Nettle. Arnold on the left, then Bowen, /rupture, and Cuff on the right.
The warm glow of votive candles bounced off the crooked brick walls and deep, absorbent glossy wood of the tables that seated the crowd at Zebulon while Nettle prepared for their first performance in their newest incarnation. The setting was akin to a poetry reading, and the people in attendance devoted their full attention to the band once they began their saunter through haunted environs composed of beats, bass, and orchestral elements. The band includes DJ /rupture, who handles the electronics and founded it, Bushwick resident Brent Arnold on the cello, Lindsay Cuff‘s violin, and the drumming of Bill Bowen on the doumbek and bendir.
Nettle was originally formed by /rupture in Barcelona and included a Moroccan violinist a Scottish cellist and a guembri. But once /rupture came back to New York, it became difficult to work over such long distances. So when electronic music producer Filastine introduced him to Arnold, he decided bring the band back.
The cello, /rupture says, “is way more interesting than a dickish guitar. Brent’s one of those rare gifted players who gets the instrument’s capabilities but isn’t bogged down by histories of playing it a certain way. He’s not crazy either – there are a lot of neurotic string players in this world. Plus, he knew quartertones before i met him.”
The quarter tone scale is a musical theory commonly used in the Middle East that includes intervals between the traditional 12 note Western scale. Given the band’s origins with Moroccan violinists, a Middle Eastern sound can be expected to rear its head amongst the Nettle sound in the form of non-Western tuning systems and intervals (not necessarily quartertones) and musical concepts. Arnold has studied Persian and Arabic music as well. But those factors are only a launching point for their new identity.
“We’re trying to have a lot of culture clash in there,” Arnold explains. “But we’re not trying to be exotic or anything. We just have a lot of influences. It’s an open canvas right now.” His history, and the European violin’s prominence in the Middle East, North Africa, and India, allow the band to explore those sounds, but also move beyond them.
New times, in addition to the new members, will add to their new identity. During the first incarnation of Nettle, /rupture’s main electronic influence was the harsh scatter of breakcore. But some of the newer material the band played at Zebulon was more related to the warm basslines and characteristic synths that first appeared on /rupture’s recent mixtape with Matt Shadetek, evidence of his recent interest in UK dance music. And his programmed beats that formed the foundation of much of the performance were also less abrasive and less erratic. The orchestral elements were also a new addition. Still, his interest in raw noise was never hidden, and at one point, the painful shriek he wrenched out of the system recalled a time he blew out the speakers during a performance in Barcelona.
All of the live instruments at Zebulon were fed through /rupture’s board and processed in some way. Trails of bass would waft from Arnold’s cello, Cuff’s occasional vocals were wrapped in scifi textures, and unidentifiable sounds clung to the air around them. “It’s nice to blur the line between the live and the programmed,” Arnold says.
For all that electronic reinterpretation, his cello was allowed its shine in the performance, and his various techniques were easily noticeable. He takes a lot of interest in modern classically composed music. “But I also have an interest in non-classical techniques. I like the weird and strange sounds that get overlooked in the usual pursuit of perfection.” That broad outlook combined with the vast interests of his and the others can only portend a constant growth for Nettle, one which will heedlessly trample borders and genres in pursuit of inclusiveness.
You can catch Nettle again on Feb. 10th at Zebulon, or you can turn into Zebulon Radio to hear that performance live. There is a finished album soon to be released as well.
Maga Bo – “Nahkil (Nettle Remix)”