LA Indie-Jazz Quintet SML Drop Animated Video for New Single “Three Over Steel”

Photo by Joyce Kim
June 6 2024

Rubber Tree Dance
Herbie for Commericals
Search Bar Hi Hat
Window Sill Song
Switchboard Operations
Soft Sand
Three Over Steel
Chasing Brain
History of Communication
Feed The Birds
Greg’s Melody
Dolphin Language

Small Medium Large is out June 28, preorder it here.

Today, International Anthem shares the animated video for new single “Three Over Steel,” the latest preview of Small Medium Largethe debut album out June 28 from SML, a new quintet composed of luminaries from Los Angeles’s thriving jazz, improvised, and indie music scenes: bassist Anna Butterss (Jason Isbell, Phoebe Bridgers, Makaya McCraven, Daniel Villarreal), synthesist Jeremiah Chiu (Ariel Kalma, Marta Sofia Honer, Icy Demons), saxophonist Josh Johnson (Meshell Ndegeocello, Leon Bridges, Carlos Niño), percussionist Booker Stardrum (Amirtha Kidambi, Lisel, Lee Ranaldo, Patrick Shiroishi) and guitarist Gregory Uhlmann (Sam Wilkes, Meg Duffy, Perfume Genius). Preorder Small Medium Large here.

“Three Over Steel” collides acidic fusion with icy synth pulses, guitar skronk, and staticky ambience. Says animator Miranda Javid of its video: “I tried to make the marks of ‘Three Over Steel’ fluctuate as much as possible, allowing that line to embody its many active, wild, loose and lively sonic marks. I wanted my line to pulse with change; there is never a still moment in ‘Three Over Steel.'”

“To animate to the music, I drew with frayed brushes, building each frame’s shape from memory of the previous drawing, rather than the traditional 2-D approach of directly tracing. The result is liquid and non-compliant. I found this song’s expression liberatory, yet nested within that freedom is the earned, careful listening and interaction that each of the players contributed. To me, there’s a lesson there: loose marks require deep attention. It was my honor to work with this supergroup, as well as with International Anthem.”

“When animating, I try to consider my material choices upfront. This animation was made using biodegradable inks on found paper. I’ll compost the frames in my garden.”

Watch the “Three Over Steel” video here.

Created via chopping and reassembling spontaneous compositions recorded live during two separate two-night stands at the beloved, now-shuttered LA venue ETA, Small Medium Large reflects a stunning expansion of the Teo Macero / Miles Davis editing concept explored on classics like In a Silent WayOn The Corner, and Get Up With It. At different moments it recalls the kosmiche musik experiments of Can, the rhythmic revelry of Fela Kuti, the low-end elasticity of Parliament-Funkadelic, or the glitchy dub techno of Pole. Taken in totality, the album captures a euphoric creative synchronicity between some of 2024’s most exciting musicians.

Lead single “Industry” brings together one part Public Image Ltd., one part Battles, and several parts Herbie Hancock‘s Sextant, distorted saxophone leads and shards of guitar lend a vicious and judicious sheen of cosmic chaos.

The track was featured in both The NY Times Playlist and Pitchfork Selects, and Stereogum says it “rides a nasty groove that feels almost mechanical except that SML are obviously feeling the funk.” Listen to “Industry” here.

Small Medium Large was engineered and recorded in stereo direct to Nagra by Bryce Gonzales and compiled, arranged, and edited with additional production, recording, and studio composition by SML across their various home studios.

ETA — which closed its doors at the end of 2023 — is perhaps best known outside of LA for Jeff Parker’s 2022 album Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy. The Highland Park venue was the perfect location for the start of SML, especially given that both bassist Anna Butterss and saxophonist Josh Johnson are part of Parker’s quartet that held down a regular gig at ETA since the venue’s early days, as documented on Parker’s album.

SML will celebrate the release of Small Medium Large with a pair of FREE release events at Zebulon in Los Angeles, slated for July 8 and 9. More info for July 8 here, and July 9 here.