Joshua Stamper’s “Interstitials”

“It’s like waking up on a sunny day after walking through a dream . . .” -HE

Holly Etchison
joshua stamper interstitials

out of 10

Joshua Stamper
May 16, 2011

Joshua Stamper is exploring space. Not Outer, mind you, but the inner and around you kind of space. Moonlighting as a film score writer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist on acts ranging from the Danielson family, Soul Junk, Dan Zimmerman and mewithoutYou, Stamper’s recent project, Interstitials plays as a celebration of the quiet within and without; the sounds of the usually unsounded… what the trees might be saying; how a drop of water might resonate in a glass if the world were given Whisper 2000s.

Backed by Paul Arbogast, Michael Cemprola and Jon Rees on a fascinating array of woodwinds and brass, Joshua’s voice hearkens a phonographic era. His prose in songs like “Incredible People” is gentlemanly in a way Jane Austen would approve: “this flattery‘s inedible,“ yet unpredictable enough that Sandburg would give it a nod: “ a whale named Grace has just swallowed my face.”

Says Stamper: “To me the most exciting way to write is to start with the words. When I do this, I find that the words can go where they will, and melodic and rhythmic shapes follow, very much developing ‘out of’ the lyrics. As such, the music feels more free to me; not confined or obligated to stay within certain keys or having to fit within melodic or rhythmic molds. That said, each song comes differently. Sometimes the music does indeed come first.”

The songs create a delicate, obscure mood, something like the soundtrack to a foreign film, familiar in its unfamiliarity. “Arbor” pleases as the musings of a wooden structure that observes many comings and goings and remains standing in servant hood. The opening trombone and clarinet interplay of “Honeychild” is nothing but a trumpeting triumph (there are far too few trombones in the world it is now decided!). The cacophony of the instrumental “Away my sin” depicts a perfect dissonance in the soul; “Press” a beautiful mediation: “It was morning in heaven and we all knew where we were.”

The title track “Interstitials” defines a space between objects and places with tiny, hopping flute sounds and steady, rhythmic guitar personifying said space as a you. Stamper elaborates: “My brother Ben (of Ben+Vesper) was trained as a visual artist, and one of his professors once said, “Painting is time, music is space”. I really resonate with the idea of music being and creating space. The music that does this is the music that moves me the most: space-making/world-making music. I love music that creates place–to the point where it almost has its own cosmology. I don’t know if that makes any sense but ultimately, that’s what I’m trying to do when I write.”

After a few listens, I would say Stamper’s goal is achieved on Interstitials. It’s like waking up on a sunny day after walking through a dream, a unique dream of quiet thoughts that lend to a hopeful reality amidst sometimes cloudy afternoons, busy streets, and cracked sidewalks.