Luminaries of West Coast Jazz + Indie Scenes Release Debut Album ‘Small Medium Large’

Photo by Joyce Kim
June 28 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 now, purchase it here.

Today, International Anthem releases Small Medium Largethe debut album 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). Purchase Small Medium Large on LP, CD, or digital download here.

At 10am PST / 1pm EST today, they’ll be celebrating the release with a virtual album listening party on the International Anthem Bandcamp page, with members of SML attending live in the chat. RSVP 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 is a sublime assemblage of circulatory grooves and textural anomalies bewitched by swirls of modular synthesis. 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.

A placid reprieve in the middle of the album, synthesizer wizard Jeremiah Chiu starts today’s focus track “Window Sill Song” with a mellow drum machine loop (a la the bygone Belgian bossa queens of Antena), before floating, echoing melodies from saxophonist Josh Johnson (who’s known for his recent GRAMMY honors as producer of Meshell Ndegeocello’s 2023 album) and guitarist Gregory Uhlmann raise the levitation and deepen the meditation. Listen to “Window Sill Song” here.

The first glimpse of SML came with lead single “Industry,” bringing together one part Public Image Ltd., one part Battles, and several parts Herbie Hancock‘s Sextant, as 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.

Earlier this month saw another look inside Small Medium Large with a video for “Three Over Steel,” which 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.'” Watch the video for “Three Over Steel” 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.

While editing, chopping, and rearranging stereo mixed improvisations is hardly a new idea (Makaya McCraven’s output on International Anthem serves as a potent modern example), 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. Stylistically though, these recordings have more in common with the proto-trance repetitions of Harmonia, and with Holgar Czukay’s re-assembly technique used in his work with Can. Throw in a supremely intuitive utilization of polyrhythmic floating patterns (a la Susumu Yokota), and the result is a truly innovative take on time-clocked electronic rhythms augmented with live instrumentation that never loses an elusive human sway.

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. On September 29, SML will be part of the new Warm Love, Cool Dreams festival happening at the Salt Shed in Chicago, featuring heavy hitters including Floating Points, Kelela, and the legendary Jesus Lizard. It’s their Chicago debut, and they will also perform as the backing band for dancehall/reggae queen Sister Nancy. Get tickets here.