Boulder's Asalott: Exploring Musical Worlds

By: Will Baumgartner

Oh you trancey, huh?

Boulder-based group Asalott (pronounced Ocelot, like the wild cat) is led by the quietly unassuming local genius of the hammered dulcimer, Forrest Lotterhos. The hammered dulcimer, a rarely seen instrument capable of complex patterns of rhythm, melody, and harmony is what Lotterhos composes Asalott’s songs with. The group then takes these compositions and adds some electronics, various acoustic and electric drums, and an electric bass played in an unusual way. The resulting music is like a swirling, sometimes meditative, sometimes ecstatic rhythmic journey to strange and exotic worlds.

Asalott's Forrest Lotterhos behind the hammered dulcimer. 

Asalott's Forrest Lotterhos behind the hammered dulcimer. 

Asalott grew out of a collaboration in 2013 between Lotterhos and drummer Cody Hart (of Boulder funk-rock band Cold River City). Depending mostly on the venue in which they’re performing, their shows range from the quietly introspective to all-out explosions of polyrhythmic dance music. And while they perform in different configurations from duo to trio to quartet, they pack the biggest punch in their full quartet form. So if you’re more into the gentle dreamy feel, catching them as a duo or trio might be more your cup of green tea, but if you really love to dance, best to go to a show where they’ve got the full arsenal going. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lotterhos to find out more about Asalott, and their hypnotically irresistible sound.

Forrest- your Facebook page describes your music as "tribal breakbeat". Can you expand on what that term means to you?

Many people ask us what genre of music Asalott is, and that’s a difficult question to answer because of our unique instrumentation. Breakbeat is typically used to describe electronic, trance, or drum and bass music with heavy percussive influence. Three out of four of our instruments are percussion instruments and though we don’t utilize any electronic production, our sound takes on an electronic music feel and a tribal quality with danceable beats, and a trance-like quality with the hammered dulcimer riffs.

Matty Schelling on the beats. 

Matty Schelling on the beats. 

I've been a fan of your hammered dulcimer playing since you used to come into Burnt Toast, the legendary restaurant on the Hill that was home-away-from-home for so many artists, musicians and poets. At that time, you performed solo. How did this project come together as a band, and when? 

I’ve been performing [on the] hammered dulcimer both solo and in various bands in the Boulder and Denver areas since 2008. Burnt Toast was the beginning for me. In 2013 I reconnected with Cody Hart and we began busking on Pearl Street and playing shows as a duo with my hammered dulcimer and his cajon. It was an instant connection and success. We didn’t even have to practice; it came together on the spot. By taking my solo compositions and developing them with Cody’s drum rhythms, [our music] started to take on a new life.

Matty Schelling was a mutual friend and fellow percussionist who joined the group in early 2014, bringing in electronic drum pads and auxiliary percussion. About a month or so after Matty joined us, Joe Braun [came aboard] with his uniquely unhinged bass guitar. Together, the four of us have been playing shows in Boulder since the fall of 2014. We’re still in our early stages, refining our sound and our compositions, but with such eclectic instruments and improvisational roots, we always seem to put on a great show. 

I hear a lot of different styles within the Asalott sound, some of which I can't readily identify. What musical traditions and artists would you say have influenced you most? 

As individuals, we all have different and varying influences, but collectively, we have been influenced by electronic musicians and producers who integrate acoustic sounds and live instruments such as Emancipator, Bonobo, Shigeto, Govinda, and Beats Antique.

Personally, I was influenced at a young age from folk, bluegrass, and old-time music. In my teens I began to listen to a lot of progressive and indie rock bands like The Mars Volta, who utilized complex drum rhythms. In my twenties, I got into listening to and producing electronic and hip-hop music. My hammered dulcimer playing is, at its core, harmonically rich in folk and traditional Irish music and simultaneously rhythmically complex with ever-expanding patterns, taking on a progressive and trance-like persona. I also have to give a shout-out to legendary hammered dulcimer player Jamie Janover, who I saw perform with Zilla back in 2007 and then again at Burning Man in 2009 with Lynx. His integration of live hammered dulcimer with EDM production really inspired me to take my dulcimer playing to another level, and I began to write my own compositions and expand out into playing with different bands and exploring various genres. Needless to say, there is a convergence of many musical styles in Asalott.

Lotterhos, Hart, & Schelling. 

Lotterhos, Hart, & Schelling. 

You've got a great group of players in this project, including drummer Cody Hart of Cold River City and Matty Schelling of Whiskey Autumn. Can you tell me a little about each member, their instruments, and how they fit into the overall sound and feel of Asalott? 

