Musical Endeavors Outside Conservatory: Slipstream

With the past several columns focusing on music born completely outside of the Conservatory, it is refreshing to cover a group that is deeply rooted in the Conservatory, yet still outside of it. Slipstream is a band that consists of junior and pianist Matt Blair, senior and electric guitarist Ilan Blanck, super senior and saxophonist Joe Connor and percussionist Dan Reifsteck ’15. For those looking to put faces to the name, the group recently opened for the convocation with Krista Tippett.

The group was born with the suggestion that the four of them play “Hout” by Louis Andriessen, a contemporary piece written for unique instrumentation. After this suggestion and bouncing many other ideas back and forth, the four became close and attempted to do more than just play the piece in a recital. Despite all being music majors and having their group coached by different faculty in their beginnings, it is clear this is a project that goes beyond their Conservatory education and requires a certain level of passion.

Since their creation, Slipstream’s members have put it upon themselves to contact composers with connections to Lawrence, mainly people the group is close with. These bonds and creativity were highlighted in last term’s concert, “Music By Our Friends,” their first performance of several pieces. I had the privilege of attending this concert, and it was a beautiful experience. The care and feeling put into each piece was remarkable, even though none of them were composed by a member of the ensemble. It is an uncommon experience to see musicians connect that closely to the music they are playing when it is not their own, but this concert showcased just that.

The way Slipstream interacts with its composers is definitely influenced by how they interact as a quartet. When observing them on- and offstage, the friendship and camaraderie between the member was hard to miss. Offstage, they always seem to be goofing around and enjoying each other’s company. Onstage, they pore over their music, with a great balance of focusing on their own parts and looking at each other, acknowledging the other members’ parts.

The members of Slipstream also include junior Jason Koth as an unofficial fifth member. Koth was one of the composers featured on the “Music By Our Friends” concert and has worked closely with them on their upcoming project, an extended play (EP). This EP will feature pieces by friends, including Koth. In addition to recording and mastering, Koth is incorporating electronic layers, providing his own unique voice to Slipstream. The four of them could not be more grateful to have him help, only further showing the kindness and camaraderie so prevalent in the band.

The connections and drive for creating such eclectic music has brought them far and is promising them a busy spring break of touring and spreading their music around the Midwest. With a five-stop tour, an upcoming concert at Lawrence and the soon-to-be released EP, it is exciting to see how much Slipstream is doing when they have only been a band for about a year.

It can be difficult to pin down and concisely describe the music they play, but no matter what, it is often calming and leaves the audience in awe—not only from their technical chops as musicians but also from their refined and intelligent approach to a variety of styles. Blanck semi-jokingly described their music as “kind of like rock music because there’s an electric guitar, but there’s no singing. And on the keyboard there are a lot of notes that are close together sometimes. Sometimes there are some power chords. We try to make it loud sometimes, we try to make it quiet sometimes […] You’ll just have to come hear us on March 9.” While he said this as a cop-out and a joke, I have to agree with him. It is hard to know what to expect without hearing Slipstream, and since their EP has not been released yet, seeing them live is currently the only way to hear them.

From seeing them live to just hanging out with them, it has been so much fun talking about music and joking around with Blair, Blanck, Connor and Reifsteck. Stay tuned for a future EP review. You can see Slipstream perform in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel on March 9 at 9 p.m.