There have been many bands that I’ve seen evolve here at RSTB, and with varying results, for sure. Wand’s evolution from fuzzbomb psych stewards to their current incarnation as archivists of alternative’s more ambitious corners is a journey that’s been exciting to experience from a listener’s vantage. I’d had a missed connection with the band’s Cory Hanson when he ventured into psych-folk for a solo endeavor last year on Drag City, but this time around the fates have aligned to get in a Gems feature on the verge of the release of their fourth album, Plum. For the uninitiated, Hidden Gems explores an album that the artist finds underrepresented in the canon of popular culture – the kind that falls through the cracks and deserves a shining light. Here Cory Hanson explores Miles Davis’ 1974 double album Get Up With It, explaining how it came into his life and how it’s had an effect on his own songwriting.
“Get Up With It came into my life right as Wand were gearing up to write what would become Plum,” says Hanson. “We had only been playing as a five piece for three or four months. Robbie (guitarist of Wand) turned me onto it. I went to Amoeba and found a double CD copy. I threw it into the changer in my car until my transmission died a few months later. In that time it found endless rotation. When I junked my car I accidentally left disc 2 in the changer.”
“Get Up With It is a weird record,” he muses. “It isn’t jazz, fusion, funk, or any other bent genre which Miles was associated with at the time. It doesn’t have the avant sprawl of Bitches Brew, or the surgical rock/funk fusion of Jack Johnson or On the Corner. It lacks the precision of his late monuments (the electric records), yet it is not over-shadowed by them either. Every Miles record demands you forgive/forget your own limitations – to reach out beyond what you can understand as music, to extend yourself into the unknown and grab onto any color, shape, tone, anything you find. What you hear becomes yours forever. Your new musical sensibility, and everyone’s is different. Get Up With It is a broader record in scope, yet less refined. It’s like Twin Peaks Season 3 vs. Season 1. Season 1 is perfect, but Season 3 is like the afterlife that Season 1 died and went to – “Music Heaven.”
As for how Davis’ undersung classic has seeped into his own writing Hanson notes, “It became a very important record for me, and for the band. We were searching for permission to take deeper risks; to obstruct our old paths and find new ways of making music together. Miles had no tolerance for fear. He crafted an inimitable career out of risks. I feel like Get Up With It presents that fearlessness in its least resistant form. It is nearly uncensored. It lacks the Teo Macero “best bits edited together” feel to it. Instead, you have a 2 hour and 6 minute experience of what music IS – the kind that gathers like dust under your couch. You can’t stop it.”
“I would drive around,” Hanson remembers, “and listen to the first track “He Loved Him Madly” a lot. It was great for driving across town because it’s 32 minutes long, which is about how long it takes to get around during normal traffic. The track begins with Miles changing the tambour of an electric organ while echoes of electric guitar and snare drum meander in a largely empty space. Slowly the song builds into a multi-percussive groove with Miles switching to a heavily processed Trumpet. The song never overcomes the space of the record. The instruments seem to float around, their distance from each other unclear. Even Miles’ signature instrument becomes obscured by depth and range from the echo chamber in recorded space.”
“Rated X” left the greatest impression on me,” Hanson admits. “The minute it left my ears I thought, “Wand HAVE to do something like this.”. We were improvising sometimes 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week for a few months. In our rehearsals I would occasionally play a piece of music as a jumping off point for the band. The day I brought in “Rated X”, we wrote “White Cat” and another song called “Town Meeting”. I mean I’ll just save you and say that neither song sounds anything like “Rated X”, and whatever form they took from that jam is now unrecognizable. Still a partial fingerprint remains.”
On the album’s full impact Hanson reflects, “Get Up With It taught me how to better make music with people. It showed me how to be less uptight, how to kick my feet off the ground and take comfort in the empty space we all fill together – how to let go of my feelings of control, of fear, and doubt. Like all records that have blown my mind, I learned there is so much more that music expects from us as listeners, as creators, and as facilitators of the form. We carry the burden of passing on the gift of music into the future. Well, we should probably Get Up With It then?”
There’s so much of the Davis catalog to explore, it’s hard to fit all the essentials into rotation, but Cory makes an essential point out of picking Get Up With It out of the lineup. The album isn’t in your bop or fusion primer, but it might just precede a lot of ambient holy grails with it’s exploration of space. The record isn’t wholly impossible to find in it’s original form, but there have also been some reissues in the past couple of years. Worth expanding your Miles shelf to fit this one in for sure and while you’re at it, leave room for Plum next to your other three Wand albums. This one’s a hard hitter.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.