In the realm of Indie Rock, brass instruments have traditionally been overshadowed by their stringed peers, usually surfacing as part of a lush, orchestral backdrop for a prominent guitar or piano. It’s a role that Virginia-based trombonist Reginald Chapman has filled for more than a decade, contributing to the triumphant horn section that characterized The Mountain Goats’ Transcendental Youth (2012) and the orchestral neo-Soul arrangements Foxygen enlisted for its latest effort, Hang (2017). Onstage, he’s worked as a side man for Sufjan Stevens, The Temptations and Bon Iver.
Chapman’s latest project, Pressure Fit (he’s also a co-founder of the No BS! Brass Band), serves as an opportunity to put brass at the forefront of his work, weaving his impressive Jazz chops into off-kilter compositions that hold firm to the Indie ethos. The current incarnation of the band features a lineup of musicians whose collective résumé includes gigs with Chance the Rapper, Herbie Hancock and Pearl Jam, showcasing their abilities in a more intimate, free-flowing context.
Check out Pressure Fit’s debut cassette release, Toolong Tea, for a solid preview of their live material (it’s online at pressurefit.bandcamp.com). Recorded with a variety of digital samplers, Chapman’s creative output plays like an even more chaotic take on the free-jazzy Hip Hop pioneered by Madlib and J. Dilla, chopping siren-like saxophone squalls atop wonky drum-machine patterns. Tracks like “83.7” and “Take the Time” reveal Chapman’s affinity for retro sounds, layering Jazz loops beneath a veil of tape hiss. The result would feel right at home in the soundtrack to a ’70s sitcom theme: warm, groovy and just a little bit grimy. On the other end of the spectrum, cuts like “Before the Day” and “My Song 12” signify forward-thinking, avant-garde sensibilities. The former cakes its muted instrumentation in distortion, providing a nebulous canvas onto which guest vocalist Marcus Tenney paints his frenetic spoken word bars, while the latter heaves with Industrial rhythms, groaning like a broken Nintendo cartridge.
Whether your tastes lean toward Jazz, Hip Hop or even Garage Rock, Pressure Fit aims its musical curveballs just shy of your wheelhouse, challenging you to swing outside your comfort zone. Chapman’s genre-defying compositions may revel in experimentation, but most importantly, they’re crafted with fun in mind. (Jude Noel)