Bend, Oregon — known for ski bums, sprawling subdivisions, beautiful scenery and ... experimental prog-influenced post-rock? No, I wouldn’t have guessed that either, but Bend’s Empty Space Orchestra is beginning to make a big noise both east of the Cascades and up and down the Willamette Valley.
The classically trained group follows in the footsteps of bands like Battles and Mogwai — generally eschewing vocals and traditional song structure for trancelike ambient jams. The band’s recent release was recorded and engineered in Sacramento by Robert Cheeks (known for his work with the Deftones) and mixed in Seattle by Matt Bayless (known for working with Mastodon and Isis). Traces of those bands can be heard in ESO’s sound.
Empty Space Orchestra is epic and heavy one minute, face-meltingly experimental the next, and the band ends up groovin’ like the heyday of the jazz-fusion era, fueled by the skronkin’ saxophone of multi-instrumentalist Graham Jacobs. Imagine Black Sabbath and King Crimson remixed by Lee Scratch Perry with Herbie Hancock sitting in.
Throughout it all, these guys stay incredibly melodic and tight as hell thanks in no small part to drummer Lindsey Elias. She is one ferocious musician and a force of nature behind the kit. On the ESO website, Graham Jacobs explains “I was spending a lot of time thinking about what Miles Davis used to say: ‘It’s not about the space you play, but the space you leave.’ That’s where the ‘Empty Space’ came from … ironically we don’t leave much space in our music.”
Empty Space Orchestra plays with VTRN 10 pm Thursday, Jan. 19, at Luckey’s; $5.