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"Tears in the Sum"

"There was a time for each of us during the making of this album when we just wanted to give up," says Jason Ludwig of Noctaluca's full-length debut, Towering the Sum. " 'What the fuck are we doing? This is taking way too long.' "

The wait was equally frustrating for fans, but it allowed the band to chart a new course musically rather than exist as an extension of Ludwig's solo work. As the title of the album teases, the updated sound transcends the sum of its parts, and they couldn't be more excited about it.

It's easy to understand why some will see the album as a follow-up instead of a debut, since Noctaluca is comprised mainly of Ludwig's backing band from his 2003 release PeLL MeLL. Two of his childhood friends, brothers Donovan and Brandon Schlunt, played bass and drums on that disc. After helping him bring his powerful solo work to fruition, both signed on as full-timers. The trio knew that finding a second guitar player was a crucial step, as it would be the most radical alteration to their recipe.

"We decided we wanted somebody who not only had the creative, improvisational qualities," Ludwig explains, "but also had the discipline to take that craziness and put it in a jar and be able to pull it out next time."

Their choice was somewhat surprising: Jay Aronoff, a music veteran with quite a bit of Metal on his resume. While seemingly at odds with the delicacy of Ludwig's early work, his heaviness actually magnifies the intricate arrangements, which Aronoff is quick to point out is no longer a liability for rising talent.

"I love '70s Progressive Rock, but it was shunned for a long time," Aronoff laments. "It's tough to see the people you grew up admiring become unpopular, but it's all coming back now."

One person who was particularly confounded by the position being offered to Aronoff was Ludwig himself, who'd actually decided not to audition him.

"Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with some of the things on the CD he gave me," Ludwig recalls with a laugh, "but I got him mixed up with some guy from Ontario and invited him over. We played together and just clicked. Since we were already recording the album, I sent him two tracks, and literally the next day he sent them back to me and he'd recorded on both of them. I listened to the first one and was just blown away. I called the others and said, 'I think we found our guy.' "

Noctaluca was already aimed in a heavier direction when Aronoff joined, so his soaring accompaniment was able to catapult them to new realms. And once they had a taste of creating that expansive Rock sound, they weren't about to let up.

"I can pinpoint the time," Brandon says. "It was last year, we were all right in the middle of going through some hard shit, and we all learned how to channel it."

Another catalyst for the quartet was enlisting the production might of Ashley Shepherd (who mixed PeLL MeLL). Distilling the Schlunt brothers' Jam-heavy style and making space for the layers of guitar, sound manipulations and samples was crucial to this album turning out exactly as the band hoped.

"We wanted to make a maverick record," Donovan says. "That's the term we were throwing around -- not just a good Pop record, a maverick."

Towering the Sum is a testament to their success, an unbranded stampede of arena-sized riffs, Jazz Fusion complexity and Prog Rock grandeur that demands to be experienced from beginning to end. And at the core, Ludwig's inimitable voice and songwriting are still poignant and piercing, but now also confrontational and uncensored (F-bombs, N-word and all).

Leaving behind his narrative style and adherence to the upper register of his voice, he focuses on creating meaty and menacing vocals, relating tales of evildoing and loss while maintaining enough ambiguity to give his diatribes an impressionistic quality.

"The best songs are the ones that anyone can relate to," he says. "Conservative, liberal, black, white -- anybody can listen to the song and pull something from it that touches them." - Citybeat Magazine

"brain pieces"

noctaluca is now my favorite unsigned band. it was a f*cking honor to play with them. every so often we do stumble across a really good band, and when that happens, i find a new sense of hope for rock and roll. the terrors were awesome as well, but unfortunately i didn't get to see too much of their set because i was busy trying to find the pieces of my brain that noctaluca blew out all over the back wall. i hope the afterhours was sweet. - Dez of Wigglepussy, Indiana


Noctaluca...turned out to be the most pleasant surprise of the evening...this band makes me want to go home, turn off all the lights, and listen to Jeff Buckley's Grace with the headphones on. Georgeous vocals, smooth and lush guitar.

full review: - Acid Covered Espresso Beans

"Citybeat Magazine"

In a city as rich in original (and not so original) music as Cincinnati is, it isn't easy to escape the typical when you give local music a chance. After giving the person who checks (or fails to check) your ID, your $5, you generally experience something so similar to everything else it is daunting. Few of the locals producing original music strive to generate artful compositions that split the barriers of the ordinary. This is not the case with Jason Ludwig.

