Recommended if you like: Local music, the underground scene
These Bricks Are Mine Records
Advanced Calculus is the result of an ambitious project undertaken by Carnegie Mellon's radio station, WRCT 88.3 FM. This two-disc compilation set features 28 tracks from 28 different local, independent musicians and bands culled from one-hour sets from each act, recorded live at WRCT.
The ambition of the set comes from WRCT's desire to bring attention to the independent and underground music of Pittsburgh. While many in the city are familiar with local musicians - The Clarks, Mercury, Joe Grushecky and Donnie Iris are all household names in the 'Burgh - those same people wouldn't be able to tell you who Blunderbuss, Arrivals & Departures or (The) Alpha Control Group (C). This set tries to change that.
"For every person who's out there looking to be moved by music there is no answer that can't be reached by exploration," Douglas P. Mosurock, co-owner of Version City Records and an alumnus of WRCT, states in the set's liner notes. "This compilation is a testament to such endeavors."
Advanced Calculus does feature a few bands that Pittsburghers with a general knowledge of the local scene will recognize. Lorelei, Life In Bed, Modey Lemon and Strict Flow contribute tracks to the set and are staples of the more visible local scene. But the balance of the tracks feature cuts from bands that, while visible presences in the city, have yet to be found by larger audiences. This compilation provides the exploration of the local scene and music to which Mosurock refers.
Disc one begins with Blunderbuss' "The Burning Bellhop," a seven-minute, crankable rock track that hooks the listener with its skillful guitar work and unpolished lyrics. This is followed by other standout tracks from Arrivals & Departures ("What's French For..."), Thee Speaking Canaries ("Summer Band") and Teddy Duchamp's Army ("Corporal").
Thrown into the mix of these rock-influenced bands is an instrumental track from The New Alcindors ("Inseam") and "Human Eye," an off-kilter song from Weird Paul about buying a human eye for a love. Capping the first disc is Young Steele Matula Trio's "Discharge, Distribute, Dismiss," an eight-minute, jazzy track that sounds like it could have come off the soundtrack of one of experimental filmmaker Maya Deren's works.
Disc two offers listeners the same sort of diversity, beginning with the ethereal instrumental "Gemini" from Zombi. The dirty independent rock sound of (The) Alpha Control Group (C) ("The Baby Men") comes next, followed by the almost-free-form instrumental rock "Dichotomy" from IO. Rock with a tinge of jazz of Black Moth Super Rainbow ("Letter People Show") and the 17-minute experimental hip-hop capper from Beam, "10072002" follow.
Advanced Calculus is remarkable for its diversity in artists and sounds. While most have a rock-based sound, it isn't the rock you would hear on mass-market radio. Instead, the sound is dirtier and less polished, independent and experimental. The majority of the bands are founded in rock and stay in that foundation. They branch off and create their own sound.
Almost as remarkable is the set's polished production. The set sounds just as good as mass-produced products - something noteworthy considering these tracks were recorded in a studio on a university campus.
This is a collection that is essential for fans of locally created music, as well as for those in need of an advanced tutorial on what the Pittsburgh has to offer. The local scene is bigger and more vibrant than Mercury or The Clarks. Advanced Calculus features its caretakers and saviors.
Advanced Calculus can be purchased online through the album's Web site, www.advcalc.com.