I play the hammered dulcimer, and depending on the show, a Nord synthesizer. The dulcimer is the lead instrument in our band, and most of the compositions center around it. It has a harmonic resonance unlike any instrument, and as a percussion instrument, it sets up the rhythmic cadence for the songs. 

Cody Hart plays two different sized cajons, which are often heard in Flamenco and Afro-Peruvian music. Cody brings a fat bass downbeat and an abundance of rich tones that characterize [his instrument]. Cody closely follows and supports the complex rhythmic patterns of the dulcimer while upping the dance factor. 

Matty Schelling plays electronic drum pads and adds a little vocal flair into the mix. With different Nord percussion synthesizers, Matty is able to add infinite variations of drum sounds. Matty ups the danceability of Asalott with his hip-hop inspired rhythms. Without using computer based production, we are able to achieve a live electronic drum beat that further amps and supports the rhythmic patterns [of our sound].

Joe Braun plays a traveling electric bass that he has rigged to a desk. He he either strums it or uses a viola bow to produce droning, often orchestral sounds. He also provides non-lyrical chanting vocals, using his voice as an instrument in itself. Joe brings and amplifies the contemplative nature of the sound, playing bass lines and singing vocal riffs that hold and lift the dulcimer melodies to another level.

When you play a show, what do you hope the audience will do, feel, and take away from the performance? 

We play shows at a lot of different venues around Boulder. We cater to the space and audience, sometimes deciding to play acoustic duo shows at small venues and coffee shops. When we play larger venues, we bring the whole band and up the energy level. We love when people dance and move to the music. That’s definitely one of our goals [at our shows].

Regardless of the venue or the size of the audience, we all deeply feel that the music we create is heart-expansive at the core and mind-expansive in its complexity. People have told us at shows that our music captivated them in a profound way, sparked feelings of joy, and deepened their connection with themselves and the people around them. We really want people to have a great time: whether they dance, have a spiritual experience, or just chill and listen, we want them to take away an experience that resonates with them and that they remember.

What are your long term plans for Asalott, and what's happening next? 

We recently recorded and are about to release an album of acoustic duo music. It will be six compositions featuring Cody and myself. We also just submitted a video to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, which was named one of the top ten entries in Colorado.

We are planning to go back into the studio and track out songs with the whole band soon too. That will be a bigger project with more production involved. We want to play festivals this summer and some larger venues in the Boulder and Denver areas by the end of the year.

Tonight, you can catch us at our home-base, The No Name Bar at 10PM.

Details for the show tonight can be found here.

Watch Asalott’s Tiny Desk submission video:

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

BolderBeat's Tiny Desk Contest Compilation + This Weekend's Shows to See

By: Hannah Oreskovich

You entered. We watched (and listened).

Hey Colorado! A lot of local acts have been working on something awesome the past couple of weeks- their submissions to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest! As you probably know, NPR has a sweet feature called Tiny Desk, the brainchild of Bob Boilen, who is also the creator of All Songs Considered. Boilen essentially invites artists to play at his desk and their intimate performances are recorded live; often they’re really badass. Check out some of the most recent Tiny Desk performances here.

Last year, NPR started the Tiny Desk Contest, allowing any and every US artist to have a shot at getting an invite to play Boilen’s sought-after desk. The winner was Fantastic Negrito, who you can check out here. This year, the winner will play the Tiny Desk and also appear in a taping of NPR’s Ask Me Another and tour the US with NPR and Lagunitas. We kept seeing so many local band’s submissions pop up that we decided to throw them all in a feature for your viewing pleasure. We were impressed by everyone’s submissions and we're sure you will be too. So give these vids some traffic yo:

Asalott

Pretty sweet collection, eh?

PS: We couldn’t totally forgo our weekend picks, so here are some shows with their event links to check out the next two nights:

Tonight (Friday, 02/05):

Ancient Elk, The Velveteers, and The Savage Blush at Syntax Opera House in Denver

Hunter Stone at Taco Junky in Boulder

Many Mountains with Still Cellars Distillery and Arthouse in Longmont

Whiskey Autumn and Shiny Shoes First Funk Friday at The Bohemian Biergarten in Boulder

Tomorrow (Saturday, 02/06):

Andrew Sturtz at The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver

Griz with Special Guests at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver

Imaginary Pointsmontropo, Glimjack, and Shuad’Dib at The Forge in Boulder

Na’an Stop with Policulture and Realtalk at The Fox Theatre in Boulder

Sam Hozdulick’ Album Release Party with Special Guests at Lost Lake in Denver

Both Nights:

Opening Music Weekend at Cafe Aion featuring Paul Kimbiris and Foxfeather

And don’t forget to tune in Sunday for our partnership with Green Light Radio and Streetside Productions! We will feature Na’an Stop’s “Win a Bagel” in honor of their headlining performance at The Fox this Saturday. Crank your dials to 95.5FM in Boulder Sunday night between 9-10PM, or stream Green Light here. Listen for local!

