Split between Brooklyn and the Bay Area, the emerging experimental pop act Late Aster — Ami Hochhalter, Aaron Messing, Charles Mueller and Cameron LeCrone — can trace their origins back to when its members met while studying jazz and/or classical music performance at Northwestern University and the University of Southern California. The members of the band quickly bonded over a mutual love of experimentation: the band employs brass instrumentation with electronics and popular music forms and melodies to push and pull at the boundaries of classical, jazz, pop and rock. The quartet’s sound finds the band looking to draw out the intimacy and versatility of instruments commonly related to a much more secondary role in rock.
The quartet’s debut EP True and Toxic is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through Bright Shiny Things. The EP features a collection of musical sketches on the modern human condition — and thematically, the EP’s material focuses on relationships, politics, sciences and digital society to create a soundtrack for our incredibly polarizing society. Each song is paired with a visual accompaniment by Four/Ten Media, Deadeye Press, Harrison Atkins and Kelsey Boncato.
The EP’s latest single “A Minor Fantasy” is centered around skittering drum beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, regal sounding horns and ethereal vocals placed within an expansive and cinematic-leaning song structure. Sonically, the song reminds me — to my ears, at least — of Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS and People Museum but with a dreamy yet brooding quality. “This song is inspired by a Shostakovich piano prelude I listened to for years before attempting to learn. I thought the way the piece moves through the harmony would suit it well for an additional melody on top, which became the vocal melody,” the band’s Aaron Messing explains in press notes. “The prelude is in the key of A minor, which I eventually used as the name of the song, both because it describes the piece musically but also because read literally, it actually describes the meaning behind the words of the song: A dream-like state that is simultaneously exciting and ominous.”
The video created by Four/Ten Media is a surreal and psychedelic fever dream. “Working with Four/Ten Media was an obvious choice for this song because of their background as classically trained percussionists,” the band’s Anni Hochalter, says about the video treatment. “We wanted a team that was going to really understand how to feature the virtuosic beats written by our drummer Cameron LeCrone, as well as be experimental in visual aesthetic to capture the new sounds of electronics and brass. We combined two visual inspirations for the video – 1. Liquid lights created with layers of colored mineral oil and alcohol placed over a projector lens and which produce changing color patterns for a psychedelic effect. And 2. an early animated film that uses color and silhouette cut-outs, called The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).”