Rooms is a piano trio formed in Chicago in 2012 and now based in New York City and Copenhagen. Comprised of Dan Pierson on piano/keyboards, Charlie Kirchen on bass, and Matt Carroll on drums, the group has honed an aesthetic that moves smoothly along a continuum touching modern jazz, free improvisation, and electronic music. The evolution of the band’s sound can be heard on their 3 albums Rooms (2014), Emic/Etic (2015), and Vigil (2017). Their new album, Sit Down! captures both a transitional and culminating moment in the band’s history, featuring a book of material the band had been working on for two years, recorded in the summer of 2018, weeks before its members moved out of the Midwest.
The album’s title and cover image leave much to interpretation. Carroll offers, “it refers to those periods in life when we have to pivot and roll with what the universe throws. The personal reflection amidst these challenging periods can be vital in our ability to access and regain our sense of agency when it feels like all else has failed.” Pierson makes a similar point: “it’s like with the chair. Sometimes you need to sit down and accept things for what they are.” Kirchen adds: “it seems to me that these records we all pour so much of ourselves into making have become indistinguishable from—and are therefore consumed as—social media posts. So, the title serves as a nudge to the listener as to how to engage with an album…which is, you know, by sitting down and listening.”
And this album gives the listener much to listen to, covering a wide range of styles and approaches, bringing together veritable bangers such as “Manatee” and “Rooms,” abstract improvisations such as “Blacksmith” and “Oscillate,” hot-blooded free jazz excursions such as “Epoch” and “Horse Rider,” and tuneful modern jazz blowing vehicles such as “Young James.” Across this material an electronic motif emerges, all of which was added in post-production, whether it be Pierson laying down beds of synthesizers and keyboards on tracks such as “Manatee” and “Young James” or Carroll adding percussion on improvisations such as “Oscillate.” The result is a unique hybrid. Kirchen elaborates: “I remember when Dan was mixing—I think it was ‘Young James’—and out of curiosity I asked him: ‘what is the most dramatically opposite way we could approach the mix on this track?’ And he just muted all the acoustic instruments and, lo and behold, this beautiful electronic texture emerged. At the time this struck me as a powerful demonstration of the very concrete sense in which these acoustic and electronic worlds exist within and beneath each other in our music.”
While the finished product is seamless and satisfying enough, Sit Down! almost never reached fruition. “We did the session, everybody moved, and stuff got busy. It almost fell by the wayside,” Pierson recalls. The band managed to complete the album after Pierson settled in New York in 2020, with the synth overdubs being done at his apartment and the finishing touches being applied to the master at Brooklyn’s Figure 8 studio. In a sense, then, the album bridges the band’s past in Chicago and its present in New York and Copenhagen, encompassing a period marked by tremendous change on personal, musical, and societal levels. “It’s weird,” says Kirchen “I feel so disconnected from this music and this period of my life. Some of these tunes are seven years old. The recording could almost be considered an archival release. When I hear this music now, it might as well not even be us.”
- Recorded at Shape Shoppe by Nick Broste in 2018
- Post production & mixing at Piersonsounds Studio, Columbia University, and Figure 8 Recording
- Mastered by Dan Pierson