Ludwig's debut album Pell Mell is a masterpiece in its ability to tastefully express emotion. This is one of those albums that involves the listener so deeply that one cannot listen to it while on the freeway or they'll miss their exit. This is the kind of album your roommate steals. It is the kind of album that brings chills to your spine.

Pell Mell, while consisting of 10 musicians alongside, is Ludwig's brainchild. It is dark, gut wrenching, beautiful and exploratory, while showing off the distinct vocal style that characterizes Ludwig's songs. The second song, "Low," is the highlight of the album, its dissonance a refreshing accompaniment to sad lyrics like "There was another time when there was/More than one chair/But I've worn out my welcome/I will remove this thorn from your side." The elegance of the piece is thanks, in part, to the brilliance of its arrangement. Mike Goodwin's in-your-face lead guitar trills heighten the desire for resolution as the song reaches its climax, allowing Ludwig to sweeten the end with his soulful finger picking technique. Other highlights include the bright, uplifting opening track, "Godspeed," and the needy proclamation, "Wimp."

All this praise might leave weekenders and discriminating listeners wondering about Ludwig's presence on the live scene. The band formed by Ludwig to publicly display the works of Pell Mell and beyond is a phenomenon known as Noctaluca. Despite the hefty collection of ingredients on Pell Mell, Noctaluca is far from failure in its attempt to do justice to Ludwig's studio endeavor, indeed quite the opposite. However, Ludwig is a delight in the solo medium as well. He's a true entertainer -- just watch your girlfriend's eyes as he belts out his massive songs with sheer beatnik (yet graceful) resilience.

Jason Ludwig produces music and words that that will stir the souls of his listeners, but the difference between Ludwig and his counterparts is that he sees the broader picture. To articulate this point is to say that what Jason Ludwig creates is art. These words, this music, are a personal look at an individual whose concepts are so organic that they seem out of the ordinary, when in actuality they are based in the very ideas that make music an art form: originality.

When considering the title, which is defined in Webster's as "in mingled confusion or disorder," it is difficult to find the connection. According to Ludwig, the album fell into place without any consistency, and parts were completed arbitrarily, hence the name. However, in considering the lyrics, the listener is left wondering if the mind of Ludwig itself is in mingled confusion or disorder. The drama contained in Pell Mell is reminiscent of the late musician Jeff Buckley, which comes as no surprise to Ludwig, who says of his inspiration, "I believe that when you die, your soul travels the earth to silently mentor the living. It allows me to fantasize that just before Jeff Buckley took his last fateful breath, God whispered my name and address into his ear."

Pell Mell instills in the local music community a new sense of pride relating to the talent generated in our fair city and beyond. While Jason Ludwig has all the characteristics of a promising ability to "make it big," it remains unclear whether his career will stay in the underground or break the mold and give the commercial music industry a proverbial run for their money. With the recent surge of Star Search-esque competitions seeking to recycle the ordinary, it is with haste that we must praise artists like Ludwig in order to break the mold of what music industry marketing executives feed the public. With up-and-comers like Ludwig producing works like Pell Mell, it is clear that there is still hope of doing so.

- Alex Hall

"Cincinnati Enquirer"

Wrapped in a cover reminiscent of a movie thriller shower scene, Jason Ludwig's debut CD has all the trademarks of a favorite flick: surprising, well-paced and, at times, haunting.

"PeLL MeLL" spins from barebones acoustic melody to slick shivering rock, shadowed by Ludwig's powerful vocals. The record began as a six-song demo project, but, Ludwig explained, the recording and creative process expanded, adding other musicians, record drums, bass, violin, synth and slide guitar.

"Before I knew it I had a full album on my hands," Ludwig said. "'Pell mell' in the dictionary means 'mingled confusion; headlong,' I think it's an appropriate name for a project that was created essentially on a whim."

