Label: Nonesuch Records
Sam Gendel’s new album, DRM, was released digitally on October 1, 2020, via Nonesuch Records; the vinyl on April 16, 2021. The follow-up to his Nonesuch debut, Satin Doll, released earlier this year, DRM features Gendel’s solo musical experiments with vintage instruments such as a forty-year-old Electro Harmonix DRM32 drum machine, antique synthesizers, and a sixty-year-old nylon-string guitar—accompanied by his voice. While Satin Doll was a futuristic homage to classic jazz, DRM includes just one cover song: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which Gendel interprets as an instrumental, playing the melody on an old German analogue synthesizer.
Its accompanying short films—one for each track on the album—directed by Marcella Cytrynowicz and filmed at various locations around Gendel’s home state of California during COVID lockdown, can be seen here:
“I’m imagining people listening to DRM and thinking, ‘What the hell is this?’, like they’d just encountered some sailing ship in the sky,” Gendel says of the new work. “I imagine it as if someone many years into the future listened to the popular music of today and then tried to recreate it, without any of the tools or the understanding. Stylistically, it’s not too far from so much contemporary pop-rap music that you hear on the radio.
A lot of those electronic backgrounds and instrumentals you hear today are tending towards something really out-there and experimental. It’s rhythmic and pointillistic, collaging different, seemingly unfitting elements together in cool ways.”“The visuals aren’t necessarily dictated by the music, but they both share the same slightly surreal feel, like I’m a video game character, inhabiting all these different backgrounds,” says Gendel.Gendel is best known as a world-class saxophonist—it’s the instrument with which he’s led most of his bands, as well as the instrument on which he’s guested with the likes of Vampire Weekend, Ry Cooder, Moses Sumney, Sam Amidon, and Louis Cole’s Knower—but DRM is saxophone-free.
“There was no active effort on my part not to include it; it just wasn’t part of the equation when I started recording it,” he says. “I just found a formula, working around this DRM32 drum machine, and rolled with it. I don’t consider myself just a saxophonist, I’m just someone who works in music.” DRM was recorded in one sixteen-hour session, and then manipulated by Gendel with electronic percussionist Philippe Melanson.
It was mixed by Blake Mills, and mastered by Grammy-nominated engineer Mike Bozzi.Gendel’s previous discography includes 2018’s Music for Saxofone & Bass Guitar with bassist Sam Wilkes, 4444, and Satin Doll, which the Los Angeles Times called “a woozy, blissfully twisted album.” He also performs on two other Nonesuch releases in October 2020: Joachim Cooder’s Over That Road I’m Bound and Sam Amidon’s new self-titled album.