The Madison-based musician debuts his Hope Simulator Pro project Thursday at The Frequency.
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Jeremiah Nelson is one of those people the local music community might not really hear from for months or even years at a time. Whatever happens in those absences — spent partially in California and Minnesota — it tends to drive a transformation. His last proper release was the 2014 EP Whittier, named after the Minneapolis neighborhood he lived in for a while. It comprised three songs in the wistful folk-rock vein he’d been pursuing for many years under his own name and in a project called Patchwork, and two instrumental tracks built around bright, pointillist guitar loops. A final instrumental, “Outros,” fell somewhere in between. After that release, things got quiet again for a while.
Nelson has been fiddling with loops and electronics for years, but all that finally comes to the forefront in his new project Hope Simulator Pro, which has its live debut Thursday night at The Frequency. He’s recently put up a bunch of demos from the project, including “Losing The Plot/Plotting The Loss,” which is streaming below. You can recognize some of Nelson’s previous work in this track’s vocal melody, but this time it’s refracted through filters and pitch shifters. Nelson originally wrote the song on guitar, but ended up recording it with a programmed beat and a distorted, oozy synth bass. It’s an approach he’s also hoping to make translate on stage, with a mix of laptop and live instrumentation.
For a moment at least, you could wonder if a couple of different production choices are all that big of a transformation for Nelson—people are used to hearing mildly glitchy singer-songwriter fare these days, after all. What makes it feel like a departure, though, is the vocal performance — and I mean even before you get to the effects. Nelson’s vocals in the past have tended to have a cutting clarity, but here the singing is hushed and wounded, the words a bit obscured.
“It’s more or less about crash landing in someone’s arms after your life falls apart and figuring out next moves,” Nelson says.
As for the sonic qualities, he says all this new material is born out of “lots of experimenting and trying to figure out a direction but coming back to just being really committed to live stuff and not wanting to stress about going after a specific sound.”
At the show on Thursday, Nelson will be playing some of the new material with guitarist Jon Beck and drummer Kevin Longino. He’ll also do a set of songs from Whittier and his 2011 album Drugs To Make You Sober, and playing a collaborative set with electronic experimenter Noxroy. The show also includes a solo set by Noxroy, a set from Paul Otteson of folk band Faux Fawn and Madison musician Luke Bassuener’s Bawku West Sound System, which involves Bassuener playing selections from his collection of rare tapes from Africa.