Born of a whale-less whale-watching expedition to Canada, and inspired at least a little by Melville's “Moby Dick,” The Universal Thump is a search for space, survival and triumph in song. Each song occupies its own, unique landscape in which a world of sound and story unfold. At this universe’s center is The Whale; the guiding creature and mentor in this orchestral pop expedition. Or, are we and the band in the beast’s belly, riding the oceans in a musical big white taxi?
The team is in the final stages of producing its first orchestral pop album, The Universal Thump. In this music one will hear the diverse influences of its ensemble cast, but the catalytic inspiration for this record (and later its unifying tale) was a whale-watching expedition that took the co-producers to Maritime Canada in mid 2008 (elaborated in the impressionistic “To The Border”). Gertler and Gold have found connection with the sounds, songs and survival patterns of ‘The Whale.’ These remain guiding influences, backdrops and metaphors for the new album.
And this is an Album. It’s not quite a song-cycle and not really a concept record. Though these songs stand alone as crafted pop morsels, the collection makes up an album of the type we grew up loving. The album is structured thusly: Four ‘Chapters’ (or ‘Sides’) make up the whole. The songs follow a loose narrative, spanning a wide range of topics and emotions as composed by Gertler. These songs are woven together by thread-like instrumental compositions written by Gold and others.
In 2009 The Universal Thump helped pioneer the Kickstarter movement. In a three-month campaign the producers raised over $15,000 of funding on Kickstarter.com from fans around the world. This influx not only provided the capital needed to begin recording, it also affirmed wide-spread interest in Gertler’s large-scale productions, like the ones witnessed previously on her solo recordings The Baby That Brought Bad Weather and Edible Restaurant.
Her craft was witnessed again this past November when The Universal Thump walloped Brooklyn’s The Bell House with George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass in honor of the album’s 40th Anniversary. Respecting Harrison’s and Phil Spector’s ‘wall-of-sound’ production masterpiece, the group performed the entire album in order, in full orchestral pop splendor, with an astonishing line up of guest vocalists; Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), John Wesley Harding, Rick Moody, Missy Higgins and more. Plans for a DVD and CD release are in the works.
Greta and Adam began recording The Universal Thump in Adam’s recording studio (Oh Real Yum) in late 2009. Gradually, they brought in over 30 of their favorite musicians, including Roy Nathanson (Jazz Passengers), Rachelle Garniez, Jonathan Maron (Groove Collective), Oren Bloedow (Elysian Fields), members of OSSO string quartet, Barney McAll, backing vocalists Cat Martino, Courtney Kaiser, Clare Muldaur Manchon (Clare & The Reasons), Noe Venable, Carol Lipnik, Serena Jost and more, to layer an orchestral pop feast.
Between intense stretches of studio recording, Adam and Greta toured the music clubs of Australia and Europe to spice up their lives, to refine their arrangements and to promote their brand of orchestral pop. Throughout 2009 and 2010 they played to full rooms in Melbourne, Amsterdam, London, Sydney, Berlin, their hometown of New York, as well as in more regional cultural beacons.
The band has previewed ‘Chapters One and Two’ of The Universal Thump digitally only on bandcamp.com and to their Kickstarter backers. These ‘Chapters’ have already garnered significant interest. Stew (The Negro Problem) writes: "'Grasshoppers' is one extended outbreak of goose-pimples after another. Were it a drug I'd be shooting it. 'Swimming' is an amazing, beautiful, kick ass song as well...The most gorgeous thing I've heard in ages." NPR ‘Song of the Day’ will be featuring the song “Opening Night” (from ‘Chapter Two’) in early 2011.