans (Jewish-American, Japanese-American, Mexican-American respectively), Astroturf Noise look to American music with mischievous instincts for deconstruction as they try to make sense of a deeply strange America."-577 Records

Artist Biographies

"Sam Day Harmet is a mandolinist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser, and music educator based in Brooklyn, NY. A musician of diverse tastes, Sam's projects range from deconstructive folk music, to free improvisation, to early jazz, to electro-funk, to Soundpainting and beyond. He has also written extensively in theater settings often composing material that blurs the lines between far flung styles and disciplines. He holds an MFA from the Performance and Interactive Media Arts program at Brooklyn College. Around NYC, he can regularly be found performing with the Walter Thompson Orchestra, Karl Berger's Improvisers Orchestra, Astroturf Noise, Erica Mancini, Salon Man, and numerous improvising musicians. His theater collaborators include Casual FreyDay (with Julia Frey), Letter of Marque Theater Company, and the Irondale Ensemble. Aside from mandolin-ing, he also enjoys exploring the clarinet, electronics, banjos, and breaking the space-time continuum."

-Sam Day Harmet Website (

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"Sana Nagano, violonist: Ever since she moved in New York City (2010), violinist and composer Sana Nagano has been performing actively in NY jazz, classical and underground music scenes. Her latest collaborations include with Karl Berger, Adam Rudolph, William Parker, Daniel Carter, the Manhattan Symphonie, Nioka Workman, John Ehlis, Federico Ughi, Harvey Valdes, Marius Duboule, Brittany Anjou, Jeffrey Shurdut and others.

Nagano holds MA degree from Aaron Copland School of Music of Queens College, BA degree from Berklee College of Music, both in jazz performance/composition major. She had studied with Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Mat Maneri, Dave Fiuczynski, Mark Feldman, Antonio Hart, Chris Howes, Hal Crook, Darren Barrett, Jeff Galindo, Rob Thomas, Matt Glaser, David Berkman and others."

-New York Jazz Workshop (

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"Zachary Swanson is a versatile bassist performing music in an array of styles, with focus on improvised, experimental, original and folk music. Using gut strings and a personalized technique, Zachary has developed a conception of the double bass that heightens the integrity of various musical environments; from playing adventurous improvised music to backing singer-songwriters.

In the summer of 2018, Swanson toured Italy and appeared at the Sile Jazz Festival with guitarist Nico Soffiato for their duo project, Dogwood, promoting their album 'Hecate's Hounds' on the Italian label Dogwood features an introspective approach to composition and improvised music with focus on exploring space and timbre. In March of 2019, the band Harbinger with Jarvis Earnshaw and Daniel Carter released their self-titled debut album. The music occupies a unique realm, with Earnshaw on sitar, tape-delay, and voice, Carter on a rotating cast of wind instruments, and Swanson on double bass. He has also appeared on Gaucimusic records as part of the 'Live At The Bushwick Series' releases. In March of 2020, 577 Records will be releasing 'Astroturf Noise', a trio with Sam Day Harmet on mandolin and Sana Nagano on violin. This group explores the intersection between free improvisation and bluegrass. In January of 2020, The Nick Horner Family self-released the album 'Sans Sebastienne' with Swanson on electric bass.

Zachary is currently working on a forthcoming duo album with violinist Tom Swafford, and an improvised trio record with saxophonist Derrick Michaels and drummer Dalius Naujo, among being active in many other projects in the greater New York area.

Swanson has appeared on albums released by 577 Records (Astroturf Noise, Federico Ughi Quartet's Heart Talk and The Listening Group), pfMentum (Sanctuary by Trumpets and Basses), Gaucimusic (Live At The Bushwick Series with Aron Namenwirth, Daniel Carter and Joe Hertenstein) and (Dogwood's Hecate's Hounds). As an independent artist, he has been a part of many self-released albums over the years including Ghost Narratives, a duo with Tomchess, Harbinger (2019), Chamber Music (2016), a duo release with guitarist Stelios Mihas, Antenna (2015), the Movement Trio's Back of the Room (2012) among others.17883923_275106216282135_1898542423907972316_n-1Photo by Douglas Lowinger

Zachary has performed at series' and festivals such as the Red Hook Jazz Festival with Tomchess' Moonship Quartet, the Inside Out music series at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, the 577 Forward Festival, AE Randolph Presents, and is a regular performer at the Bushwick Improvised Music Series. He has also appeared at the Great Eastern Music Festival in Montauk, Falcon Ridge, Take me to the River, and Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival backing folk and Americana artists such as Letitia VanSant, He-Bird She-Bird, Greg Cornell, and Pluck & Rail.

