History tells us Omaha was founded 162 years ago as part of the great Western migration, and music fans know the Nebraska city as the home of Saddle Creek Records and its affiliates. In recent years, another Western migration has brought some of Omaha’s finest to Los Angeles, including Rig 1 — aka emcee Ian McElroy, a founding member of the Conor Oberst-led hardcore band Desaparecidos. Rig 1, who is prepping his new album “Tasting the Mothership,” joins a festival-worthy cast of ex-pats, including but not limited to:
Laura Burhenn (the Mynabirds), Tim Kasher (Cursive, the Good Life), Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova), Maria Taylor (Azure Ray), Jenna Morrison (Conduits), Nick White and Neely Tanner (Tilly and the Wall), Jiha Lee (Viva Violet and player in the Good Life and Bright Eyes), Stefanie Drootin-Senseney and Chris Senseney (Big Harp) and Mr. Oberst himself. They have joined others with ties to Saddle Creek — members of Rilo Kiley and Nik Freitas, for instance — as something of an extended family in L.A.
But McElroy’s music as Rig 1 sounds nothing like any of them.
He fashions intense narratives that straddle the line between independent hip-hop and spoken word, tackling existential questions with vivid wordplay, dramatic elocution and sometimes acid-tongued aplomb. It’s a modern take on the Beat Generation, recalling the coffeehouses where music and message left an indelible legacy. “When I step down / the universe provides” he near-whispers over wonky production and angelic background vocals in the new song “Mother,” on the surface a celebration of the simple joys of talking a walk and feeling the world.
||| Premiere: “Mother”
Similarly all-nerves-exposed is the first single.
||| Also: Stream “Activate”
The album, says McElroy, was conceived in a smoky East Village apartment on 13th Street and represents “a journey to, of, and through questions, conversations and reflection. It was learning and discovering with every sense continued. The transmission of inner-alchemy featuring to other and outward. Butterfly, cocoon, caterpillar — the ever-changing. And the conclusion of this exploration: oneness. We don’t believe in walls.”
“Tasting the Mothership” (out Nov. 18) includes contributions from Kirby James Fairchild (Granddaddy, Modest Mouse), Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes, Now It’s Overhead), Freitas, Dustin Bushon, Orenda Fink (Azure Ray), Corina Figueroa (Delores Diaz and the Standby Club), Paolo Stagnaro and Nate Kernel.
That’s quite a cast, so we asked Rig 1 to share some of his favorite albums by Omaha ex-pats. Here are his touts:
Jake Bellows, “New Ocean”
It’s a myriad of lush sound enviroments within a galaxy of wonder, love, and meaning in every track on its own and as a whole. Draped in the beautious godhead quality of his voice, the messeges are presented simply yet complexify in and of themselves upon listening. Unmistakeably sincere Bellows pinpoints feelings, holding them and navigates through the frequecy landscape seemingly effortlessly. [Stream on Spotify. Buy.]
Maria Taylor, “In the Next Life”
Strikingly honest captures of personal experience speaking to the greater whole about the grandest questions, ideas, and the many sides of love. Interweaving the intimate and universal with the exceptionally angelic voice transmitting the multiplicity of being a mother, wife, sister, lover, friend and human on a journey all at once. [To be released Dec. 9.]
Bright Eyes, “The People’s Key”
Neva Dinova, “You May Already Be Dreaming”
It’s one of the deepest classic records to come out of Omaha. The title sets in motion the passage of time, states in and out of consciousness and the dynamic interplay of density with lightness mental, imagined, and projected. The production choices are outstanding laden with extremely thoughtful guitar tone crafting. “A fan of the ones, their all so fickle bout watching the veins as the blood just trickles out.” Wow, touchFireHOT. [Stream on Spotify. Buy.]
The Good Life, “Everybody’s Coming Down”
Lyrically a viewpoint depicting a hyper-realist shadowy superficial modern life of a “here by mistake” philosophy of human existence. Musically an abundance of beautiful and catchy singing, dark keyboards, dangerous guitar parts and tones to match the sentiments and feelings. Poignant and unrelenting in delivery. Yet another cohesive expression of the bands many concept records. [Stream on Spotify. Buy.]
||| Also: Watch Rig 1’s video for “Pig”
||| Live: Rig 1 celebrates his record release on Nov. 17 at the Bootleg Theater, joined by Johnathan Rice, Whispertown, Jason Boesel, Wyndham, Mike Bloom and Lola Kirke. Tickets.