As an experimental jazz ensemble, Project 206 boldly pushes the genre’s boundaries beyond the outer limits of improvisation.
The Ypsilanti quartet masterfully melds freak-out jazz sensibilities with progressive rock tendencies on their instrumental, four-track sophomore EP, Volatile, which dropped in April via all streaming platforms.
“Those four tracks were written during a time of volatility in my life, and a lot of things were up in the air. A lot of it is edgier and more experimental, which I find to be cathartic,” said Galen Bundy, keyboardist, LinnStrument guru, and frontman for Project 206.
Bundy experienced those cathartic, musical moments while writing and recording Volatile with bandmates Peter Formanek (tenor sax), Joe Fee (five-string bass), and Travis Aukerman (drums). Last year, Project 206 ventured to Toledo studio, Dream Louder Music, to record Volatile live during a one-day studio session.
During the studio session, the band fused the intensity and energy of influences ranging from Red Fang to Ornette Coleman. Those diverse influences propelled Project 206 toward an emerging cosmic sound that eclipses traditional jazz preconceptions.
“Starting at the Red Fang end of the spectrum, I have a pedal on my keyboard that creates all those distorted sounds, and Joe is using a lot of intense effects. The way I see it, Ornette also has that intensity and energy; it’s just different instrumentation and a completely different way of approaching music,” said Bundy, who studied jazz piano at Bowling Green State University.
Bundy and his Project 206 bandmates introduce their experimental sound on Volatile’s title track, which eloquently blends booming tenor sax, thumping bass, pounding drums, and vibrant synth into a four-minute intergalactic jam session. The disruptive, hypnotic track shifts forward in King Crimson-like fashion as Project 206 enters new improvisational territories.
“I put ‘Volatile’ on their first because I think it represents a pretty good range of what we do within a short amount of time,” Bundy said.
While only 17 minutes long, the Volatile EP seamlessly morphs from one track into another. “Test the Ground” becomes a frenzied improvisational odyssey and later evolves into a calm jazzy adventure on “As I Looked On.”
After laying the jazzy groundwork for Volatile, Project 206 dives into uncharted musical waters on “The Fishtank.” The track features eerie, echoey synths, thunderous drums, crashing cymbals, erratic bass, and piercing tenor sax in a dark underwater abyss.
Project 206 also recently released a live video for “The Fishtank,” which shows the band performing the disruptive track in a dimly-lit Detroit studio.
“We play live a fair amount, and it’s always a totally different experience and always very intense. I feel like on that track we really captured the energy that day, so I wanted to put that one out in particular for people to see what we’re doing. It’s all happening live, and it’s not super edited in the studio at all,” Bundy said.
With Volatile officially released, Project 206 wants to record additional videos, write new material, and eventually return to live performances.
“I hope we continue to follow the sonic path we’ve carved out for ourselves. We really feel like we’re finding a sound that is true to us. Right now, we plan on touring as soon as we are able to do so, and each member is writing for the group when inspired to do so,” Aukerman said.