As an educator, Zachary has visited McDaniel College and Towson University to give a improvisation workshops with Derrick Michaels, Stelios Mihas and Jon Seligman. He has also given performances and hosted Q&A's at Marlboro College in duo with vocalist Amanda Bloom, a duo with Rodney "Godfather Don" Champman, and again with the ensemble No Land Bands, a project that combines jazz and Syrian music to promote awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Zachary began his bass studies at the age of 6 in his home state of Massachusetts, and is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University. He can be seen performing regularly throughout New York City and beyond."

-Zachary Swanson Website (

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"Susan Alcorn (born 1953) is an American composer, improvisor, and pedal steel guitarist. Having started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, she quickly immersed herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960s. A chance encounter with blues musician Muddy Waters steered her towards playing slide guitar. By the time she was twenty-one, she had immersed herself in the pedal steel guitar, playing in country and western swing bands in Texas.

Soon, she began to combine the techniques of country-western pedal steel with her own extended techniques to form a personal style influenced by free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, Indigenous traditions, and various folk musics of the world. By the early 1990s her music began to show an influence of the holistic and feminist "deep listening" philosophies of Pauline Oliveros.

Though mostly a solo performer, Alcorn has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, Chris Cutler, Joe Giardullo, Caroline Kraabel, Earl Howard, Le Quan Ninh, Sean Meehan, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, Walter Daniels, Ellen Fullman, Jandek, George Burt, Janel Leppin, Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols, Evan Parker, Johanna Varner, Zane Campbell and Mary Halvorson."

-Wikipedia (

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"Polish-Colombian Stash Wyslouch is an avant-garde Bluegrass guitarist, singer and songwriter. His music delights in story-telling, improvisation and outer-space worthy composition. Despite his Heavy-Metal beginnings in middle and high school, Bluegrass music has been central to Wyslouch's life for the past 15 years touring and recording with groups such as The Deadly Gentlemen, Bruce Molsky's Mountain Drifters, The Jacob Jolliff Band, and Tony Trischka's Early Roman Kings.

His 4th and most recent album "Plays and Sings Bluegrass Vol. II" was released April 30, 2021. Conceived as a gift back to the music that's framed his career, "Plays and Sings Bluegrass Vol. II" is a collection of zanily deconstructed Bluegrass classics. "Wyslouch tries to approach bluegrass from completely new angles - upside down, sideways, an interdimensional vortex only accessible from within his own mind." - (March 2021, A. Mason)"

-Stash Wyslouch Website (

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"Walter Thompson has achieved international recognition as a composer and for the creation of Soundpainting, the universal multidisciplinary live composing sign language. Thompson has composed Soundpaintings with contemporary orchestras, dance companies, theatre ensembles and multidisciplinary groups in United States, Europe and South America.

In 1974, after attending Berklee School of Music, Walter Thompson moved to Woodstock and began an association with the Creative Music Studio. While there, he studied composition and woodwinds with Anthony Braxton and began to develop his interest in using hand and body gestures as a way to create real-time compositions. Beginning as a tool to help shape the direction of a performance, it has evolved to become a universal composing language for composers and artists off all disciplines and abilities.

The language continues to be developed through Thompson's performances, international think tanks, and the contributions of a wide range of artists and educators. Soundpainting is now being used both professionally and in education in more than 35 countries around the world including; the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Czech Republic, China, Germany, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, Montenegro, Guadeloupe, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Switzerland, Turkey, and the Netherlands.

Thompson has composed Soundpaintings with contemporary orchestras, dance companies, theatre ensembles and multidisciplinary groups in many cities, including Barcelona, Paris, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Oslo, Berlin, Bergen, Lucerne, Copenhagen, and Reykjavik, among others, and has taught Soundpainting at the Paris Conservatoire; Grieg Academy, Bergen, Norway; Iceland Academy of the Arts; Eastman School of Music; University of California San Diego; University of Michigan; University of Iowa; Oberlin College-Conservatory of Music; and New York University, among many others. Thompson is founder of and Soundpainter for The Walter Thompson Orchestra founded in 1984 and based in New York City.

In 2002, Premis FAD Sebastià Gasch d'Arts Parateatrals awarded Thompson the prestigious "Aplaudiment" for his work with Soundpainting in Barcelona, Spain. He has also received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, ASCAP, Rockefeller Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, and the Jerome Foundation."

-Walter Thompson Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Tennessee Blazes 4:25

2. Brack Water Waltz (ft. Susan Alcorn) 3:41

3. Medium Lonely Blues (ft. Stash Wyslouch) 2:39

4. Historic Western Ghost Town Engulfed In Fire (ft. Walter Thompson) 6:39

5. Midnight On the Ice (ft. Susan Alcorn) 4:42

6. Dying Mechanical Banjo Pt. 1 5:45

7. Dying Mechanical Banjo Pt. 2 2:08

8. Prospect Freeze 5:31

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