Thanks for keeping us afloat as we continue to support local music. If you dig what we’re doing, please give us a like on Facebook (especially from your band page so we can keep up with all you do).

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 01/28, 01/29, & 01/30

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Though it’s not exactly the weekend yet, there were a couple of shows we thought deserved some spotlight tonight! And so we decided we’re starting our weekend one day early this week! Here’s our six:

Today (Thursday) 01/28:

Amoramora with Natural Motives at The Lazy Dog in Boulder 9PM-Close

12187773_535797189907251_6014881146191052398_n.jpg

These two Boulder-based bands will be jumping around the Lazy Dog stage tonight with a Big Lebowski-inspired set. When we asked Amoramora what this meant, they told us Ever wondered what it would be like to go to a concert where everyone is dressed up like characters from the Big Lebowski and are drinking only White Russians? Well this is your chance! The four-piece are a mountain-funk fusion jam with earth soul elements so we know you’re gonna love ‘em Boulder! And good vibe tribe openers Natural Motives will start the evening off with some sweet reggae rock beats. Check this show out!

Listen to an Amoramora original, “Rafiki’s Expedition”:

Pete Laffin at The No Name Bar in Boulder 10PM-Close

12525674_1211723058856574_3900110063239784181_o.jpg

Pete Laffin wears many hats in the Boulder music scene- as you probably read in our feature yesterday, he’s booking all music at Cafe Aion, he’s a contributor for our site, and he’s an accomplished musician himself. Laffin’s been playing around the Boulder scene for almost a decade now, with more than one Fox show under his belt. And tonight, he’s playing one of our favorite digs, The No Name! He’s promised “an eclectic mix of covers and originals” for tonight’s set. We can’t wait to check it out!

Learn more about Pete through his website here.

Tomorrow (Friday) 01/29

Tall Heights, Poet’s Row, & Paul Kimbiris at The Walnut Room in Denver 7PM-Close

Tall Heights. Photo Credit: Jeff Fasano

Tall Heights. Photo Credit: Jeff Fasano

The Walnut Room is hosting another amazing Homevibe lineup tomorrow night with touring Boston indie-folk duo Tall Heights, Denver’s folk four-piece Poet’s Row, and Boulder’s own singer songwriter Paul Kimbiris. We’ll actually be bringing you a more in-depth feature on this show tomorrow, but in the meantime get your tickets for this Homevibe event here.

And check out a Tall Heights track, “Spirit Cold” here.

Envy Alo at Taco Junky in Boulder 10PM-Close

Envy Alo at The Lazy Dog.

Envy Alo at The Lazy Dog.

Envy Alo, who we dropped an interview with recently, have a set at Taco Junky on The Hill tonight. The “old-school organ-trio jazz funk” group will be gettin’ groovy while you sip margs and dance! If you’ve kept up with the three-piece, you know they’ve been recording at KMG over the past couple of weeks with plans to drop an EP this spring! So go check ‘em out tonight- the way they’ve been booking around Boulder, they’re bound to be off touring before too long.

Watch EA’s live-performance of “Bobby's Big Boy Bars”:

The Next Day (Saturday) 01/30

The Fremonts at The No Name Bar in Boulder 10PM-Close

Boulder’s Americana duo The Fremonts dropped their self-titled EP last year, which we wrote about right here. Members Stephanie Dodd and Justin Badger have been busy since then, playing shows throughout the state and in Iowa, Nebraska, and New York. They recently entered NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest (watch their submission below) and they’ve got some cool new tunes to play for you at The No Name this weekend. So head for The Hill and give them a listen!

Watch The Fremont’s NPR Tiny Desk entry for their song “Echo”:

Soul Saturday with Let the Beat Speak at Connor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Boulder 10PM-Close

Conor’s is hosting their first free Soul Saturday event this weekend. Performers include Dent (Zachary Wolff), Paige Sandusky, Dechen Hawk, Mikey Smith, Daniel Nash, Jon Frett, and Let the Beat Speak. The crew plans to make the walls melt with their rhythmic sounds, so go grab a drink and a dance partner and check this one out. We know you wanna grind.

Learn more about Let the Beat Speak here.

PS: This week, our Sunday partnership with Green Light Radio and Streetside Productions will feature a track by Boulder singer/songwriter Joseph Tonelli! He just dropped an animated music video for his song “My Situation” and we’ll be featuring that and more in an in-depth interview with Tonelli next week! So don’t forget to tune in between 9-10PM to 95.5 in Boulder Sunday night, or stream Green Light for a first listen of Tonelli’s “My Situation”.

That’s it B. See yah ‘round.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.