New Local Release: Jeff Betten's THREE A.M. AND THE STARS WERE OUT | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New Local Release: Jeff Betten's THREE A.M. AND THE STARS WERE OUT 


Jeff Betten

THREE A.M. AND THE STARS WERE OUT is a release that makes a statement. Jeff Betten approached the endeavor with intent to blow up the conventions of a typical album. 

For it, Betten collaborated with Chet Vincent, Joseph Ripple, Jeremy Colbert, Erika Laing, David Manchester, Jessie Hoffman, Molly Alphabet and Karen Ramirez. The group created a work featuring folk traditionals, improvisation and original compositions; it was all produced and engineered by J. Vega, of The Wilderness Recording Studio in Zelienople. 

Rather than broken down into tracks that can be skipped through, like a traditional album release, THREE A.M. is intended for consumption in a single sitting. It’s an investment — 62 minutes of your time, to be precise. I recommend listening in the early morning as the sun rises or in the quiet of the late night.

The project is meant to reflect Betten’s upbringing in a wooded, rural pocket west of Pittsburgh, far from busy roads and noisy cities. Instead, the chorus of crickets and other talkative insects runs throughout the entire piece. This soundscape, composed of a field recording from Karen Ramirez (“Nothing but Crickets”), is reminiscent of sitting on the porch on a balmy summer night.

As each “vignette” of music unfolds during this soundscape, no tracks are brought to the forefront. Instead, it sounds like your distant neighbor playing banjo on his porch, or the whimsical instrumentals of your dreams as you drift off to sleep with your window open, the night breeze visiting you in gentle wisps. 

Some of the most enticing musical vignettes on this release are provided by Erika Laing. Her improvisations and compositions, like “The Dying Whale & The Crying Bird,” are haunting and captivating, resting quite naturally in the soundscape. 

THREE A.M. AND THE STARS WERE OUT is definitely an ambitious release. One could imagine it taking on an even larger life, as, say, the audio in an immersive audiovisual experience installed somewhere like the Mattress Factory. 



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