By Brian P. Rubin
This past Wednesday, the Eclectic Ensemble made their way to KFAI to play a memorable show on “Live From Studio Five!” Even though only four musicians were in attendance—Brian Schumann on guitar; Eddie Estrin on wave drum and chaos pad; John Vance on program synth; and Tim Donahue on electronic percussion, bass, and electronic dulcimer—the Eclectic Ensemble has been made up of many, many more people throughout its years of existence.
Originally having grown out of Donahue’s late-90s project called the Minneapolis Improv Group, the Eclectic Ensemble has seen something to the tune of 20 or so members at one time or another. Interestingly, this was actually the first time the foursome who came to KFAI had ever played all together. Despite the newness of the arrangement, the four-piece group set about bringing their ambient, improvisational sounds to the studio, much to the delight of Doug the Thug, DewGlass, and guest host Liz Molland. And Molland—sister-in-law of Joey Molland from the legendary band Badfinger—had a first of her own on Wednesday, enjoying her first evening of hosting duties of “Live From Studio Five!”
When Molland asked Donahue about the name of one piece, he offered up a succinct explanation of the band’s mission:
“We don’t really have names for our pieces. It’s more about creating an emotional atmosphere—that’s what it’s all about.”
Molland also asked about what kind of response the Eclectic Ensemble gets from listeners at shows.
“We seem to inspire movement, especially in public performances,” explained Donahue. “We don’t arrange it or anything, but suddenly some dancer in the audience decides that this is the kind of soundtrack that they want to move to.”
At one point, Doug the Thug noticed that while the four men were the ones making much of the music, the group had some digital help as well. An iPhone, of all things, was adding to the sounds.
Donahue explained the iPhone’s role in helping shape the Eclectic Ensembele’s soundscapes:
“That is the device that is playing sound effects. So throughout the course of this set, you’ll hear recordings from all over the world. That’s what I’m using to play those back. Anytime you hear a festival in Thailand or maybe a tropical beach, or a soccer game in a Columbian bar, that’s what the phone’s doing.”
The Eclectic Ensemble can be found next during the Art Shanties event on White Bear Lake, which goes from Saturday February 1 through Sunday, February 23. The group will be playing on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on sunny days—the catch is that the music will all be solar powered. And if you want more of the Eclectic Ensemble, check out their page right here.