Hypercube: Brain on Fire


New York based ensemble Hypercube (Erin Rogers, saxophones; Jay Sorce, guitars; Andrea Lodge, piano & accordion; Chris Graham, percussion) releases "Brain on Fire," including works written for them by Sam Pluta, Philip Schuessler, Erin Rogers, Dennis Sullivan, and Nicholas Deyoe. Building on a growing repertoire anchored by Louis Andriessen's iconic Hout, Hypercube emphasizes the experimental, avant-garde potential of this quartet instrumentation with impressive performances and a cultivated ensemble sound.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 61:53
01under nails
under nails
02American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures / monoliths)
American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures / monoliths)
03Liminal Bridges
Liminal Bridges
04they solidify then tilt
they solidify then tilt
05Casino (Remix)
Casino (Remix)

New music quartet Hypercube (Erin Rogers, saxophones; Jay Sorce, guitars; Andrea Lodge, piano & accordion; Chris Graham, percussion) releases their debut “Brain on Fire,” a bracing document of their contributions to the repertoire for their instrumentation. The works presented here establish a strong aesthetic identity for the ensemble through their embrace of electronic elements, refined gradation of noise textures, and virtuosic navigation of complex material.

Composer, percussionist, and electronic musician Dennis Sullivan writes music that revels in collage textures, quick jump cuts between contrasting expressive worlds, and stylistic allusions. In under nails, scrapes, descending glissandi, and brief, cartoonish scale bursts are occasionally interrupted by ominous fragments of death metal vocals. As the piece progresses the elements become more integrated as Sullivan glues them together into hybrid instrumental gestures. Just before the six minute mark, the piece returns to the primordial scratching sound world heard in the opening, now heard as a sustained texture. The death metal vocals return periodically, and the ensemble is given a couple of tutti vocal passages on the line, “Hold on to your,” separated by creaky, disjointed sounds. The final section of the piece highlights Sullivan’s capacity to create electronic analogues in his ensemble writing, with written out crossfades between instruments and a scoring of extended sounds that mimics spatialization.

Sam Pluta’s music is also shaped by his deep involvement with electronic music, as well as a fascination with acoustic phenomenon and improvisation. American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures/monoliths) is influenced by the Japanese noise scene as well as a modular approach to motives that will be familiar to listeners who have heard the Wet Ink Music Collective (of which Pluta has been technical director and a composing member since 2009). Chord masses ordered and reordered in angular fashion are connected by ascending and descending glissandi, delicate trills, quick descending arpeggios, and high squeals. Sustained chords in the accordion colored by saxophone multiphonics and light triangle hits anchor a section of brief repose before a dense reprise of the opening material. In the dystopic final section of the piece, the electric guitar plays an extended passage of ascending glissandi with a slide over a massive cauldron of noise dominated by sax multiphonics.

Philip Schuessler opens his Liminal Bridges with a pointillistic texture — fragments reminiscent of Morse code are traded between instruments and lead into large arrivals, like architectural pillars. As this pulse driven music develops, the instruments alternate inserting elaborated figuration in the cracks of the established scaffolding. Throughout the work Schuessler plays with the speed of the repeated pulse motive, creating layers of independent activity in the ensemble as well as distorting the listener’s sense of linear time. Whimpering, chromatic descending passages and compact ensemble mechanisms anchor the middle section of the work before the piece slowly loses its textural continuity, disintegrating element by element and ending with a cymbal screech and a lone guitar harmonic.

Los Angeles based composer, guitarist, and artistic director of the wasteLAnd series Nicholas Deyoe writes powerful music that fuses his interests in noise, microtonality, and dramatically expressive structure. they solidify then tilt is a twenty minute tour de force that features Hypercube guitarist Jay Sorce. The work opens with a guitar arpeggio that highlights a microtonal tuning, as the ensemble slowly washes over the guitar in murky waves. Deyoe explores the beatings that result from closely spaced microtonal intervals, integrating guitar detuning, whammy bar dives, and tremolo on high partial harmonics into the fabric of the writing. Rich chord voicings in the accordion color the expressive character of the slowly evolving sections. Insistent distorted notes in guitar, raw overblown multiphonics in the sax, and aggressive percussion briefly break the work out of its contained intensity. The pulsating waves of the opening return with vigor before the piece closes with a series of disembodied guitar chords over a haze in the ensemble.

The final work, Casino (Remix) on “Brain on Fire” is by Hypercube’s own saxophonist and composer, Erin Rogers. After a dense, dramatic opening featuring descending wails in the saxophone, Rogers creates a pinball machine-like mechanism in the ensemble, bouncing sounds off of one another. The music opens up into an ethereal cloud, with a swirling halo of electronics providing the backdrop for a simple melody in guitar and percussion akin to a music box while the saxophone plays high trill figurations. The trills serve as a common link to the following section over a distorted low pedal point in the guitar. Sparring scales between guitar and sax culminate in several ensemble attacks worthy of a Hitchcock climax, while an unnervingly calm vocal sample emerges underneath. Casino (Remix) closes with the bone chilling passage from the opening.

With “Brain on Fire,” Hypercube makes an impressive and indelible stamp on the repertoire for an instrumentation that traces back to Louis Andriessen’s iconic canon, Hout. Gravitating towards composers who embrace the avant garde while still celebrating instrumental virtuosity, the ensemble has charted a compelling and dynamic path forward through these commissions and their polished and commanding performances of these works.

-Dan Lippel

Recorded by Zach Herchen at Staller Center for the Arts and Adelphi University — Long Island, NY

Funded, in part, through grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Alice M. Ditson Fund

Editing & Mixing: Zach Herchen, Nicholas Deyoe

Mastering: Joseph Branciforte

Art: Alberto Grillasca


Known for high-energy performances and impressive execution, Hypercube embraces the boundaries of chamber music, spanning electric and acoustic worlds. Described as “jarring, compelling” (Washington Post) and “fearless and flawless” (Sequenza 21), the quartet has commissioned and performed dozens of cutting-edge works for saxophone, guitar, piano and percussion.

