The Avant-garde is Made Beautiful by This Washington D.C. Ambient Chamber Music Duo
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Janel Leppin and Anthony Pirog are two musicians living between worlds and sometimes states. The couple are associated with the avant-garde music scene in Washington D.C. The only thing is, their music tends to be melodic and often serene; an ambient chamber music but with some sharp edges. In 2012 they released their second album, Where Is Home, and the title operates on several levels like a Zen Koan.
Janel Leppin and Anthony Pirog met in high school and became a couple in college, but their real relationship began with music that they would play at Leppin’s home on an isolated estate of cottages in Wederburn, Virginia.
“This was seven acres in the middle of the forest,” says Pirog.
“Like virgin forests from the 1800s, you know,” Leppin wistfully recalls. “It was exactly the way it used to be, except for these tiny structures, a village. People thought midgets lived there actually; they called it Midgetville and it’s like a suburban legend there.”
One of the songs they wrote there was “Little Cottage In The Woods.” Their youthful idyll came to a modern development end and that’s how they came to the title and the themes of their second album, Where Is Home.
“There’s definitely a sense of rootlessness in the record and also in our lives,” explains Leppin. But it also comes from my back ground of my family living in a forest of my family ancestry for five generations, and then having that destroyed by bulldozers five years ago. So for many years Anthony and I would spend time there together and then experiencing that destruction and like moving on, hence, Where Is Home.
Janel & Anthony look like the quintessential bohemian couple. Janel is petite, a brown streak running through her long brown hair. She’s wearing blue nylons and a sweater and skirt that look like they were striped in gelato colors. Wearing an untucked shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, Anthony Pirog has long brown hair as well, covered by a Dutch boy cap.
The couple embody a cluster of influences struggling to fit together. Pirog plays guitar and lots of electronics. He comes from a family of musicians.
“My dad played in a surf band in New Jersey in the ’60s,” he recalls, not looking very far removed form that era himself. “ I got to hear all that at a really young age. So it’s there, it’s definitely there, it’s not going away.”
“Anthony Braxton” leaps from Janel’s mouth, citing the acclaimed and cerebral avant-garde saxophonist.
“I was really interested in that downtown scene,” says Pirog. “Fred Frith, Derek Bailey, players like Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, people like that.”
Those avant-garde influences were tempered by rock and things like The Byrds. Pirog nods to the 60s rock group’s song “Eight Miles High” on his tune, “Big Sur.”
“I used to listen to that over and over maybe 12 years ago,” he enthuses, “just the great hits album. I love 12 string jangling sounds, so I’m really glad that that comes through.
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
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