Yeasayer drummer Jason Trammell (Jaytram) and DJ/medicine man Prefuse 73 (Guillermo Scott Herren) recently teamed up to remix, rework, and reinterpret the music of Epstein, a solo project of Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro, Savath & Savalas). Trammell and Herren were given no rules or parameters, had full access to the Epstein catalog as source material, and contributed one side each to the finished record. The album they created, Epstein, is an amorphous yet stone-cut mirage, a digital funk noir. Its recycled sections move from tightly compacted sonic braille to extremely open sequencing. The vinyl breathes freely. The Epstein remix is like looking at a tapestry close-up: Your eyes like the lines and the maze of shapes and color, but in order to make sense of the design, to see it in its entirety, you have to take a step back. The Prefuse-led side contains more abstract, bulbous smears of sound; Jaytram's is a more conjugated take. Taken together, the album is many things: an instrumental epic, a portrait that looks back at the journey of a funk hero from the future, or a barge full of oxygen-producing terraria sent through a time portal to save a civilization that's run out of air. Released on Sufjan Stevens's Asthmatic Kitty label, Epstein is available for download on Lange's Bandcamp site with a pay-what-you-will pricing model. Jaytram spoke about his participation:


How did you and Prefuse come to work together? How did the idea to do this Epstein album come about?

Roberto Lange brought it all together. He's good at bringing things together. Prefuse and I have done a lil' honky-tonkin' here and there before.

What's the proper term for what this album is? A project? A remix? A reworking? An interpretation?

That sounds good to me. Whatever you wanna call these things.

Were you given any parameters when working with the material?

Roberto said, "Do whatever ya want pulling from the Epstein records." I also dropped bits of my own in, here and there.

How did these tracks come together?

I was on tour and trying to work on this vibe for the first time in a mobile setting. I was trying to reinterpret my style of working, and do it backstage, in the air, or rolling down the road. I was nervous about doing everything confined, rather than having all my random odds and ends I usually fool with in Brooklyn. It was nice to be stuck on a plane or wherever and get lost in learning a new way of working and using my friend's sounds as source material. I was in Europe, Japan, and Australia with Yeasayer, traveling and sleeping mainly on a bus. One of the few hotels we had was in Serbia. I had been really sick for four or so days, so they gave me the only solo hotel room. The room was uneasy with strange lighting. Above the bed, there was a painting of a mound of dead bodies with two sword-clenching, victorious survivors atop. I was unable to sleep until the sun came up. I'm digressing, but that's one memory of when I had time to spread out and mess with the music.

How did you and Prefuse work together? What was it like?

We would meet early in the morning for yoga and tea. For the yoga, we had our drum machines all set up, and between poses, we would go back and forth with quick bursts of ideas. Once that was too much for our minds to handle, we would end up in the woods throwing stuff around. But seriously, I'm sure we would work together just fine. Like I said, though, I was on tour with the Yeasayer.

How did you decide what to work on and how, and with what Epstein sounds?

I'm looking out the window at some amazing sky and everything is passing and I feel this way or that and there are the sounds.

What do you think about when you listen back to the album?

I just heard the whole thing for the first time before I did this interview. I really like what Prefuse did. I have no idea how he makes that stuff. He has always had his own sound that's versatile and inspiring technically, sonically, and emotionally. I think there are some nice ideas in the stuff I did. It's a very loopy, repetitive, meditative vibe. Roberto's sounds along with my additives and their combinations in new ways help these simple structures to become a bit more... I don't know. I keep thinking it sounds like these beat tapes and records I used to listen to while working on projects in college in the mid- to late '90s. Not exactly like that, but like the memory. An updated version.

Talk gear for me.

I made this stuff entirely in my computer. I had the battery operated MPC but no physical space to use it. I wasn't liking its different feel from my old MPC 2000 XL. I was just cutting up sounds, assigning them to keys on the computer, and playing them live with little overdubbing and no sequencing, click track, or any of that. This was all in Ableton at its most basic. Just getting my sounds and trying takes, attempting to grab on to some energy and capture it in simple structures.

What was most challenging? Besides the yoga.

Being on the road and not adding more live acoustic elements or electronic elements created or enhanced by different spaces. Not using a mic. I used a little sound I recorded on my phone or whatever, but tried to limit myself to mainly sounds generated or taken outright from the Epstein records. It was good to have my source material limited to keep me focused on working with what I had and get it accomplished by the due date. Outside of rock records I've worked on, this was the fastest to be finished.

Will you be touring with it? What are your future plans?

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My future plans are to keep playing the drums, creating sounds, and listening to records. I would love to do more shows with Roberto, whether it be with Helado Negro, Epstein, or something totally different. I'm excited to make more solo projects and projects built as a band. I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen next with Yeasayer, and in what capacity I will be involved in their next record. I'm going to be involved with the next Ahmed Gallab Sinkane record, and I did a little drumming with my friends Jess and Andy on the forthcoming She Keeps Bees record. Look for the Jaytram Only a Season and Floan Movement Towards Awake records. Those are my two solo and not-so-solo projects. I also made three records with the Love Story, and my drumming can be heard on a few of the Epstein records and a Barkus Born record. I also make Jaytram mixtapes/CDs that I may or may not make available outside of hand-to-hand trading, selling, or gifting. recommended

Listen to Epstein at