Erin Rogers

Named a “rising star” (Broadway World), saxophonist/composer Erin Rogers is co-artistic director of thingNY, Popebama, New Thread Saxophone Quartet, and Hypercube, and has performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble, wildUp, Wet Ink, and Talea. Featured on the Ecstatic Music Festival, Prototype Festival, MATA Festival, Decoder's “Unterdeck,” and NYmusikk Bergen (Norway), Rogers has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the Edmonton Fringe Festival, Centro Nacional de las Artes Mexico City, and the Park Avenue Armory. She can be heard on New Focus Recordings, New World Records, Edition Wandelweiser, and Gold Bolus labels. Her solo album "Dawntreader” is available on Relative Pitch Records.


Jay Sorce

A classical guitarist noted for his unique blend of refinement, intensity, and virtuosic technique, Jay Sorce has performed throughout the United States and in Canada, Mexico and Germany as soloist and chamber musician. Highlight appearances include performances at the Long Island Guitar Festival, Iserlohn Guitar Festival, Tuckamore Festival, Brooklyn’s UNPLAY festival, the East Bank concert series, and at New York’s Staller Center for the Performing Arts where his solo recital was hailed as “simply brilliant” (Jerry Willard).


Andrea Lodge

Andrea Lodge has been hailed as a “Must-See.” A specialist in the performance of contemporary music, she was awarded top prizes at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Canadian National Competition for the Performance of New Music. Andrea lives in New York City where she performs regularly as piano soloist and with Hypercube, a cutting-edge new music quartet of saxophone, percussion, guitar and piano/accordion. Hypercube has been bringing their music to new audiences with tours across the U.S.A. and abroad, as featured artists on the FIMNME Festival of New Music in Mexico City, the Charlotte New Music Festival, Now Hear This! Festival of New Music, Music on the Edge, and the Ritornello Chamber Music Festival. Their first album, “Brain on Fire” is due to be released in May of 2020 on New Focus Recordings.


Chris Graham

Chris Graham is a new music specialist living and working in New York City. Chris has consistently worked and performed with notable groups such as Newband, Ensemble MISE-En, Talea Ensemble, Talujon Percussion, Mantra Percussion, and is a founding member and director of Hypercube and Iktus Percussion. He has commissioned and premiered works by established composers such as Charles Wuorinen, John Luther Adams, and Michael Gordon. Currently, Chris teaches drums and percussion at the Kaufman Music Center for the Special Music School and Lucy Moses School programs.

26 Mar, 2020

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Downtown Music Gallery

Brain on Fire (New Focus 250; USA) New York based ensemble Hypercube (Erin Rogers, saxes; Jay Sorce, guitars; Andrea Lodge, piano & accordion and Chris Graham, percussion) releases Brain on Fire, including works written for them by Sam Pluta, Philip Schuessler, Erin Rogers, Dennis Sullivan, and Nicholas Deyoe. Building on a growing repertoire anchored by Louis Andriessen's iconic Hout, Hypercube emphasizes the experimental, avant-garde potential of this quartet instrumentation with impressive performances and a cultivated ensemble sound. HYPERCUBE has built a reputation on high-energy performances with impressive execution. The NYC-based quartet embraces the boundaries of chamber music, featuring cutting-edge works for saxophone, guitar, piano and percussion, while spanning electric and acoustic worlds. “Jarring, compelling” (Washington Post) “fearless and flawless… some of the most exciting playing I have ever heard.”

Ms. Erin Rogers plays sax, composes and has a great solo sax disc out on Relative Pitch from a few months ago. She also played a solo set here and made some new fans that night. Ms. Rogers is also a member of this quartet, Hypercube, and she wrote one of the five pieces here. Another piece here was written by Sam Pluta, who also plays electronics and is a member of the Wet Ink Ensemble. Pluta’s piece, America Tokyo Daydream IV, is incredible and reminds me what I like best about modern chamber music when it is filled with surprising twists and turns, each sound carefully placed and tightly connected. Extraordinary and rather Zappa or Zorn-like in the way it keeps shifting dynamics throughout. Another highlight here is Ms. Rogers’ Casino (Remix), which is also explosive and is constantly shifting through various lines all the way through. The other three pieces come from composers I hadn’t heard of before now, but all are equally fascinating. This disc is a bit longer than an hour and I have listened to it in its entirety several times and it just keeps getting better!

— Bruce Gallanter, 6.15.2020


New York Classical Review

Hypercube is a new ensemble comprised of saxophonist Erin Rogers, electric guitarist Jay Sorce, pianist and accordionist Andrea Lodge, and percussionist Christopher Graham. This is their debut recording, and all five pieces are heard in their recorded premieres. Four were written expressly for the ensemble, while the fifth, Sam Pluta’s American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures / monoliths), was newly arranged for this album.

Hypercube’s instrumentation looks close to that of a jazz or rock group on paper, and there is a biting rock attitude to the music here, but the group and the composers stretch the orchestrations and timbres to their limits—this is a record that collects all sorts of unexpected and arresting sounds. It’s also at the leading edge of contemporary thinking and practice, the playing as sharp and precise as a scalpel, the music stabbing and exploding in all sorts of directions. It can all seem initially discontinuous until one feels the accumulation of musical ideas building organic, angular, muscular structures in the ears and mind. Dennis Sullivan’s opening under nails and Rogers’ own concluding Casino (Remix) make for a bracing start and a witty conclusion that will have one quickly reaching to hit the PLAY button again.

— George Grella, 6.22.2020

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