Uniting Verse and Reverb

The poetic praxis of Clap the Houses Dark

Few groups have attempted as audacious and metaphysical a synthesis as Santa Fe’s Clap the Houses Dark. Fusing spoken word with daring sonic landscapes, the band represents the culmination of a decades-spanning creative quest to seamlessly interweave lyrical storytelling with raw auditory expression.

The roots of this pioneering ensemble can be traced to composer, guitarist and poet Greg Glazner’s previous ventures.

“I’ve been lucky to have played with excellent musicians in past...projects,” he says. “But I Didn’t have a strong enough sense of how the words and music might work together organically. My approach was the limiting factor.”

It wasn’t until he embraced composing the spoken language and musical accompaniment symbiotically from their genesis that a cohesive and fully realized artistic statement began to take shape. The band itself, then, emerged from the creative friendship between Glazner and former Santa Fe Poet Laureate Jon Davis, who wields a pen as powerful as any instrument. The two initially met and bonded over poetry at the University of Montana in the early 1980s. As aspiring writers, they shared an affinity for experimental voices like the Language poets known for using repetitive words and phrases in unconventional ways, which would become a harbinger of their eventual partnership. After pursuing parallel creative paths for decades and writing volumes of critically lauded works, the pair finally teamed up to realize their unique approach to melding text and tone.

“We have to write the poems and the music together as if we’re writing a spoken song,” Davis explains. “It’s not improvised, but meticulously written.”

Initially, however, Davis and Glazner struggled to find musicians who understood their exploratory approach. While the literary foundations were there, it took years to assemble the full creative engine to breathe life into the project. Then a fortuitous phone call: “Tommy Archuleta contacted me to ask if I was interested in collaborating,” Glazner recounts. “I was.”

Drummer and current Santa Fe Poet Laureate Tommy Archuleta united a powerhouse rhythm section composed of bassist Jon Lucero and drummer/recording engineer Jon Trujillo, who together provide the compelling instrumental foundation for the band’s lyrical impetus.

“The three of them have known each other for decades,” Glazner says. “Not only is each of them excellent musically, they have a rich, organic sound; they make a lot of creative contributions; they’ve dug in and worked untold hours on this material.”

Glazner’s instrumental compositions and melodic sensibilities provide the musical framework, with both he and Davis contributing to the text and form of the music. Archuleta, Lucero and Trujillo drive it home.

“Without Tommy and the three Jons,” Glazner notes, “I don’t think this music would be happening at all.”

Clap the Houses dark’s compositions are complex, after all with the band counting a diverse array of both literary and musical influences, including luminary wordsmiths like Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein and Leslie Scalapino.

“Their radical techniques of using repetitive words and compositional phrases resonated with us,” Glazner says. ”We wanted to apply those ideas of divorcing language from conventional meaning—letting the sounds and textures take primacy—to music and lyrical delivery.”

As for their musical touchstones, Clap the Houses Dark culls from an eclectic blend ranging from Talking Heads and Radiohead to the intricate structures of Television and Oxbow, as well as minimalist and avant-garde dignitaries like Steve Reich and Nels Cline. Their sound is borderline unclassifiable, yet at its core lies a beating heart of raw lyricism and poetic authenticity.

“It’s weird at 71 finding myself in my first rock and roll band,” Davis muses, as he lauds the collaborative nature of the project.

As Clap the Houses Dark prepares to hit Frogville Studios later this month to lay down their first tracks, Davis, Glazner, Archuleta, Lucero and Trujillo are still rapidly generating ideas. With a growing body of material and a pair of debut in-studio performances slated for Frogville, the band is poised to take adventurous listeners craving a cerebral yet viscerally cathartic experience on a linguistically charged genre-blurring aural endeavor. Let your synapses be recalibrated accordingly.

Clap the Houses Dark: 8 pm Thursday, May 30. $10. Frogville Studios, 111 Calle Nopal, (505) 982-4001

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