Who we are…

The Montalban Quintet is a collective of musicians that have infused interests from various musical barrios including post-punk, minimalism, jazz, 50’s schmaltz, field recordings, and new western art music. We reside in San Diego and have birthed all of the recordings/collaborations at a small recording facility in Encinitas, CA known lovingly as the Belly of the Whale.

The album contributors are: Chris Prescott (drums, guitar and electronics), Carl Prescott (trumpet), Kenseth Thibideau (bass), Jim Weiss (saxophone), Terrin Durfey (vocals), Marjorie Prescott (cello), Nathan Hubbard (vibraphone), Hermelindo Montalban (percussion).

Our past and/or simultaneous present musical endeavors include: Pinback, Boilermaker, Sleeping People, The Jade Shader, The Mattson 2, No Knife, Systems Officer, Tanner and more.

Influences of sound…

The Montalban Quintet began with an accidental collision. The resulting train wreck is a collection of music a decade in the making. Over the past 20 years, I have always been a part of concurrent musical projects. This was primarily rooted in having extremely ┬ádiverse interests. Through studying Jazz and “New Music” at UCSD, new intellectual possibilities became apparent to me. Working with repetitive tape loops and droning modes have been the foundation for a good deal of our music. I have been trying to take small bits of musical information and then tweaking it in ways to create expansive, yet often structured, forms. Some formal and/or melodic ┬ámaterial comes from jazz masters, while other pieces lean heavily on the work of the minimalist movement. The instrumentation of the group relies heavily on horns and improvised sections, the Montalban Quintet is not a “jazz band” per se. The recorded loops that lie at the songs’ foundation become a force in the rhythm section, adding tension at some times and solidifying the rhythmic pulse at others. The various academic explorations have combined with my past of touring and recording with post-punk/indie groups, ultimately helping to define the sound of the Montalban Quintet. Each member of the collective brings unique disparate elements and it’s been a pleasure watching this thing shape over the past few years.

The origins of the name…

After an unusually long evening in the UCSD practice rooms I started for home. The quickest route of escape from the Mandeville Music Building basement is through the eerily painted west stairwell. Due to the late night access that students required, the stairwells were often vandalized or embellished in different ways. The layers upon layers of paint created a crust that was nearly a half-inch thick in some places. In this strange place you would sometimes encounter students creating art, sleeping or wandering in a drug-induced haze. This particular evening I heard a strange sound as I approached the west stairwell. It was a swelling, scraping sound, both metallic and organic at the same time. I stopped to take it in being intrigued and startled by the beauty of this sound. The source ended up being Hermelindo Montalban, a former UCSD alum from 71 who still lived nearby. Herme, as he is widely know, had discovered the resonant frequencies of the stairwell and how they could be accentuated and activated through voice. The various handrail lengths created another myriad of sound as he “bowed” them with a length of smooth scrap metal. As one frequency was built with the room node and his mantra-esque groans another counterpoint was played on the collection of five metal handrails. One series of drones would then gradually morph into the next series of tones and rhythms. The sound was truly mesmerizing and I was shocked how many times I had quickly dashed along these stairs and never noticed the musical possibilities of this space. I sat in the shadows where I felt I would remain undetected and soaked up the sound that surrounded me. Eventually I made my presence known to him and we have since become fast friends.

The music project the came from the inspiration of our chance meeting that evening came to be called the Montalban Quintet. Herme actually called that part of the stairwell his “quintet” because he knew how manipulate each of the five handrails to evoke unique pitches and qualities. So essentially the stairwell was Herme Montalban’s Quintet, which we have appropriated and simplified into the “Montalban Quintet”.
– Chris Prescott, July, 2011