Extrapolations on a Familiar Theme by Ellis/Carrillo/Crews (Produced by Vic)

Disaster Squad’s jam is finally fully released. 20 years ago, in pre-Katrina New Orleans, guitarist Richard Ellis, percussionist Louis Carrillo, and bassist Kendal Crews met to run some tunes. Richard was hoping to start a band balancing covers with long improvisations. They played “Strange Brew”, then jammed for hours, filling 5 cassettes. The sound was there, they just needed to refine it and gig. Then came Katrina. Homes were destroyed, clubs closed, and Richard moved to Colorado.

But we have these remarkable tapes. And you can now hear the tune that started the jam, their cover of “Strange Brew”, and wonder what might have been.

Bolder Boulder 2023 with the Eric Ottem Jazz Unit

The Eric Ottem Jazz Unit played the Bolder Boulder 10k this weekend. Playing jazz at 7am is a bit odd but you can watch the coffee kick in as we go

Also, the numbers on this gig crack me up: we played 31 tunes over 4 hours for about 40,000 people. That’s a massive show even outside the jazz world. But, then again, the runners were stuck listening to us as they passed by and probably only heard us for a maximum of maybe 15 seconds so maybe it’s more a typical jazz in the park gig…

Happy 10th to Curious Automata

I started Curious Automata on April 5th, 2013, to solve a problem: that almost every band and musician I knew had a nearly completed project sitting unheard. Aspen Street’s “Still, Still, Still” lost its distributor less than a year after being released. Graphite Addiction’s debut recording had been out of print since 2008. Richard Ellis’ “Disaster Sessions” tapes were shelved for a decade. Tim Carmichael’s “Watching Water” was finished in 2012 with gorgeous production by Gusty Christensen, but no label seemed interested. Pete Ehrmann and I were recording “The Pete & Vic Duo”, a swing duo album that would be a difficult sell during the 2010s push for funkier jazz. I hoped that if I found a way to release those five orphaned albums, along with one of my own, it would encourage all of us to create new material. 10 years later, artists working with Curious Automata have produced a total of:

  • 42 CDs
  • 4 Lathe-Cut Vinyl LPs
  • 5 Bandcamp Exclusive Digital Releases
  • 3 Books
  • 3 CDs Produced for Other Labels
  • 3 Scores for Ads
  • 2 Play-Along Albums
  • 47 Unexplained Noises Archive Club Releases

I think it works.

“Disaster Sessions” by Richard Ellis (Curious Automata, 2023)

CDs: Code One | Code Two | Code Four | Code Seven

I believe music is good. Good when it’s grandpa’s fiddle on the porch, when it’s jazz with cocktails, when it’s pop blasted to the earbuds of a few million teenagers, and when it’s a local orchestra sawing away on tunes by 19th century composers whose names start with B. Music to distract, accompany a meal, or draw attention to oneself is still often better than silence.

But I think music is best when it is not made for the listeners pleasure or bent to the makers’ ideals, when it stands by itself, when it is made by those in service to the sound who make music because the music must be. I’ve seen a few great players who live in that space but it seems exceedingly rare in my own music making. Occasionally, I’ve had moments at gigs or recording sessions where we truly served the song but more often those come in rehearsals. We spark fire when least expected, then play its memory at the show.

So the music on this collection is special. Guitarist Richard Ellis, percussionist Louis Carrillo, and bassist Kendal Crews didn’t set out to make anything special on September 19th, 2003. They were just jamming on tune at their rehearsal space in New Orleans when they found a trancendent groove. They stayed there for hours-even Kendal leaving for an appointment then returning didn’t break the spell. It’s the kind of one-in-a-million collective improvisation that is almost always lost to the moment. But Richard happened to be taping it, just for future reference.

These are a few of those tapes. You should listen to them. They’re up on all streaming services, too.

The CDs for this release are also the 39th, 40th, 41st, and 42nd released by Curious Automata. 42: the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide. I can think of no better way to hit that milestone than with this project.

CDs: Code One | Code Two | Code Four | Code Seven

Play Along with Music to Squeak By

You can now play along with “Music to Squeak By” for free! This Bandcamp-exclusive album includes backing tracks made from the original recordings along with pdf leadsheets for concert, B-flat, E-flat, and bass clef instruments.

Download it today for whatever price you choose.

New Release: What Was (Curious Automata, 2023)

With the 10th anniversary of Curious Automata coming up in March of this year, I think it’s time to clear out the archives a bit. This album is a collection of misfits whose tone didn’t match the projects for which they were intended. Also, in the spirit of moving on, all the tracks on this album are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license so anyone can use them as they see fit.

“Broken Tree” was improvised after my favorite shade tree was split in a late spring storm in 2017. It was previously released as a rough cut for my Bandcamp subscribers but it’s much prettier and has been edited for time here. I think it still captures my mood as I waited to see if the tree survived, though.

Tracks 2-12 were all recorded during the two sessions for 2018’s “We Were”. Those were during the end of my marriage, so they were a bit of an art therapy project as I went through a divorce. I wrote a list of things to remember, then improvised around each idea. For the original album, I decided to lean toward the positive tracks, so the remaining ones here have a bit darker tilt.

I hope you enjoy these moody leftovers, and thanks for listening.

-Vic Dillahay, Guitarist


“Chubtopia” by KoSnoCo (Curious Automata, 2023)

“Chubtopia” by Kosnoco (a.k.a. Komodo Snowcone ) is a brilliantly original journey down a path less traveled. A plethora of diverse influences from metal to R&B fuse into a totally original sound. Infused with killer hooks and an off-kilter sense of humor, this a release you need to hear.

Streaming/Download | CD | Vinyl

New Release: into worlds strange by audiosalvage

I’m a big fan of the E-mu Proteus line of ROMplers. They are not hugely versatile, but their sounds were all over 90s and early 2000s sci-fi television and games. Probably my favorite of those was Kenji Yamamoto and Kouichi Kyuma’s moody atmospheric score for Metroid Prime. Since the 20th anniversary of Prime’s release was last Friday, November 18th, I decided to play around with some of the patches used in the game and explore that sonic world with my guitar rather than a GameCube. I owe a huge thanks to SynaMax for his excellent research into the synths and patches used in the Prime series. It let me quickly dive into Yamamoto’s tools so I could see what I could make with them.

Since this one is a bit of a departure from my normal genre, I’ve released it under my audiosalvage production moniker instead of my own name.

Please enjoy this bit of a throwback to the futuristic sounds of the 1990s, and thanks for listening.