ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Tarek Sabbar, Graham Hunt Band

Live music has slowly been making a return at Cactus Club, and a stacked multi-genre bill took the stage on Saturday evening. Hip hop artist Nile, electronic artist Tarek Sabbar, indie rockers Graham Hunt Band, and trip hop wizard Randal Bravery all performed with extravagance.

“It’s weird doing shows again,” Sabbar said. “Very surreal and nerve-wracking and I’m still processing it.”

“I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was doing it,” Hunt said.

Tarek Sabbar’s last record explored the ambient realm of electronica, but his set Saturday saw him going in a techno and acid house direction.

“It honestly wasn’t as planned as anyone would probably think,” he explained. “It was almost entirely unplanned. I had some basic ideas like a starting drum pattern but it was pretty much all improvised. There’s some samples of stuff but when those come in and out it’s improvised. The patch for modular stuff was done this afternoon because I was agonizing over it. I brought synths with me that I haven’t actually played on in a couple months. It’s almost like a safety net because they don’t have any right or wrong notes.”

Tarek Sabbar’s last record “Outside Frame” came out a little over a year ago. He describes what went into it.

“That material is interesting because a good chunk of it I recorded probably in 2019 but there’s pieces of it actually from like 2016. It was kind of a culmination of material that all fit and was slammed together in the first few months of 2020. I always wanted to do a bigger, proper full release with a denser orchestration than I normally do for ambient stuff. Everything was intentional and nothing was really improvised; it was almost like film score music.”

He explains where the title came from.

“It’s the idea of being outside the frame of a shot, like a cinema thing. It wasn’t for a film at all but also it was released in the middle of pandemic zone so it was also like being outside of things in general. It’s independent on its own and was outside of the normal scope of what I do I guess.”

Finally, Tarek Sabbar shares what he’s working on now.

“I was supposed to have an EP out last month of techno stuff but I ended up not finishing it because it isn’t quite there yet. I have a lot of stuff recorded for it and I have to mix more for it. I have another set of material that’s even more specifically acid house stuff. A lot of electronic musicians I like release EPs and I wish I could do it as often; I don’t know if I’ll ever actually do a full album again and it’ll probably just be EPs from here on out. Eventually there will be new Telechrome stuff too but we haven’t practiced in months. Hopefully soon.”

Graham Hunt Band consists of guitarist Stephen Strupp, bassist Tyler Chicorel, and drummer Sam Reitman behind Hunt himself. He describes Saturday’s set.

“I played some stuff from my tape that came out in February…I played some stuff from my tape that came out in 2019…and I played one new song from my next thing I’m working on now.”

“Painting Over Mold” was Hunt’s most recent album. He shares a bit about the ideas of that thing.

“Well, I was playing a bunch of guitar and had some songs, and I was gonna go to Crutch of Memory in Appleton to work on it but the dates we’d decided on were like right when shit hit the fan with COVID, so I decided I guess I’ll make it on my stupid laptop that dies in fifteen minutes every time I open Logic. So I pretty much spent months screaming at my computer. My friend Amos from Crutch of Memory still played drums on it and then I did all the overdubs and stuff on my own in my room and it fucking sucked. Every time I make a record that way I’m like “I’m never doing this again” …and then I did it again. There are some pros to doing it that way though because you have as much time as you want, but it also feels like it’s never done. I’m trying to do the next one half and half.”

He shares why he chose to call it “Painting Over Mold.”

“It’s a line in one of the songs, in “Lighter Touch.” It’s also a metaphor for there being fucked up things about yourself you need to fix but you don’t actually fix it.”

Finally, he elaborates on what he means by this next thing he’s working on.

“The new record’s gonna be all beats that my friends have been making for me that I’ve been writing songs over. I wanted it to be influenced by like Madchester and baggy but then I did one song and it turned out good but it ended up sounding more like Sugar Ray (laughs).”

Both Tarek Sabbar and Graham Hunt are currently based in Madison.

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