The genre-bending music of New York City’s chamber jazz trio 9 Horses proves that just three instruments are capable of creating anything from prog rock to folk music, with sounds both melodic and jarring. At least, it does for composer and mandolin player Joseph Brent, violinist Sara Caswell, and bassist Andrew Ryan. On Aug. 6, the group released their fourth project, a nine-track album titled Omegah—their first release as an independent music group under their newly founded label, Adhyâropa Records.
Omegah embodies 9 Horses’ musical evolution, as they worked with heavier musical production and featured other instrumentalists than in past projects, diversifying and expanding their sound. This change is paramount in the album’s fifth track, “Max Richter’s Dreams,” which features rich vocal layering over an equally gorgeous violin melody. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Ryan, who will be starting his master’s degree in sound recording at McGill’s Schulich School of Music this fall, detailed the magic behind the album’s creation.
“The record has grown out of just three core members into something that is really collaborative, [and] also uses elements that go beyond the traditional aspects of performance,” Ryan said. “Not only do we have people playing drums and playing piano, but then we have producers who will manipulate the sounds that are being made by those acoustic instruments to change the flavour.”
Such artistic development was not without setbacks, however: While the trio had begun recording Omegah in music studios before the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to switch from recording the album from their home in March 2020.
“There are definite hurdles that get in place when you start recording from home because part of recording is creating a sonic environment for all of the instruments to live and interact [in],” Ryan said. “In studios, usually, that is quite easy to do because at least a couple of you are in the same room, and the engineers are priming every microphone to give off this consistency of sound.”
Additionally, Omegah is the band’s first release as an independent label under their own record company, Adhyâropa Records. Responsibilities such as contracting promotional agents and scheduling performances were up to the band. Fortunately, because of Ryan and the band’s experiences as freelance musicians in New York City, they were confident they would thrive without guidance or assistance from a label.
“Going with more of an independent release, […] you are on the hook for more,” Ryan said. “You get out of it what you put in, and you have to do more of it yourself. There is not an infrastructure in place of people who are trained and have been doing this and have the connections for years and years and years.”
Overall, the tone of Omegah is consistently multicoloured. From the title track’s dramatic, metallic chords to the upbeat background percussion on “let’s just make It me and you,” listeners can expect a mixture of folk, jazz, rock, and much more in between. Across the entire album, such predictable unpredictability, all done with style and poise, makes for a riveting auditory experience.
“The goal when we make records is that […] folk music listeners could come to this record to hear something that they want, and a jazz singer could come to the record and [hear] something that they want,” Ryan said. “And a classic listener, or a new music listener, or somebody who listens to [progressive] rock. That is the hope from an audience’s perspective.”
9 Horses looks forward to their performance on Oct. 10 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City.