I have to admit that I was skeptical of STS9 going acoustic. There is no doubt that the musicality shared by the quintet is bar none, but STS9 without laptop breakdowns, synth textures, and layer upon layer of electronics seemed unimaginable. Not only did the band pull it off with "Axe the Cables: An Evening with STS9" last December at the Gates Opera Hall, it did so with flawless finesse and zeal.
The uncharacteristic kick-off performance to the band’s New Years run is documented on Axe the Cables, a souvenir for those in attendance on that cold Colorado night, and a snapshot for those less fortunate that clearly confirms that there is more to STS9 than digital gadgetry. The two set performance leans heavily on STS9’s more anthemic compositions, like the percolating “New Soma,” the swaying “986 Foot Tall Trees,” and the thematic “Life’s Sweet Breath,” but acoustic interpretations of dance-heavy favorites “Moonsocket” and “Kamuy” fare equally well with spirited playing and impressive technicality. Abetting the performance is the excitement expressed by bassist David Murphy each time he speaks; it is clear that STS9’s focus is not only on a perfect performance, but on the enjoyment of the fans.
STS9 could’ve easily continued its career playing its sleek electronic hybrid without an awkward glance from fans new or old. But status quo has never been the band’s motivation. Rather, the quintet is defined by renewal. True to the nature of the band, Axe the Cables is a welcome reinvention of the STS9 sound.
Axe the Cables is out now on 1320 Records.