The record may have started out on a whim, but Ludwig's musical career began in high school in 1995 when he bought a $75 guitar and "grew some good musical chops." After college he pursued his two passions: music and filmmaking, eventually choosing the path of musician. Yet the filmmaker interest remains.

"I look at a song the way that a screenwriter looks at his script," Ludwig writes on his Web site. "I love films, and so, I think unconsciously, from the music to the vocals to the lyrics, I'm always searching for a way to fill it with drama, tension, irony maybe. Hopefully, by the end of my song, the credits are rolling in your head."

Many of the songs on "PeLL MeLL" do have a dramatic quality. "Low" is a darkly moving melody, laid back and emotional, etched with Ludwig's graceful, arching voice. Equally evocative is "Insomnia," a rushing, powerful tune, and "Godspeed," a lilting rock song.

"I'm highly critical of my own work, so initially, of course, I was lukewarm to the end result," Ludwig said. "That's what sitting in a room for 12 solid hours with a good engineer will do to your ego. But one day I listened to the entire album on headphones, and all at once I could finally relax and just consume it.

"I love the album like my first-born now," he added. "It may or may not have 10 perfect toes and 10 perfect fingers, but I've never created something so intimate with music before."

After the completion of "Pell MeLL" Ludwig put together his own band, Noctaluca. The band includes Black and Tan Carpet Band musicians Donovan Schlunt on bass guitar, Brandon Schlunt on drums, and Mike Goodwin on lead guitar. Together, Ludwig said, the band is creating music even more beautiful than what he originally intended.

Besides kicking off the official release of "PeLL MeLL" on this Saturday at the Yorkshire Club, Ludwig's future plans include touring more extensively, possibly heading to Europe.

"As far as the next album, [Steven] Spielberg once said, 'If my films are a whisper, then [Martin] Scorsese's are a scream,'" Ludwig said. "'PeLL MeLL' was the Spielberg in me. The next album will be so Scorsese."

- Alisha Woolery


Songwriter Jason Ludwig claims the late Jeff Buckley as a psychic guardian angel for his music. And while the full-length debut from this confident songwriter takes some cues from Buckley's angelic vocal delivery, Ludwig incorporates his own earthy Midwestern musical roots to form a distinctive voice of his own. PeLL MeLL is a moody, hypnotic collection of songs that showcase the simple approach of this heavy hearted lyricist. Adding layered instrumentation and a host of found sounds to compliment his vocal flights of fancy - which vacillates between Neil Young's affecting whine and Buckley's soaring falsetto - Ludwig has crafted a thoughtful, passionate debut.

Recorded and produced with a host of friends and local musicians including members of the Black and Tan Carpet Band, the simple affair took the better part of year to complete. The result is late night driving music at its best - emotional, revealing and slightly cathartic. Ludwig not only bares it all on PeLL MeLL's cover, but on the 11 tracks contained inside.

"Insomnia" is a stand out track with a majestic, sweeping chorus. The song takes a non- linear dance around the subject of abuse, with Ludwig pleading desperately ("Am I the cause of your insomnia?") and cautioning his charge ("Not a word - this happens no more"). Affecting and dangerous in one gulp.

Ludwig's self-confessed Buckley jones shows up prominently on "Wimp," an achingly pretty track that confesses sweetly that his affection for another is his true weakness. With great little Seventies era touches like cooing back-up singers and psychedelic guitar noodling, the track revels in its yearning loser persona.

"Second Wind" and "Sister Mary Joseph" are reminiscent of "Harvest" era Neil Young outtakes, complete with Young's fragile vocal delivery and lyrical directness. Slight country affectations make the breezy "Second Wind" a fun delight, while the latter track that comes near the end of the disc is awash in dark, edgy rhythms and haunting images.

PeLL MeLL's 11 songs are a colorful start for an artist who was previously relegated to explaining his compositions alone on guitar. Lately, Ludwig's live band, Noctaluca, has been handling the challenging task of transforming the disc's more ambitious tracks and feel to a live setting.

Tough and tender in all the right places, PeLL MeLL is well worth popping in your CD player next time you head out on the road under a full moon.

- Sean Rhiney


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Currently at a loss for words...