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Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Band Alternative World


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"Astral / Subastral plays world rock with Milwaukee roots"

Astral / Subastral plays world rock with Milwaukee roots

By Royal Brevväxling
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Published June 22, 2012 at 3:03 p.m.
Astral / Subastral is a world rock band whose influences span culture as well as region. Putting descriptors like Eastern European, Gypsy folk, Turkish folk, Afrobeat and Punjab alongside genre designations like drone and groove will get you close to imagining the band's sound.

But none of these words fully encapsulates Astral / Subastral's songs and live performance.

"We are trying to transcend genre, bring people together, and create shared experiences, ideally breaking down the barrier between the performers and the audience," says Jenn Clark-Jones, who plays flute and accordion in Astral / Subastral.

The band includes Damien Jones and Roi Evans, who played together during the drum corps scene of the '90s as well as on the Milwaukee Bucks Drumline. Jones has also been in bands with Astral / Subastral bassist and keyboard player Skip Manning for 15 years.

This core group came together three years ago when vocalist and guitarist Nikolai Usack placed a Craigslist ad in Milwaukee that attracted Jones.

"Lonely man, plays guitar, seeks band that plays drums," says Usack, a financial trainer who travels a lot for work.

Clark-Jones and electric bass player Dave Cook were part of the now-defunct Victims of Symmetry before joining Astral / Subastral.

The band performed and marched last year with the Milwaukee Molotov Marchers in the All City People's Parade, which was once again added to the end of the Labor Day parade. This is when Ben Schultz joined to form the seven-piece that Astral / Subastral is today.

"We had space in the gear van for an instrument that's as big as a coffin," says Usack of Schultz's large bass saxophone. "So we needed him to join."

The schedules of the rather large band's members often impact their ability to practice and perform, but all the members say it works for them.

"Good musicians are able to step in whenever and not take long to figure it all out," says Cook.

Astral / Subastral recently played one of its last shows before taking a recording hiatus at the East Town Market in Cathedral Square. Listeners included the market vendors, the many who braved the rain showers and those simply unconcerned by wetness. was also there, enjoying the warm wave of sound from the stage which flowed from trance-inducing to butt-moving.

Many of the band were barefoot, Usack was wearing a "utili-kilt" as he played guitar and created vocal harmonies with Clark-Jones, often while Schultz shaped the elongated sounds made by his bass sax, reminiscent of something like a ship's horn that somehow trapped an orchestra's entire horn section warming up, into powerful audio experiences.

The percussion section was as tight and sonically interesting as you'd expect from musicians who've played together for close to two decades. While Evans worked a number of different hand drums, Jones moved back and forth from his kit to other instruments that go bang and boom, also picking up his horn for one song.

"We've played many of the usual local venues, Cactus Club, Shank Hall, Frank's Power Plant, Art Bar and Riverwest Public House to name a few, but we also like to find non-traditional opportunities to perform," says Clark-Jones.

Astral / Subastral headlined Riverwest's Energy Independence Day event last year, and some members are scheduled for a repeat performance this year. They play numerous house parties, and among the non-traditional venues are summer farmers markets and marching in the Dia de los Muertos parade in Walker's Point last fall.

Astral / Subastral is taking a hiatus from performing to finish recording its next album, "Sonic Alchemy," next month in a home studio. The group is working with E. L. Copeland of the Earthdriver record label -

"Leap Week! Astral/Subastral, Riverwest Follies"

The festivities of the Riverwest Follies continue for the 7th year this Saturday at the Polish Falcon. The Riverwest Follies offers an evening of family friendly entertainment including crafts, music and other antics insured by the MC/Host of the evening Sir Pinkerton of Dead Man’s Carnival. This year the Follies commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the Riverwest Currents, the neighborhood’s community paper.

Headlining the Riverwest Follies, Milwaukee’s resident world-music rockers Astral/Subastral orchestrate a live conglomeration of harmonies, rhythms and sounds brought together through generous instrumentation and reaching vocals that encourage soul-seeking movement, or just content head-nodding.

Astral/Subastral delivers hints of Purvian, Celtic, and possibly even Flamenco syncopation, behind a solidly folk-rock inspired lead vocalist. Astral/Subastral takes an fresh look on an often overlooked recipe: a crowd pleasing paella of musical influences from around the globe, easily enjoyed by groups of friends and family with an appetite for a potluck of good company and conversation. - Local Trolley


Still working on that hot first release.



Since 2009, Astral/Subastral has pursued the
perfect fusion of rock, world, groove, drone,
and Eastern European music. The band creates
an immersive live experience by utilizing multimedia, engaging local artists, dancers, spoken word poets and musicians while encouraging the audience to dance and drum along. Sweeping melodies, lush vocal harmonies and infectious rhythms
create a sound and experience that transcends
genres and resonates with a wide audience.