Behind the Beat: Cosmic Improvisation

Sometimes, when a member of a band is asked to describe his group’s sound, he answers by citing a specific genre like rock, pop, folk or jazz. Other times, if the band member is like percussionist Andy Mathey of the Greenfield group Something Else, the answer can turn out to be quite cosmic.

“You are in an ocean wave that is thundering down from above,” Mathey says when asked to describe the sound of Something Else. “The fear is palpable, yet you sense the massive gravity, that greater benevolence of nature, and spontaneously realize that there is no other choice but to surrender to its magnificence right now. You are a necessary part of the collective destruction; you are the loss of control that you are experiencing and in the undertow, you discover ecstasy.”

While such a description may sound grandiose, the words Mathey uses are actually a good starting point for any discussion regarding the exploits of this Western Mass. octet. Featuring other members Louis Freilicher (guitar), Stephen Koziol (saxophone), Victor Signore (saxophone), J Starpoli (trombone), Brian Rodrix (bass), Bruce Todd (drums) and Leo Hwang (guitar), Something Else is more than a band. In fact, when performing the group more closely resembles a 16-armed collective, operating from one hive mind to challenge and entertain audiences as well as itself.

Taking its name from a variety of influences—including the titles of Cannonball Adderley and Ornette Coleman albums—the group shows traces of a jazz background. But with its frequent improvisation, it also owes just as big a debt to jam band acts like Phish and the Grateful Dead.

“I think there are equal parts James Brown, [John] Coltrane, Twinemen, [Frank] Zappa, perhaps a touch of Rage Against the Machine and/or Phish,” says Hwang. “But if you wanted a non-referenced description, I think of us as creating conceptual music to dance to.”

Indeed, some of Something Else’s material does include grooves capable of inducing spontaneous booty-shaking in a crowd. But to truly appreciate the act, it’s worth it to catch an entire set, in which the band often conjures entrancing rhythms and layers of texture seemingly out of thin air.

“The music we make is constantly evolving,” says Signore. “It is a rarity to be in a band where everyone is open to devoting some time to everyone else’s ideas. With eight of us bringing ideas to practice, we are continuously challenging each other and having fun in the process.”

Next up for the group is recording an album—there’s a trip to the studio scheduled for this spring. In the meantime, interested listeners can check out the band on Soundcloud or live at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls and the Arts Block in Greenfield.

Says Signore, “You may hear sounds that affect parts of your brain and body that you didn’t know you had.”•

Something Else performs with The Whoville String Dusters, The Fawns, Night of the Rabbit, The Warblers, Pachangacha and Cardinaux/Starpoli, March 15, 8 p.m., $7-10, The Arts Block and The Wheelhouse, 298 Main St., Greenfield, (413) 774-0150,

For more information on Something Else please visit; to listen to the band, check out

Author: Michael Cimaomo

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