On the pulse

Pub date August 13, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

How does one particular sound manage to work its way into one’s earhole and lodge itself in the consciousness, cooling its warm jets in the frontal lobes before arranging for a cozier stay elsewhere in the gray matter? For San Francisco musician Jesse Reiner, late of Citay and lately of Jonas Reinhardt, the new age sounds of the latter project likely stemmed from dreamtime as an eight-year-old. "It’s funny — I was just thinking about this the other day," he says by phone. "It may have been nap time in third grade when the teacher would play a sound-of-the-seagulls record. Maybe it’s early childhood conditioning." Add in a fascination with analog synthesizers and Moogs around the end of high school; a love of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and tracks like Pink Floyd’s "On the Run"; and the collegiate discovery of composers such as Terry Riley and Morton Subotnik: now you have makings of the man behind the proudly faux persona of the Jonas Reinhardt project, portrayed on the band’s MySpace site as a suave, sandaled Euro artist, based in Monaco and dialed in for intense relaxation.

Yet there’s nothing fake or contrived about Reiner’s band: witness the instrumental combo’s recent, jaw-droppingly powerful prog assault at the Hemlock Tavern. I’d dare any school kid to doze through that blistering performance, with Reiner on synths, Reiner’s Crime in Choir cohort Kenny Hopper on bass, and Mi Ami’s Damon Palermo on drums. Initially unveiled this spring at a Cluster afterparty in Big Sur, Jonas Reinhart rummages through the more propulsive, hard-rockin’ aspects of both Can and Goblin with a transcendence-bent energy only hinted at — by way of the bass-borne, primal glimmers of "An Upright Fortune" and fiery, urgent synth squiggles of "Crept Idea for a Mom" — on the band’s nonetheless gorgeous, multitextured self-titled disc, which will be released in November on Kranky (an iTunes-only digital EP comes out at the end of this month). Dare one call this the dawning of a New Rage? This is beat music — pulsing like mirrored hearts on tracks like "Fast Blot Declining" and "Tentshow" — meant for contemplative spirits as well as jittery soles.

And Reiner — long an aficionado of analog synth music that falls under the dread rubric of easy listening or new age — has found plenty of kindred souls of late for this bedroom project turned band: "I used to be able to go to Amoeba a couple years ago and go through this really abandoned section, at the bottom where the overstock bins were, full of new age records, and you could get everything for $1. Now they’re all $10 and $15 records." He was approached by Kranky after giving his music to friend and fellow new age buff, Adam Forkner of White Rainbow, who’s also on the label.

Where did the audience come from for these ecstatic emanations? Reiner isn’t certain, though he theorizes, chuckling: "I think it’s because a lot of people have been getting older! For people who come from a punk or indie rock background, maybe this blissed-out new agey stuff is resonating with them." Yet the musician doesn’t aim to hit all the snooze buttons in his listeners. "One of the things I want to do with my music is to make it a little edgier than most," he explains. "I don’t want it to be too sleepy-naptime music. I want to make sure it gets pushed a little bit."

Jonas Reinhardt’s tough backbone comes along with the old-school technology its songs are built on: a Maestro Rhythm King drum machine from the early ’70s. "I like the way it’s kind of rough-sounding and pretty heavy in a way, whereas most drum machines aren’t," Reiner says. The trio runs live drums and keyboards through the machine, which Reiner describes as "this funny caveman way to sequence," creating a "really cool pulse."

From there, it isn’t too hard to imagine Reiner and other newer-age indie-rockers pushing from the margins to craft their own cerebrally challenging soundtracks for yoga classes or massage sessions. "I went to Calistoga a month ago, and they had the music playing in the spa," Reiner recalls. "I thought, ah, I’d love to make my own record for this."


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