Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Freelance Whales

If you want a fun new way to try to count to 100, try singling out the individual instrumental sounds on Freelance Whales’ debut album. Admitted “hoarders” of interesting instruments, nearly every song on the Queens, New York-based band’s freshman effort, Weathervanes, due out March 16, is awash in a plethora of sounds. PressPass

If you want a fun new way to try to count to 100, try singling out the individual instrumental sounds on Freelance Whales’ debut album. Admitted “hoarders” of interesting instruments, nearly every song on the Queens, New York-based band’s freshman effort, Weathervanes, due out March 16, is awash in a plethora of sounds.

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Freelance Whales (Photo: Courtesy Tell All Your Friends PR)

As the 13-track album progresses, you can pick out a few of the more common — the synthesizers, guitars, drums, bass — and maybe a trained ear can even finger a few of the more exotic — a glockenspiel, harmonium and waterphone. But every once in a while something foreign strikes your ear, something indescribable, something you could probably only label with one word: “Wonderful.”

On Tuesday, the fledgling band that formed via Craigslist in 2008 packed up the musical arsenal and is heading west to a show in Cleveland. To hear the wide array of instruments packed into Weathervanes, it’s amazing the fivesome, consisting of Judah Dadone, Kevin Read, Doris Cellar, Jake Hyman and Chuck Criss, has any room to move around the vehicle.

“It’s a pretty big inventory, but we somehow managed to fit it in without a trailer,” Dadone says.

Apparently the band is as adept at handling the musical arsenal in the tour van as it is on their album.

All fans of the minimalist movement, Dadone and his bandmates stitch together a lyrical narrative chronicling a boy’s romance with a female phantasm using a variety of genres and a full palate of sounds from their musical menagerie. It’s the overall cohesiveness of the album when taken as a whole that is so captivating. It’s a kind of musical pointillism. Listen closely and you’ll appreciate the thoughtful details. Step back, and you’ll be wowed by the collective beauty.

“A lot of these songs were born out of little parts,” Dadone says. “Short, little interactive rythmic parts, quick polyrhythms and little melodies. We’ll start with one instrument, then we’ll have our other instruments set up in our rehearsal room and once someone else has an idea that complements the first, they’ll go over to another instrument and add to it. Everything’s just set up and ready to go and people just bop around to whatever they feel like playing.”

The constant dabbling with different instruments performs two helpful functions for the group. For one, Dadone is not technically trained on any instrument, actually making it easier for him to piece together several simple arrangements than to compose a song in its entirety on piano or guitar. But Dadone says the experimentation also keeps the band’s creative process fresh.

“It’s part of our philosophy that if you approach the process differently from song to song, they’ll end up sounding differently. And we like having songs that sound different and complement one another in different ways,” Dadone says.

However, one thing that particular approach complicates is the job of categorizing Freelance Whales’ sound. You’ll get hints of everything from Paul Simon to Sufjan Stevens to Postal Service. What you won’t get is much direction in defining the band’s sound from Dadone.

“People sometimes say post-folk. Sometimes we say it’s experimental pop music. Sometimes we just describe the instruments that are used,” Dadone says. “If you asked us to describe our music, we would try not to. We’d rather just play the songs.”

Fans in the D.C. area will get the opportunity to piece together their own descriptions by attending the group’s performance Jan. 21, Backstage at the Black Cat. I’d bring a thesaurus.

• For more on Freelance Whales, visit www.myspace.com/freelancewhales.